Although it’s known by many names such as air meter, MAF sensor, or just simply MAF, the Mass Air Flow sensor is a crucial instrument that plays a crucial role in your car’s performance. Its task in the engine is simply to measure the amount of air getting into the engine. Now, since the MAF is located in the engine, it’s easy for it to accumulate dirt, dust, and oils that can render its performance. Therefore, to guarantee top performance, you need to think about the best Mass Air Flow sensor cleaner alternative.
Now, the MAF sensor is a delicate component that performs a very crucial role in sending data to the car’s onboard computer about the amount of air getting into the engine. Although we’ll discuss its working mechanism later, a clogged MAF sensor can cause the PCM to send the wrong data to the engine leading to engine failure.
So, to stay on the safe side, you need to clean the MAF sensor regularly to remove any surface dirt or oil buildup. Now, when it comes to cleaning the MAF sensor, there are several cleaners you can consider depending on what’s available to you.
Now, when it comes to cleaning the MAF sensor, a MAF sensor cleaner is not the only option you’ve got. You can consider other alternatives such as using rubbing alcohol or using electronic cleaners. So, in this guide, we’ll discuss some of the cleaning alternatives that are not only popular but also effective and safe.
But, before we get to that, we would like to discuss the MAF sensor in detail to help you understand its purpose, its working mechanism, and why it fails. So, if you’re ready, then let’s begin.
How Does a MAF Sensor Work?
Now, the MAF sensor is part of your car’s fuel injection system. Mounted on a pipe between the air filter and the intake manifold, the MAF sensor is tasked to measure the amount of air flowing into the engine. Now, how does it do that? Well, in most modern vehicles, the MAF sensor is equipped with an intake air temperature (IAT) sensor that comes in the form of a hot-wire type or a hot-film type.
For efficient results, the hot-wire or hot-film type is mounted in the middle of the airstream. It’s then heated with an electric current to keep it hot. So, with this mechanism, the more you accelerate your vehicle, the more the air will flow over the wire. Since the hot wire will cool down in the process, more electric current will have to be supplied to keep the wire hot.
As the wire heats up, an electric chip mounted on the airflow sensor records the increasing electric current and translates it to a digital signal that’s easier for the PCM to translate. This digital signal is what the PCM uses to determine airflow to calculate the amount of fuel to inject into the cylinders.
If you’re driving an automatic transmission, this data is very essential as it’s what the PCM uses to determine shift points.
What Causes a MAF Sensor to Malfunction?
Now, the MAF sensor is tasked to perform a very delicate job—to measure the amount of air flowing to the engine. In a single liter of gas, the MAF sensor can measure nearly 9,000 liters of air getting into the engine. Although that’s a lot of air, the MAF sensor can’t get exhausted but rather it can get clogged by the amount of dirt, dust, and road debris that’s present in the air.
Depending on your car model, contamination can occur as early as 18,000 – 25,000 miles. In smaller cars, it can occur much faster as most of them have smaller engine bays. Once the MAF sensor is contaminated, wrong data is sent to the PCM leading to an incorrect fuel-air mixture. This eventually leads to poor combustion, resulting in common symptoms such as rough idling, hard starting, poor fuel economy, and troubles accelerating among others.
But other than contamination, there are other factors that can cause a MAF sensor to malfunction. These factors include:
- Issues with wiring and electrical connection
- Damaged MAF sensor due to vibrations or accident
- Clogged catalytic converter or restricted exhaust
- Possible vacuum leak
- Clogged air filter
5 Symptoms of a Faulty MAF Sensor
If your mass airflow sensor is faulty, then it will send the wrong information to the car’s onboard computer. In the process, the engine control unit will miscalculate and inject the wrong amount of fuel into the combustion chamber. This will jeopardize the entire combustion process causing common symptoms such as the ones we’ve highlighted here.
- Check Engine Light: In most cases, a faulty MAF sensor is manifested through a check engine light on the dashboard. Although the light can point to other engine issues, this is one of the common signs since the MAF sensor is part of the engine’s components.
- Rough Idling or Stalling: If the MAF sensor is failing, then it means it won’t send any data regarding airflow to the engine control unit. As a result, this creates confusion where the control unit is unable to determine the amount of fuel to inject into the cylinders. As a result, this leads to rough idling and engine stalling whenever you drive or park your vehicle.
- Poor Fuel Economy: Since the engine control unit doesn’t know the amount of air that’s getting into the engine, it might end up sending excess fuel to the cylinders causing the engine to run rich. This results in poor fuel economy as too much fuel is being wasted in the process.
- Engine Runs too Rich or too Lean: A rich fuel to air mixture means there’s excess fuel in the combustion chamber. On the other hand, a rich air to fuel mixture means there’s excess air and less fuel in the combustion chamber. In either case, you’ll expect to face serious problems with combustion as less fuel means the engine will have less power while too much fuel means you’ll experience poor fuel economy.
