Oxygen Sensors and Their Role in Engine Management--A Primer - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 46 Old 03-15-2011, 07:18 PM Thread Starter
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Oxygen Sensors and Their Role in Engine Management--A Primer

I am doing this thread due to my recent experience with the Oxygen Sensors (O2) on my Hemi WK. I’ll explain how and why I became very interested in this, and the results of my research and actions. This is more or less a “LOTS OF THINGS YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT OXYGEN SENSORS, AND THEIR ROLE IN ENGINE MANAGEMENT.”

This will be quite long and a lot of it will be in bullet statements, with explanations or comments on some. So, sit back and read, ignore, go to sleep, or close the thread. I promise though that, unless you’re an absolute wizard on these systems, you’ll learn something, right along with me. Also, since fuel prices are once again skyrocketing, this might be a good opportunity to familiarize ourselves with some of the things that affect the fuel economy, emissions and the performance of our Jeeps, or any of our vehicles for that matter. But, also be aware that while much of this may apply to other makes/models, some things may also be quite different from others. This is not meant to be all inclusive information, but focuses on items/areas I found to be of interest to me, or something I should perhaps be aware of for future reference. Besides, to cover everything would take days.

This all started when I recently had major exhaust system work done…custom tubular headers and a complete custom 3 in. Magnaflow Cat. Back system. After it was completed I decided I would monitor the system with my DashHawk to insure that everything was working properly and there were no indications of exhaust leaks or sensor issues. I feel that I have a pretty fair knowledge of most automotive concepts and systems, although I never really paid too much attention to “modern” engine and fuel management systems because, “they always worked fine” for me. I thought I knew enough about the returnless electronic sequential multi-port fuel injection (that’s a mouth full) open and closed loop operation, and knew what O2 Sensors did, but not so much how and why they did it. It was kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing. This is where my curiosity really began though. At this point I should also mention that I have another Hemi and DashHawk equipped vehicle which came in handy for direct comparisons in the initial phases of troubleshooting. It conclusively pointed me in the right direction.

I have always had a screen set up on the DashHawks to monitor all four O2 Sensor voltages and the Catalytic Converter temperatures, but never paid much attention to them, how/why they worked, or what all the readings and indications meant. When I started regularly monitoring the upstream (before Cats.) and downstream (after Cats.) O2 sensor systems I found that the upstream left (1/1= Bank 1, Sensor 1) O2 Sensor voltage fluctuated quite a bit while the upstream right (2/1=Bank 2, Sensor 1) Sensor was quite stable. Because the left one was cycling so much, I immediately thought that I had an exhaust leak on that side and the other (right) side was working fine. Also, both the downstream sensors (1/2=Bank 1, Sensor 2 and 2/2=Bank 2, Sensor 2) were quite stable too, so I thought they were also working fine. After all, “stable is good and fluctuating is bad”, right? The downstream readings were sending a non-cycling rich (higher millivolt) signal to the PCM, as was the 2/1 Sensor. This is when I decided that I should do a little research to find out what all these readings and numbers really meant. Boy, did I get a big surprise. Turns out that the 1/1 sensor was working pretty good except for being a little lazy, the 2/1sensor was virtually inoperative and both the rear sensors (1/2 and 2/2) were working fine.

I decided, since I had just done my 60K service, I might as well change all four of the sensors. They weren’t very expensive….~$30 each, or $120 for all four. My rationale was that if one is bad or going bad the others are probably close behind. I opted for Bosch sensors, since they were about the only ones I had heard of and I knew that Robert Bosch’s engineering gang were the ones that invented them. This turned out to be a poor decision, at least in my case. I don’t know if the same would apply to anyone else though.

As soon as I replaced the sensors the PCM almost immediately set P1128 and P1129 Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC’s). The DashHawk was indicating that the upstream and downstream wiring had been switched. I knew that wasn’t true so I started researching what those codes really meant. Along the way I discovered, through other DCX forums, that O2 Sensor problems were quite common on Chrysler vehicles. Anyway, P1128/P1129 really mean that closed loop fuel status is not being achieved in a timely manner on either engine bank. In my case it was because the heaters were not heating up the sensors fast enough.

I discovered, thanks to my parts guy, that the original factory ones were made by NTK, a division of NGK. I ordered both NTK upstream sensors, changed them, and now all it well. Turns out that the Bosch sensors were too slow heating up and would cause the transition from open loop to closed loop to be delayed, or not happen at all due to the codes being set. The heat up threshold is ~40 seconds. More than 40 seconds would set a DTC and not allow the fuel system to switch over from open loop to closed loop until much later (or not at all) than the PCM required. The upstream sensors when cold with the engine off are what I will call “parked”, and indicate 1.270 volts on the DashHawk. This was true with all upstream Bosch and NTK sensors. The sensors need to get below about 1.0 volt (I think the book says 900 mV) before they begin oxygen sampling. It would take ~47 seconds for the Bosch 1/1 sensor, and ~37-40 seconds for the Bosch 2/1 sensor to reach this point. By contrast the NTK’s reach this point in ~7-8 seconds. Closed loop is achieved at different times based on engine temperature and other sensor inputs, and with the Bosch sensors would take up to one minute fifteen seconds, or would display an error code (8) for the fuel status indicating closed loop was not achieved. The NTK’s would take no longer than ~35 seconds to warm up and transition to closed loop.

Oxygen (O2) Sensor Gee Whiz Information
Below is much of what I learned about the oxygen sensors. It is, by no means, all inclusive and is only as good as the research articles I used. I guess that means that there may be some errors. Feel free to comment, correct or criticize me on anything you may question or find wrong. I have also tried to put them in some sort of order that makes a little sense.

--O2 sensors were first installed on Volvos in 1976-77 and the system was called, Lambda Sond..
--While Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet, it is also another name for the oxygen sensor. When the system has reached “lambda” (1.0) it is at stoichiometric air/fuel mixture. Above 1.0 is lean (more oxygen, less fuel) and below 1.0 is rich (less oxygen, more fuel).
--Stoichiometric (14.7/1 air/fuel mixture) is when an ideal (iso-octane) fuel is used it will completely consume all of the air and fuel in the mixture. This will provide the best mixture for economy and lowest emissions, but NOT THE MOST POWER. The most power is achieved at ~12.8-13.2/1air/fuel ratio. My Hemi Jeep runs rich (as do almost all stock vehicles) at about 11/1 air/fuel mixture at Wide Open Throttle (WOT).
--So, Lambda 1.0 and stoichiometric mean the same thing, and this ratio is what is needed for the best economy and lowest emissions, but will not provide the best performance.
--Our Jeeps are equipped with four, 4 wire, heated, narrow ratio (band) air/fuel O2 sensors, two near the exhaust manifolds in front (upstream) of the catalytic converters, and are identified as, 1/1 is the front left side, and 2/1 is the front right side. The other two (downstream) sensors are located aft of the catalytic converters and are identified as 1/2 which is the rear left side and 2/2, which is the rear right side.
--In closed loop fuel status THE FRONT TWO SENSORS (1/1 and 2/1) ARE THE PRIMARY INPUTS that tell the PCM what mixture they are sensing. This, along with other sensor inputs are used by the PCM to make closed loop mixture adjustments, by changing the fuel injector pulse width. The object is to keep it as close to 14.7/1 air/fuel ratio as possible.
--Some of the other critical sensors are the Manifold Air Pressure (MAP) Sensor, the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS), the Ambient Air Sensor (AAS), Engine Coolant Sensor (ECS) and the Intake Air Sensor (IAT).
--The rear O2 sensors (1/2 and 2/2) are used solely to determine catalytic converter efficiency. If their indications mirror the front sensors, after the cats. have warmed up to at least 600 degrees F, the converter is not working properly and needs to be replaced. Since the converter’s job is to burn any unburned fuel, further reducing emissions, the rear sensors will normally show a richer (less oxygen) mixture, meaning that most of the air/fuel mixture has been burned off.

