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Summary
  • The P0720 code triggers when the powertrain control module (PCM) detects erratic input from the output shaft sensor (OSS).
  • Common triggers for the code include a faulty output shaft speed sensor, a short in the electrical wirings, and a malfunctioning PCM.
  • The code is sometimes accompanied by the P0715 or P0500 codes.

700 series codes such as the P0720 are typically transmission-related codes stored by the ECM or PCM. The ECM is a module that controls only the engine, and on vehicles with automatic transmissions there will be a Transmission Control Module (TCM) that communicates with the ECM.

A PCM (Powertrain Control Module) controls both the engine and the transmission. Thus, we refer to the ECM/PCM in these articles when discussing the primary on-board computer, but a growing number of vehicles tends to have separate Engine and Transmission Control modules that communicate with each other over the CAN bus. Thus, you may have an ECM and a TCM but the ECM may display DTCs that are TCM related – like this one.

However, having the DTCs won’t make a difference if you don’t know what they mean. So, if you’re getting the code P0720, this article will help point you in the right direction.

What Does the P0720 Code Mean?

The P0720 code is activated when the PCM detects insufficient or erratic input from the output shaft sensor (OSS). This code is similar to P0721, P0722, and P0723.

, P0720 Code: Output Speed Sensor Circuit Malfunction

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: Depending on the type of sensor used on the vehicle in question, the signal sent to the ECM/PCM/TCM may be an analog AC signal or a DC digital square wave.

Diagnostic trouble code (DTC) P0720 stands for “Output Speed Sensor Circuit Malfunction.” It is stored when the ECM/PCM/TCM perceives a problem with the output speed sensor or its circuit. If, for example, the engine speed and input shaft speed are at a certain RPM but the output shaft speed is erratic or not what the computer expects, P0720 will be stored. There may also be a P0500 code stored on some platforms.

Output Shaft Speed Sensor Isolated
The P0720 code is activated when the PCM detects insufficient or erratic input from the output shaft sensor (OSS).

P0720 on Some Ford Vehicles

Code P0720 may appear on some Ford vehicles. On a 2016 Ford F-150 XL 5.0L V8, for example, this DTC is described as, “OSS sensor signal input exceeds the calibrated threshold. The OSS sensor provides a signal to the PCM based on the speed of the output shaft of the transmission.”

The code appears in a 2016 Ford F-150 XL 5.0L V8 because of the following conditions:

  • OSS circuit short to ground
  • OSS circuit short to voltage
  • OSS circuit open
  • Damaged OSS sensor

For this specific vehicle, Ford also notes that verifying the sensor signal output varies with the vehicle speed.

Speed Inputs and DTC Codes

In order for the Transmission Control System (ECM/TCM/PCM, etc.) to operate correctly and detect mechanical or electrical transmission concerns, there are multiple speed inputs factored into the algorithms written into the computer(s).

First, the engine speed is factored in, because that’s important, and that information comes from the engine’s crankshaft sensor. The transmission input shaft (the turbine shaft connected to the torque converter turbine) speed is also measured. Some transmissions will include an intermediate shaft speed sensor, but all electronically controlled automatic transmissions will have an output shaft sensor that sometimes doubles as the vehicle speed sensor.

Each of the speed sensors typically reads a toothed wheel mounted or machined on the rotating component, because that’s how speed sensors work.

What are the Possible Causes of the P0720 Code?

Here are the probable causes of code P0720:

  • Faulty output shaft speed sensor
  • Open or short in the electrical wiring or connections
  • Malfunctioning PCM

What are the Common Symptoms of the P0720 Code?

The manifestations of a triggered P0720 code activated usually involve changes in the driveability of your car.

Here are the most common symptoms you may encounter if the PCM is detecting a P0720:

  • Delayed or no gear shifting
  • Malfunctioning speedometer and cruise control
  • Sometimes accompanied by P0715 or P0500

How to Diagnose the P0720 Code

There are several possible causes that could trigger the P0720 code, so diagnosing it is not a straightforward affair. This is why a lot of people leave the job to their mechanics.

If you would prefer to do it yourself, however, watch these videos to get a better understanding of how to diagnose this code:

How to Fix the P0720 Code

As with diagnosis, fixing the P0720 code could be a little tricky since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for resolving the code. You can hav

e your mechanic do the fix for you or you can decide to go for it yourself if you feel like you have the required DIY skills.

If you’re planning on doing the latter, you’ll need to do some research. Once you’ve diagnosed the underlying cause, go online to find out what repairs other people (with the same vehicle as yourself) have employed to clear this code.

You should be able to find good information on forums and other similar platforms⁠—just make sure to stick to the resolutions shared by owners of the same vehicle, as the appropriate fix for a P0720 may vary depending on make and/or model. A P0720 fix for a Ford, for instance, may not be the same as that of the repair you may need to do on a Nissan.

When you’re ready to perform the fix, make sure to check out repair manuals like the ones by Chilton or Haynes to figure out the proper steps for repairing your vehicle. You can also try a single-vehicle ALLDATA subscription that should help you with this and any other repairs you may need to do in the future.

Where to Get an Output Shaft Speed Sensor for Your Vehicle

Clearing the P0720 code usually involves replacing a faulty output shaft speed sensor. Depending on your vehicle, you might have to visit several auto parts shops to get the right replacement. Fortunately, you can avoid all that hassle when you shop online at CarParts.com.

Shopping for a sensor that fits your ride is easy when you use our vehicle selector. Simply enter your ride’s year, make, and model into the tool to view compatible parts. After that, you can use our filters to check out the ones that match your preferred brand and price range.

You can also expect fast shipping because all our products are on hand and ready to ship at warehouses strategically located across the states. If you have any questions, our customer service representatives will give you all the help you need to find what you’re looking for.

Don’t ignore the P0720 code. Find and order what you need to resolve it in our catalog today.

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About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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