- Trouble Accelerating: Lastly, if you’re having problems accelerating your vehicle even after pressing the gas pedal, then there’s a possibility the MAF sensor is faulty. In fact, if you notice the car is jerking forward whenever you press the gas pedal, then that’s a clear sign the MAF sensor needs inspection.
So, What Can You Use to Clean Your Car’s MAF Sensor?
Now that you’re aware of the huge task the MAF sensor plays in the fuel injection system, the next step is to clean it to ensure that you don’t suffer any of the symptoms we’ve just discussed. In this discussion, we’ll begin by discussing rubbing alcohol and how you can use it to clean your MAF sensor.
Now, why start with rubbing alcohol? Well, rubbing alcohol is a popular and effective MAF sensor cleaner. That’s because it’s effective in breaking down contaminants and two, it doesn’t contain any harmful additives that can hurt the MAF sensor.
Lastly, rubbing alcohol is readily available meaning you won’t struggle finding it. That said, let’s gather our supplies and commence the process.
Things You’ll Need:
- Rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol
- Clean towels
- Latex gloves
- Spray bottle
- Step One: Locate the MAF Sensor
To clean your MAF sensor, you need to first identify where it’s located. In most automatic vehicles, the MAF sensor is located underneath the hood behind the air filter.
- Step Two: Remove the MAF Sensor
Once you’ve identified the MAF sensor, the next step is to remove it from its position. This way, it will be easier for you to clean it without facing any difficulty. In case you’re unable to remove the MAF sensor, then you can simply refer to the car’s manual.
- Step Three: Start Cleaning
With the MAF sensor right in front of you, pick a spray bottle and fill it with rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Before you start spraying, cover the intake and the thin wire of the sensor to avoid damaging it accidentally.
When you’re set, spray the rubbing alcohol on every part of the MAF sensor. When applying, don’t scrub any part to avoid damaging the delicate wire. The best thing about rubbing alcohol is that’s able to remove all the contaminants on its own.
- Step Four: Leave it to Dry
After spraying the MAF sensor with rubbing alcohol, place it on a dry towel or a dry shopping bag. Place it on the table or on a shelf where there’s less foot traffic. This way, you won’t risk knocking it over accidentally and causing substantial damage.
In most cases, allow the MAF sensor to dry for about an hour before mounting it back. Always avoid mounting the MAF sensor back to your engine before it’s dry to avoid damaging the engine.
Other MAF Sensor Cleaning Alternatives
Assuming you don’t have to rub alcohol. Which other cleaning alternatives can you pick to clean your MAF sensor? Well, this guide will discuss at least four alternatives you can consider.
- Johnsen’s MAF Cleaner
If you’re concerned about the safety of your MAF sensor, then perhaps you can consider the convenience offered by this MAF sensor cleaner. Now Johnsen’s MAF cleaner has three main advantages. One, it’s very effective meaning you won’t take long to see its effects.
Two, it’s easy to apply and three, it doesn’t hurt your MAF sensor. Application only needs a few gentle sprays and you’re done. The issue with Johnsen’s, however, is that it’s quite expensive. This reason alone takes us to our next alternative.
- CRC 05610 MAF Cleaner
This MAF sensor cleaner has gained immense praise for its effectiveness when applied. When used, this cleaner serves two key purposes. One, it cleans any contaminants on your MAF sensor, and two; it protects the MAF sensor from premature wear.
- Gunk MAS6 MAF Cleaner
Just like CRC 05610, Gunk MAS6 is an effective MAF sensor cleaner that gets rid of dirt, flux, and grease from your sensor to leave it spotlessly clean. While most of these alternatives are effective, Gunk MAS6 has one huge advantage; it goes beyond cleaning your MAF sensor to cleaning your entire engine to improve efficiency.
- Archoil MAF Sensor Cleaner
Lastly, we have an Archoil MAF sensor cleaner. Again, this MAF cleaner is surprisingly effective in cleaning your MAF sensor. The results are fast and noticeable and unlike most other cleaners, it doesn’t leave any residues on the surface of your MAF sensor.
So, there you have it. As you can see, there are many types of MAF sensor cleaners available in the market. However, not all of them are friendly. From what we’ve discussed, MAF sensors are delicate components that play a key role in your car’s fuel intake system. For that reason, you need to be very keen on how you handle this component to avoid damaging its parts.
When choosing the best cleaner, always go for a recommended MAF sensor cleaner. But, in case you don’t get one, the best alternative is rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. The best thing about rubbing alcohol is that it’s effective, gentle on your MAF sensor and it’s readily available.
To those that can’t find rubbing alcohol, the second-best alternative you can choose is a non-residue electronic cleaner. You can also consider any of the MAF sensor cleaner alternatives we’ve discussed here though you need to inspect them thoroughly to ensure they don’t damage your MAF sensor.