The mass air flow sensor is quite a complex little component of multiport fuel injection systems with a critical role in the performance of your engine. Not only does it work hard, but it’s rather fragile due to its design. Because of this fact, it may need to be replaced at some point.
The design and function of the mass air flow sensor
To understand the reason for replacement, you need to know how this mass air flow (MAF) sensor works. The MAF features a sensing element, which tells how much air is flowing through. This element is made either of platinum wire and called a hot wire design or nickel foil grid with the tile of a hot film design. Both are delicate and may be damaged if you try to clean them. For this reason, it’s better to replace the sensor than to attempt to clean it and continue using it.
The MAF sensor measures the amount of air that comes into the system. It provides this information to the engine computer, allowing the system to adjust the amount of fuel needed to maintain the correct ratio.
Why an MAF sensor needs to be replaced
If the sensor gets dirty, it won’t be able to read the airflow. When the MAF sensor doesn’t work, the engine may idle roughly, hesitate, and have difficulty starting. It may even stall on you while driving, which is no fun.
The most common cause for the sensor to become dirty is an air filter that doesn’t get replaced when needed. When the air filter is clogged, it allows more dirt and debris to slip by and accumulate on the sensor. Routine maintenance and air filter replacement can extend the life of your MAF sensor and ensure it continues to work correctly. While the exact timing varies based on where and how much you drive, a good rule to follow is every 10,000 to 12,000 miles.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Often Does the Mass Air Flow Sensor Need to Be Replaced? and was authored by Joyce Morse.