Camshaft Sensor: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Works? Camshaft Sensor: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Works?

Have you ever taken your car to shop and after listening to mechanic had no idea what he said?

This can be a fairly common experience if you don’t understand the rudimentary elements of how vehicles work.

Knowing a few basic facts about your car can go a long when you have to pay a mechanic. When first deciding whether or not you need to visit that mechanic.

When deciding which elements of your car should understand the camshaft and camshaft sensor should be on the list. They may not need to be the first things you learn about, but they should be in top 10.

The camshaft sensor plays a key role in the correct operating function of the camshaft that works to open. Close the intake and exhaust valves in the engine.

What Is a Camshaft Sensor?

Cars and trucks come with a plethora of sensors that are in place to ensure smooth, fuel-efficient running. The camshaft sensor is one of those and is critical to the overall functioning of your vehicle, along with achieving the best possible fuel economy.

Also called a camshaft position sensor, this small piece of equipment acts as a communicator between the camshaft and the automobile’s onboard computer system (also known as the ECM).

The onboard computer system uses the data sent by the camshaft sensor and regulates spark timing and fuel injection.

The camshaft sensor is a part found in nearly all “modern” vehicles with a fuel injection system.

What Does a Camshaft Sensor Do?

The camshaft sensor keeps an eye on the exact position of the camshaft and then sends signals to the onboard computer system. The camshaft has a series of lobes that move up and down to open the intake and exhaust valves. These lobes are monitored by the camshaft sensor.

The sensor works to know exactly where each lobe is in the cycle of opening and closing the valves.

In addition to the camshaft sensor, the vehicle also needs the crankshaft sensor working alongside to ensure the engine operates correctly.

The camshaft sensor tends to be a small piece, so it can sometimes be difficult to find. Additionally, depending on the type of car or truck you have, the sensor can be in a few places. It is usually next to the engine block, behind the cylinder, or in the lifter valley.

How Do I Know If My Camshaft Sensor Is Malfunctioning?

Having car problems while you’re driving down the road isn’t fun for anyone. And, you are most likely going to experience problems with the camshaft sensor while you are operating the car.

There are three primary ways you might know that your camshaft sensor is failing or has already failed. Pay close attention to all of these, because you will want to get your car to a professional fairly quickly.


1. Check Engine Light

When your check engine light first goes on, it could be for any number of reasons. But, one of those many reasons could be a failing camshaft sensor.

You can go to your mechanic or one of several auto parts stores to have them plug in a diagnostic scanner that will tell you what might be wrong with the vehicle. Many auto parts stores will perform this service for free.

If the scanner shows a code that indicates a problem with your camshaft sensor, you’ll definitely want to act to get it repaired. There are resources that explain how to do it yourself but feel free to have it replaced by a professional.


Problems with Driving or Performance

You might find that your car is having problems while you’re driving your car or truck. Here are a few things that could indicate a problem with the camshaft sensor:

  • Better engine performance go for a fuel system cleaning service.  Engine stalls on a frequent basis  you find yourself stalling while at traffic lights, stop signs, or while in stop and go traffic.
  • Engine idles poorly or roughly – your car feels like it might quit or stall while idling.
  • he RPMs drop severely – this causes the car to slow down even when you are pushing on the accelerator.
  • Alternate Arrow Righthe engine power is noticeably less than it was previously.
  • Alternate Arrow RightThe gas mileage is noticeably less than it was previously.
  • Alternate Arrow RightSlow acceleration – this can mean that it either takes much longer to reach a higher speed, or you find you can’t accelerate over 35 or 40 miles per hour.
  • Alternate Arrow RightTrouble shifting gears – this would be with an automatic transmission and sometimes your transmission gets locked into one gear.

If any of the above happens to you, we highly recommend taking your car to a mechanic immediately. If you ignore these symptoms, your car could quit working altogether.


The trouble with the Ignition

If the sensor completely fails, it can no longer send information to the car’s computer about the need for spark or fuel. So, the ignition won’t work, and the car won’t be able to start.

If that happens, you could be stranded, and you may need to tow your vehicle to a place where a mechanic can replace it.

It is important to know that a complete failure of the camshaft sensor can occur while you’re driving down the road. So, if you have any of the warning signs listed above, it is really important to get your sensor replaced as soon as possible.

What Can Cause the Camshaft Sensor to Fail?

There are three main contributors to the malfunctioning or ultimate failure of the camshaft sensor.


1. Heat

Because of where the camshaft sensor sits in the engine, it is subjected to extremely high temperatures. Over time, these high temperatures can cause the sensor to give false readings, to intermittently fail to read the position of the camshaft, and finally to fail altogether.


2. Vibration

The vibrations that happen within the engine can also be detrimental to the functionality of the camshaft sensor. This isn’t something that should impact the functionality early in the car’s life but is more likely after many years and many miles.


3. Oil Leaks

Oil leaks are definitely something to watch for, in part because of the potential damage to the camshaft sensor, but also because it may be indicative of other problems. If the camshaft sensor is exposed to oil, it can begin acting up and then can break completely.

If you repair the camshaft sensor but don’t repair the underlying cause of the oil leak, you may end up right back in the same place – with a failed camshaft sensor. So, be sure to have the root cause of the oil leak fixed as well.

The Camshaft Sensor Is Integral to Your Vehicle Running Well

It’s funny to think about the fact that a part that is so small can have such a big impact on your car. If it fails completely, your car won’t work at all.

But, even if your car runs, if the camshaft sensor isn’t working right, the overall performance of your vehicle can really suffer. It’s critically important that you pay attention to the potential warning signs above and get any problems with your camshaft sensor repaired right away.

If you do have a fully functioning camshaft sensor, you can look forward to your vehicle operating on all cylinders,” as the saying goes. You can look forward to the following:

  • Fuel Efficiency – your vehicle will achieve the optimal fuel efficiency, as promised by the manufacturer.
  • Easy Igniting – your car will start right up if the camshaft sensor is telling the computer to fire that spark when you need it..
  • Smooth idling – when you’re at a stop, your vehicle will purr like a kitten.
  • Alternate Arrow RightEasy Acceleration – get to your desired speed quickly and smoothly if the camshaft sensor is sending the right signals to the computer and if the computer is firing all the right responses.

To learn and understand more, consider the following:

Check out these videos on YouTube that have to do with either testing or replacing the camshaft sensor:

And, the next time you pay a visit to your mechanic, he or she will be pleased that you’ve done your research and can have an interactive discussion about the potential problems with your car.

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