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What Type of Sensors Are Used in Cars? Here Are the Top Ones  

What Type of Sensors Are Used in Cars? Here Are the Top Ones  

Learning about “what type of sensors are used in cars?” is important for any driver. Some of the top car sensors include: 

  • Mass airflow sensor
  • Oxygen sensor
  • Coolant sensor
  • Engine speed sensor
  • Spark knock sensor
  • Fuel temperature sensor
  • Camshaft position sensor
  • Vehicle speed sensor
  • Throttle position sensor
  • Voltage sensor
  • Manifold absolute pressure sensor

Automotive experts and manufacturers generate innovative technologies to help produce the best vehicles that provide the smoothest ride experience every year. Among the different technologies incorporated in vehicles, sensors are one of the most critical ones.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Sensors are responsible for monitoring the vehicle's behavior, alarming, and responding to some of the internal functions. Your vehicle is equipped with a lot of different sensors controlling significant important systems.

As a driver, you need to be familiar with all types of sensors used in your vehicle. Once you know what they do and where they are located, you can understand how significant it is to fix their issues as soon as possible to prevent major damages.

This article walks you through “what type of sensors are used in cars?” It highlights each sensor and tells you where it's located along with its most important function. 

What type of sensors are used in cars? 

Your vehicle is equipped with a long list of sensors doing different jobs. However, you need to be familiar with a group of important sensors in cases of breakdowns. Here are some of the top sensors that you might experience issues with during the lifetime of your vehicle: 

  • Mass airflow sensor 

The mass airflow sensor, or what's referred to as the MAF, is responsible for monitoring how much air gets to the engine. As you might already know, your engine requires a certain amount of air that corresponds to the required amount of fuel. Therefore, any disturbance in the air amount results in troubles with the engine's performance.

With the MAF sensor, your vehicle relies on this sensor to signal how much air got into the engine, and therefore, it will send the right amount of fuel to ensure the proper combustion process. 

  • Oxygen sensor 

The next sensor is the oxygen sensor, which is typically connected to the catalytic converter. This sensor is responsible for monitoring how much oxygen is in the exhaust gases. This way, your vehicle's computer can determine whether these gases are ready to be emitted into the atmosphere or not.

The computer compares the amount of oxygen in the exhaust gas to the ambient oxygen level to see if it's not enough to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency requirements. Your vehicle also relies on the oxygen sensor to determine how much fuel should be sent to the cylinders. Therefore, the oxygen sensor can directly impact the performance and the energy production of your vehicle. 

  • Coolant sensor 

The coolant sensor is one of the very critical sensors in your vehicle. It is responsible for monitoring the temperature of the coolant mixture. Once your vehicle's computer receives the temperature information, it can determine whether the engine temperature is at the proper level or not.

When the coolant sensor fails, you'll see a significant reduction in the vehicle's overall performance, and at some point, the engine might reach significant overheating resulting in internal damages. Thus, although this sensor is very small in size, it plays a major role in protecting one of your vehicle's most important components, which is the engine. 

  • Engine speed sensor

The engine speed sensor is responsible for monitoring the rotation speed of the crankshaft. As the crankshaft rotates, your vehicle's internal computer relies on this information to determine when to send the fuel and activate the spark. Thus, without a properly working engine speed sensor, your vehicle will fail to create the proper combustion at the right time, and therefore, you might see that the engine would stop suddenly because of a bad engine speed sensor. 

  • Spark knock sensor

The spark knock sensor is very critical because it monitors any knocking noises coming from the engine. It is typically located outside the engine block, but it listens carefully to any vibration or abnormal noises coming from the engine. Once these noises happen, the spark knock sensor sends the information to the vehicle's internal computer to throw some check engine errors or other warning lights to grab the driver’s attention. 

  • Fuel temperature sensor

The fuel temperature sensor ensures that the fuel getting to the engine has the optimum temperature. Depending on its temperature, the fuel temperature sensor sends information to the vehicle's internal computer to inject additional fuel into the combustion.

When the fuel temperature sensor fails, your vehicle might run on cold fuel, which has a slightly high density, and it will not burn as fast as needed. On the other hand, when the engine's fuel's temperature is very high, it ignites very fast, and this speed might be beyond what your vehicle is designed for, which means that you won't get the perfect proper performance. 

  • Camshaft position sensor 

The camshaft position sensor sends information to the vehicle's internal computer to determine the right time for ignition and spark. It calculates exactly the position of the crankshaft drive and helps the computer send the right fuel and ignite the air-fuel mixture at the right time to generate the maximum amount of energy. 

  • Vehicle speed sensor

The vehicle speed sensor monitors the speed of the wheels and the transmission output. With this information, the internal computer determined the right air-fuel ratio, the ignition timing, and the appropriate transmission shift point. 

