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If you own a car, it is likely that at some point in time you will experience problems with your camshaft position sensor. This device is responsible for relaying information about the position of your engine’s camshaft to various sensors throughout the vehicle and its malfunction can cause serious issues with ignition timing, as well as other aspects of how your motor runs.
To help diagnose any potential problems early and quickly, we’ve put together this guide full of all the common signs and symptoms associated with camshaft position sensor failure – read on to find out more!
What Is a Camshaft Position Sensor and What Does It Do?
When shopping for a new car, it is important to understand the basics of all components within the vehicle. A camshaft position sensor is an integral part of the engine and its function is essential to ensuring maximum performance, fuel economy, and reduced emissions.
The camshaft position sensor monitors the camshaft within the combustion chamber and then sends that data to the engine control module for precise fuel and spark control. This helps ensure that the air/fuel mixture is ignited at precisely the right time in order to improve overall engine performance.
On modern auto-start/auto-stop engines, this sensor determines when cylinders should fire relative to the crankshaft position, providing additional fuel and spark when you accelerate. Knowing what a camshaft position sensor does can help prevent costly repairs down the line.
Where Is the Sensor Located?
While the correct position of a camshaft position sensor varies from one vehicle to another, you’ll typically find it either bolted directly to the front timing cover, valve cover or cylinder head. To get precise guidance regarding where the sensor is located on your car, I’d highly recommend investing in a reliable factory-specific service and repair manual for your particular vehicle.
11 Symptoms of A Failing Camshaft Position Sensor in Your Car
Now that you know more about the camshaft position sensor, let’s talk about what signs to look out for when there is an issue with it. Here are 11 indicators of a failing camshaft position sensor in your car:
1. Check engine light comes on
Symptoms of a failing camshaft position sensor can easily be detected by vehicle’s OBD II system. Seeing the Check Engine light light up is the most common warning sign, and ignoring this crucial indication may result in an even bigger problem which could cost thousands of dollars worth of repairs.
It’s best to bring your car to a professional as soon as you see the Check Engine light on in order to fix the issue quickly and efficiently.
2. Poor drivability
Have you noticed that your car is not running as smoothly as it used to be? Symptoms of a failing camshaft position sensor include poor drivability in the form of loss of power, stutter acceleration and stalling. The consequence is due to the inability for the sensor to quickly transmit data, resulting in mismatching fuel delivery and ignition timing even off by a few milliseconds.
3. Transmission shifting problems
If you’re experiencing transmission shifting problems, it’s worth investigating the Camshaft Position Sensor. This sensor sends data to the ECM, and if the ECM isn’t receiving this information correctly, it can keep shift solenoids from working and prevent your gears from shifting properly.
In some cases, this can cause your automobile to enter a Limp-Home-Mode which keeps engine speed restricted to help protect it from damage.
4. Bad fuel economy
Inaccurate data gathered by a faulty sensor is sent to the engine control module, resulting in inefficient fuel consumption. This means that the fuel injectors stay open for longer than necessary and too much fuel is building up in the combustion chamber which makes your engine run roughly.
Additionally, liquid gasoline (which doesn’t compress) being forced into the chamber can cause serious problems if it’s not addressed quickly.
5. Engine stalling
When the fuel injectors are not delivering the proper amount of fuel, the engine could experience stalling, particularly when idling.
6. Engine idles roughly
If the information sent by the camshaft position sensor is off, it can cause your engine to idle roughly and shake. This can also be caused by a malfunctioning crankshaft position sensor.
7. Hesitation while accelerating
If the camshaft sensor is not providing accurate data to the engine control module, your car may experience hesitation while accelerating. The ECM won’t be able to make precise adjustments in fuel delivery and ignition timing, resulting in a jerky ride as you press down on the gas pedal.
8. Failed emissions test
A working camshaft position sensor alerts the engine when to ignite the fuel, thus proper combustion in your vehicle can only be assured with its functioning.
If the sensor is failing, this information isn’t sent properly to the engine and it won’t be able to understand what process to carry out leading to incorrect fuel-air rationing which increases emissions.
9. Smell of gas in the exhaust
As mentioned previously, a bad camshaft position sensor can cause fuel to leak into the exhaust system. This results in a gas smell which you may notice when the engine is running and that’s because unburnt fuel is being expelled through it.
10. Car will not start
Struggling to get our car to start can be a very annoying situation often caused by a failing camshaft position sensor. When this part reaches its end of life, it can no longer send the necessary signal to the engine control module and will prevent the engine from starting.
11. Engine misfires
When a camshaft position sensor is not working correctly, it can cause the engine to misfire. This happens when the fuel-air mixture in one of the cylinders fails to ignite and will be noticed as a shake or shudder coming from your car’s engine.
Related: How to fix a misfiring engine
Common Causes Camshaft Position Sensor Failure
If your vehicle’s camshaft position sensor fails, it could be due to a couple of different factors.
