A warning light comes on and you immediately worry that your vehicle is going to die in the middle of the road or at the very least not run well. While you shouldn’t ever ignore a warning light, you may not be faced with a dire situation. Many times, a sensor has gotten dirty and just needs to be cleaned.
Automotive engine sensors
Whenever the Check Engine Light comes on, it comes from information provided by an automotive engine sensor. These sensors can get dirty and give faulty information to the diagnostic computer. Compressed air will remove dirt and debris that accumulate on the sensors.
One sensor is the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor, which provides information about the electronic control system in the combustion engine. Another sensor is the oxygen sensor, which keeps the engine running correctly by monitoring how much oxygen is getting into the cylinders and ensuring an accurate mix of air and fuel. Both of these sensors are able to be cleaned. In fact, the oxygen sensor may need to be cleaned often because of the dust and debris it picks up, depending on where it's located.
These sensors tell you when there’s a problem with the antilock brakes and can be an indication of traction issues. They may need to be cleaned since they are located on the vehicle’s suspension system and are accessed when a wheel is removed.
Many newer vehicles comes with parking sensors to let you know when you are close to an obstacle while backing up. If you have a car with this feature, you really start to rely on it. Since the sensors are located somewhere around your bumper, depending on the make of vehicle, you know they are bound to get dirty and need cleaning.
When these sensors get dirty, they may not provide that important alert. You should contact a professional mechanic who can clean them anytime you’ve been out on muddy roads.
If you suspect your sensors are dirty, you can check your owner’s manual to see if any can be accessed and cleaned.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Can Sensors Be Cleaned or Do They Need to Be Replaced? and was authored by Joyce Morse.