Oxygen detector types and maintenance
What is an oxygen sensor?
An oxygen detector (often called an "O2 sensor" because O2 is the chemical formula for oxygen) is installed in the vehicle's exhaust manifold to monitor how much unburned oxygen is in the exhaust as it exits the engine. These sensors let your car know if the fuel mix is thick (not enough oxygen) or thin (too much oxygen) by monitoring oxygen levels and sending this information to the engine's computer. Read this article to learn the difference between the two. A proper air-fuel ratio is essential to keep a car running smoothly.Since O2 sensors play an important role in engine performance, emissions and fuel efficiency, it's important to understand how they work and make sure your sensors are working properly.
Where is the oxygen detector located?
The number of oxygen sensors in vehicles varies. Every car built after 1996 requires an oxygen sensor upstream and downstream of each catalytic converter. So while most vehicles have two oxygen sensors, those V6 and V8 engines with dual exhausts have four - one upstream and downstream of the catalytic converters in each row of the engine.
What does the oxygen sensor do?
The vehicle's O2 sensor measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust gas and reports this feedback to the vehicle's computer. The computer then uses this information to adjust your air/fuel mixture.
The oxygen sensor works by generating its own voltage when it gets hot (about 600°F). The tip of the oxygen sensor inserted into the exhaust manifold is a zirconium ceramic bulb. The bulb is coated with a porous platinum layer that serves as an electrode. The interior of the bulb emits to the outside atmosphere through the sensor body.
When the outside of the bulb is exposed to the hot gas of the exhaust gas, the difference in oxygen content between the bulb and the atmosphere inside and outside the sensor can cause voltage to flow through the bulb.
If the fuel ratio is thin (there is not enough fuel in the mixture), the voltage is relatively low -- about 0.1 volts. If the fuel ratio is very dense (too much fuel in the mixture), the voltage is relatively high -- about 0.9 volts. When the air/fuel mixture is at a stoichiometric ratio (14.7 parts air to 1 part fuel), the oxygen sensor generates 0.45 volts.
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