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Signs You May Have a Bad Oxygen Sensor

Engine Oxygen Sensor
In order to pass the California smog test, all your car's smog equipment, including your oxygen sensor, must be in working order. Whether you are required to take a tailpipe test, or only an onboard diagnostic test if you're oxygen sensor is not working right you will fail. Not only is a bad oxygen sensor detrimental to passing your smog test, but can also hurt your car. The problem is that some of the signs that it is failing are not always obvious. Many cars can appear to be running well despite having a bad sensor. Here are five of the most common signs that your oxygen sensor is failing.

Check Engine Light is On

For some people, their check engine light is the first indication that something is wrong with this sensor. However, this could also be a sign of a number of problems or combination of problems. Most check engine light problems involve several emission components. If you've tried checking simple things, like making sure your gas cap is tight, then take your car to the shop for further diagnosis. There, the mechanic will use a scanner to check out the code to determine the problem.

Car Runs Rough or Hesitates

Because the oxygen sensor controls things like timing and fuel mixture, when it goes bad, then your car will likely run rough. Often, the signs are similar to having fuel-related issues. It may feel like your engine's misfiring, and your car hesitates during times of hard acceleration. The engine may feel like it's surging or running unevenly when you're sitting at idle. Sometimes, these symptoms seem to come on gradually, and they could be difficult to notice until your car is running really bad.

Engine Pinging

Since the timing is likely going to be off when the sensor goes bad, it means that the spark plugs won't fire at the optimal time. Your car's engine is designed to have a very specific timing with very little room for error. If your ignition is not firing at a specific time, then it's likely that your fuel will not burn correctly. This may lead to a condition known as pinging which usually is a tapping or fluttering sound when you accelerate.

Higher Than Usual Gas Consumption

The oxygen sensor sends information to the computer to help control the amount of fuel that is sent to the combustion chamber. When it's not working well, or not working at all, your engine may get too much fuel (known as running rich.). This can wreak havoc on your gas mileage as well as cause problems for your engine and catalytic converter. You may also smell a rotten egg smell more often when accelerating hard.

Tailpipe Emissions are High

If you have a traditional tailpipe test done, then certain readings may be off the mark or too high. For example, your car should have little or no oxygen emissions depending on the model and state guidelines. A bad oxygen sensor will throw off that reading and cause you to fail the test. It will also affect hydrocarbon emissions because of the problems previously mentioned with poor fuel mixture and timing.
Even if you're not in need of getting your car smogged soon, you should still take care of your oxygen sensor. If you keep driving it after you've gotten signs that it has failed, you could be causing more problems with other expensive equipment. If your imported car's check engine light is on, or your car is not running right, Walnut Creek Import Service and Sales will check it out for you. Mechanics can do a full diagnostic and repair so that you are able to keep your car running well and help you pass your smog check if you need one.
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