If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably seen that your vehicle is displaying code P0161 on your scan tool. Here’s a guide to code P0161, including its definition, causes, symptoms, and more.
What Does the P0161 Code Mean?
Diagnostic trouble code (DTC) P0161 stands for “O2 Sensor Heater Circuit Malfunction (Bank 2, Sensor 2).” It warns about an issue with the Bank 2, Sensor 2 oxygen (O2) sensor’s heater circuit.
Modern oxygen sensors come with heating elements so that they heat up to the ideal operating temperature quickly. They provide feedback to the car’s computer or the powertrain control module (PCM). The heating circuit helps reduce the period in which the sensors are not able to send data to the PCM.
The PCM uses the data from the heated oxygen sensors to calculate the right ratio of fuel delivery and monitor the catalytic converter’s performance.
The Sensor 2 portion of the code’s definition refers to the downstream sensor, which is technically known as Sensor 2. It is located behind the catalytic converter and its primary purpose is to check the amount of oxygen in the exhaust gas leaving the catalytic converter.
The PCM constantly monitors the signals coming from the heated oxygen sensors. If there’s a questionable change or fluctuation in the inputs, the PCM will issue their respective codes.
The P0161 code only applies to cars with V6 or V8 engines. If your vehicle only has four cylinders, it will only have one bank and, typically, one downstream sensor, so it can’t trigger this code. Instead, a faulty downstream heated oxygen sensor will be set as P0141 or Oxygen Sensor Heater Circuit Malfunction (Bank 1, Sensor 2).
Vehicles that are prone to code P0161 include various models of Chevrolet (especially Chevy Silverado), Ford, Jeep, Toyota, and Dodge.
What are the Possible Causes of the P0161 Code?
What causes the P0161 code? There are a couple of reasons why the PCM could set the code P0161:
- Faulty oxygen sensor
- An issue with the oxygen sensor heater circuit (i.e., an open, a short, or high resistance)
- An issue with the PCM
What are the Common Symptoms of the P0161 Code?
It is possible that you won’t experience any noticeable symptoms along with code P0161. The only symptom that may alert you to the issue is an illuminated check engine light.
How to Diagnose the P0161 Code
Like other DTCs, there could be different diagnoses for code P0161 as there are several causes that can trigger it. You’ll need thorough knowledge about the code, the parts in question, and its diagnostic process.
If you want to know more, you can watch this video for more details on diagnosing a P0161 code:
How to Fix the P0161 Code
There’s no single way of fixing the code P0161. Different carmakers have their own specific repair instructions for the DTC, so what works for one model may not work for a different one.
Once you’ve figured out the underlying cause, the next step is to figure out what specific repair will work for the issue. Do some research online to find out some possible fixes for your code, keeping in mind to stick to anecdotes from other DIY-ers with the same vehicle as yours.
For example, certain Chevrolet owners have reported success with replacing the offending O2 sensor—but that’s not to say that this would automatically work for a Ford F-150 that is experiencing the same code.
Another reminder—use a repair manual whenever you’re working on your car. When in doubt, it’s better to seek help from a professional mechanic.
If you wish to personally work on your car, you may opt to invest in an ALLDATA single-vehicle subscription. This is helpful not only for this specific repair, but also for other issues you may encounter in the future.
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic.