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CHAPTER 23 Mass Air Flow Sensors

OBJECTIVES
After studying Chapter 23, the reader will be able to:
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Prepare for ASE Engine Performance (A8) certification test content area “E” (Computerized Engine Controls Diagnosis and Repair). Discuss how MAF sensors work. List the methods that can be used to test MAF sensors. Describe the symptoms of a failed MAF sensor. List how the operation of the MAF sensor affects vehicle operation. Discuss MAF sensor rationality tests.
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Automotive Engine Performance, 3/e By James D. Halderman

Copyright © 2010, 2007, 2003 Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.

KEY TERMS
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False air Mass airflow (MAF) sensor

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Speed density Tap test Vane airflow (VAF) sensor

Automotive Engine Performance, 3/e By James D. Halderman

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Copyright © 2010, 2007, 2003 Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.

2003 Pearson Education. . NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 3/e By James D. Halderman 4 Copyright © 2010. 2007.. FIGURE 23–1 A vane air flow (VAF) sensor. The vane is deflected by intake airflow. Automotive Engine Performance.AIRFLOW SENSORS • • • Older electronic fuelinjection systems that use airflow volume for fuel calculation usually have a movable vane in the intake stream. Upper Saddle River. The vane is part of the vane airflow (VAF) sensor. Inc.

This causes a change in the signal voltage supplied to the computer 5 Automotive Engine Performance. and most Japanese electronic port fuelinjection systems is a movable vane connected to a laser-calibrated potentiometer. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.AIRFLOW SENSORS • • • • The vane airflow sensor used in Bosch L-Jetronic. The vane is mounted on a pivot pin and is deflected by intake airflow proportionate to air velocity. it also moves the potentiometer. Upper Saddle River. As the vane moves. 2003 Pearson Education. 3/e By James D. Ford. Halderman Copyright © 2010.. . Inc. 2007.

3/e By James D. Upper Saddle River. 2007. Many air vane sensors also have contacts that close to supply voltage to the electric fuel pump as the air vane starts to open when the engine is being cranked and air is being drawn into the engine. 2003 Pearson Education. Inc. Automotive Engine Performance..AIRFLOW SENSORS FIGURE 23–2 A typical air vane sensor with the cover removed. Halderman 6 Copyright © 2010. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. The movable arm contacts a carbon resistance path as the vane opens. .

rather than frequency. 2003 Pearson Education. Some MAF sensors. Inc. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 2007. Upper Saddle River. such as those used by Ford and others. The frequency range also varies with the make of sensor and can range from 0.What Is the Difference Between an Analog and a Digital MAF Sensor? • • Some MAF sensors produce a digital DC voltage signal whose frequency changes with the amount of airflow through the sensor. produce a changing DC voltage. and range from 0.000-Hz for most newer designs. 7 Automotive Engine Performance.to 300-Hz for older General Motors MAF sensors to 1..000to 9. 3/e By James D. .to 5-volts DC. Halderman Copyright © 2010.

a conductive film is kept at a temperature 70°C above the temperature of the incoming air. Through the electronics within the sensor. and the electronic module. Halderman 8 Copyright © 2010. 2007. Inc. 3/e By James D. Automotive Engine Performance.MASS AIRFLOW SENSOR TYPES HOT FILM SENSOR • • The hot film sensor uses a temperature-sensing resistor (thermistor) to measure the temperature of the incoming air. 2003 Pearson Education.. FIGURE 23–3 This five-wire mass air flow sensor consists of a metal foil sensing unit. an intake air temperature (IAT) sensor. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Upper Saddle River. .

but uses a hot wire to sense the mass airflow instead of the hot film. 2007. Halderman 9 Copyright © 2010. the hot wire sensor uses a temperature-sensing resistor (thermistor) to measure the temperature of the air entering the sensor. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Automotive Engine Performance.MASS AIRFLOW SENSOR TYPES HOT WIRE SENSOR • • The hot wire sensor is similar to the hot film type. 2003 Pearson Education.. Upper Saddle River. FIGURE 23–4 The sensing wire in a typical hot wire mass air flow sensor. Like the hot film sensor. Inc. . 3/e By James D.

.. 2003 Pearson Education.KARMAN VORTEX SENSORS • • There are two basic designs of Karman Vortex air flow sensors. 2007. 3/e By James D. The two types include: • • Ultrasonic Pressure-type Automotive Engine Performance. Halderman 10 Copyright © 2010. Inc. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Upper Saddle River.

