There are many warning signs your camshaft position sensor has failed, including a lit check engine light, ignition problems, car jerking or surging, engine stalling, poor acceleration, problems shifting, and bad fuel mileage. Expect to pay more for this replacement if you have a luxury vehicle.
A bad camshaft position sensor can cause several issues before it completely fails, shutting down the engine, meaning replacement is necessary.
Although it is unlikely, a camshaft position sensor could fail. One of the reasons could be an accident. Another reason may be due to age and normal wear and tear.
Most cars should last a significant amount of time without a camshaft position sensor failing. However, the camshaft position sensor could completely fail and shut down the engine without warning.
It is important to pay attention to the symptoms and have your vehicle checked as soon as possible.
When it comes to determining if a camshaft position sensor is bad, how it got that way, or estimating the cost of the repair, research is a good place to start. The repair is worth fixing, especially if it means having a functioning engine.
This article will outline some common questions about camshaft position sensors, signs it (they) need to be replaced, and the approximate cost of doing so.
What Is a Camshaft Position Sensor And What Does It Do?
A camshaft position sensor gets information about the vehicle’s camshaft speed and sends that information to the vehicle’s engine control module. The engine control module uses this data to determine many things including the timing of ignition and fuel injection that the engine requires.
Every make and model will have slightly different pieces, so that plays into the equation. For example, newer cars have better sensors than older cars. Newer sensors can by hypersensitive or break easily, though.
If the engine does not receive this information, it will not function properly. In some cases, the sensor goes bad slowly. The effects aren’t that noticeable at first. As time goes on, though, the car just doesn’t keep up like it used, and you may be wondering why. It could be the camshaft position sensor.
What causes a camshaft position sensor to fail?
A camshaft position sensor failure may not be something you expect to hear from your mechanic, considering sensors are intelligent and used to control many processes within your vehicle.
A camshaft position sensor is always located near the camshaft, at the top of the valve cover, or installed from the side of the cylinder head. This location makes it particularly vulnerable during accidents or normal wear and tear, the common causes for camshaft position sensor failure.
Mechanics will verify the failure of a camshaft position sensor by connecting a computer to the engine control module. The car computer will tell the mechanic if the sensor has faulted. The repair should be minimal, but ask your mechanic for a quote with both the part cost and labor, to confirm.
If camshaft position sensor symptoms are present but ignored, eventually the vehicle’s engine control module will weaken and switch off, causing the engine to switch off too. This could happen while the vehicle is parked or even while you are driving. This could be a very dangerous situation.
Symptoms of a Failing Camshaft Position Sensor
If the camshaft position sensor is failing, you could notice one or more of the following signs:
- The check engine light is on
- Ignition problems
- Vehicle jerking or surging
- Engine stalling
- Poor acceleration
- Problems shifting
- Bad fuel mileage
Any one of these problems could indicate another issue within the vehicle, so it is important to be as specific as possible with your mechanic. For example, an illuminated check engine light could be a variety of problems, not necessarily a bad camshaft position sensor.
As a camshaft position sensor weakens, the transmitted signal to the vehicle’s computer weakens too. Over time, the signal will be so weak that it will not allow the car to start since there is no spark from the ignition. Additionally, the engine could receive more fuel than necessary, causing bad fuel mileage.
Certain vehicle models with a bad camshaft sensor will end up with a locked transmission that remains in a single gear. The only way out of that gear is to shut off your engine, wait, and restart. This is only a temporary solution as the problem will reappear.
If you are unlucky enough to be driving your vehicle while the camshaft position sensor fails, the engine will simply lose power, causing your car to randomly jerk or surge forward. Aside from jerking or surging, your vehicle will not be able to accelerate. Even worse, your engine could stall or shut off entirely.
This could be a very serious problem. Ignoring symptoms or postponing scanning your vehicle could mean the engine becomes very seriously damaged. If the engine ends up failing, you would have to either rebuild or replace your engine. What once could have been a simple fix, is now a nightmare.
Can a Car Run without a Camshaft Position Sensor?
There are several dangers to driving with a bad camshaft position sensor or without one entirely.
Although a car can run without a camshaft position sensor, it is not recommended. A fully functioning camshaft position sensor improves the overall performance and safety of your vehicle.
There is no reason to let a bad or failing camshaft position sensor go, considering how affordable it is to get it repaired. It would be much wiser to have the mechanic make a diagnosis instead of allowing symptoms to continue and risk possible engine failure.
In summary, you could drive your car with a bad or failing camshaft position sensor, but you shouldn’t. Confirm with your mechanic before driving.
How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Camshaft Position Sensor?
Expect to pay between $130 and $200 to replace a camshaft position sensor. Labor should be between $70 and $90. The part can cost as much as $100 or even more, depending on the model of your vehicle. Expect to pay more if you have a luxury vehicle.
Fixing the repair yourself will cut out labor costs, but can be timely as the camshaft position sensor may be hard to locate.
If you have an older vehicle that already requires other repairs, it may not be worth it to fix the camshaft position sensor. In this case, it may be easier to sell the car or send it to the junkyard once and for all.
Can I Replace a Camshaft Position Sensor?
If you are a mechanic or car enthusiast with a garage, tools, and knowledge, you may be able to fix the camshaft position sensor. If not, pay a visit to your mechanic.
The camshaft position sensor may be tricky to locate. Without adequate know-how, car electronics can be hard to navigate. Mistaking one wire or sensor for another is nothing to mess with. If you are unsure, it is best to see a mechanic.
If you insist on saving money on labor costs, consider getting estimates from several mechanics before making a decision. If the repair doesn’t seem worth it, remember, you can get paid cash for recycling your car at a junkyard.
Is Fixing a Vehicle with a Broken Camshaft Position Sensor Worth It?
The answer to this question depends on vehicle type, age, and severity.
If you know the symptoms and a mechanic can confirm a faulty camshaft position sensor, the repair is affordable. It is a no-brainer to spend $130 to $200 instead of risk complete engine failure.
Driving around with a broken camshaft position sensor is a huge risk. Failure of this sensor could mean jerking, surging, or complete engine failure while driving. This could lead to accidents that harm yourself or others.
However, there are other factors to consider.
Did you purchase the vehicle from a dealership? Is the vehicle new and used as your daily driver? The repair is worth the investment and may even be covered under a warranty if you purchased one under these terms. Warranties and recalls can make a big difference in the bottom line.
If the vehicle is old and other repairs are needed, the repair may not be worth the investment. If it’s the camshaft position sensor, the head gasket, and the ac compressor, you’ve got to get a new car. You’re driving a money pit.
The good news? You have options.
You could sell the car to a mechanic or send the car to the junkyard.
A quick internet search will reveal local junkyards that will recycle your vehicle. They will dissect the car for its usable, valuable parts. Once stripped, the vehicle will then be recycled. The best part is that you will be given payment in cash. Good for the planet and good for your pocketbook!
An Easy Fix if Caught in Time
Let’s face it. Heading to the mechanic is stressful. We are never quite sure what to expect with the diagnosis or repair cost. Few people can afford to have their car repaired. For this reason, consistent and proper maintenance is important.
Luckily, if diagnosed quickly and properly, a broken camshaft position sensor is a relatively affordable job. The repair itself shouldn’t take long and the investment is worth your safety (and that of your passengers and fellow drivers).
If you are unable to afford to repair the failing camshaft position sensor, and it has not yet failed, you may have some time to weigh options while continuing to drive the car.
This is a risk, as the car engine could fail without warning. Consult a mechanic before choosing this option. Your best bet is to check with your mechanic for some advice. Don’t push it.
If the camshaft position sensor fails while driving, do your best to remain calm and if possible, get to the side of the road.
If you were unable to repair the broken camshaft position sensor in time, you may be looking at an engine rebuild or purchasing a new engine altogether. What was once a simple, affordable repair has now turned into an expensive nightmare.
A typical engine rebuild costs between $2,500 and $4,000 in parts and labor. Purchasing a new engine costs between $4,000 and $6,000 although it could be more.
The engine repair may still be worth the investment. If this is your daily driver and purchasing a new car is not an option, $2,500 to $4,000 is certainly less than purchasing a new car.
If you decide the repair is not worth the investment, call a junkyard to tow away the vehicle. What you receive in cash payment could be used as a down payment on a new, or newer, vehicle.
A New Direction
Only you can decide the best option for you. Vehicle repair, even with something as simple as a camshaft position sensor repair, can be stressful. You have to figure out if the repair is worth it while worrying about the consequences of not following through with the job.
Consider your safety and wallet when managing this situation.
Don’t let a camshaft position sensor disrupt your engine, or your day. If you noticed a degradation in the driving quality of your car, take it to a mechanic to get things checked out.