Car Sensors: Definition, Working, Functions, Types, Pros and Cons
With the advancement of computer sciences, modern-day cars did inherit some complex features to simplify our lives. The growing list of car sensors is proof of this. With the sole purpose of detecting faulty parts or vehicle injuries, these sensors give your automobile a longer life.
Read below to know why car sensors are essential to your vehicle and its types.
What Is a Car Sensor?
A car sensor is an electronic system to monitor faults or obstacles in your vehicle and alert the driver accordingly. These automotive sensors often make changes in the engine as per the situation. Today, car sensors are an essential part of a modern-day car. Its sole function of sensing any danger to the vehicle and riders drives the car to be smarter than before.
Previously sensors worked only for the engine. However, with today's technological advancements, most automotive functions involve a sensor. Besides knowing any vehicular issue beforehand, car sensors monitor the fuel or oxygen intake of car.
What Are the Functions of a Car Sensor?
As its name suggests, functions of car sensors revolve around “sensing” or monitoring.
The primary function of car sensors is to collect data and send them to the Electronic Control System (ECS). The ECS consists of algorithms which assist them in taking specific action in given scenario.
These automotive sensors and ECS convert the physical and chemical change variables to electric signals, thus relaying a message to the driver to take further action.
How Do Car Sensors Work?
To understand the working of car sensors in simple terms, let us imagine a human body.
We know about our five sense organs that keep us aware of our external surroundings, and sudden changes around us trigger a reflex. Similarly, our body notifies the brain of sudden malfunctions within or a foreign entry bringing about respective actions.
Car sensors are like these sense organs but for cars. They let you know whether there is something wrong with its internal parts or any obstacle nearby. These sensing functions have become more detailed with computerisation and updated algorithms in today’s automobiles.
When an issue occurs, car sensors detect them and send a message to the processor. The processor will further inform the rider with an audio alarm or blinking lights on the dashboard or screen. In addition, machines can initiate a reflex action if the issue requires a quick aid.
For instance, the fuel level sensor in your car determines the level of fuel it is currently running on. If the fuel level is below the set limit, it will hint you for a refill. The fuel level sensor will also alert you if there is any unnecessary fuel drainage and the remaining volume is low. To make your driving experience smoother, modern cars even connect the fuel level sensor to GPS. This informs you how far you can run with the remaining fuel.
What Are the Important Types of Car Sensors?
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of sensors in a modern-day cars. Enhancing a vehicle's sensing skills ensures a safe and convenient ride along with the car’s longevity.
A modern-day car includes several car sensors. However, all vehicles don't include each and every one of them. Therefore, listed here are 12 essential types of automobile sensors you will find in almost any car.
1. Intake Air Temperature (IAT) Sensor
You can locate the intake air temperature sensor near intake manifold. Its tip is left exposed to sense the temperature of air that gets in. This sensor helps to monitor the temperature of air that enters the engine.
By checking the air entering the engine, it ensures proportionate mixing of fuel and oxygen. The IAT sensor checks the air temperature entering through the suction pipe and signals the ECU.
2. Coolant Temperature Sensor
Also known as the Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor (ECTS), it measures the engine's temperature with a car's cooling system. Overheating an engine can lead to failure. Therefore, this sensor informs the ECS about the level of engine heat.
The ECU initiates a cooling procedure if temperatures raise above the optimum level. The cooling components of a car comprise of a thermostat, exhaust, cooling fans, radiator, overflow tank and hoses. In new automobile models, the cooling system shuts off the engine when it reaches an ultimate heating level.
You will find the coolant temperature sensor near the thermostat of the engine cooling system in your car.
3. Oxygen Sensor
Your car requires an adequate amount of oxygen for combustion and smooth running. However, excess or less oxygen from the optimum level can cause problems. It is here that oxygen sensors come into play.
As the name indicates, oxygen sensors determine the oxygen level in exhaust and compare it to oxygen level around the engine. This data helps the sensor to judge whether engine receives sufficient fuel-air ratio to run. A proportionate percentage of air-fuel mixture indicates that emission control and exhaust system are working correctly.
The oxygen sensor is located near exhaust manifold after the catalytic converter. Earlier, cars used to function on one oxygen sensor. However, modern vehicles today come with four sensors for oxygen.
4. Fuel Temperature Sensor
Fuel is vital for a car. Therefore, it requires maintaining an optimum level for proper combustion. If fuel is too hot, it will burn down quickly, leading to faster combustion. Whereas if very cold fuel enters the engine, it would take longer time to burn.
