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The Importance of a Car’s Mass Airflow Sensor

Mass Airflow Sensor

If you are having trouble starting your car, if it stops running shortly after starting or if the engine is hiccuping in general, there is a good chance that there is something wrong with the mass airflow sensor (MAF). A defective sensor can cause a multitude of problems, and it is important to keep this component clean. It may also help to understand its function in your vehicle.

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What the Airflow Sensor Does

Mass airflow sensors are normally used on fuel injected engines. A car’s mass airflow sensor regulates the amount of air coming into an automobiles fuel injection engine. it submits that information to the engine control unit. The data is critical because it allows the ECU to administer the right volume of fuel to the engine. There are many problems that a bad MAF can create. Your engine is likely to run poorly if you do not get the problem fixed. 


Problems Caused by a Faulty Air Sensor 

If there is something wrong with your Mass Airflow Sensor, your check engine light should come on. The most common codes that will display are P0100 to P0105. 


If it takes several tries to start your engine, it may be caused by a faulty sensor. If you hear a hiccupping or if there is a jerking during acceleration, your mass air sensor may be dirty or damaged. If a car hesitates or drags, or if it stops right after starting, it may be indicative of a problem.


How to Clean a Dirty Mass Airflow Sensor  

Depending on the make and model of your car, a new MAF may cost as much as $300.00. Therefore, it is a good idea to try to clean the air sensor if you can. You should clean it every six months. It is a good idea to take care of it when you clean your air filter. There are three simple steps to cleaning your sensor. 


Take The Sensor Out of the Car 

When you want to clean the MAS, open up the hood, and locate the air filter hose. You will see a small component attached to the hose that is connected to the cold air collector box this is the top of the MAS, but in order to work on it, you will have to remove the airbox. 


The air collector box is an empty chamber on the inlet of most combustion engines. It gathers the air from the outside of the car and carries that air to intake filters that are attached to each cylinder. 


To begin, you must take off the MAF wiring harness by pushing the clip down and pulling it off. The wiring harness is attached to the MAF with several colorful wires. You will then loosen the hose with a flat head screwdriver so you can get the airbox off. 


On some cars, you will need a flat head screwdriver to remove the airbox, on others you can simply push down on a couple of side tabs and remove the box. 


Once the box is off, you should look at the hole in the side that attaches to the air filter. You will find a small rod with a hole in the top of it. Inside the hole you should see two small wires, this is the mass airflow sensor. They are very tiny and when they are not clean, they can give you a bad reading. This component will not detach from the airbox.


You should never touch the Mass Airflow Sensor when you are cleaning it. You should always use a cleaning product that is specifically designed for the MAS. No other cleaner will do. Spray the MAS for five seconds straight, wait about ten minutes for it to dry, and then spray it again. Turn it around and spray it on the other side. Wait until it is completely dry before putting everything together again. If cleaning did not solve the problem, you may want to take your car into a mechanic.

Knowing When the MAF Needs to Be Replaced

Many car components will have a set life span and the owner’s manual will tell you when you need to replace certain components. The life span is determined by the number of miles a car has on it. The mass airflow sensor does not have such a life span. Theoretically, they can last for the entire life of the car. 


As we have already discussed, the MAF is critical to a car’s performance. You would not be able to drive it safely and may not be able to drive the car at all of this sensor is not functioning properly. 


These components are very easily damaged, which is why you should never touch the MAF when you are cleaning it. Remember, the MAF monitors airflow and that means that plenty of air is run through the tiny part every time you drive your car. 


All that air can be hard on this delicate component. That air has dirt and other debris in it. The air filter is supposed to make sure that that debris does not make it to the surface of the MAF. Hence, it is necessary to keep your filter clean and tightly secured. You should replace the filter as the manufacture recommends.


The PCV Valve is another important component of keeping the MAF safe. The crankcase holds your motor oil. It is located at the base of your engine. When you drive a car, waste gases are produced and those gases exit through the exhaust pipe. 


Unfortunately, some of those gases do not exit, they get into the crankcase. If the PCV valve is blocked up, it can result in crankcase vapors backing up through the breather system. If the valve becomes corroded, it can create oily deposits on the MAF.   


Is it possible to drive with a faulty air sensor?

If you are strapped for cash, you may be wondering if you can drive your car at all with a faulty mass airflow sensor. You may be able to operate the vehicle for a short period of time, but it is advisable to get the part replaced as soon as possible. 