  • Throttle position sensor

This sensor monitors how much the throttle valves are opened. By knowing the opening size, your vehicle's internal computer determines the amount of air that should be sent to the intake manifold and, therefore, to the engine’s combustion area. 

  • Voltage sensor

The voltage sensor is an essential sensor that is responsible for monitoring and managing your vehicle's speed. This sensor can also tell your vehicle's internal computer about whether to increase or decrease the speed of the vehicle. 

  • Manifold absolute pressure sensor 

Finally, the manifold absolute pressure sensor is another important component that people typically referred to as the MAP. The most important function of this sensor is to help your vehicle's computer understand how much load is applied to the vehicle, and therefore, it relies on the pressure put on each manifold. 

Without the manifold absolute pressure sensor, your vehicle's engine will not understand how much power it should produce, and therefore, your vehicle might be overloaded without knowing. Thus, your vehicle's important components, like the suspension system, might get damaged due to the extra load that is not designed for. 

How many types of car sensors are there? 

Depending on your vehicles type, it might be equipped with extra sensors that are not existing and most vehicles. However, most vehicles come with about 15 important sensors that your vehicle cannot run without. 

If you want to get detailed information about your specific vehicle, you are advised to refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual and search for the sensor's location to get a better idea. 

How many oxygen sensors are in a car?

Typically, vehicles are equipped with either one, 2, or three oxygen sensors. However, the exact number of sensors depends on your vehicle's engine and the vehicle's make, model, and year.

Again, if you're not 100% sure about the number of sensors in your vehicle, your vehicle's owner’s manual is a great resource to start with. Otherwise, check with your mechanic because they usually have a general idea by knowing your vehicle's brand. 

Can you fit parking sensors to any car? 

Some drivers prefer to add extra sensors types to their vehicles, including the very common parking sensor. The good news is that you can install the parking sensor on almost every vehicle, and you don't necessarily have to buy it from the original manufacturer.

Most parking sensors available in the market are universal, which means that you can install them to your vehicle despite its type. 

How do I know if my car has parking sensors? 

If your car is equipped with parking sensors, you will find them physically located either on the vehicle's front or the rear bumper. If you could not find them, you might have them displayed on the infotainment system.

If none of the mentioned approaches help you determine whether your car has a parking sensor or not, you'd better refer to the vehicle's owner’s manual because it will for sure tell you about what's added to the vehicle. Otherwise, your mechanic can also help you inspect and check whether these sensors exist or not. 

Should I change all 4 O2 sensors? 

Since the O2 sensor is very susceptible to damage is, many drivers wonder if they have to change all the sensors at once or change the one that broke. In general, the sensors are expected to break out together at the same time. Therefore, if one of the sensors is not in good shape, it might be worth inspecting the other sensors and seeing any signs of premature damages.

If your mechanic confirmed that the other sensors are in good condition and there is no replacement, you could change the faulty one. 

As a rule of thumb, most automotive experts expect that oxygen sensors break down at around 65,000 miles. However, other vehicles might break down at shorter distances of about 60,000 miles, while others might even last 90,000 miles. Therefore, if your vehicle approached these 60,000 miles and one of the sensors got damaged, take a look at the other because they're most likely close to the end of their lifetime. 

Can you drive with a bad car sensor? 

Answering this question can be tricky because it can be different on a case-by-case basis. Some of the sensors might be critical in your vehicle, which means that they play a major role in helping the vehicle perform. 

For instance, if the oxygen sensor or probably the mass airflow sensor breakdown, you'll notice a significant issue in the vehicle's performance. In some scenarios, you might even see a check engine light illuminating on the dashboard here, and continuing driving with such a bad sensor results in significant internal damages. Therefore, your mechanic will advise you to replace the faulty component immediately.

On the other hand, if the sensor is not very critical in the vehicle like the parking sensor, you won't be prevented from driving your vehicle, and your car will drive this fine. However, if you rely on the sensor for your driving, it might be essential to fix it as soon as possible, but it is not a must to continue driving their vehicle. 

Conclusion

Every vehicle is equipped with a long list of sensors that play a separate role. With these sensors, older experts aim to produce the smoothest rides and help your vehicle's internal computer raise some warning lights to grab your attention about internal issues.

Among the different vehicle sensors, the most common is the mass airflow sensor, the oxygen sensor, the coolant sensor, the engine speed sensor, the spark knock sensor, and others. 

When any of these sensors go bad, it impacts the overall performance of the vehicle. Therefore, replacing these sensors is a must to continue driving the vehicle successfully. Unfortunately, some of these sensors might require slightly higher repair costs, especially if it caused some major components. When that happens, you'd probably better sell your vehicle instead and use the money towards a better car that doesn't have major problems. Cash Cars Buyer guarantees to buy your car despite its problems and remove it in one to three days! 

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