Balance is vital in engine performance. The right amount of air, the right amount of fuel, proper ignition timing—all of these affect how the engine operates. There is a complex system in place ensuring everything is clicking on all cylinders; and in this network of parts, usually located around the upper engine bay area, is an intuitive contraption called the MAP sensor.
This sensor aids the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) in keeping the engine running smoothly, which should be top priority, especially during long drives under extreme weather. For instance, summer–a season notorious for breaking down engines due to its punishing temperatures.
What’s a MAP Sensor?
The manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor processes signals based on the pressure in the intake manifold and transmits them to your car’s computer, so it can calculate for ideal engine load, spark advance, and fuel injection pulse. Inaccuracies in any of these can result in diminished performance and engine damage.
In other words, in order to secure the best combustion possible, the MAP sensor should operate with sharp precision. If it fails and starts feeding the PCM with erroneous signals, you can expect your air-fuel ratio to become either too lean (less fuel) or too rich (more fuel).
A MAP sensor fails when:
- It is contaminated, clogged, or damaged
- Its electronics are fried due to intense heat in the engine compartment
- There is too much vibration in the engine compartment
- The hose it connects to is cracked or swollen
- Its connection with the hose is loose
Signs of a Bad MAP Sensor
So what happens when your MAP sensor has gone kaput? Here are the most common consequences:
- Decline in fuel economy – If your car’s computer inaccurately reads the pressure in the intake manifold as high, the engine will inject more fuel to meet the heightened engine load. This can reduce fuel economy and possibly lead to detonation.
- Power deficiency – On the flip side, if your car’s computer presumes pressure in the intake manifold is low, it will do the reverse and cut down fuel consumption, therefore leaving the engine with less power for acceleration.
- Rough idling – When fuel injection is inadequate, the engine tends to idle rough. There’s also a chance for cylinder misfire to occur.
- “Check Engine” light comes on – When the “check engine” light illuminates, it’s possible there’s something wrong with your MAP sensor. This is also the perfect time to check if there’s any problem with the other sensors in your car.
- Failed emission tests – If your MAP sensor is unreliable, chances are, the emissions discharged from your tailpipe will be filled with hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. This automatically causes you to fail your emissions test.
It helps to be aware of the signs of a bad MAP sensor so you can act fast to remedy the problem. Or, better be proactive by inspecting your MAP sensor during routine maintenance checkups. You can use a scan tool for this (your MAP sensor reading at idle should have a reference voltage close to five volts) and administer a bench test using a hand vacuum pump and a voltmeter.
Make it a habit to check your MAP sensor from time to time to maintain a sense of balance in your engine’s operation and ensure optimum performance for your car.