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Cleaning oxygen sensor

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Cleaning oxygen sensor

Is it possible to clean oxygen sensors and recycle them? Though this article we have attempted to explore the possibility of cleaning oxygen sensors as an alternative to replacing them. 

Oxygen sensors; located in the exhaust system of the automobiles gets exposed to fuel and other toxic gases like CO, HC and NO2. Exposure to these gases and fuel can contaminate the oxygen sensor impairing its ability to perform its functions effectively. O2 sensors can also get damaged due to oil, fuel and coolant contamination. Excessive accumulation of soot in the ceramic elements of the sensor can increase the response time and hence degrade the ability of oxygen sensor to sense oxygen effectively. Presence of lead in poor quality gasoline also reduces the life of the sensors. Likewise exposing sensors to silicones and silicates inhibits their ability to perform properly.

The photographs show damaged Bosch oxygen sensor due to contamination by oil, fuel and coolant

Since the purpose of the O2 sensor is to determine the optimal ratio of air and fuel mixture in the exhaust system of automobiles, any contamination can make the car's gas combustion engine to either run rich (with unburnt fuel) or lean (with excess oxygen). This can reduce the mileage of the automobiles. So maintaining proper health of the oxygen sensor is crucial for minimizing gas consumption in automobiles.

If contaminants do damage the oxygen sensor, the obvious thing to do is to replace them with brand new once. But many oxygen sensors; especially the wideband oxygen sensors can be expensive to replace. So, in this article we try to see an alternative way to "recycle" the oxygen sensors by cleaning them.

Disclaimer: Please note that cleaning oxygen sensor is NOT recommended and we can't guarantee if the cleaned oxygen sensor will work; but in this article we have tried to explore alternate ways to reuse the same oxygen sensor rather than buying a new one. Weather these cleaning mechanisms work or not are up to the readers to try out and decide. So, please try the procedure at your own risk.

Determining ways to clean oxygen sensor raises a basic question: Will the cleaned oxygen sensor be any good to work properly? Since the oxygen sensor is exposed to high heat in the exhaust system to the car, the main contaminant likely to be present is a thick layer of baked carbon on the sensor tip, which doesn't dissolve easily in any solvents. So one way to clean O2 sensor with this carbon deposit is to heat the oxygen sensor tip with a blow torch (like propane). Expose the sensor tip to the torch till it's about to turn red, then dip the sensor tip quickly into water followed by cleaning the tip by blowing compressed air. This will make the carbon deposit to break free. We recommend repeating the procedure a few times until the carbon deposits are removed from the sensor tip.

Another way to clean the oxygen sensor is by using CRC brand QD electronic cleaner to remove fuel and oil contaminants. It's a special cleaner and doesn't leave any residue on drying. Keep a safe distance between the sensor and cleaner nozzle when spraying the cleaner on the sensor and wear gloves and safety goggles to prevent the cleaner from affecting your hand and eyes.

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