Love Your Car, Love Your Planet By Replacing Your Oxygen Sensor

Today’s cars are filled with sensors, but some are more noticeable than others when they fail. The oxygen sensor (or O2 sensor) is one of these. Pretty much every late model car has an oxygen sensor. When they fail (and they eventually will), there are several negative effects. Fortunately, replacing an oxygen sensor is a relatively simple matter.

Oxygen sensors appeared in car engines when controlling emissions became more important. To reduce emissions to the absolute minimum, it is essential that car engines operate as efficiently as possible. The oxygen sensor is used to measure the amount of oxygen left in the exhaust. If oxygen is present, that means that combustion is not as efficient as possible. Based on information from this sensor, your car’s computer adjust the amount of fuel delivered to achieve optimum performance and the completely burn the fuel.

Over time, oxygen sensors fail due to the extreme heat they must endure for such long periods. Once your oxygen sensor fails, the engine’s computer no longer has the information it needs to adjust the air-fuel mixture. So it just sets a default level. This is called open-loop operation. When your car runs in open-loop all the time, performance declines, fuel economy goes down, and the amount of pollutants released into the air goes up.

Fortunately, replacing your oxygen sensor is a task almost anyone can do. First you have to find it and purchase the appropriate replacement part. To replace a bad O2 sensor, disconnect your batter cable (remember, this sensor is part of your car’s computer system and leaving the battery connected could cause damage). Disconnect the wire from the sensor and remove the sensor with a wrench. It will probably be quite tight. Screw in the new sensor, reconnect the wire and then reconnect the battery.

You should notice a difference almost immediately. Your car will run more smoothly, you’ll feel an increase in performance, and your fuel mileage should improve a little. Best of all, you can drive without feeling guilty about polluting the air we breathe.

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