--O2 SENSORS:
--are relatively inexpensive…~$30-50 each.
--are made by a number of companies. Some of the more common ones are, Bosch, NTK and Denso.
--ARE PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT PCM INPUT DEVICE IN DETERMINING ECONOMY AND EMISSION LEVELS. Even today, not very many people are aware of their presence, or the importance they play in engine performance and pollution control. Some surveys indicated that ~95-99.7% of all vehicle owners were not even aware that their vehicle had oxygen sensors.
--that are failing do not necessarily display a Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) or set a DTC. A sensor may be lazy/sluggish, or biased rich or lean.
--are mini voltage generators, and the readings they generate and send to the PCM are expressed in millivolts (mV). The normal range is ~100-900 mV. At startup, on mine, the voltage is ~1.270 volts, and quickly (with the NTK sensors) drops to the appropriate range..
--mV indication of ~450 mV is approximately the midpoint and indicates about a 14.7/1 air/fuel ratio. Below 450 mV indicates a lean condition and above 450 mV indicates a rich condition.
--indicating the lower mV reading mean that more oxygen (lean) is in the exhaust gas. The higher mV reading indicates that more fuel (rich) is in the exhaust gas.
--are vented to the atmosphere through the wiring connectors and insulation. This type of venting, rather than using a hole in the sensor body, reduces risk of water, dirt or other debris from contaminating and possibly fouling sensor and causing it to fail.
--provide feedback to the Power Control Module (PCM) during closed loop (idle, low load, light throttle) fuel status. During initial cold and at Wide Open Throttle (WOT) operation the fuel system is in open loop status, and their feedback is ignored by the PCM. Instead the PCM uses preprogrammed fuel tables and other sensor inputs to determine the air/fuel mixture. Closed loop operation uses other fuel tables.
--once warmed up, normally “cycle, or flip flop” continuously and alternately from rich to lean to rich passing the 450 mV point in both directions. The number of times it cycle sare called crosscounts, or the number of times it passes the 450 mV point. The number of times this crosscount occurs varies with the type/brand of sensor and over time becomes slower with age/contamination. The more crosscounts, the more precise the mixture control.
--upstream and downstream all work the same, but the downstream ones SHOULD NOT have any crosscounts once warmed up and should be relatively constant somewhere above 450 mV.
--are installed on all newer vehicles today.
--should last between 50-100K miles
--wear out slowly (become lazy/sluggish), similar to spark plugs, so may not be noticeable until a DTC has been set or economy has degraded significantly.
--are easily contaminated which can render them “lazy/sluggish” or inoperative.
--effectiveness will deteriorate or fail if exposed to such things as lead,, phosphorus, EXCESSIVE OIL, WATER, silicone sprays/gasket sealers (unless certified to be O2 sensor safe), some fuel additives, road salt, dirt, or mishandling. The amount of moisture and oil that gets by the inferior Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system on the 5.7 Hemi’s would, IMO, be cause for concern for premature O2 sensor and/or Catalytic Converter contamination and deterioration. Not regularly checking/changing the PCV Valve could aggravate this. IMO, Hemi owners should always check the PCV Valve and behind the throttle body butterfly at each oil change.
--have a host of DTC’s that are associated with the many different malfunctions that can occur with them.
--are not easy to check without special On Board Diagnostics, Generation II (OBDII) test equipment. If you have a ton of miles on your ride, get lousy fuel economy, and know they haven’t been changed, it’ll be cheaper to replace them than pay to have them tested. As I said, mine were failing at 60K. They can be tested with a voltmeter that is capable of reading millivolts but again, IMO, would not be worth the effort.
--that have completely failed will usually indicate a rich condition and, if not replaced in a timely manner, could cause the overheating and failure of the Catalytic Converter on the affected side. For us Hemi guys, if it is rich enough at light throttle to change the fuel injection status to open loop, the MDS will also become inoperative.
--are among the leading cause of emission test failures due to high Hydrocarbons (HC) and/or Carbon Monoxide ( CO). Surveys have shown that anywhere from ~40-70% of emission test failures were attributed to defective oxygen sensors.
-- LAZINESS OR FAILURE CAN CAUSE UP TO ~10-15% INCREASED FUEL CONSUMPTION, emissions test failures, driveability issues such as surging and/or hesitation, and overheating and failure of the Catalytic Converter.

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post #2 of 46 Old 03-15-2011, 08:04 PM
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Yep well known fact that Bosch O2 sensors are to "slow" for Chrysler PCM's and always will cause issues,same goes for any of there spark plugs in a Chrysler engine also.

And also correct that the upstream O2's should cycle 3-4 times faster then the downstream O2's.


Wait till you have to deal with short/long term fuel trims along with other sensor readings.

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post #3 of 46 Old 03-15-2011, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input, and I can sure wait forever on the short/long term fuel trim. That's a whole other deal. Hope I don't have any of those problems.

I did find that some sensors cycle up to 7 times a second. Neither of the ones (Bosch or NTK) I tried cycled anywhere near that. The NTK's cycle about 2-3 times/second, if that and the Bosches were slower yet. The rears on mine, once warmed up, have never cycled that I've seen. They do before everything is warmed up though.

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post #4 of 46 Old 03-15-2011, 09:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 90grandoneer View Post
Thanks for the input, and I can sure wait forever on the short/long term fuel trim. That's a whole other deal. Hope I don't have any of those problems.

