Oxygen sensors: technology, types, evolution and life expectancy

Since the implementation of OBDII, the oxygen sensor has been a main staple of engine management systems. Modern oxygen sensors are much faster and more accurate than their older counterparts. This allows the engine to enter closed-loop control faster, reducing emissions and fuel use by up to 15-20%.

O2 sensors are divided into two main types, narrow band and wide band. Narrow band oxygen sensors react with oxygen molecules in the exhaust. If the gas mixture is rich, the oxygen content will be low and the sensor will send a rich signal to the ECU. This will decrease the amount of fuel added to the cylinder. If the gas is lean, the oxygen content is higher and the sensor will send a lean signal.

oxygen sensors: technology

Broadband sensors are the newest technology. These sensors have an additional chamber called a pump cell that accurately measures the oxygen concentration on a full lambda scale. Electronic circuitry must be used to maintain voltage supplies to maintain a constant cell temperature and stoichiometric equilibrium within the measurement chamber. The balance is maintained by the pump cell which ‘pumps’ oxygen ions in and out of the measurement chamber. The control circuit measures how hard the pump cell is working and determines the air-fuel ratio.

oxygen sensors: technology

Most vehicles have two oxygen sensors installed in the exhaust system; at least one in front of the catalytic converter (upstream) and one after the converter (downstream). The purpose of the upstream sensor is to manage the closed-loop performance of the motor. The downstream sensor is used to monitor the status of the catalytic converter.

The typical life expectancy of an oxygen sensor is 30,000 to 50,000 miles. However, when constantly exposed to the harsh environment found in a car’s exhaust system, the oxygen sensor endures a constant barrage of harmful exhaust gases, extreme heat, and high-speed particles.

oxygen sensors: technology

did you know
The oxygen sensors are the 2North Dakota most common automotive repair for Check Engine Lights*

Life expectancy of an oxygen sensor:

Sometimes contaminants such as coolant, oil, or silicone particles find their way into the sensor; these contaminate the sensor and render it inoperable. The life of an oxygen sensor is long, in some applications up to 100,000 miles. Whether due to contamination or normal use, its effectiveness will inevitably diminish over time. A faulty oxygen sensor can be difficult to diagnose quickly and can become damaged as a result of natural aging, shock from accidents, antifreeze poisoning, excessive oil consumption, leaks, silicone poisoning, and more.

oxygen sensors: technology

Some symptoms of a faulty oxygen sensor could include:

  • growing
  • Hesitation
  • Poor overall performance
  • Decrease in fuel mileage
  • rough idle
  • Emissions test failed
  • Inefficient clogged catalytic converter

Walker Products oxygen sensors feature a ceramic body made of stabilized zirconium dioxide and contained in a housing that protects it from mechanical effects and makes mounting easy. A gas permeable layer of platinum comprises the electrodes covering the surface, and a porous ceramic coating applied to the side exposed to the exhaust gases prevents contamination and erosion of the electrode surfaces by combustion residues and particles in the gases exhaust. Walker Products is a leading provider of oxygen sensors and an industry expert in application research.

That means when you install Walker oxygen sensors, you get better engine response and performance, lower emissions, better fuel economy, and longer sensor life.

For more information on Walker products and their extensive engine management capabilities, visit walkerproducts.com

*2021 CarMD Vehicle Health Index

This article is sponsored by Products for walkers.

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