Causes and effects of damage to the lambda probe

Aug 8, 2019 Automotive

Causes and effects of damage to the lambda probe

While even a new licence holder usually knows what an ABS sensor or cabin filter is, many drivers with many years of experience do not know what to do….
Causes and consequences of damage to the lambda sensor
While even a new licence holder usually knows what an ABS sensor or cabin filter is, many drivers with many years of experience do not know what a lambda sensor is for.
Meanwhile, the sensor installed in most cars to check the level of oxygen in the exhaust gases does not have any decorative function. A car is a complex system of interconnected systems. A malfunction of one element is not without impact on the other mechanisms. The same is true of the lambda sensor, which plays a key role in the process of dosing the fuel-air mixture to the engine, which in turn affects the composition of the exhaust gases. The sensor checks how much oxygen the exhaust gases contain and transmits data to a computer that ensures that the fuel-air mixture is neither too rich nor too poor.
The reasons for the failure of the lambda sensor are varied, as are the possible consequences. In addition to natural wear and tear and thermal injury, the probe is subject to mechanical damage. As most of the probe is located outside, contact with a hard object, as well as dirt, water or oil particles can cause damage. Probes or probe cables can sometimes become worn or completely torn. Taking care of the lambda sensor is another reason why it is worth paying attention to what is pouring into the tank. Low-quality fuel, especially low-octane and lead fuel, is a factor that negatively affects the functioning of the device.
At the beginning the fault may remain unnoticed and the engine operation seems to be undisturbed. In the long term, however, a malfunctioning probe can lead to much more serious failures. A defective lambda sensor can result in drops in engine power as well as significantly increased combustion. On top of that, in some cases part of the fuel may burn outside the engine, i.e. in the exhaust system. This places a huge burden on the catalytic converter, eventually leading to its irreversible destruction, and at the same time creates the risk of self-ignition of the chassis. Catalytic converter is not a cheap part, so it is worth to take special care to serve as long as possible.
Diagnostic stations have equipment for controlling the lambda sensor. The computer readings of errors, signals sent by the device and the cabling with which these signals flow are checked. In addition, the probe can be unscrewed and its condition can be assessed by visual observation. Particularly disturbing may be a specific color raid at its end. Black indicates excessive oil consumption, while light or reddish indicates poor quality fuel or fuel with additives. On the other hand, a greenish coat is a sign that the coolant is mixed with fuel. So, “eye to eye” you can get tips on what parts of the car are probably damaged or leaking, and then replace worn gaskets, cylinder blocks or valves.
A properly functioning lambda sensor helps to keep the engine in good condition and says a lot about the condition of the engine. However, it is not a device that can give a 100% warranty on the engine’s exemplary condition. It may turn out that there is something wrong with the engine, despite the fact that the probe works perfectly. It is worth noting that in many cars the probe controls the composition of the fuel-air mixture for the engine as a whole, and not for each cylinder separately. Theoretically, for some reason one cylinder may get too rich mixture and the other too poor, but the sensor will indicate the average value as correct. In order to eliminate this problem, more and more probes are used in newer models of cars.
Taking care of a properly working lambda sensor every driver should have in his blood. Therefore, it is worth remembering about regular inspections recommended by the manufacturer – usually after driving 30 thousand kilometers. Besides, let’s only refuel unleaded fuel without additives and do not exceed the level of engine oil above the value indicated as the maximum. Thanks to an efficient probe, we will probably not be surprised by the deterioration of engine performance and avoid unnecessary expenses – not only for potential repairs, but also for fuel burned beyond the norm. We will also poison the air around us less.