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How to Detect and Clean a Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor

Last Updated On Wed Apr 24 2024

A combustion engine needs a proper mix of airflow and fuel to run smoothly. For that to occur, the Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) keeps track of the quantity of air circulating in the car’s engine, as well as its temperature. 

That information is constantly sent to the vehicle’s Engine Control Unit, or ECU, which then balances and delivers the correct amount of fuel to the engine. So if by any chance the MAF sensor is malfunctioning, dirty, or damaged, you will have issues.

Symptoms of a Faulty Mass Air Flow Sensor

For example, if you notice jerking, hesitation, or roughness when you press the gas pedal, or even the car stalling or slugging; fuel efficiency going down, and in worst cases, black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe, your MAF sensor might be damaged. 

Some other symptoms are:

  • Car is struggling to start or turn over

  • Car is stalling

  • Car is sluggish and dragging

  • During acceleration, the car jerks and hesitates

  • You feel the engine hiccupping

If you notice any of these above, see your trusted mechanic for a thorough computer diagnostic. The MAF faulty operation has a specific code that will show up during it, making it easy to identify and fix. 

Also you can read: What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Fuel Regulator?

How to Clean a Dirty Mass Airflow Sensor

It’s recommended that the MAF is cleaned with every oil change, or every six months. If you combine it with an air filter clean or an oil change, you could potentially save some money. 

What matters most is that cleaning the MAF is part of your car’s routine maintenance to avoid all the issues mentioned above. Remember that keeping it running smoothly will contribute to perfect engine performance and a smooth driving experience. 

If you think your MAF might be dirty – because you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above – you can clean it at home. Here are the steps below:

Unplug the Sensor

To clean your engine’s MAF sensor, you need first to unplug it. Open the car’s air box and use a flathead screwdriver to take it out, making sure to never touch the wires, which are small and delicate – if you break one, you’ll definitely need a replacement. 

Also you can read: My Car Won’t Go Into Gear When The Engine Is Running

Clean the Sensor

Time to clean the sensor, and you have the cheap approach and another more expensive one. The first option is placing the MAF sensor in a bag filled with rubbing alcohol, and then moving it ensuring the liquid washes away all the debris and dirt from the MAF.

The second option is to purchase a specialized cleaner from an auto shop and spray it directly onto the sensor. 

Dry and Reattach the Sensor

Now that the MAF sensor is sparkling clean, let it sit to dry it off completely. This could take 30 minutes or more – but the MAF sensor must be dry before being plugged back in. If not, the leftover liquid can cause serious damage to it. 

Once it’s dry, replace it, use the flathead again to close the air box and you’re done. 

If the symptoms persist, then you must visit the mechanic for a full computer diagnosis. But if you don’t want to do either, we got you: subscribe to a car with invygo and let us take care of every car maintenance job for you.

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