The Sensors in Your Car: What They Do and How to Tell When They’re Failing

Like the human body, your car needs all its vital systems in good working order to function correctly. This means all of the different sensors in your vehicle need to be able to provide accurate readings so that you can make safe and responsible decisions while driving. Here are six common car sensors and what they do, plus how you can tell when they’re failing. 

Camshaft Sensor

The camshaft sensor is one of the most critical sensors in your car. It tells the computer when to fire the spark plugs and inject fuel into the cylinders. If this sensor fails, your vehicle will have trouble starting and may run rough. 

Thermostat Sensor

The thermostat sensor is located near the engine and monitors the temperature of the engine coolant. If this sensor fails, it can cause the engine to overheat. Common signs that the thermostat sensor is failing include the check engine light coming on, the car overheating, and steam coming from under the hood.

Idle Air Control Sensor

The IAC sensor is responsible for regulating the amount of air that enters the engine. If it fails, your car will have trouble starting or idling. 

Mass Air Flow Sensor

The mass air flow sensor measures the amount of air flowing into the engine. If it’s not working correctly, the engine will run lean (too much air) or rich (too little air). Lean conditions can cause the engine to misfire, while rich conditions can cause excessive fuel consumption and emissions. As a result, you might notice a decrease in fuel economy or power if your mass air flow sensor fails.

Crankshaft Position Sensor

The crankshaft position sensor is one of the most critical sensors in your car. It tells the engine control unit (ECU) where the crankshaft is to correctly time the ignition and fuel injection. If this sensor fails, your car will likely stall or not start at all.

O2 Sensors

The oxygen sensor is one of the most important sensors in your car. It monitors the amount of oxygen in the exhaust gases and adjusts the air/fuel mixture accordingly. If the O2 sensor fails, it can cause your car to run lean or rich, leading to engine damage and poor performance. There are a few common signs that your O2 sensor is failing, such as a check engine light, poor fuel economy, or a rough idle.

If you notice that any of these sensors are failing, see your trusted mechanic immediately to get them replaced.

Photo by Phantom1311 from Getty Images via Canva Pro

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