Cars jerking or showing signs of poor engine performance is one of the signs that you need to clean your oxygen sensor. The most ideal way of cleaning the oxygen sensor is to remove the sensors before cleaning them. This can be extremely time-consuming since you have to locate and remove all the O2 sensors before cleaning them.
Thankfully, you can clean the sensors without removing them. This method is less time-consuming and quite effective. Let’s dive deep into detail to find out how to clean the oxygen sensor without removing it.
Can you clean a dirty oxygen sensor?
The short answer is yes. You can clean a dirty oxygen sensor, regain all the lost power, and resolve other issues that come with a dirty O2 sensor. However, the most ideal way of doing this is by removing the sensors and cleaning them on the ground before reinstalling them.
However, you can still clean the O2 sensors without removing them if you don’t have the tools to remove them or you don’t want to invest much of your time in doing so.
How do you clean the oxygen sensor without removing it?
The oxygen sensor plays an essential role in engine operation. A dirty oxygen sensor will cause blinking or illumination of the check engine light, poor engine performance, pinging or knocking sounds from the engine, poor gas mileage, black smoke from the exhaust, engine overheating, or it may cause the catalytic converter to go bad.
If you don’t want to experience any of these, then you have to clean your dirty oxygen sensor. The good news is you don’t have to be an auto mechanic. Just walk with me and follow this simplified step-by-step guide.
Tools and Items Needed
- Carb & choke cleaner
- Working gloves
- Oxygen sensor wrench (optional)
Step 1: Take off the plastic engine cover
The first step on how to clean the oxygen sensor without removing on Ford or any other car model is to remove the plastic engine cover. To remove the plastic cover, locate the screw bolts or clips holding it in place and take them off.
Keep in mind not all cars has this cover. It’s fine if your car doesn’t have the cover. But if yours have it, remove it before heading to the next step.
Step 2: Locate the oxygen sensor
The location of the oxygen sensors varies from car to car. However, they are located on the exhaust pipes — before and after the catalytic converter. Cars with a single exhaust system will have two O2 sensors, while cars with dual exhaust systems will have four O2 sensors.
The reason for locating the O2 sensor is to inspect them to see if there are any wiring or physical damages. Check the wiring harness and connectors and ensure they are okay. After that, check the body of the sensors to see if there are any physical damages.
Another reason is to take note of the before and after effects of cleaning the O2 sensor. So, if you want to confirm if this process really works, then remove the oxygen sensor and snap it with your phone camera, and after the cleaning, remove the oxygen and compare the images.
Skip this step if you don’t care about the before and after effects of cleaning the oxygen sensor.
Step 3: Find and disconnect the vacuum hose
The next step on how to clean the oxygen sensor without removing on Chevy or any other car make and model is to find and disconnect the engine vacuum hose. There are several vacuum hoses in the engine bay. But for the course of cleaning the O2 sensor, you will be working with the vacuum hose at the back of the engine.
Remove the vacuum hose, insert the cleaner straw, and reconnect the hose. I recommend you work with a customer-centric catalytic converter and oxygen sensor cleaner. I don’t mean two different cleaners — but a cleaner that will serve the two purposes. This will clean both the oxygen sensor and the cat con.
Step 4: Start the vehicle
Using any oxygen sensor cleaner spray to clean the sensor without removing it requires the engine to reach its normal operating temperature. Hence, you have to start the engine and let it idle for a while.
Get an assistant to help you rev and hold the engine at 2000 RPM. While your assistant is holding the engine at 2000 RPM, connect the cleaner at the other end of the straw and spray it. Spray half of the can or less, depending on how dirty the O2 sensor is.
Step 5: Finish up
Once you are done with step 4 above, disconnect the vacuum hose. Take off the straw and reconnect the hose. This time, clip the clamp properly so there won’t be vacuum leaks.
