5 Key Sensors That Can Affect Your Vehicle


5 Key Sensors That Can Affect Your Vehicle

In the late 1900s, a central processor and chain of sensors controlled the various functions of vehicle’s drivetrains and engine. Such functions they controlled were:

  • Anti-lock braking
  • Emission control
  • Fuel metering and delivery
  • Traction control
  • Transmission shift points

The engine’s functions were carried out by the distributor, carburettor, throttle kick down linkage and vacuum spark advance. Now, a drivetrain computer and various sensors are in control of these important functions. What kinds of sensors is a vehicle installed with and how they do work?


Oxygen Sensor

The oxygen sensor has been installed in the exhaust stream, typically next to the exhaust manifold and after the catalytic converter has been installed. This sensor (commonly known as the O2 sensor) gauges how much exhaust gas compared to oxygen is being released. The sensor uses this information to compare it to the ambient air’s oxygen level to determine if the engine is running as it should be.

This information is then used by the engine computer to regulate emission controls and fuel metering strategy.


Engine Speed Sensor

This sensor affects the rotational speed in RPMs of the crankshaft. This sensor has a magnetic coil and serrated disk. While the crank spins, it causes a magnetic field to appear around the coil. The disk, however, will disrupt the magnetic field – this is how you get your RPMs count. If there’s an issue with the engine speed sensor, it could appear as problems with the fuel and ignition, speedometer or cruise control.


Fuel Temperature Sensor

Warm fuel isn’t very dense and ignites quickly; cold fuel is much denser and difficult to burn. The sensor relays the information to the engine computer. With warm fuel, the injectors release more fuel to attain a certain mass level and delay timing. The exact opposite occurs for cold fuel. A faulty temperature sensor will lead to two things – the check-engine light to turn on and the drop in fuel economy.


Manifold Absolute Pressure Sensor

In the past, the manifold vacuum would regulate various parts of a vehicle including windshield wipers. Today, the manifold absolute pressure sensor (or MAP) will look at the intake manifold’s vacuum to determine what the engine load is. The computer will use the information to come up with fuel delivery and spark advance.

Mass Air Flow Sensor

The mass air flow sensor (or MAF) is found close to the air filter and watches for how much air gets into the engine. Using the data, the drivetrain computer will know how much fuel metering and delivery there needs to be. If this sensor fails, it can cause lean running conditions lead to stalling, tickovering, and a host of other things. The check engine light will also illuminate.

While there are a plethora of other engine control processors and sensors in a vehicle, the above mentioned are deemed most important to its performance. If any one of them begins to fail, it can cause the “check engine” light to illuminate. This is when you need to take it to a mechanic to determine what’s wrong. In many cases, you may be surprised to learn that it’s not the actual sensor causing problems, but something else entirely.

Parking Sensors Make Parking Easier


Parking Sensors Make Parking Easier

Parallel parking is often regarded as the bane of most drivers’ existence. After all, drivers have to determine how much space their vehicle needs and where the vehicle’s front and rear bumpers are. Stick a new driver behind the wheel and ask them to parallel park, and this can be a very difficult task to do successfully.

Parallel parking means moving forward and backward repeatedly, perhaps even putting your head out the window or getting out to see how close you are to the vehicles you’re trying to park in between. It’s certainly a hassle, and it would be great if some kind of parking sensor would be developed to make the parallel parking job easier.

Great news! Most modern cars can now be fitted with parking sensors.

To understand how parking sensors work, you need first to understand radar, which means Radio Detection and Ranging, and how it works. Radar works by sending radio waves of a particular frequency and length that bounce off a metal object and go back to a receiving dish. Once this happens, one can calculate the object’s location, speed and distance.

Interesting Tidbit: Radar was instrumental in helping the British to detect inbound German bombers and formulate a response.

Now, parking sensors are quite similar to radar, but they’re not using radio waves to transmit nearby objects. They use either ultrasonic or electromagnetic sensors to detect objects. What’s the difference between ultrasonic and electromagnetic parking sensors? Is one better than the other?


A Look At Ultrasonic Parking Sensors

Ultrasonic parking sensors will emit waves that reflect off objects and determines the amount of time for it to come back and changes in the wavelength. The sensor will emit an alarm, which increases in beeps, when you’re close to an object. The majority of ultrasonic parking sensors are designed to detect objects that are between five and 15 meters away.

There are two issues with this type of sensor:

  • It cannot easily detect small objects or certain materials such as blood, flesh or plastic because they don’t reflect the ultrasonic waves.
  • The sensors, which line across the vehicle’s bumper, may not work properly if covered by dirt or grime.


A Look At Electromagnetic Parking Sensors

Electromagnetic parking sensor can also be used to judge distance of objects from the vehicle. A transceiver strip produces an electromagnetic field that senses changes in an object’s voltage. The processor will read and relay this information to set the beeper alarm off. This system is ideal for detecting moving objects in your way.

The parking sensor technology is installed on self-driving vehicles, which use a laser, radar or ultrasonic-proximity sensors to determine the distance from objects like other vehicles. With this technology, the vehicle can alter its speed. The idea is to use the technology’s information and GPS coordinates to create a totally autonomous design that no longer needs a person’s input.

Most people are familiar with the backup camera, which is an improvement over the parking sensor system. The camera provides drivers with a clear look at what is behind their vehicle with no obstructions.

With this technology in play, no longer do you have to gauge your distance when parallel parking. It’s all done for you!

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