At Autoworks in Ithaca, NY, our goal is to keep your car, truck, or SUV reliable and in great shape. To us, it’s important that we’re paying attention to both your needs and the needs of your vehicle. When it comes to oxygen sensors, sometimes it seems a bit nebulous on what they actually do and why they’re important; we’re here to clear things up for you.
What does an oxygen sensor do? - Oxygen sensors are important for a variety of reasons. Essentially, their task is simple - they track how rich or lean the fuel mixture is in your engine, and adjust the mixture accordingly. The sensor feeds information to the ECU about the running condition of the vehicle, and the ECU increases or decreases the amount of fuel or air that comes into the engine. The purpose here is to increase gas mileage, decrease emissions, and promote reliability by keeping everything in tune.
What can go wrong? - On a good day, a bad oxygen sensor will result in worse gas mileage. However, there’s often much more at play than just that. When an oxygen sensor fails, the computer defaults to a rich running condition. This causes carbon buildup on valves, buildup in catalytic converters, and anywhere else exhaust passes through. It may also cause rough running conditions and poor engine performance.
However, a lot of systems and sensors rely on information from the oxygen sensor to function properly. For example, in some situations an oxygen sensor can cause poor shifting in your transmission - if the engine isn’t running correctly, the transmission control module may misinterpret when and where it’s supposed to be shifting, causing erratic behavior at the transmission. It may cause hard starting and hesitation at take-off, the engine cut off at stops and a variety of other issues. Since oxygen sensors are prone to failure and can cause so many hard to trace symptoms and issues, it’s often recommended that one of the first things done when a problem arises is replacing the oxygen sensors. They’re fairly inexpensive and will save a great deal of headache if you make sure they’re in good condition and working properly.
Why do they go bad? - Oxygen sensors experience three main issues - they get dirty, there’s a problem with the wiring, or they fail altogether. Oxygen sensors are mounted in the exhaust pipe, underneath the vehicle; this means they are exposed to all the elements, in addition to immense heat that may cause them to fail, and dirty exhaust that will foul them out. It’s important to keep an eye on them, and have them swapped out at proper intervals, or whenever trouble arises.
If you have a check engine light on, are throwing an oxygen sensor code, or are experiencing poor running conditions in general, your oxygen sensors may be at fault. Have one of our expert technicians take a look. No matter your repair or maintenance needs, we’ve got you covered. For the best automotive service shop in Ithaca, NY, call or stop by Autoworks today.
Thank you for visiting Autoworks in Ithaca, NY. Count on our automotive repair technicians to keep your car, truck, suv, or van on the roads longer and safer.