A bad sensor will cause the engine’s computer to miscalculate the amount of fuel to inject into the engine. The engine will default to a generic fuel map that has no real way of knowing the correct amount of gas to inject.


In most cases, the generic fuel map can cause an engine to, “run rich” and burn too much fuel. Not only will it cost you a lot of money at the gas station, but it may also destroy your engine.


When your engine runs rich, the unused fuel has to have a place to go. The fuel that is able to get out of the engine, may cause the oxygen sensor to fail.  Eventually, soot will build up and get into the catalytic converter, causing the vehicle to run poorly. 


A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission management component that lowers toxic gases and debris in the exhaust gas. When the converter gets too congested the car may not be able to run at all. 


If you have to replace a catalytic converter, you may want to consider replacing the car. The converter can cost anywhere from $2000 to $3000 to replace.


If you want to replace your mass airflow sensor, you should know that the part is far more expensive than the labor and you should never try to replace the part yourself. It is very delicate and can be destroyed if you handle it the wrong way. 


If you do decide to take your car to a mechanic, you will have a choice of taking it to a dealership or an independent autobody shop. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. 


Getting Repairs at the Dealership 

Most people know that the dealership will charge you more money for repairs than an autobody shop. Often times people will choose to go to an independent mechanic simply to save money. However, there are some good reasons to go to the dealership


A dealership will employ mechanics who are certified in your type of car. The make and the model of the car are important when replacing a mass airflow sensor because they all work differently within a car’s engine. 


A mechanic who is well trained in the make and model of an automobile will be familiar with that car’s fuel and air disbursement requirements. 


They will be experienced in dealing with your particular engine and they will be able to quickly analyze if the MAF has caused any damage to your car’s engine. 


The dealership will charge you by the job and not the hour. Changing a MAF is not a time-consuming job. A mechanic who is paid by the job is less likely to try and make it take longer to get more money.


Getting Repairs at an Autobody Shop

Most American’s greatly prefer to use independent mechanics for repairs. In addition to being less expensive, you will get to talk to a mechanic directly.


When looking for a mechanic, make sure to go to the AAA website. They maintain a list of recommended mechanics throughout the country. You should also check Angie’s List for reviews. 


Remember to check the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against them. There are a lot of fake reviews on the internet, so make sure to read everything carefully and only trust sites that have a vetting process for fake reviews. 


Try and find a mechanic who is certified in your type of vehicle. Never give a mechanic a free hand, make sure that they call you for any additional repairs and charges that you may incur. Ask the mechanic how many years of experience they have.


Selling Your Car 

If your MAF has caused extensive damage to your vehicle, you may want to consider replacing the car. If you do so, you will have several options for unloading the old car.


Take the Trade-In

When you buy a new car, the dealership will give you a certain amount of money for trade-in. Before you visit the showroom, you should check the Blue Book Value of your vehicle. You may also want to get an offer or two from independent buyers and a junkyard before you shop for your new car.


A dealership may try to give you less money than the car is worth because they think you are too lazy to do your research. They may also rely on your wanting to avoid the hassle of selling your car rather than trading it in. 


A dealership may also offer you what seems like a good price for a car and then tack that same amount of money back onto the total price of the car. Read each line of your final bill carefully before signing anything. 


Do not let the salesman offer you a trade-in amount until they give you a total price for the vehicle. Simply tell them that you do not have a vehicle to trade-in. When they give you the price, tell them about your old car and let them know the Kelly Blue Book Price. Make them aware of any other offers you have on the vehicle.

Sell Your Car Online

There are a few websites that are specifically devoted to independent car sales. They will charge you a certain amount of money to run your ad. If you choose to sell your car this way, you will have many competitors and it may take months.


Remember that you will have to take the time to show the car.  You are unlikely to sell it to the first person to whom you show the vehicle. It can be very dangerous to sell your car online as you are giving your address to strangers.


Sell Your Car to Us

Cash Cars Buyers can give you a great price for your car no matter what kind of condition it is in. Simply fill out our online form. We request your name, email address, and phone number. We will ask you to provide the make, model, and year of your car as well as the VIN number. 


Once we have your form, we will call you right away with an offer. If you accept the offer, we will make an appointment with you to pick up your car. We will pay you in cash and tow your car away for free. It is as easy as that, so call us today.

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