To keep your car or vehicle running smoothly, you’ll need a reliable, functional air flow sensor. But what if your mass air flow sensor is malfunctioning? Can you drive with a bad mass air flow sensor?
Well, yes. You can drive with a bad mass air flow sensor but only for a short period of time. If you drive longer with a defective sensor, it might cause major engine problems.
Bad mass air flow sensors can result in a variety of drivability problems. While driving your vehicle, you may notice a loss of power, stalling, sluggish acceleration, or even a no-start engine. The ‘Service Engine Soon’ or ‘Check Engine’ light will also illuminate if the mass air flow sensor is faulty.
Read on to know how a bad mass air flow sensor can reduce the efficiency of your vehicle or truck, as well as what you can do to fix the problem.
So, Can You Drive with a Bad Mass Air Flow Sensor?
For a limited time, it’s possible to drive with a bad mass air flow sensor. If you have a bad mass air flow sensor, it’s better not to drive because it can lead to engine problems.
The situation will get worse if you ignore what this sensor is telling you. It can potentially cause serious damage to the car’s engine, necessitating repairs or even replacement.
The cost of repairing a car engine is much higher than the cost of repairing a malfunctioning mass air flow sensor. The cost of replacing an engine is even higher. It will only cost you roughly $200 to replace the sensor. However, if you don’t have a choice but to replace the engine, the cost may be as high as $7,500.
Therefore, pay attention to what the mass air flow sensor is telling you. Instead of waiting until later, have it cleaned, fixed, or replaced now. As opposed to fixing or replacing your car’s engine, this is a far easier and less expensive solution.
Your car will not stop running because of a bad mass air flow sensor. You can drive your vehicle as usual, but it’ll be less efficient.
So, for how long can you drive with a bad mass air flow sensor? For a short while, you can drive your vehicle with a bad mass air flow sensor. However, if you do it for an extended period of time, it is not recommended. If you keep driving, you risk causing mechanical harm to the engine by pushing it to run in a lean air-to-fuel ratio.
A faulty mass air flow sensor will not communicate any information about airflow to the PCM. As a result, the PCM will be unable to regulate the amount of fuel delivered to the engine. So, the engine may idle abnormally or may not idle at all.
Also, if the PCM provides the incorrect amount of fuel to the engine continuously, the air-to-fuel ratio will be either too rich or too lean. If you detect black smoke coming from the tailpipe or if your fuel consumption has suddenly changed, this is a sign.
What causes a MAF sensor’s hot wire to fail? There are some reasons why this hot wire won’t work properly:
- It becomes dirty due to oil residues from a heavily oiled, reusable performance air filter.
- Potting compound
- Spider webs
- Different sources of dirt that act as insulation for the wire
Cleaning the MAF sensor is a simple and inexpensive solution to this problem. Ignoring and neglecting it will result in more serious engine problems.
Bad Mass Air Flow Sensor Symptoms
If the MAF sensor fails to function properly, it will result in problems such as low vacuum or poor compression. It can also show up as low fuel pressure, allowing you to believe the issue is with the fuel pump.
If this sensor is failing, you’ll notice other symptoms, which include:
- There’s some hesitation or jerking during acceleration
- While idling or under load, the engine hesitates or drags
- Engine hiccups
- Hard to start the engine, and the alternator has difficulty turning it over
- Engine stops or stalls right after starting
- Idling is either rich or lean
Take it to a professional mechanic if you’ve isolated the problem and are certain it’s the MAF sensor. They’ll be able to run a complete computer diagnosis on the issue.
When the computer diagnoses a faulty MAF sensor, it will typically display a specific code. By using computer diagnostic tools, this problem is relatively easy to identify.
Disconnect the Air Flow Sensor and Check It
If you’re not certain the problem is caused by a bad air flow sensor, unplug it and run your vehicle. Simply drive it a short distance and see whether it normally runs without the MAF sensor. If your vehicle runs normally, the MAF sensor is to blame.
As soon as possible, have it cleaned or replaced. Do not drive your vehicle as usual until the MAF sensor has been cleaned or replaced.
What Causes MAF Sensors to Fail?
Contamination is the most common cause of MAF sensor failure. This device is constantly exposed to oil, air, dirt, and other elements. Foreign debris can enter the sensor, contaminating its interior components. When the sensor becomes dirty, it will stop working properly.
A bad mass air flow sensor could be the cause of slow performance in your car or truck. Check the MAF sensor if the idling is rough, your vehicle stalls after starting, or if you have poor acceleration. That could be the source of the problem.
When Should You Expect MAF Sensor Problems?
If you’ve driven your car for 18,000 to 25,000 miles, you’re likely to run into this issue. It will also be determined by the make and model of your vehicle. MAF sensors in compact and small cars, for example, clog up more quickly. This is most likely due to the limited size of their engine bays.
