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Old 04-01-2004, 01:32 PM
andrew1413 andrew1413 is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Technical Information Oxygen Sensor Diagnosis Generic Method

Here are some fast and reliable diagnostic procedures which you can use to check out most oxygen sensors. A great time to do this is when you are performing a tune-up.
The following symptoms will help tip you off to a failed oxygen sensor:
Surging and/or hesitation
Decline in fuel economy
Unacceptable exhaust emissions
Premature failure of the catalytic converter

You will need the following equipment:
A handheld volt meter (digital VOM)
A propane enrichment device
An oxygen sensor socket
The manufacturer's vehicle specific test instructions.

It should take less than 10 minutes to perform a diagnostic check on most vehicles.
1. Verify the basic engine parameters, per the manufacturer's specifications for the following: timing, integrity of the electrical system (supply voltage), fuel delivery mixture performance and internal mechanical considerations.
2. Treat the rich mixture performance as follows:
a. Disconnect the sensor lead to the control unit.
b. Run the engine at 2500 rpm.
c. Artificially enrich the fuel mixture by directing propane into the intake until the engine speed drops by 200 rpm. Or, if you're working on a vehicle with electronic fuel injection, you can remove and plug the vacuum line to the fuel pressure regulator.
d. If the voltmeter rapidly reads .9 volts, then the oxygen sensor is correctly sensing a rich mixture. But, if the voltmeter responds sluggishly, or if it stays below .8 volts, then the sensor should be replaced.
3. Test the lean mixture performance as follows:
a. Induce a small vacuum leak.
b. If the voltmeter rapidly drops to .2 volts or below in less than a second, then the oxygen sensor is correctly measuring the lean mixture. But, if the voltmeter responds sluggishly, or if it stays above .2 volts, then the sensor should be replaced.
4. Test dynamic performance as follows:
a. Reconnect the sensor lead.
b. Set the mixture to specification.
c. Run the engine at 1500 rpm.
d. The sensor output should fluctuate around .5 volts. If it doesn't, replace the sensor.
When performing diagnostic work on your customer's vehicle to determine the cause of a driveability problem or perhaps the reason for failing an emissions test, take the opportunity to check the operation of the oxygen sensor for proper functioning.
Recalling that an oxygen sensor will influence the air fuel mixture preparation only when it has reached proper operating temperature (at least 350oC), it is essential to first ensure that the engine and sensor are warm enough to allow operation in a "closed loop" condition. It may take as long as 2 1/2 minutes after cold start for proper exhaust temperature to be reached (somewhat shorter for heated-type oxygen sensors).
To check the performance of the oxygen sensor, run the vehicle engine at about 2000 rpm (or at normal cruise when working with a dynamometer) to ensure that the sensor remains hot throughout the test procedure. Do not remove or disconnect the sensor lead in order to test it as this will eliminate the "closed loop" signal to the electronic control unit and result in a non-cycling voltage condition. Using a correct electrical impedance test device as found with a laboratory type oscilloscope, connect your test leads so as to read voltage from the signal wire to the electronic control unit. With vehicles that use a heated oxygen sensor (three or four wire), it may be necessary to bridge the connector leads and tap into the signal wire with an appropriate test probe at the connector plug in order to obtain the signal. The oscilloscope will allow you to read the electrical response pattern of the oxygen sensor to changing exhaust gas oxygen content as a measure of its performance.
Before proceeding, be sure that you are using the correct measurement scale for your specific equipment as specified by the test equipment manufacturer. (Invariably, this will be a low voltage scale.)
A properly functioning oxygen sensor will exhibit a rapidly fluctuating voltage signal alternating between approximately .2 and .8 volts in response to varying residual oxygen content in the exhaust stream. Look to your scope's time reference line for a desired lean-to-rich and rich-to-lean time of less than 300 milliseconds. A response time greater than 300ms. means that the sensor should be replaced. It is important to recall that these values are valid only when checking a sensor operating in "closed loop" in a hot exhaust stream (350o-8OOoC). Sensor age degree of contamination, mixture setting, and exhaust temperature all have an effect on response time.
Without this rapid electrical response to changing exhaust composition, the control unit cannot accurately correct the fuel mixture. A sluggish sensor is either contaminated or beyond its intended service life and must be replaced. Additionally, check vehicle manufacturers' service recommendations and suggest replacement of the oxygen sensor at specified intervals.
Oxygen Sensor Problems
Clearly, the O2 sensor will slow with age, contamination or damage, decreasing it's reaction time to changes in the air/fuel ratio. This may cause higher emissions and greater fuel consumption.

The signs of a failed O2 sensor are:
failed emissions test (high CO and/or HC typically)
damaged catalytic converter (from an over rich fuel mixture)
poor fuel mileage (caused by an over rich fuel mixture)
fouled spark plugs (caused by an over rich fuel mixture)
the car runs rough and has a sluggish performance.

Five Types of Oxygen Sensors
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