What a Mass Airflow Meter Does and How to Maximize Your Car's Performance

January 27, 2012

The Mass Airflow Meter is an air flow sensor, also known as a MAF sensor, and is an integral component of the computer controlled engine system found on most modern cars. Generally located in the plastic housing between the engine and the air filter, the MAF sensor measures the volume and density of air entering the engine.

Understanding the MAF Sensor

The MAF sensor is an electronic sensor that sends a signal to the engine computer, which then uses the measurements to help calculate fuel delivery and spark timing. In most applications, the MAF sensor utilizes an electrically charged wire to determine the amount of airflow entering the air intake. This wire produces an electrical voltage, based on airflow, and sends it to the engine computer, which then uses the information to adjust spark timing, fuel delivery and spark advance. A fault in the MAF sensor can cause a rough idle, poor fuel economy and possibly even stalling.

The majority of cars built since the early 1980s use a computer system to monitor the various functions of a car. When the computer determines there is a fault in any of the computer controlled sensors or components, it will illuminate the Service Engine Soon or Check Engine light to indicate to the driver that the car requires service. On some cars, the Service Engine Soon light will only illuminate after the same fault has been detected a certain number of times. The MAF sensor is one of the various computer controlled sensors that will cause the Check Engine light to illuminate should a fault be detected.

Scheduled Maintenance

One of the more commonly overlooked maintenance items is the air filter, which can have a direct effect on the MAF sensor. The air filter is engineered to filter out impurities in the air before it enters the engine, thus reducing excess wear and tear on the engine. A dirty air filter will not only allow impurities to enter the engine but it can also allow dirt to accumulate in the MAF sensor, which can reduce its effectiveness.

While some experts indicate that a MAF sensor can be removed from the vehicle and cleaned, the consensus is that it should be replaced should it be determined to be faulty due to the complexity of the sensor; the heated wiring element is fragile and care must be taken not to damage it.

Maximizing Power, Performance and Reliability

The best way to maximize power and performance, and increase reliability is to follow the manufacturer's scheduled maintenance guidelines. Routine maintenance includes tune-ups, oil changes, air, oil and fuel filter replacement, and having the vehicle inspected at the manufacturer suggested intervals. Routine maintenance helps assure that a car is running properly and proves more reliable over the course of ownership.

Engines require a precisely controlled air and fuel mixture, and spark timing in order to function properly, in which the MAF sensor plays an important part. Keeping a car and all its related components in excellent working condition is necessary in order to maximize fuel economy and maintain power, performance and reliability.

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