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Oxygen Sensor Functions and Problem Symptoms: Get to Know Your Car

April 26, 2016 | Electrical Repair Info

Oxygen sensor functions

Modern vehicles are fitted with hundreds of electrical sensors that are designed to monitor your vehicle’s performance. Some of the world’s biggest automobile manufacturers have introduced a range of different technological advancements that are designed to not only improve performance on the road, but also make their car engines longer-lasting and more powerful. As a responsible driver, it is important for you to get to know some of the essential systems in your car and read about some common problem symptoms that may arise.

Perhaps the last thing that you want to see as a car owner is the yellow “Check Engine” light. One of the most common reasons for this is a malfunctioning oxygen sensor. Known commonly as the lambda sensor, the oxygen sensor in your vehicle is used to determine the appropriate amount of oxygen to be mixed with the liquid fuel or gas. All vehicles produced after 1980 are now equipped with oxygen sensors. It’s installed in the emissions control system and continuously sends data to the management computer that’s installed aboard your vehicle.

The sensor basically keeps the levels of emissions under a certain limit and sends an alert when your car begins emitting more smoke. Depending upon the make and model, as well as the size of the engine installed in your car, the number of oxygen sensors may vary. For instance, cars with V8 engines generally have at least three oxygen sensors. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize when to get the oxygen sensor of their car replaced. Here are a few problem symptoms that you should keep an eye out for.

Fuel Efficiency Suffers

If more oxygen is being mixed into the fuel in order to cause combustion, it will reduce the fuel economy of your vehicle drastically. If the fuel economy of your car takes a serious hit, it might be an issue with the O2 sensor. Obviously, there are many factors that determine the fuel efficiency of the car. Using an OBDII tool is perhaps the best way to confirm whether the readings from the O2 sensor are correct.

Irregular or Rough Engine Performance

Does your car jerk while accelerating or when it’s idle on the road? Cars that have faulty O2 sensors often begin to “miss,” which means that the engine may not receive the power that it’s supposed to. If your car is still missing after a tune up, it may be a problem with the O2 sensor.

Smoke Emissions

If the O2 sensor is malfunctioning, it will end up mixing more oxygen with the fuel. This will eventually burn up more fuel, thus causing your car to release black smoke. Getting the oxygen sensor checked is essential for many reasons. For instance, if you want your car to pass the State test, you may need to keep the car’s emissions under a certain limit, so make sure you consider these symptoms and get the sensor checked by a reputable mechanic.

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