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Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)

Posted August 1, 2021 11:07 AM

If someone asked you what gas made up the largest portion of the atmosphere, what would you guess? Well, it's not oxygen; it only makes up 20.9 percent.  But since we're talking about oxygen, you should know that your vehicle uses oxygen sensors to make sure your engine is running the way it should.

The oxygen sensors measure how much oxygen is in your exhaust.  If there's too much, it means there's a problem with the mixture of fuel and air.  The sensor sends signals to computers in your engine and adjusts the mixture so it maximizes performance and efficiency.  It does this constantly. 

Many vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors.  Some have one close to the engine, another close to the muffler.  Two measurements are better than one since they allow readings to be more accurate.  You may have a vehicle with a dual exhaust, so you'd have twice as many oxygen sensors.

Your oxygen sensors can fail.  One thing that can damage them is contamination from bad fuel.  The sensors can simply wear out, though they usually last a long time.  It's not unusual for an oxygen sensor to last 100,000 miles/160,000 km. One more thing that can cause an oxygen sensor to fail is residue from an engine that's burning oil.  Plus contaminants from the road like salt can also cause problems. 

Here are some signs that your oxygen sensors might be failing.

  • The Check Engine light goes on.  In this case, your service facility can plug in a device that will read the code in your engine's computer to see if that's the problem.
  • The engine is running roughly.
  • Black, sooty smoke is coming out of your tailpipe.
  • Your fuel economy is noticeably lower than it used to be.

Head to your service facility and tell your advisor what symptoms your vehicle is experiencing.  They have the equipment and training to track down the issue.  Note that simply replacing the oxygen sensor is often not enough since it doesn't get to the root of the problem; other repairs may be needed. 

So make sure your oxygen sensors are working the way they should be.  Oh, and back to the question of what gas makes up most of the Earth's air?  It's nitrogen, which comprises 78 percent of the air we—and our engines—breathe.

Hill's Auto Repair, Inc.
22829 colton point rd
Bushwood, Maryland 20618
301-769-2400



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What People Say About Us

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    , 07/21/2021

    They are excellent. They are very accommodating, knowledgeable and professional. They go above and beyond for their customers. Thank you so much!!

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    , 07/16/2021

    I have been having my vehicles serviced at Hills for approximately 16 yrs. Jerry & his staff have always been friendly & courteous. They always notify me of needed repairs before any work is done. I would highly recommend Hills Auto to anyone in need of good honest mechanical work.

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    , 07/09/2021

    Marcus was great, I brought the car in with a flat tire after AAA changed it and tossed everything in the trunk instead of placing it securely in place. After Marcus repaired the tire, he placed everything in it's proper place. It shows that he cares about his work product. Jerry hires the right people with the right attitude. Trust this shop.

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    , 07/07/2021

    Hills is professional ,fast , efficient ,good quality work, knowledgeable mechanics ,Jerry is a great business owner and Dave is great at the front desk.

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    , 07/01/2021

    They do a professional repair on my Antique car. Great shop, great service, great people and they treat your car with care. Al Johnson

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    , 06/28/2021

    Always very professional, great people and service. We come here for the whole package. Their great ratings are well deserved.

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