Here are 15 Types of Car Sensors You Might Be Interested in (And What They Can Do).
To keep things running smoothly, modern car engines are equipped with anywhere between 15 and 30 sensors. The sensors monitor everything inside the engine to ensure optimal performance. There are more than 70 sensors throughout a modern car.
But while there are tons of different sensors in your vehicle – and not every vehicle has the same types of sensors – there are plenty that you can find across the board.
Below we’ve highlighted 15 of the most common types of car sensors that you can find in almost any new vehicle. Each one was briefly described and illustrated how it works.
Here are some of the most commonly used car engine sensors:
- 1. Engine Oil Level Sensor
- 2. Motor Oil Pressure Sensor
- 3. Thermostat Temperature Sensors
- 4. Mass Airflow Sensor
- 5. The Sensor for Air Temperature Intake
- 6. Oxygen Sensors
- 7. Knock Sensors
- 8. Crankshaft/Camshaft Position Sensors
- 9. Throttle Position Sensor
- 10. Absolute pressure sensor for manifolds
- 11. The Fuel Pressure Sensor
- 12. Coolant Level Sensor
- 13. Nox Sensor
- 14. Temperature sensor for exhaust
- 15. Sensor to boost pressure
1. Engine Oil Level Sensor
The engine oil level sensor is one of the most commonly used sensors on your car. This sensor measures the oil level in your engine oil pan to ensure that it’s at a safe operating capacity. If you don’t have enough oil, this sensor will cause an oil level warning light on your dashboard.
The sensor can be found on the bottom oil pan. To replace it, you will need to remove the engine oil. However, this will depend on your engine model.
2. Motor Oil Pressure Sensor
The sensor for engine oil pressure is similar to that of the oil level sensor except it measures oil pressure after the pump. This sensor will be located in the engine block near the fuel filter.
Sometimes, the engine oil pressure sensor has plastic parts that may break with time. This can lead to leakage and eventually malfunction. The red oil pressure light will be the most obvious sign of a poor oil pressure sensor.
Related: Three Symptoms for a Poor Oil Pressure Sensor
3. Thermostat Temperature Sensors
The coolant temperature sensor is another important sensor for your engine. This sensor monitors your coolant temperature, which is a great way to determine your engine’s overall temperature. Engine damage may occur if it becomes too hot.
For some models older cars, your coolant temperature will cause the engine to stop when it reaches an excessive temperature.
Related: 8 Warning Signs that Your Coolant Temperature Sensor is Bad
4. Mass Airflow Sensor
Your vehicle’s engine needs to know how much air is coming in so it can optimize the fuel ratio for maximum performance. Your mass airflow sensor (MAF) measures the amount of air coming through the intake, so it knows how much it’s bringing in.
The MAF Sensor is usually located between your intake manifold AND the air filter box.
Related: 8 Signs that a MAF sensor is bad
5. The Sensor for Air Temperature Intake
It is critical to optimize engine performance. That’s why the intake air temperature sensor (IAT) tells the ECM the air temperature, so it makes adjustments and maximizes performance.
Either the IAT sensor is separate from or integrated with the MAF Sensor. Newer cars have the MAF sensor integrated into them more often.
RELATED : Intake Air Temperature Sensitor (IAT) Symptoms
6. Oxygen Sensors
Oxygen sensors, also known as O2 sensors, measure your air-fuel mixture from the exhaust and the catalytic converter’s effectiveness (CAT). One oxygen sensor measures the air’s makeup before the CAT, and one measures the makeup of the air after the CAT.
If there’s not enough of a drop in emissions, it lets the ECM know that you need to make repairs by showing a check engine light on your dashboard.
RELATED : 5 Signs You Have an O2 Sensor Problem (or a Bad Oxygen Sensor)
7. Knock Sensors
To ensure your engine is safe from knocking or detonation, there are Knock Sensors. A knock or detonation in an engine can cause serious damage to the internal components, leading to expensive repairs.
This could also be from misfires or broken components, but if your engine’s knock sensor hears something – you have a problem.