Because there is only a little space in which dirt particles can flow, many kinds of dirt and debris can easily accumulate in a small engine bay. The MAF sensor is easily contaminated by dirt, combustion waste, oil vapor flows, and other impurities.
What’s the Life Expectancy of a MAF Sensor?
There are no expiration dates on mass air flow sensors. They aren’t part of the car’s mileage-guaranteed components. MAF sensors aren’t even on the list of car parts that need to be serviced on a regular basis.
In fact, they can stay in service indefinitely as long as they function well.
Again, can you drive with a bad mass air flow sensor? People can drive with a bad mass air flow sensor for a short period of time. The reason is that a bad mass air flow sensor can cause major engine troubles if you drive for too long.
Next, we’ll look at troubleshooting a bad mass air flow sensor.
Troubleshooting a Bad Mass Air Flow Sensor
A professional car mechanic should inspect, fix, or replace a malfunctioning mass air flow sensor. However, it would be ideal if you learn how to do it so that you can properly care for this delicate device.
The following are the steps taken in a typical MAF sensor troubleshooting:
- Inspect the connector to see if it fits well and is in good working order.
- Next, look for any damage to the MAF sensor.
- Check for any damage to the sensor’s measuring components.
- Inspect the voltage supply by turning on the ignition. You can find the pin assignment on the circuit diagram. The reference level ranges between 7.5 and 14 volts.
- Check the output voltage while the engine is running. The pin assignments can be found on the circuit diagram. 0 to 5 volts is the reference value.
- Inspect the cables connecting the sensor transmission connector to the disconnected control unit connector. If necessary, refer to the circuit diagram. Approximately 0 ohm is used as the reference value.
- Through the engine management control unit, electronically test the MAF sensor. If a problem occurs, look for the fault code. This code is normally stored in the control unit. A diagnostic unit can be used to get it.
Connect the MAF sensor’s voltage signal wire and ground wire to a voltmeter to evaluate the frequency and voltage signal. Start the engine and then check the voltage on the voltmeter. The volt reading on some sensors should be 2.5 volts.
Mass Air Flow Sensor – What Is It?
To understand what it really does, you must first understand what a mass air flow sensor is. The MAF sensor, which stands for mass air flow, is a modern car component. It’s a device that measures how much air mass travels through a vehicle’s air intake.
The MAF sensor estimates the amount of air flow with the help of the power control module (or PCM) by multiplying the air volume by the air density. The MAF sensor signal is utilized by the engine computer to calculate the amount of fuel for injection to achieve the proper air-to-fuel ratio.
The MAF sensor’s signal is used to calculate the load on the vehicle engine. This means that the functionality of other systems in the car is influenced by this sensor. It can, for example, alter automated shifting patterns in cars equipped with automatic transmissions. It can also wreak havoc on the vehicle’s traction control system.
Due to the interdependence of various car components, you should investigate other possibilities rather than just focusing on a bad MAF sensor. Your vehicle may run too rich or too lean as a result of a bad MAF sensor. When you accelerate, it can cause your vehicle to jerk.
These are only a few of the issues; there are plenty more. This sensor aids in the effective operation of your vehicle. If it’s not working, go check it out straight away. It’s possible that what it needs is just a good cleaning. When compared to repairing or replacing the engine, replacing the sensor would considerably be less taxing on your wallet.
Different Types of Mass Air Flow Sensors
Your car’s MAF sensor is one of the 4 different types of MAF sensors. And the sensor in your vehicle is most likely a hot wire MAF sensor, which is the most common type. There are two wires on this type of sensor. One wire is heated, while the other isn’t.
The PCM estimates the amount of air entering into the engine by the amount of current needed to keep the hot wire at 200 F or 93.33 C hotter than the cold wire temperature.
When the temperature between these two wires differs, the MAF sensor will reduce or increase the current via the heated wire. As a result, more or less air is pumped into the engine.
Other types of sensors include:
- Vane MAF Sensor – Also known as an airflow meter. A potentiometer is used to transfer a signal or a variable. In some situations, it measures air volume by sending a changing voltage signal to the PCM.
- Cold Wire MAF Sensor – It uses a thin metallic strip, which vibrates when air travels past it. The Engine Control Module (ECM) receives a signal from the variations in the vibration frequencies.
- Karman Vortex MAF Sensor – It’s comparable to other sensors since it forms a vortex that a photocoupler and a mirror detect. The signal is first converted to power before being delivered to the PCM.
Conclusion – Can You Drive with a Bad Mass Air Flow Sensor? [Faulty Sensor]
Only for a short time, yes, you can drive with a bad mass air flow sensor. Driving long distances with a bad mass air flow sensor is not recommended because it can lead to more serious vehicle problems. A defective sensor might exacerbate the situation and perhaps lead to a more serious engine problem.