Halderman 11 Copyright © 2010. 3/e By James D. Automotive Engine Performance. Upper Saddle River.. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.KARMAN VORTEX SENSORS FIGURE 23–5 A Karman Vortex air flow sensor uses a triangle-shaped rod to create vortexes as the air flows through the sensor. 2003 Pearson Education. 2007. The electronics in the sensor itself converts these vortexes to a digital square wave signal. . Inc.

The greater the mass of the incoming air. the longer the injectors are pulsed on. Airflow sensors back up the TP sensor in the event of a loss of signal or an inaccurate throttle position sensor signal. Upper Saddle River. 3/e By James D. If the MAF sensor fails. 2003 Pearson Education. 2007.PCM USES FOR AIRFLOW SENSORS • The PCM uses the information from the airflow sensor for the following purposes: • • Airflow sensors are used mostly to determine the amount of fuel needed and base pulse-width numbers. Automotive Engine Performance. . Halderman 12 Copyright © 2010. Inc. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. then the PCM will calculate the fuel delivery needs of the engine based on throttle position and engine speed (RPM)..

showed lack of power. 2003 Pearson Education. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. and seemed to surge or miss at times. including a new air filter. A look at the scan data showed airflow to be within the recommended 3 to 7 grams per second.The Dirty MAF Sensor Story • The owner of a Buick Park Avenue equipped with a 3800 V-6 engine complained that the engine would hesitate during acceleration. 3/e By James D. There were no stored diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). 13 Automotive Engine Performance. A check of the frequency output showed the problem. Inc. .. Upper Saddle River. A visual inspection found everything to be like new. Halderman Copyright © 2010. 2007.

Inc. Halderman 14 Copyright © 2010. possibly from the replacement air filter.37 to 2.52 kHz. 3/e By James D.The Dirty MAF Sensor Story • • Idle frequency 2.177 kHz (2. . Automotive Engine Performance. 2003 Pearson Education.. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.177 Hz) Normal frequency at idle speed should be 2. Upper Saddle River. The sensor wire was covered with what looked like fine fibers. 2007. Cleaning the hot wire of the MAF sensor restored proper operation.

Halderman Copyright © 2010. . However. 15 Automotive Engine Performance. Inc. 3/e By James D.. Upper Saddle River.What Is Meant By a “High-Authority Sensor”? • A high-authority sensor is a sensor that has a major influence over the amount of fuel being delivered to the engine. the oxygen sensor becomes a high-authority sensor and can greatly affect the amount of fuel being supplied to the engine. as the engine reaches operating temperature. the engine coolant temperature (ECT) sensor is a highauthority sensor and the oxygen sensor (O2S) is a lowauthority sensor. For example. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 2007. 2003 Pearson Education. at engine start-up.

.TESTING MASS AIRFLOW SENSORS • • • • VISUAL INSPECTION MAF SENSOR OUTPUT TEST TAP TEST DIGITAL METER TEST OF A MAF SENSOR Automotive Engine Performance. Inc. . 2003 Pearson Education. 3/e By James D. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 2007. Halderman 16 Copyright © 2010. Upper Saddle River.

NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 17 Automotive Engine Performance. but would represent a very small percentage of extra air at highway speeds. 2003 Pearson Education. Halderman Copyright © 2010. A small hole in the air inlet hose would represent a fairly large percentage of false air at idle. Upper Saddle River. Because this extra air is unmeasured. especially at idle. extra air could enter the engine without being measured.What Is False Air? • • Airflow sensors and mass airflow (MAF) sensors are designed to measure all the air entering the engine.. . If an air inlet hose was loose or had a hole. Inc. look at long-term fuel trim numbers at idle and at 3000 RPM. 2007. 3/e By James D. This extra air is often called false air. To diagnose for false air. the computer does not provide enough fuel delivery and the engine operates too lean.

Upper Saddle River. 3/e By James D. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Automotive Engine Performance. 2003 Pearson Education. . 2007.What Is False Air? FIGURE 23–6 Carefully check the hose between the MAF sensor and the throttle plate for cracks or splits that could create extra (false) air into the engine that is not measured by the MAF sensor.. Inc. Halderman 18 Copyright © 2010.

