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Tips for Recycling Your Car Oxygen Sensor

Aug 7, 2008
Oxygen sensors are found in the exhaust system of cars, where they're exposed to fuel and other toxic gases such as HC, CO and NO2. These substances can pollute the sensor and hinder its capacity to work efficiently. Oil, fuel and coolant contamination can cause damage as well. Excessive soot buildup in the sensor's ceramic parts can increase response time and consequently decrease its capacity to detect oxygen efficiently.

The presence of lead in poor quality gasoline also decreases the life span of oxygen sensors. Exposure to silicates and silicones also hinders their ability to function correctly. Because the sensor's function is to determine the best ratio of fuel and air mixture in the car's exhaust system, contamination can cause the gas combustion engine to run rich (with unburnt fuel) or lean (with excess oxygen). This can decrease the car's mileage.

Therefore it's essential to maintain proper health of the sensor to minimize gas usage. Purchasing a new censor is the most obvious course of action to take when the old sensor is damaged. But purchasing new sensors, especially the wideband ones can be costly. Nevertheless, we're exploring the possibility of "recycling" the sensors by cleaning them.

Disclaimer: Please note that cleaning oxygen sensors is NOT advised and we cannot promise that the cleaned sensor will work; but in this piece we've attempted to consider methods to reuse sensors instead of purchasing replacement sensors.

So, please attempt the procedure at your own risk. Will the sensor function properly after being cleaned?

Because it's exposed to high heat in the exhaust system, the main contaminant will probably be a thick coating of baked carbon on the sensor tip, which won't dissolve readily in any solvents. One method to get rid of the carbon residue is by using a blow torch (such as propane) to heat the sensor tip. Hold the torch to the tip until it is about to turn red. Then quickly immerse the tip into water.

Next, blow compressed air to clean the tip. This will cause the deposit to break up. We advise you to repeat this several times until the residue is gone. You can try the CRC brand QD electronic cleaner to get rid of oil and fuel contaminants.

This is a special cleanser that doesn't leave behind any residue after it dries. Maintain a safe distance between the cleaner nozzle and oxygen sensor while you're spraying. Remember to use gloves and safety goggles to protect your eyes and hands.
About the Author
Chris Jensen is a contributing author of Jetfly Blog. For more related articles and views visit Jetfly Automotive Blog now. Also, for the best up-to-date related online products, check out Jetfly Automobile Collectibles Shop for todays current online deals.
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