What is the Oxygen Sensor?

We all breathe the same air, so the exhaust emissions that vehicles emit are everyone’s concern. Proper vehicle maintenance is crucial in reducing the amount of tailpipe emissions you put out, which should be every vehicle owner’s top priority. One of the main vehicle components that works to help you limit the amount of pollution your vehicle puts off is the oxygen sensor.

What is an Oxygen Sensor?

Dr. Gunter Bauman developed the oxygen sensor, also called a lambda sensor, in the late 1960s for the Robert Bosch GmbH company. However, they did not become standard equipment on passenger cars until the 1980s.

Located within the emissions control system, the oxygen sensor is an electronic device that measures the proportional amount of oxygen in a gas or liquid. A functioning oxygen sensor reports data to the management computer located in your engine. The oxygen sensor helps to ensure your vehicle is performing at its best and is responsible for alerting the driver when the emissions being sent out of the vehicle are too high. When the oxygen sensor is faulty, the engine management computer will not be able to properly determine the air to fuel ratio in your vehicle. When this happens, the engine will guess how much gasoline to use- resulting in a vehicle that performs poorly and a polluted engine. Vehicles made from 1980-1995 usually contain one or two oxygen sensors. Vehicle models made after 1995 will usually have three or four oxygen sensors depending on the exact year, make, and model of the vehicle. When one or more of the oxygen sensors in your vehicle are faulty, it will likely not pass an emissions inspection.

Why and How Often should I change my Oxygen Sensor?

Oxygen sensors are important components in the vehicle, yet many people are unaware of their presence or how they play a key role in reducing pollution and engine performance. In fact, a survey found that 99.7 percent of consumers were not aware that their vehicle even had an oxygen sensor.

When an oxygen sensor is not working properly, it results in lowered engine performance and poor fuel efficiency- leading to decreased drivability. Keeping the oxygen sensors up to par helps with the longevity of your vehicle and allows it to perform at its best. According to a study conducted by Sierra Research, Inc., in 1996, oxygen sensor failure is the “single greatest source of excessive emissions for fuel-injected vehicles” and the second most significant cause of high emissions in carbureted engines. You should refer to your owner’s manual or trusted mechanic for information on how often the oxygen sensor(s) in your vehicle should be changed, as each vehicle manufacturer has different recommendations.

How can you tell when your Oxygen Sensor is not working properly?

Unfortunately, there is no clear indicator that you have an oxygen sensor that is malfunctioning. Often, when there is a faulty oxygen sensor the Check Engine light will come on and/or there may be a significant decrease in fuel economy. The oxygen sensor is not the only thing that can cause said symptoms, so, should this happen, have the vehicle inspected, including the sensors.

Things that can cause damage to your oxygen sensors include:

  • Oil deposits on the outer surface
  • Incorrect use of silicone gasket sealers
  • Lead poisoning
  • Antifreeze poisoning
  • Engine runs on a rich air-fuel mixture for too long
  • Accident shocks
  • Natural aging

If you suspect any of the above problems or fail emissions, consider having your oxygen sensors inspected by the experts here at Accurate Service.

The expert auto mechanics at Accurate Service offer the best automotive care in Tucson, Arizona, at the best prices. We service all makes and models of vehicles and can do any repair whether it be large or small. Call us at (520) 622-7685 or click here to schedule an appointment online.