What is an O2 Sensor?

what's an oxygen sensor

If you’re like the normal, average, every day person who doesn’t know everything about cars, you’re probably confused when someone mentions the term “oxygen sensor.” That sounds like something you’d need if you were an astronaut, not a morning commuter – right? Well believe it or not, your car has an O2 sensor. In most cases, you may even have two. And changing them out at the right time can make a big difference in how your car runs.

  • Basically, your car’s O2 sensor is connected to the computer that lives under your hood. These sensors constantly monitor the level of oxygen that’s mixed in with your fuel – something that came about as a result of fuel injection. If it detects that there’s too much air or fuel still in your engine, it makes adjustments to ensure that you don’t have an imbalance that could cause issues with performance. Have you ever been driving along and thought you could smell pure gas? This is what’s called “running rich” – and it could mean that you’ve got an issue with your oxygen sensor failing to regular the fuel to air ratio.
  • Getting the balance just right is critical. There’s a reason why that pesky “check engine” light goes off to let you know that your oxygen sensors need to be replaced. (Of course, you’ll have to take your car into an auto repair shop to diagnose the exact reason why “check engine” is screaming at you – don’t automatically assume that it means you need your O2 sensor changed, because it could be a number of other things. This is just a general warning light.)
  • If you don’t have the right fuel to oxygen ratio in your engine, you can set loose all kinds of havoc. Not only will you smell that aforementioned “rich” gas smell emanating from your exhaust pipe, but if your engine is running too “lean” on gas you’ll also see some negative results like decreased engine performance and a spewing forth of nasty pollution.
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Who wants to drive a car that’s not performing properly? You waste gas money when you do, and you wind up having to take your car in for repairs more often. And who wants to be one of the leading harbingers of pollution? You live a shorter lifespan when you suck in all that dirty air, and it makes your clothes smell. The next time your auto mechanic tells you that you need your oxygen sensors switched out, don’t laugh at him and ask him if he can also launder your spacesuit. Take him seriously, and approve the work. Your car, your wallet, and the environment will thank you for it. So will your clothes.

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