Several vehicles today have features such as automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assistance, adaptive cruise control, and pedestrian detection, to name a few. No matter the manufacturer, these incredible achievements of complicated computer programming all rely on a mix of cameras, sensors and various types of radar. These are located all over the bodies of cars, trucks, SUVs, and crossovers, and it's crucial that they stay clean in order to function properly.
It's impossible to operate a vehicle without getting it dirty, and in winter, salt, snow, and ice make things much worse. Although frequently washing the entire car is suggested and is a great way to avoid dirty sensors, it's not always that simple.
If complete washes aren't possible, Consumer Reports points out several key areas that an owner should keep an eye on: the grille, windshield, body panels, bumpers and cameras. Many manufacturers are using large logos as a cover-up for a radar system. If that's not the case, it could look like a square, circle, or globe-like feature integrated into the grille. The windshield is also important to keep clean, as many cars house sensors inside the car behind the glass.
On the front and rear bumpers and the front and rear quarter panels, many cars have little circles or squares embedded into the bodywork. Those sensors can be kept clean by simply wiping them down with a little bit of soap and water. Be sure to dry them dry, as they could easily freeze and cause interference.
The final important pieces are the cameras. These will likely be located on the nose of the vehicle, on bodies of the side mirrors, and somewhere on the rear of the car. The rearview cameras are often near the license plate, but some cars have pop-out cameras that are hidden when not in use to prevent build-up.
If it is unclear whether the sensors and cameras are clean, clear and functioning right, a few signs could indicate they are not. A backup camera will be visibly blocked if it is dirty. Some parking sensors will annoying beep even when the car is not close to hitting anything. Some will even trigger a light in the car to show something is wrong.
The moral of the story is the adage of better safe than sorry. As long as the sensors and cameras are consistently wiped down and kept clear, the systems should continue to work as intended. Drive safely!