RELATED : 5 Warning Signs That You Are a Bad Knock Sensor
8. Crankshaft/Camshaft Position Sensors
Engine timing relies on a perfect symphony between the crankshaft and camshaft – and their respective position sensors let the ECM know precisely where each one is at. If those positions don’t line up to what they should be, you need to know as soon as possible.
There are often two sensors on the camshaft, one on each crankshaft. Some cars have only a crankshaft position sensors.
Related: 6 Signs that a Crankshaft Position Sensor is Bad
9. Throttle Position Sensor
The throttle body and accelerator pedal are now fully interconnected by electronic devices, instead of using a cable. Therefore, on the throttle body, there is a throttle position sensor to measure the throttle flap’s angle.
The ECM can tell the throttle position sensor how wide the throttle is. That way, if there’s a problem between the pedal and the throttle, it won’t dump a ton of fuel in and damage the engine because of a sticky throttle.
RELATED: 5 Signs That Your Throttle Position Sensor is Bad (TPS).
10. Absolute pressure sensor for manifolds
Your manifold absolute pressure sensor (MAP) sensor does exactly what it sounds like it would do – it measures pressure in the manifold. Your mass airflow sensor can now be used to measure how much air actually makes it into your engine. This sensor is essential for fuel-injected engines, as it optimises your fuel ratios and provides the best performance.
If your vehicle is equipped with one, it also functions as a boost pressure sensor to measure the turbo pressure.
RELATED: 10 Signs You Have a Poor MAP Sensor
11. The Fuel Pressure Sensor
The fuel pressure sensor measures the fuel pressure on your fuel pressure line or at the fuel pressure rail. Most likely, the sensor will be located on your fuel rail. But it is also possible to mount on the fuel line. It is critical for the engine control module to measure the fuel pressure, as an increase in pressure would result in a richer fuel mixture, and a lower pressure would result in a leaner fuel mixture.
Although the sensor is usually quite inexpensive, it can prove difficult to replace if it's not in good condition. Fuel may be leaking.
Related: 5 Signs that a Fuel Rail Pressure Sensor is Bad
12. Coolant Level Sensor
If your vehicle doesn’t have enough coolant, it’s going to overheat. That’s why most vehicles come with a coolant level sensor, that way, you can avoid problems before you hit the road. If your vehicle doesn’t have enough coolant, then the coolant level sensor will light up the check engine light – and sometimes it will keep you from starting your vehicle.
Your coolant reservoir houses the coolant level sensor.
13. Nox Sensor
The Nox sensor measures the Nox volume in the exhaust gases. It isn't installed in all cars. These sensors are usually found at Volkswagen and Audi as well as Seat and Skoda. Under a plastic covering, the Nox sensor and control unit are installed under the exhaust pipe.
The control unit is often required to be replaced in order for the NOX sensor to be repaired. Both the control unit and sensor can become very expensive. It is also possible to replace the sensor with a more complicated one, as the sensor may rust or get stuck.
14. Temperature sensor for exhaust
The exhaust temperature sensor is often installed in diesel engines. This sensor measures the exhaust gases temperature to optimize the regeneration of the particle filter. There are often 1-4 exhaust gas temperature sensors, depending on which vehicle model you have.
These sensors can be found on the turbocharger, exhaust manifold, or exhaust pipe. These sensors can be quite costly and difficult to access and replace. They often get stuck and rust.
15. Sensor to boost pressure
The boost pressure sensor measures the boost pressure in the intake boost pipes. This sensor is only available if the car has a turbo- or supercharger.
Most cars can easily replace the boost pressure sensors, which are usually inexpensive. If they're mounted on an intake manifold, certain car models might be difficult to locate.
What number of sensors is in a car's engine?
There are around 15-30 sensors in a modern car engine if you don’t include the solenoids. You can count on 70 sensors in modern cars.
While this list isn’t nearly all-exhaustive of all the different sensors you can find in a vehicle – these are some of the most common and the most likely that you’ll run into problems with.
But just remember that while these vehicles might give you a few headaches from time to time, they’re preventing even more significant problems from cropping up and destroying your engine!
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