The mass airflow sensor (MAF) is a key part of your vehicle's electronic fuel injection system. Typically located between the intake manifold and air filter, its job is to measure the amount of air entering your engine.
The mass airflow sensor uses a small electrically heated wire called a hot wire to correctly measure the amount of airflow. The hot wire measures the air surrounding air and uses a small electronic chip in the sensor to communicate with the computer in your engine (PCM). This communication is vital because the PCM uses the information from the sensor chip to keep the fuel and air ratio at the most advantageous levels for performance.
The proper fuel to air ratio is critical for a properly performing engine. Running too much fuel is called running rich and doesn't provide enough air in your combustion cylinder. This causes worse fuel efficiency, rough idling, and black smoke from your tailpipe. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have an engine running lean, having too much air and not enough fuel. This can cause engine seizure, hard starting, and engine hesitation.
Exposure to all the air in the environment, the sensor is vulnerable to debris, dust, and other impurities that can dirty your sensor, causing issues and failure. If your mass flow air sensor starts to fail, there are a few signs to look out for. We've discussed the risks and side effects of running rich or lean previously, but outside of that, there are other factors. Your car jerking and hesitating, engine misfiring, difficulty starting, and poor fuel economy are signs of a potential mass airflow sensor issue.
Important to keep in mind is any issues with the MAF will trigger a check engine light. Even if it's not your sensor triggering the light, it's crucial for you to take your vehicle to a mechanic you trust to investigate the issues. Does your check engine light appear suddenly? Let Ferber's Tire and Auto diagnose your car to get to the bottom of the issue!