Have you ever wondered if you can clean an O2 sensor? Vehicle owners have been asking this question, with many different opinions on the topic. Often, leaving people confused about the possibilities of successfully cleaning an O2 sensor on their vehicle.
Below we will discuss an O2 sensor’s functionality, determining if it’s dirty, and 7 of the best practices for cleaning one.
What is the job of an O2 sensor?
The sensor determines the amount of oxygen in the exhaust system. With a fully functioning O2 sensor, the engine can balance the amount of fuel used. In return, this allows for peak efficiency.
How to determine if your O2 sensor is dirty?
There are a few different ways that you can diagnose if your O2 sensor on your vehicle is going bad. An engine that sounds rough is usually the first sign of a bad O2 sensor. You may also notice stalling or slowed acceleration with the vehicle.
As far as appearance goes, the sensor most often is white or tan. If you find that your sensor is black with soot, this could indicate that your engine is running too rich.
The surest way would be to take your car into a shop and have it inspected by a qualified mechanic. They may recommend replacing a bad O2 sensor. If this is out of your current budget and looking for a short term fix, you can try one of the techniques below.
O2 sensor cleaner additive
There are many O2 sensor cleaner additives available on the market today. Cleaners like this work on your vehicle s oxygen sensors, fuel injectors, and cylinder heads.
These types of cleaners can be quite beneficial if your sensor is dirty. You can find these cleaner additives at your local automotive store or even purchased through Amazon.
Using vinegar to clean an O2 sensor
Believe it or not, it is possible to clean your O2 sensor with vinegar. Vinegar is highly acidic. It can counteract many different buildups on the sensor, including the most common, black soot.
For this method to work, you will want to start by removing the sensors and submerging them in hot water for 6-7 hours, allowing for the built-up carbons to loosen on and around the sensor heads. Be sure only to dip the sensor and NOT the connectors at the ends.
After the sensor has been soaking for 6-7 hours, it’s time to start cleaning them. Take a simple spray bottle with vinegar and start squirting inside the holes on the sensor’s sides.
Be sure to spray every single spot around the sensor head to remove all soot and carbons from the sensor. From here, dry the cleaned sensors with a paper towel. The recommendation is to try and clean your O2 sensors every 15-20 thousand miles for optimum performance.
Cleaning O2 sensor with electrical cleaner
Another way to clean the oxygen sensor is to use an electrical cleaner. Electrical cleaners work well at removing fuel and oil contaminants. When performing this procedure, be sure to only spray the cleaner into the sensor tip and the holes on the sides.
You can use electrical tape to cover the connectors at the ends and prevent them from getting sprayed.
Pro-Tip – Repeat this procedure multiple times until all soot and carbon deposits have vanished from the sensor’s tip.
Cleaning O2 sensor with Carbon Cleaner
Cleaning an O2 sensor with a carbon cleaner is another very inexpensive way to clean. Spray the cleaner into the hole at the tip of the sensor. Use a paper towel to wipe away loose soot and carbon. Repeat this spraying process into the top of the hole until no more contaminants wipe off on the paper towel.
Cleaning an O2 sensor with acetone
Cleaning your O2 sensor with acetone solvent is another commonly used method for getting your sensor clean. This method is preferred by many due to its quick results.
If you want to do this method, remove the sensor and place the tip into the acetone for 1-3 minutes. Allowing the end tip to soak in a solvent will loosen up carbon deposits almost instantaneously. After washing, wipe away all excess solvent from the sensor’s lead and then let air dry.
This method can increase the lifespan of an O2 sensor by 1-2 years.
Cleaning an O2 sensor with MAF cleaner
Cleaning a 02 sensor with a MAF cleaner is one of the least preferred cleaning methods. Although it is not as commonly used, it still can be effective about 50% of the time.
To use MAF cleaner, make sure you choose one that does not leave any residual residue once dry. It is also imperative when using this method not to allow any grease or oil to get on the sensor itself.
Cleaning an O2 sensor with seafoam
Although we have listed this method last. It happens to be one of the most effective ways of cleaning a dirty sensor.
You can pick up seafoam at your local automotive store. The process of cleaning is quite simple. Soak the sensor tip in the seafoam overnight. Remove the sensor the next day and wipe excess deposits from the sensor. Let the sensor air dry and then reinstall on your vehicle.
When is it time to replace the sensor?
There are occasions where replacing the sensor is your best bet. Unfortunately, it is challenging to bring a sensor back to life once it has gone dead. If you find that you have tried one or more of the above cleaning methods and your sensor still is not effectively balancing out the amount of fuel used, it is time to have your O2 sensors replaced.
More often than not, you would be looking at 100 dollars for a new sensor, and if you are having the sensor replaced at an automobile shop, it will generally run you around 100 dollars in labor, totaling $200.
You can likely clean your sensors and elongate their lifespan if dirty with soot and carbon deposits. Remember that cleaning your sensors is a short term solution. At some point in time, you will need to replace them.