Your Oxygen Sensor

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You don’t always know every single little screw and part in your car, let alone under the hood or under your seats. Oxygen sensors play a very important role in your vehicle’s functionality. If they fail or start to become faulty, you can have a major problem on your hands.

An oxygen sensor has 2 major functions. The first is within your exhaust manifold. The oxygen sensor here, called bank 1, monitors the air/ fuel mixture. That is, it monitors the ratio of parts of air to parts of fuel your vehicle consumes. The second function, called bank 2, monitors your vehicle’s catalyst performance. Whether the oxygen sensors generate a rich or lean voltage signal depends on how much unburned oxygen is flowing through your exhaust.

Your engine control unit (ECU) uses the input from the bank 1 oxygen sensor to readjust the fuel mix as needed for the optimum emission, fuel economy, and performance. The second bank oxygen sensor signals used primarily to detect any catalyst problems and tune in fuel trim. The wide operating range of your air/ fuel sensor, which is also known as a wide-band oxygen sensor, allows a quicker reaction time to correct fuel trim and keep your engine operating range as close to stoichiometry (14:7:1 air/ fuel ratio) as possible. The farther away from that range, the more problems you may have. These systems help keep newer engines capable of lowering emissions greatly and compliant to stricter emission laws. Unfortunately, they are much more expensive than the average oxygen sensor.

The symptoms of a faulty oxygen sensor can be easy or difficult to spot. For example, a sudden significant and immediately noticeable sudden decrease in your fuel mileage is caused by the air/ fuel mixture to be too rich. This will affect your fuel economy. A faulty oxygen sensor can cause a flashing check engine light or a malfunctioning indicator lamp in your vehicle’s dashboard. This has some other potential causes but your oxygen sensor is towards the top of the list. During your inspection, if you fail to pass the smog test, you may have a faulty oxygen sensor. 50-60% of smog test or emission test failures are caused because of a failing oxygen sensor. Failing the smog/ emissions test causes too low or too high carbon monoxide (CO) emissions, which can be dangerous. You might have an oxygen sensor problem is you notice some overall poor performance in your car. For example, you might experience rough idling, sporadic or fluctuating idling, stalling, hesitation upon accelerating, and other general power and response issues. Finally, if you notice a strange odor coming from your exhaust, it is normally from too much fuel being consumed.

A faulty oxygen sensor is not something to get worked-up about, but it should not be taken lightly. Go see Albuquerque Transmissions or call them at 505-255-8601. They will diagnose exactly what is causing your problems and come up with a solution to fix it the first time.

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