With the sophistication of today's increasingly computerized automobile engines, it's become difficult for the do it yourselfer to service or tune up the engine on his own vehicle. And along with this computerization come new parts that are crucial, both for optimal engine performance and also to stay within the bounds of environmental laws regarding engine emissions.
The oxygen sensor is one of those crucial components. They're roughly the size of clothes pins, yet many people don't even know they exist. But they play a pivotal role in monitoring engine exhaust, one of the most common causes of air pollution.
The first oxygen sensor was introduced into automotive engines in 1976 (on a Volvo 240) by The Robert Bosch Corporation.
The oxygen sensor is a measuring probe for determining the amount of oxygen in the exhaust. It continually monitors exhaust gases and signals the engine computer to adjust the air/fuel ratio to ensure that gasoline combustion is as complete as possible, thus reducing harmful emissions while also improving engine performance and fuel efficiency.
In fact, replacing a degraded oxygen sensor with a new one will increase fuel efficiency by 10 to 15 percent.
Oxygen sensors also play a key role in ensuring that vehicles pass the new emissions inspection programs that will be required in many states due to the Federal Clean Air Act.
"Studies show that two thirds of all vehicle emissions test failures are a result of worn out oxygen sensors," explained Chuck Ruth, Bosch general product manager. "Those numbers are staggering when you consider that oxygen sensors are easy enough to replace and that the vast majority of them are also inexpensive, costing roughly $20 to $50."
"Even if you're not a do it yourselfer, it's a good idea to have a professional service technician check your oxygen sensor on a regular basis: every 30,000 to 50,000 miles for an unheated 1 or 2 wire sensor or every 60,000 to 100,000 miles for a heated 3 or 4 wire sensor. When the oxygen sensor is degraded, you can very quickly recoup its low replacement cost from the fuel savings of up to $100 a year resulting from complete combustion and a smoother running engine."
How can you tell if you need a new oxygen sensor? Common symptoms of a worn out sensor include excessive fuel consumption, high emissions, engine surging or hesitation, or premature failure of the catalytic converter. When examining the sensor, a shiny deposit on the sensor's heat shield or any gummy deposits indicate it's time to check and/or replace the sensor.
By Robert Bosch Corporation
Courtesy of The Car Council
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