MAF SENSOR CONTAMINATION • • • • • Dirt. Because it tends to insulate the sensing wire at low airflow rates. causing spark knock and lack of power concerns. the contamination can cause the sensor to underestimate the amount of air entering the engine. 2007. silicon. Inc. a contaminated sensor often overestimates the amount of air entering the engine at idle. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 2003 Pearson Education. Halderman 19 Copyright © 2010. the fuel system will go lean. At higher engine speeds near wide-open throttle (WOT). and therefore causes the fuel system to go rich. or even spiderwebs can coat the sensing wire. To check for contamination. As a result. Automotive Engine Performance. check the fuel trim numbers. . 3/e By James D.. oil. Upper Saddle River.

Inc. 3/e By James D. Upper Saddle River. 2003 Pearson Education.. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.MAF-RELATED DIAGNOSTIC TROUBLE CODES • The diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) associated with the mass airflow and air vane sensors include: Automotive Engine Performance. 2007. . Halderman 20 Copyright © 2010.

NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 2003 Pearson Education. the computer will often accept the reading and make the required changes in fuel delivery and spark advance. If. Halderman Copyright © 2010. 2007. if a mass airflow (MAF) sensor is telling the computer that 12 grams of air per second is going into the engine. however.4 ms or whatever figure it is programmed to provide. Inc. Upper Saddle River. . the computer will process this wrong information and perform an action assuming that information being supplied is accurate. 3/e By James D.. For example. 21 Automotive Engine Performance.The Unplug It Test • If a sensor is defective yet still produces a signal to the computer. the sensor is not reading correctly. the computer will then pulse the injector for 6.

2003 Pearson Education.The Unplug It Test • However. If the MAF sensor is unplugged. the computer knows that the sensor is not capable of supplying airflow information. 3/e By James D. the amount of fuel supplied by the injectors will not be enough to provide proper engine operation. Upper Saddle River. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Halderman Copyright © 2010.. so it defaults to a fixed amount of fuel based on the values of other sensors such as the TP and MAP sensors. take it out. “If in doubt. 2007. . if the air going into the engine is actually 14 grams per second. Inc.” 22 Automotive Engine Performance.

Upper Saddle River. Automotive Engine Performance. Halderman 23 Copyright © 2010. then suspect that the sensor is defective. 2003 Pearson Education. A sensor that is not supplying the correct information is said to be skewed. Inc.The Unplug It Test • If the engine operates better with a sensor unplugged. 2007.. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 3/e By James D. . The computer will not see a diagnostic trouble code for this condition because the computer can often not detect that the sensor is supplying wrong information.

The Rich Running Toyota • A Toyota failed an enhanced emission test for excessive carbon monoxide.net) and discovered that a broken spring inside the air flow sensor was a possible cause. Replacing the air flow sensor restored the engine to proper operating conditions and it passed the emission test. The sensor was checked and a broken vane return spring was discovered. After checking all of the basics and not finding any fault in the fuel system.. Inc. 24 Automotive Engine Performance. which is caused by a rich (too much fuel) air–fuel ratio problem. 2003 Pearson Education. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 3/e By James D.iatn. . the technician checked the archives of the International Automotive Technicians Network (www. Upper Saddle River. 2007. Halderman Copyright © 2010.

2. An air vane sensor measures the volume of the air. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. A mass airflow sensor actually measures the density and amount of air flowing into the engine. Upper Saddle River. and the intake air temperature sensor is used by the PCM to calculate the mass of the air entering the engine. 2003 Pearson Education. Halderman 25 Copyright © 2010. 2007. A hot wire MAF sensor uses the electronics in the sensor itself to heat a wire 70°C above the temperature of the air entering the engine. which results in accurate engine control. Inc. Automotive Engine Performance.SUMMARY 1. 3/e By James D. 3.. .

3/e By James D. 2007.REVIEW QUESTIONS 1. Inc. 2. 6. 4.. . Upper Saddle River. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. 2003 Pearson Education. 3. Halderman 26 Copyright © 2010. How does a hot film MAF sensor work? What type of voltage signal is produced by a MAF? What change in the signal will occur if engine speed is increased? How is a MAF sensor tested? What is the purpose of a MAF sensor? What are the types of airflow sensors? Automotive Engine Performance. 5.

