What is the Oxygen Sensor?
With each new model year, manufacturers are adding more oxygen sensors to better manage engine operation. Some high performance engines have an oxygen sensor for each cylinder as well as one for the rear of each catalytic convertor. The sensors are situated either underneath the hood or underneath the car. The oxygen sensors are screwed to the exhaust pipe, either in front or back of the catalytic converter. The front (upstream) sensors measure the amount of oxygen in the exhaust system. The function of the front oxygen sensor(s) is to measure how rich or lean the gases are as the gases exit the combustion chamber. With regards upon whether the exhaust gas is lean (high in oxygen content) or rich (low in oxygen content), the amount of fuel entering the engine is altered by the engine management computer to try and maintain an ideal mixture that produces the lowest emissions output from the catalytic convertor.
Rear (downstream) sensors are located behind the catalytic converter. The purpose of the rear oxygen sensor(s) is to monitor the oxygen content of the exhaust gases leaving the catalytic convertor.
If one or more of the oxygen sensors are defective, your car may not pass the emissions test. If you drive your car with a defective oxygen sensor, you may get poor gas mileage and it can damage the catalytic converter.
Facts to Note:
Many oxygen sensors are damaged by leaking oil or coolant. If that is the case, the cause of that leak needs to be known and fixed, or else the replacement oxygen sensor will be damaged as well.
New vehicles require specific oxygen sensors, and not the universal sensors that were common prior to 1996.
How to Fix:
Scan the computer in the car for codes.
Check for vacuum leaks and holes in the exhaust system.
Remove and change the oxygen sensor if it is bad.
Check electrical connections.
Check for proper operation of oxygen sensors.
Clear diagnostic codes.
Test drive car.
Keep up with the tune-ups. If check engine light is on, don’t drive the car too long without getting it examined. If check engine light is flashing, pull over and get the car towed to avoid costly repairs. Ask the mechanic to examine the vacuum hoses and leaks in the exhaust system. If the vacuum hose or exhaust system is leaking, it will display an oxygen sensor fault code. Changing an oxygen sensor may not fix the problem.
Common signs indicating you may need to change the Oxygen Sensor:
Check Engine light is on.
Car is getting poor gas mileage.
Emission test fails.
Importance of this service:
Your vehicle has multiple oxygen sensors, and they all help the car run optimally. The front sensors measure how much oxygen is in the exhaust stream to measure how rich or lean the gases leaving the gas chamber are. The rear sensors measure the oxygen content of the gases as they leave the catalytic converter. The oxygen sensors then relay this information to your vehicle’s electronic control unit, so that it can adjust as necessary. Because cars hang on an ideal fuel-to-air ratio to function optimally, the oxygen sensors are leaned on for engine performance. When your oxygen sensors fail your car will run less smoothly, get worse mileage, and have worse emissions.