So, the fuel sensor inspects whether the temperature of fuel that enters the car is of optimum level or not. The data is then sent to ECU, which increases or lowers the fuel requirement according to fuel temperature.
If the fuel temperature sensor fails, ECU will usually signal you with a blinking “check engine light”.
5. Fuel Tank Pressure Sensor
This type of car sensor is part of your fuel tank assembly. The fuel tank pressure system is located either on the fuel pressure rail or the fuel pressure line.
This sensor surveys the fuel pressure on fuel tank and detects any leak as fuel leakage will change fuel pressure. Too much fuel pressure harms your vehicle as it disturbs the air-fuel ratio.
If it senses any disturbance of pressure, fuel tank pressure sensor informs ECU, which further indicates the rider with the blinking check engine light.
6. Throttle Position Sensor
A throttle controls an engine's power by regulating the entrance of air and fuel to the motor. It is located between a car's engine manifold and air intake acting as a valve.
The throttle position sensor helps detect the amount of fuel and air entering the engine during ignition. This sensor determines the throttle's angle or position while pressing the accelerator pedal. It signals the ECU on how much air-fuel mixture the engine requires. This, in turn, decides how much a throttle needs to open or close to allow sufficient air-fuel inlow.
7. Vehicle Speed Sensor
Vehicular Speed Sensor (VSS) is set with the anti-brake system or ABS. This sensor helps to track the speed of each car's wheels. ECU after receiving inputs from VSS decides on brakes, vehicle speed, air intake, air-fuel ratio and other related parameters. Therefore, a vehicular speed sensor is necessary to ensure safe driving.
This sensor is an integral part of cars that run on 4x4 tyres.
8. Tyre Pressure Monitoring Sensor (TPMS)
A Tyre pressure monitoring sensor informs the rider of which out of four tyres of their vehicle has low air pressure. Decreasing air pressure in tyres can turn out to be an obstacle to your smooth ride. Therefore, TPMS allows you to keep track of it and refill it before your car breaks down.
9. Air Bag Sensor
Regarding safe driving, airbag sensors ensure passengers' safety during an impact. Stimuli, like the sudden stopping of a vehicle or forceful pressure like a collision, trigger the airbag sensors.
These sensors monitor brake pressure, wheel speed or forceful collision with other objects. If an accident occurs, airbag sensors take actions like deploying airbags, fixing seatbelts, and operating automatic door locks to prevent major accidents. All these actions occur within milliseconds.
Airbag sensors send a signal to your car's inflator system, which fills the airbag with nitrogen gas. This acts as a cushion during any form of collision from front, back or side.
These car sensors are located in significant passenger zones and near a car's engine.
10. Car Parking Sensor
Also popular as proximity sensors, they reflect ultrasonic waves in the form of high pitch sounds to detect objects nearby. A receiver catches the sound waves that reflect on hitting nearby objects to inform ECS. The alarm stops whenever the car stop.
This car sensor is quite beneficial for rear parking of any vehicle. Car parking sensors are usually located near your car's front and rear bumpers.
11. Mass Airflow Sensor
This auto sensor informs your car of the density of air entering the engine. It considers the temperature and pressure of air for ECU to focus on fuel injection. A mass airflow sensor works efficiently when combined with an oxygen sensor.
Mass Airflow filter is located near air filters of the car.
12. Nox Sensor
Nox Sensors are necessary for automobile emission control systems. High-temperature devices help determine Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) in exhaust gases. These sensors convey information to ECU which works on the air-fuel mixture during engine combustion. Thus helping to acquire the mandated NOx level.
Nitrogen Oxide, along with Hydrocarbons and Carbon Monoxide, is a harmful environmental pollutant. Therefore, there are strict standards to regulate harmful vehicular emissions. These standards also encompass the composition of Nitrogen Oxide emissions from a vehicle. In addition, NOx sensors ensure your vehicle does not release excess Nitrogen Oxides into the air.
You can locate NOx sensors near a car's Selective Catalytic Reduction System.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Car Sensor?
Following are the pros and cons of these car sensors.
- Sensors let you know about any problem in the car beforehand
- Some sensors like airbag sensors trigger reflex measures at times of threat
- Car sensors help in proper maintenance of engine and other car parts
- You can easily detect the faulty parts with their help
- Provides a convenient driving experience while taking care of the environment
- Although sensors are of great help, they need replacement for minor malfunctioning.
- Replacing these modern-day car sensors is expensive
- More the number of sensors, higher is the battery drain
As we inch toward modernisation, our vehicles update their senses too. This is all about the different types of sensors used in a car, ensuring a safe driving experience. All car owners must monitor the condition of these car sensors regularly.