Upper Saddle River. Air vane-controlled Speed density Mass airflow Hot wire Automotive Engine Performance. d. c. Halderman 27 Copyright © 2010.CHAPTER QUIZ 1. A fuel-injection system that does not use a sensor to measure the amount (or mass) of air entering the engine is usually called a(n) ________ type of system. . 3/e By James D. Inc. 2007. b.. a. 2003 Pearson Education. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.

Halderman 28 Copyright © 2010. Upper Saddle River. Hot wire MAF sensor Hot film MAF sensor Vane-type airflow sensor Both a and b Automotive Engine Performance. 3/e By James D. Which type of sensor uses a burn-off circuit? a. .CHAPTER QUIZ 2. Inc. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. b. d.. 2007. c. 2003 Pearson Education.

3/e By James D. d. Upper Saddle River. b. Halderman 29 Copyright © 2010. 2007. 2003 Pearson Education. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Inc. c.. VAF Hot wire MAF Hot filter MAF Karman Vortex sensor Automotive Engine Performance. . Which sensor has a switch that controls the electric fuel pump? a.CHAPTER QUIZ 3.

2007.. Technician A only Technician B only Both Technicians A and B Neither Technician A nor B Automotive Engine Performance. Which technician is correct? a. d. c. Inc. 3/e By James D. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Technician B says that they contain a movable vane. Two technicians are discussing Karman Vortex sensors. Technician A says that they contain a burn-off circuit to keep them clean.CHAPTER QUIZ 4. . Upper Saddle River. Halderman 30 Copyright © 2010. 2003 Pearson Education. b.

.CHAPTER QUIZ 5. a. Inc. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. b. The typical MAF reading on a scan tool with the engine at idle speed and normal operating temperature is ________. 3/e By James D. Halderman 31 Copyright © 2010. Upper Saddle River.. c. 2007. 2003 Pearson Education. d. 1 to 3 grams per second 3 to 7 grams per second 8 to 12 grams per second 14 to 24 grams per second Automotive Engine Performance.

There are no diagnostic trouble codes. the engine runs better. Two technicians are diagnosing a poorly running engine.. b. Which technician is correct? a. Technician A says that this means that the MAF is supplying incorrect airflow information to the PCM. Halderman 32 . Technician B says that this indicates that the PCM is defective. Technician A only Technician B only Both Technicians A and B Neither Technician A nor B Copyright © 2010. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. d. 3/e By James D. Automotive Engine Performance. Upper Saddle River. c.CHAPTER QUIZ 6. When the MAF sensor is unplugged. 2003 Pearson Education. 2007. Inc.

Which technician is correct? a. . 2003 Pearson Education. c. Inc.CHAPTER QUIZ 7. Upper Saddle River. 3/e By James D.. Technician A says that the sensor should show over 100 grams per second on a scan tool display when the accelerator is depressed to WOT on a running engine. b. 2007. d.000 Hz when the accelerator pedal is depressed to WOT on a running engine. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Technician A only Technician B only Both Technicians A and B Neither Technician A nor B 33 Automotive Engine Performance. Technician B says that the output frequency should exceed 7. Halderman Copyright © 2010. A MAF sensor on a General Motors 3800 V-6 is being tested for contamination.

c. 3/e By James D. A vane airflow A hot film MAF A hot wire MAF A Karman Vortex Automotive Engine Performance. . Inc.CHAPTER QUIZ 8. Halderman 34 Copyright © 2010. d. Upper Saddle River. b. 2003 Pearson Education. Which airflow sensor has a dampening chamber? a. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.. 2007.

Upper Saddle River. Air that enters the engine without passing through the airflow sensor is called ________.. 2007. Bypass air Dirty air False air Measured air Automotive Engine Performance. b. c.CHAPTER QUIZ 9. 2003 Pearson Education. a. . Inc. d. 3/e By James D. Halderman 35 Copyright © 2010. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved.

2003 Pearson Education. Which technician is correct? a.. d. Technician B says that an open sensor voltage supply circuit could be the cause.CHAPTER QUIZ 10. Technician A only Technician B only Both Technicians A and B Neither Technician A nor B Automotive Engine Performance. . 3/e By James D. A P0102 DTC is being discussed. c. NJ 07458 • All rights reserved. Inc. Technician A says that a sensor circuit shorted-to-ground can be the cause. b. Upper Saddle River. 2007. Halderman 36 Copyright © 2010.