I did find that some sensors cycle up to 7 times a second. Neither of the ones (Bosch or NTK) I tried cycled anywhere near that. The NTK's cycle about 2-3 times/second, if that and the Bosches were slower yet. The rears on mine, once warmed up, have never cycled that I've seen. They do before everything is warmed up though.
Your dashhawk is not fast enough to actually display the upstream O2 sensor switch rate.On a high end scanner(Snapon and OE scanners) when monitoring only the O2 sensors you can not even read the #'s as they switch so fast when properly working.

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post #5 of 46 Old 03-15-2011, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, again for the info. I know the DashHawk is far from a high end scanner, but for most of my purposes, it works pretty well. I think (I hope) it was accurate enough to correctly diagnose the O2 Sensor it showed bad in the first place.

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post #6 of 46 Old 03-15-2011, 10:09 PM
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You were holding out on me...........or should I say saving me from info overload! j/k Honestly I'm thankful that you did all of this research. As you know I'm having my own O2 issues. 1st and foremost, I can't get the dang thing off! But I digress. I hope you are code free for many many years my friend.

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post #7 of 46 Old 03-16-2011, 05:28 AM
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I've personally had 3 factory o2 sensors go out on my 4.7.. (not from normal wear and tear but a" water incident" ) and I diagnosed them thru a "high end" scanner because of a lack of varying voltage not because of actual voltage readings which like formally mentioned cannot be real time data displayed. Another indicating factor was long term and short term fuel trim which I tend to look at first before looking at any other available data. Just my.02. Also all replacement o2 sensors were bosch and all are functioning correctly with no MIL and now with typical long term, short term, and overall MPG numbers .
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post #8 of 46 Old 07-13-2011, 03:56 PM
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That is an awesome amount of info and really helped me.

Where did you get the NTK sensors from? order from dealership?

I got the 3.7l and I will be replacing the bank 1 sensor 1 with a Bosch. If it doesn't work I will return it, based on your OP im probably just going to replace all of them.

Again thanks for all that info, I'm surprised it didn't come up in my search.
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post #9 of 46 Old 07-14-2011, 06:09 AM
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wow that is a lot of info to process. Thanks for putting it out there.
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post #10 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 07:46 PM
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I know one of mine is bad. I haven't crawled under to take a peek at changing them so I have one question. Does anyone know how many the 3.7L has. I read that the v8's have 4 but I'm not sure about the v6.
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post #11 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 08:17 PM Thread Starter
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There are probably four also, two for each bank of the V-6. If you have two catalytic converters (take a look under the vehicle) you'll for sure have four.

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post #12 of 46 Old 05-04-2012, 11:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 90grandoneer View Post
Thanks for the input, and I can sure wait forever on the short/long term fuel trim. That's a whole other deal. Hope I don't have any of those problems.

I did find that some sensors cycle up to 7 times a second. Neither of the ones (Bosch or NTK) I tried cycled anywhere near that. The NTK's cycle about 2-3 times/second, if that and the Bosches were slower yet. The rears on mine, once warmed up, have never cycled that I've seen. They do before everything is warmed up though.
Anyone knw where to get the NKT O2 sensors for a good deal??

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post #13 of 46 Old 05-04-2012, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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I had to special order mine from my local import parts place. I've dealt with them forever, so they always do good by me. Have you checked with any of the major parts dealers, O'Reilly, Autozone, Napa, etc.? Should run ~$30-40 each.

Oh, thanks for the post. It just reminded me, I need to order one for my Hemi LX. On my last trip I noticed a lazy 2/1 sensor.

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post #14 of 46 Old 05-04-2012, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 90grandoneer View Post
I had to special order mine from my local import parts place. I've dealt with them forever, so they always do good by me. Have you checked with any of the major parts dealers, O'Reilly, Autozone, Napa, etc.? Should run ~$30-40 each.

Oh, thanks for the post. It just reminded me, I need to order one for my Hemi LX. On my last trip I noticed a lazy 2/1 sensor.
ha yea no prob just been thinking about ways to make the jeep run forever and clean. want to get the most out of my chip. i looked at autozone...all they have is bosch but napa has the NGK but they want like 65$ thought that was a little high so i thought i would ask around a little. thanks for the reply

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post #15 of 46 Old 05-04-2012, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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Once you have the correct part number, you may want to plug it in to the search engine and see what you can get one for on line. I paid about $30 for each of mine on the WK when I replaced them all. Think the total was like $130, for all 4 with tax. If you find a good deal, you may want to post it up for others that may need sensors.

I see you're up north of me. Mother in Law used to live in Sandpoint, so we used to go through CDA quite a bit. Nice area, for sure.

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