Engine’s Air/Fuel Mixture Key to Fuel Efficiency, Reduced Emissions

Sluggish performance, hard starting? Could be a worn out or sluggish oxygen sensor. The automotive gasoline engine uses a mixture of air mixed with gasoline to create a combustible mixture. It is the burning of this mixture that operates the engine, and after the combustion process a small amount of oxygen remains in the exhaust.

The oxygen (O2) sensor monitors unburned oxygen in the exhaust, and is part of the fuel management system. The vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM) uses the information sent by the oxygen sensor to determine if the fuel mixture is rich (too much fuel) or lean (not enough fuel). To provide the best performance, fuel economy and emissions, the PCM has to constantly readjust the fuel mixture while the engine is running. It does this by looking at the signal from the O2 sensor(s), and then increasing or decreasing the on-time (dwell) of the fuel injectors to control fuel delivery.

Developed by Bosch in the 1970’s to help control automotive exhaust emissions, the oxygen sensor’s monitoring and signaling allows the engine computer to optimize engine performance and fuel efficiency, and reduce harmful emissions.

Pay Attention to Check Engine Light

If the oxygen sensor wears out and fails to accurately generate a signal for the engine computer, the computer may adjust the mixture too lean or too rich as it tries to accommodate the perceived variation from where if should be. In addition to causing sluggish performance, hard starting and decreased fuel economy, this can cause possible damage to the catalytic converter and other major components – which may translate into quite expensive repairs.

All modern automobiles are equipped with from one to four oxygen sensors at various locations in the exhaust stream, depending on the vehicle make, model and year. So how do you know if an oxygen sensor has worn out? You may experience poor performance, hard starting, and declining fuel economy, and almost certainly, a check engine light will light up on your dashboard.

Although drivers might be tempted to ignore it if the vehicle seems to be running without problems, this is not a good idea. If you ignore it, and continue to drive without having an automotive technician check it sometime soon, you may be setting yourself up for a hefty repair bill.

“A check engine light that is on and flashing means immediate attention is needed – get the vehicle to an automotive service facility and have them check it out, soon. But even if the check engine light is on but not flashing, have a technician give it a close look if you want to save on significant repairs later,” said Dave Pankonin, Product Manager, Engine Management Systems, for Bosch.

“If an oxygen sensor is causing a check engine light to appear and needs to be replaced, it’s a good idea to install an oxygen sensor from the supplier that invented it,” Pankonin noted. Bosch, the world’s largest supplier of automotive parts and systems, introduced the automotive oxygen sensor in 1976, and recently produced the 500 millionth oxygen sensor, Pankonin indicated.

Bosch is a proud supporter of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association’s Know Your Parts® education and awareness campaign. This initiative promotes the importance of quality brand name aftermarket parts backed by full service suppliers, and its impact on delivering reliable products to today’s motorists. For more information visit: http://www.AASAKnowYourParts.org .

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