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All the funny sencers on a engine

Home Forums Stay Dirty Lounge General Discussion All the funny sencers on a engine All the funny sencers on a engine


    Ok. It’s a little later than I wanted it to be before I got back here, but oh well. Now, onto my quick and dirty list of the various sensors and what they do. Not every car will have all of these, this is just a list of all the sensors that I can think of. It’s by no means a complete comprehensive list. Also, presume that all of the names have the word sensor after them, just so I don’t have to type it over and over again. I apologize in advance if I use language that’s overly technical, I’ll try my best to keep this in layman’s terms, but I can’t promise anything.

    Mass Air Flow (MAF)
    This is usually located on the air filter housing. It measures the amount of incoming air which will let the computer know how much fuel to spray at any given time. These will get dirty over time and not work as reliably, in which case they will need to be either cleaned or replaced. Cleaning them requires a dedicated MAF cleaner, which is available at most auto-parts stores. Whatever you do, make sure that you do NOT use carburetor cleaner on one of these. carb cleaner is way to aggressive and will destroy the sensor.

    Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP)
    This is another sensor that the computer will use to determine how much air the engine is taking in, so that the computer can determine the appropriate amount of fuel to spray at any given second. When they go bad, the car will most likely not run, or it may run real bad.

    Used to detect engine knock, or pinging, caused by incorrect ignition timing or poor fuel. When this sensor detects knock, it will tell teh computer to retard the timing, meaning that the spark plugs will fire later during the piston’s travel inside the cylinder. This is done to make sure that your engine’s internals stay inside the engine. Knock, or ping– either term is correct– is the sound that your engine makes right before it does something very expensive. It sounds like a hammer striking an anvil, hence the term ping.

    Crankshaft Position (CKP)
    Used to determine the position of the crankshaft during it’s 360 degree spin. The computer needs to know where the crankshaft is so that it knows where the pistons are, which is required knowledge in determining when to fire the spark plugs. Commonly used in conjunction with the CMP

    Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP)
    Like a crank sensor, only for a camshaft. It’s what tells the computer when to fire the fuel injectors.

    Air/Fuel Ratio (AFR)
    Used to measure the amount of fuel left in the exhaust stream to help the computer keep the engine at a stoichiometric air fuel ratio. That ratio is 14.7:1 at sea level on unleaded gasoline. Meaning, 14.7 parts air to every 1 part fuel.

    Oxygen (O2)
    Used in a nearly identical fashion as the AFR, for very nearly the same reason. I believe that it’s possible to tell the two apart by looking at them, but they both look the same to me. One of them cycles between lean and rich faster than the other, but I forget which is which.

    Steering Angle (SAS)
    Used to tell the adaptive suspension/stability control/moving headlights how far the steering wheel is turned in either direction. Commonly only seen on high-end luxury cars like BMW and Mercedes-Benz

    Vehicle Speed (VSS)
    Also known as the ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) sensor, it measures the speed of each wheel using a toothed wheel and a magnetic pick-up mounted just inboard of the hubs. You may also find a VSS in the rear differential, with the toothed wheel mounted on the ring gear.

    Tells the computer that you’ve just crashed and that it should fire the airbag out of the steering wheel/dash board so that you don’t die.

    Coolant Temperature (ECT)
    Tells the computer how hot the coolant, and by extension the engine itself, is running. The heat difference is used to determine how much fuel is needed. Engines at operating temperature require less fuel to keep running than engines that have been cold-soaking over night.

    Oil Pressure
    Used to tell the computer when to illuminate the oil pressure light on the dash, that little red light that looks like a watering can. The one that comes on usually right before something very expensive happens to the engine.

    Oil Temperature
    Like the ECT, only for oil.

    Fuel Level
    Hopefully self-explanatory, found in the gas tank.

    Ambient Light (ALS?)
    Used on cars that have automatic headlights to know when to turn the headlights on.

    There are other sensors, but I can’t think of them at the moment. Like I said, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list. It should be enough to get you started though.

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