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Common Automotive Sensor Guide

An engine with common automotive sensors

The computers on modern vehicles receive and process information from many different sensors. When these sensors fail or function incorrectly, it can lead to drivability and safety issues. Our common automotive sensor guide can help you understand the complex components that make up a modern automobile.

ABS Speed Sensor

Monitors wheel speed and communicates with the ABS computer, which uses the information to prevent brakes from locking during an emergency stop.

Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor

Indicates accelerator position on vehicle models with electronic throttle control.

Ambient Air Temp Sensor

Changes resistance with temperature, which the computer uses to trim air/fuel ratio according to air density.

Camshaft Position Sensor

Determines which cylinder is firing to establish injector synchronization and coil firing sequence in DIS systems.

Coolant Temperature Sensor

Changes resistance with temperature, which the computer uses to trim fuel delivery and timing based on engine coolant temperature.

Crankshaft Position Sensor

Provides computer with crankshaft position and RPM information for calculating injector repetition, timing advance, and distributorless ignition synchronization.

EGR Valve Position Sensor

Detects movement and position of the EGR valve pintle and sends it to the computer, which uses the information to control EGR flow to engine and trim air/fuel ratio.

Knock (Detonation) Sensor

Creates a voltage signal based on vibrations caused by detonation, which the computer uses to retard timing when spark knock occurs.Manifold Absolute Pressure Sensor

Manifold Absolute Pressure Sensor

Converts engine vacuum/manifold pressure to electrical signal, which the computer uses to determine how much load the engine is under. This data is the basis for fuel delivery and timing control.

Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor

Measures the amount of airflow entering intake manifold and communicates with the Engine Control Module (ECM) for fuel and timing control.

Throttle Position Sensor

Moves with the throttle and creates voltage signal indicating throttle angle and speed of movement data, which the computer uses to measure engine load, clear flood mode, and adjust timing, fuel delivery, EGR, and converter clutch operation.

Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPMS) Sensors

Measures, identifies, and warns the driver when one or more tires is significantly under-inflated. Each sensor transmits temperature, air pressure, battery state, and sensor location to the vehicle’s computer.

Vehicle Speed Sensor

Measures transmission/transaxle output or wheel speed, which the ECM uses to modify engine functions such as ignition timing, AF ratio, transmission shift points, and initiating diagnostic routines.

Check out all the relays, sensors and switches available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on our common automotive sensor guide, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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