If you removed the oxygen sensor in step 2, remove it again to check and compare the before and after effects. But if you did not, there’s no need to remove it this time. Reconnect everything you disconnected earlier, and test-run your car while maintaining 2000 RPM on the road. The need for testing is to burn off any debris that has become loose during the cleaning process.
What is the fastest way to clean an O2 sensor?
Cleaning the O2 sensor with vinegar or gasoline takes around 6 to 8 hours, and I recommend leaving the oxygen sensor soaked overnight for perfect results. This is quite a long time, right?
However, the fastest way of cleaning dirty O2 sensors is by cleaning them with a carb and choke cleaner without removing the sensors. Thus, you can finish cleaning within 20 to 30 minutes.
Can the oxygen sensor be cleaned and reused?
While dirty O2 sensors can be cleaned and reused, cleaning a bad sensor will be a waste of effort and time because that won’t change anything. Therefore, only clean o2 sensors when dirty and replace them when bad. Plus, I recommend you remove the sensors before cleaning them because some cleaners can cause harm to the engine.
What are the best oxygen sensor cleaners?
You will have several oxygen sensor cleaners out there, which makes it difficult to choose the right one for an effective result. To help you overcome this, I have come up with budget-friendly and customer-centric oxygen sensor cleaners.
Liqui Moly Catalytic System Clean
Liqui Moly has a Solid Gold reputation for producing quality and reliable lubricants, motor oils, additives, service products, chemical repair tools, vehicle care products, sealants, and glues. To some car enthusiasts, Liqui Moly is a family name.
They also come in through their Catalytic System Clean. While the product doesn’t claim to be a miracle, you will see a clear difference when you use it for cleaning catalytic converters and O2 sensors. All you have to do is follow the instructions on the product.
Abro Carb and Choke
My best oxygen sensor cleaner is the Abro carb and choke. This cleaner is a multi-purpose cleaner — which can be used as starting fluid. It works on hard start, stalling, and rough idling by dissolving harmful carbon buildups in the system. It is also used in cleaning several system components.
I love it because even though it is multi-purpose, it does great work wherever you use it. With it, you don’t have to buy multiple products for different cleaning purposes.
Cataclean is designed to remove carbon build-ups in the catalytic convertors, and that’s why it is called cataclean. Carbon buildup is a type of contamination that causes poor engine performance and will not be fixed even though you fixed the root cause of the buildup. It also works well in cleaning o2 sensors. Instead of replacing dirty catalytic converters or oxygen sensors, use Cataclean to remove the buildups.
OXICAT Oxygen Sensor & Catalytic Converter Cleaner
The OXICAT Oxygen Sensor & Catalytic Converter Cleaner is carefully formulated to clean dirty oxygen sensors and catalytic converters. This product helps to remove carbon buildup, oil, and other contaminants that can reduce the engine performance. If you are looking for the best oxygen sensor cleaner for diesel and gasoline engines, OXICAT is the right product.
CRC Guaranteed to Pass Emissions Sensor Cleaner
This oxygen sensor cleaner is the only one with a bold claim — guaranteed to pass. The manufacturers said you will pass emission tests after using their product or get double of your money back. That is because it is formulated precisely to reduce hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide emissions.
The cleaning solvent in the product will remove varnish and carbon buildups from the fuel system, allowing the engine to run more cleanly and smoothly than before. The instructions are straight to the point —pour a bottle into your gas tank, run the vehicle until the vehicle gets to the half tank, and then refill the tank to full.
If you shop for O2 sensor cleaners on Autozone, eBay, or Amazon, search for any of these products. Use it and tank Rx mechanic later.
Is it better to clean or replace O2 sensors?
While cleaning a dirty oxygen sensor can improve your overall vehicle performance, don’t clean it; replace it. No car manufacturers recommend cleaning car sensors. If you choose to clean, you may risk voiding your car warranty, or something may go wrong later on.
However, if you must clean it, ensure you remove the oxygen sensor and clean it on your working table before re-installing it. Cleaning without removing is more likely to void your warranty.