- Prolonged exposure to extreme heat is one of the most common culprits of failure, which makes sense when you consider that engine overheating can lead to increased occurrences of sensor malfunction.
- Contamination from oil and coolants can also cause electrical components like sensors to deteriorate faster. This contamination often finds its way into the wiring receptacle or onto various other wired components.
- Impact-related damage is another possible issue, as debris on the road often endangers the timing covers, thus leading to breakdowns in the camshaft position sensor.
Camshaft Position Sensor Replacement Cost
The cost associated with this kind of repair generally falls within the range of $100-$250. Of course, factors such as the make and model of one’s vehicle, labor costs, and skills of the mechanic can contribute to that total cost.
Generally speaking, one should budget roughly $30-$120 for their replacement sensor itself and an additional $70-$130 for installation-related labor expenses.
And while most garages won’t tack on extra fees, it never hurts to ask what other miscellaneous shop charges might apply before committing to a replacement job.
Can You Replace the Camshaft Sensor Yourself?
Camshaft position sensor symptoms such as rough engine idling, stalling, and a decrease in fuel efficiency can prompt the need for a sensor replacement. While it’s best to consult with a professional if you’re ever in doubt about your car’s performance, it is possible for an experienced self-mechanic to handle the job themselves.
To ensure safety, start by disconnecting the battery terminal and handling all electrical components without moisture. Then, locate where the old sensor is mounted before unscrewing its bolts and carefully taking it out with pliers. Once removed, attach any available wiring connectors onto the new camshaft position sensor before re-installing it into place. Re-connect the battery cable afterwards and test drive your vehicle to guarantee that all equipment functions properly.
Keeping the Camshaft Position Sensor in Good Condition
Here are some tips to keep your camshaft position sensor in good condition:
- Check the wiring regularly for damage, corrosion or loose connections.
- Be aware of common signs and symptoms that may indicate a faulty camshaft position sensor, such as: jerking, engine misfires and/or stalling.
- Keep the engine clean and free from debris and dirt, as it can wreak havoc on electrical components.
- Ensure the engine oil is at proper levels to avoid unnecessary contamination of its various parts.
- Check for leaks from hoses and other areas that could lead to oil or coolant seeping onto the camshaft position sensor.
- Consider having a professional inspect your vehicle regularly so that any issues with the camshaft position sensor can be detected before they
- Make sure to keep up on your engine maintenance schedule and contact an auto technician if any major signs are noticed.
- Avoid overexerting your vehicle into high speeds or prolonged idling, as this can lead to an increase in temperature which has a negative effect on the sensor’s performance.
FAQs about Camshaft Position Sensor Symptoms
Can You Drive With a Bad Cam Sensor?
It’s not advised to drive with a bad camshaft position sensor. Driving could cause further damage and the vehicle may not perform as expected due to an incorrect reading in engine speed or location of the valves.
What does a bad cam sensor sound like?
A bad camshaft position sensor can cause a variety of strange noises, including knocking, ticking and whistling.
What happens if you dont fix camshaft sensor?
Not fixing a faulty camshaft position sensor can cause several issues, including stalling or misfiring of the engine, as well as poor fuel economy due to incorrect timing.
Can you clean a camshaft position sensor?
Yes, one can clean their camshaft position sensor using electrical contact cleaner or carburetor cleaner, which should be sprayed directly onto the connector of the sensor. Make sure your vehicle is powered off before beginning this process!
Can you reset a camshaft sensor?
If you’re looking to reset a camshaft sensor, it’s important to take certain safety measures. Before attempting anything, make sure you switch off your ignition switch. Then connect two terminals of the voltmeter with the sensor and measure the resistance, this will then be verified against standard car data.
How long do camshaft sensors last?
The lifespan of a camshaft position sensor can vary, but typically they last around 100,000 to 150,000 miles. With regular maintenance and checking of the wiring and connections to the engine, it should be possible to extend its life significantly.
Can low oil cause camshaft position sensor?
Low oil levels can potentially cause more complex catastrophic engine damage such as failure of the camshaft position sensor. Excessive heat caused by a lack of oil can cause serious damage, especially on high performance vehicles.
In conclusion, when it comes to camshaft position sensor symptoms, there are a few telltale signs that should alert you that something may be wrong. If your car starts having trouble starting up or stalling, these are signs that your camshaft position sensor is malfunctioning.
In addition, if you experience engine misfires in your vehicle and it begins running rough, this could also be related to the camshaft position sensor. If you’re facing any of these issues with your car, make sure to see a professional mechanic as soon as possible. Since these are warning signs indicating an issue with the camshaft position sensor, addressing them quickly can save you from more expensive repairs down the line.
I’m Timothy Ballard, owner of a used car dealership in Springfield. I love just about everything automotive, but I have a special place in my heart for trucks. I’m an ASE Certified Master Technician, so I know my way around a car. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling with my family and hiking new trails.