The Mass Air Flow Sensor or MAF for short is a sensor that is integral in the proper functioning and fuel economy of your vehicle. In short, the mass air flow sensor senses the amount of air entering your engine and feeds that data back into the computer or ECU of the car. In order for the vehicle’s computer system to appropriately dispense the proper ratio of fuel to air within the engine the MAF sensor must be working correctly and sensing the correct amount of air entering the intake. If the sensor is dirty or not working properly it is possible it may be over reporting the amount of air entering the engine which in turn will cause extra fuel than normal to be added to the air fuel mixture before combustion in the motor. This will result in wasted gas and lower gas mileage.
Most modern day mass air flow sensors work by applying a current through a set of electrical filament wires. As air passes over the wires, the wires cool down, decreasing the resistance of the system. More current is then passed through the wire to heat it back up and obtain an equilibrium resistance value. The amount of current needed to heat the wire up is recorded and used to back calculate the air flow rate through the device.
Thus having a properly functioning Mass Air Flow Sensor is critical to the proper functioning of your fuel injection system and as a result fuel economy. If a MAF sensor is malfunctioning badly beyond a certain threshold it will cause the computer to display an error code that may alert you to a malfunctioning MAF. However, if the sensor’s elements are just dirty then it will be constantly misreading your air ratio and possibly causing lower gas mileage.
Luckily there is an easy way to do basic cleaning maintenance on your MAF sensor if your vehicle has over 60,000 miles on it. You should follow your vehicle’s repair manual standard instructions for removing your Mass Air Flow meter. Once the sensor is removed from the vehicle use a common electrical connector cleaner spray and spray the wire filaments of the mass air flow sensor several times. Let the unit dry and repeat the process several more times to make sure that all carbon deposits or grime has been removed from the wire filaments. Just make sure not to touch or hit the wires. Touching the wires can put your finger’s oil on them causing improper readings. Once the sensor is dry and cleaned to your specifications reinstall it back in your vehicle.