This week on our Tires 101 blog, we here at Orozco’s Tires & Wheels are going to go over something which can cause you a wide range of problems, from annoying to critical.
Your car’s Mass Airflow sensor, also known as the MAF sensor, can cause several problems with your engine’s performance including, but not limited to, a rough idle, a mild to severe hesitation in acceleration, loss of fuel economy, loss of power, and even stalling out – yes, even with an automatic. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, MAF sensors were in an evolutionary phase, and cars built during these years are very likely to have unreliable, weak MAF sensors.
What the MAF sensor does is convert air flowing past it into an electrical signal, which is read by the car’s ECU. When the volume and density of the air flowing past the sensor changes, the computer is able to make adjustments to the air/fuel mixture and injector timing in order to optimize the engine’s performance, emissions, and economy. If the MAF sensor becomes dirty or faulty, or a wire wears out, then your car will almost certainly run less smoothly, waste more gas, lose power, and jerk or stall.
MAF sensor problems can also cause your car to throw a check engine light (CEL), but the code may not directly tell you that your MAF sensor is malfunctioning. It could read anything from an O2 sensor to “low air volume” or something else similar. Problems with the MAF sensor could be related to wiring, the sensor itself, actual airflow, or a leak or tear somewhere in your intake system.
In fact, symptoms or codes which seem to indicate a bad MAF sensor may not be related to the sensor at all. Your car could have a vacuum leak, torn tubes or hoses, or something else altogether. A common condition in higher mileage cars is that the duct running from the air filter to the throttle body tears, allowing air to enter the intake past the MAF sensor, meaning that the engine is getting more air than the computer is accounting for. This means that the injection and timing will be off, and can cause similar symptoms and codes to MAF sensor failure.
Another possibility is simply a dirty MAF sensor. Any vehicle past 20,000 miles could easily have contamination build up on the MAF sensor; as with most automotive maintenance items, the older your car the more likely you are to have problems.
Eventually, automakers designed and incorporated a self cleaning mechanism which superheats the sensor, burning off any contamination which accumulates, but on older vehicles (mostly cars built before the late ‘90s), it will eventually be necessary to manually clean the MAF sensor.
Even if cleaning the sensor does not solve all of the problems, it can only be beneficial. Most mechanics, including us here at Orozco’s Tires & Wheels in Long Beach, recommend that you clean the sensor every time you get a new air filter, as regular preventative maintenance. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a malfunctioning MAF sensor, call Orozco’s Tires & Wheels today at (844)-676-9267. Our team of professionally trained and certified mechanics can fix your car, guaranteed!