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Causes of a car air regulator malfunction (air sensor)

Causes of a car air regulator malfunction (air sensor)


    The Mass Air Flow Sensor / MAF is an essential part of the engine fuel supply system. The sensor measures the characteristics of the air flowing into the engine, such as its density, temperature, and others, and sends readings to the vehicle's electrical control unit (ECU) that will supply the engine. The amount of gasoline is appropriate for the amount of air in the engine for the car to move properly, and the sensor is between the air filter and the exhaust manifold (Intake Manifold) in the front box, and it is exposed to many malfunctions that cause problems in driving the car; Because it will supply the engine with an inappropriate amount of air or gasoline, so in this article, we will discuss the causes of its damage, signs of malfunctions, in addition to its types.


Causes of a car air regulator malfunction (air sensor)
Causes of a car air regulator malfunction (air sensor)


Reasons for malfunction of the air sensor

The reason for the failure of the air sensor is due to the following things:

  1. Sensor tubes wear out over time and air flows inside them.
  2. Pollutants, dirt, and combustion residues from other vehicles on the road build up inside, which will lead to damage.
  3. The passage of an inappropriate amount of electricity in its wires, which will lead to the combustion of the electrical circuits in it, which are responsible for transmitting the readings to the electrical control unit.
  4. Failure or damage to measuring parts due to shocks occurring around them, such as in traffic accidents.

Signs of a faulty air sensor

    The car behaves differently than usual if the air sensor is damaged, and the difference appears as follows:


  • The “Check Engine” signal appears.

This light appears on the dashboard due to several things, but it may indicate a malfunction of the electrical circuits in the sensor, and it is recommended to bring a fault code reader (Error Codes) to make sure there is a problem with the sensor, as the codes will appear between (P0100-P0104) to indicate the presence of Sensor malfunction, codes (P0171/P0174) will appear if it is completely damaged.


  • Overclocking problem

Malfunctions of the air sensor and giving less than correct readings cause the electrical control unit to be unable to provide the engine with the sufficient amount it needs when pressing the accelerator pedal, which will lead to the vehicle not responding and not accelerating.

  • The car is unable to move smoothly after a pause

The car does not respond quickly after stopping temporarily at the traffic lights when the air sensor is out of order, which will affect the reduction of the amount of gasoline in the engine and the increase in the proportion of air in it.

  • Quickly running out of gas

Sensor malfunctions provide the engine control unit (PCM) with false readings that are higher than the truth, which will supply the engine with more gasoline than necessary, and this leads to its consumption in less time without benefit.

  • Black fumes come out of the car exhaust

The presence of an excessive amount of gasoline in the engine due to the wrong sensor readings leads to the wrong combustion in the engine and the production of these toxic gases, thus negatively affecting the catalytic converter responsible for treating these gases. 

  • The inability of the car to work

The malfunction of the air sensor leads to the inability of the car to start working after stopping it completely, due to the inability of the electrical control unit (ECU) to know the readings of the air in the engine, which will impede orders for the flow of gasoline to it, and it can be known that this problem is caused by the sensor malfunction. If the engine is healthy as well as the battery and spark plugs.

  • The smell of unburned fuel appears around the exhaust valve

When there is an excessive amount of gasoline in the engine due to the wrong air sensor readings, this will cause this amount to leak towards the exhaust valve and the appearance of fuel smell around the vehicle.

types of air sensors 


    Air sensors in cars are divided into the following types:

  • Vane MAF

 It is a sensor containing a sliding potentiometer containing several feather plates that measure readings to be sent to the engine control module (PCM), based on a change in electrical current indicating the amount of air in the engine.

  • Goldwire MAF

This sensor contains a thin metal plate that moves depending on the flow of air which will cause a change in the frequency of its vibration, which will be sent as readings to the Electrical Control Module (ECM).

  • Hotwire MAF

This sensor contains hot thin wires that regulate the amount of air flow, depending on the change in electrical resistance in them due to the passage of cold air around them, which will raise the amount of current flowing and maintain its high temperature, and this current is a signal to the engine control unit (PCM) to enter the amount The appropriate amount of gasoline to it. 

  • Karmen Vortex MAF

The principle of operation of this sensor is similar to other sensors, but it depends on the formation of an optical vortex that is read by a photo-coupler, which connects two electrical circuits based on the light without the need to touch them, which in turn will be converted into energy that the engine control unit can read.

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