What Happens When the Mass Airflow Sensor Gets Dirty

If you are having difficulties getting your car, truck, or utility vehicle started, it’s possible that the mass airflow sensor is dirty. Also called the MAF sensor, if this sensor becomes caked with dirt, the readings that it sends to the engine control module become skewed. Trinity Automotive advises that the skewed readings trick the module into creating an imbalance of air and fuel in the combustion chamber. This can make it difficult to start your automobile and also cause the following problems.

Acceleration/Engine Lag

Aside from having difficulties starting your automobile, you may also notice that your vehicle’s acceleration lags. This happens when the engine is being fuel-starved. In addition to the acceleration problems, your engine may also lag and stutter at higher speeds.

Black Exhaust Smoke

A dirty MAF sensor can also cause the engine control module to put too much fuel in the combustion chamber. When this happens, you may end up with black exhaust smoke flowing out of the tailpipe. This is because the engine is igniting the excess fuel in the chamber and burning it.

Check Engine Warning

Because your engine is having problems performing, the engine control module will turn on the check engine light. The dirty mass airflow sensor may also send a code to the engine control module that indicates there is an error with the sensor.

Poor Fuel Economy

Any time the mixture of air and fuel in the combustion chamber is not balanced correctly your engine performance suffers. When this happens, your fuel economy suffers, as well. If your vehicle is guzzling gasoline or diesel fuel, it’s possible the MAF sensor is dirty.

Rough Engine Idle

We talked about acceleration lag and engine stuttering above. In addition to these two symptoms, your vehicle’s idle may also be quite rough if the MAF sensor is faulty. The rough idle is being caused by excess air in the engine’s combustion chamber.

Surging/Bucking Engine

Finally, when there is too much fuel in the engine’s combustion chamber, your engine will surge forward. Many people describe the sensation as a bucking bronco. Unfortunately, you will continue to have engine performance issues until you get the mass airflow sensor cleaned.

Call Trinity Automotive in White Bear Lake or Blaine, MN, today if your vehicle is suffering from any of the symptoms of a dirty mass airflow sensor listed above. We’d be happy to check the sensor and clean it if necessary. We can also replace it if it has gone bad.

Photo by Mariia Demchenko from Getty Images via Canva Pro

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