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What is an Oxygen Sensor?

Oxygen sensors are electronic devices that monitor oxygen levels in a liquid or gas. These sensors are measuring the proportional amount of oxygen and sending an alert if the mix is off. Original oxygen sensors were made from ceramic coated in zirconia and platinum.

Modern oxygen sensors are called planar sensors. Planar sensors were developed by NTK in 1990 for Honda Civics and Accords. Planar sensors are constructed by layering High-Temperature Co-fired Ceramic (HTCC) green tapes and have become the industry standard. Modern-day sensors are designed and developed to be more efficient than their predecessors.

What an Oxygen Sensor Actually Does

Oxygen sensors are found in all automobiles manufactured after 1980. Oxygen sensors are located in the emissions control system and they transmit data to the central computer. For top performance, it is essential that the oxygen sensor is functioning, well-calibrated, and sending correct data to the computer. The sensor keeps emissions in check. When emissions become too strong, the sensor alerts the driver. A faulty sensor will not pass inspection and requires repair or replacement.

The number of oxygen sensors varies with a car's year, make, and model. Most vehicles have three or four sensors. All cars and trucks have at least one sensor found in front of the catalytic converter.

The primary objective of an oxygen sensor is to test for a lean or rich fuel mixture. Lean fuel mixtures have more oxygen present after being burned and rich mixtures have more fuel. Both types of imbalances are damaging to a vehicle and the environment. A rich mixture results in excess fuel that pollutes that environment. A lean mixture results in nitrogen-oxide toxins that pollute the environment and cause decreased engine performance.

Testing an Oxygen Sensor

Testing an oxygen sensor requires two tools, a voltmeter, and a back-probe. Step one is to ensure that all wires surrounding the sensor are correctly installed and intact. The vehicle is then started with the engine being brought to 600 degrees F. The voltmeter and back-probe are then used to measure the oxygen sensor's behavior at a set number of points and conditions. This is a somewhat involved and prohibitive procedure, so if you have any questions or concerns about your oxygen sensor, bring your vehicle to our repair shop today!

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