How Long Can I Drive With A Bad O2 Sensor?

An Oxygen sensor ensures efficient fuel burning. If you are wondering: “how long can I drive with a bad O2 sensor?”, the answer is not very long. You will end up spending a lot of money and causing damage to the car. Learn why this is so in the article below.

We learned that oxygen is necessary for burning anything when we were young. The same science goes behind burning gasoline in our vehicles. 

Like a car needs gasoline to run, it needs oxygen to ignite the gas and create the necessary fuel. For every car, you need nearly 14 ounces of oxygen is needed per ounce of gasoline to burn. Your car should always have gasoline and oxygen balanced in this 14:1 ratio. 

How Long Can I Drive With A Bad O2 Sensor

An oxygen sensor is installed in the car’s exhaust system to make sure that this balance is always maintained. The sensor will inform the car’s ECU regarding oxygen deficiency if ever there were any. 

Sometimes, the oxygen sensor stops working due to natural wear and tear. Don’t fret, you can still drive your vehicle. But you need to get the problem fixed very quickly. Let’s learn more about the oxygen sensors, how it goes bad and what happens if it goes bad. So take a look!

Can A Faulty O2 Sensor Cause Damage An Engine?

A damaged oxygen sensor can severely affect the performance of the engine. If you don’t address the problem soon, it might lead to issues in the catalytic converters. It can also cause major engine problems. 

A faulty sensor can affect the engines’ combustion intervals, air to fuel ratio, timing, irregular or rough idle, and other vital functions. You might also experience malfunction and loss of power in the engine system.

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Five Signs to Look For When An O2 Sensor Goes Bad

Oxygen sensors can last for sound of 90,000 miles, after which they might need a replacement. Here are a few signs that you can look upon to identify whether your car’s o2 sensor needs a replacement or not.

#1. Deteriorating gas mileage

If your car is demanding more fuel now than before, it’s a sign that your car’s oxygen sensor might not be working correctly. If the oxygen sensor doesn’t work, then the car’s fuel efficiency goes down. 

#2. Check engine light is on

If there is any issue with the engine, the check engine light turns on and will not go off until you have not corrected the problem. 

This is the simplest way to understand that something is not right with the engine system, and the oxygen sensor is one such part that demands immediate attention.

How Long Can I Drive With A Bad O2 Sensor

#3. Engine stalls and starts more often 

If something is not right with the engine, it starts and stalls more often. Also, you can experience your ride to be a bit jumpy while driving. 

If this is the case, you must immediately take action and take your car to an expert. While he is looking for a cause, don’t forget to ask him to check the oxygen sensor.

#4. Rotten egg smell

While driving your car, you might smell something like a rotten egg. But the smell comes from the burning sulfur. 

The burning sulfur smell tells that something is not right with the engine’s catalyst converter or the emission system. A faulty oxygen sensor leads to the mixing of fuel and air, which leads to this pungent smell. 

#5. Failure in emission test

If your car does not pass an emission test, you need to check your oxygen sensor. An emission test is a costly affair; hence get your car’s oxygen sensor checked before getting the test done. 

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Can A Faulty O2 Sensor Stall Your Car?

No, it will not. 

A bad oxygen sensor won’t immediately cause your car to stall on you. You can drive your vehicle even if the O2 sensor shows signs of damage. But unfortunately, doing so will cost you money because the car will burn more fuel than it needs. 

Also, the engine and its parts will start causing problems. You will experience bumpy rides, a foul rotten egg smell, run irregularly and produce rough sounds when it idles.

What Causes An Oxygen Sensor To Fail?

An oxygen sensor will normally fail due to either of two reasons:

  • Normal wear and tear: oxygen sensors are placed inside the exhaustion system and face high temperatures; hence, they are more likely to wear over time. 
  • Contamination: if the engine receives a very rich fuel mixture or engine coolant burns in the combustion chamber, the oxygen sensor can get contaminated and might stop working overtime.

How Long Can I Drive With A Bad O2 Sensor

How To Replace A Bad O2 Sensor?

  • Your car might have more than one oxygen sensor; hence identify the faulty sensor before changing one. You can use a diagnostic tool and study the real-time data to determine the defective sensor.
  • Now remove the wire connection and use a wrench to remove the sensor from its place. 
  • Throw away the faulty sensor and replace it with a new one by simply threading it in the place from where you removed the old one. Don’t forget to use the right amount of anti-seize, as this prevents the sensors from getting welded in the threads. If you apply excess anti-seize, you might contaminate the sensing area. 
  • Now tighten the sensor, and plug in the electronic connector. Reconnect the diagnostic tool and delete the faulty codes and run the engine’s ignition to see whether the check engine light is now off or not. If it is off, take a ride to identify if any issue remains or not.

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Frequently Asked Questions

#1. Can I drive with a broken O2 sensor?

Yes, you can drive with a broken O2 sensor for a couple of days. 

But doing so will affect your car’s engine performance. Hence you must take immediate action if the O2 sensor becomes bad.

How Long Can I Drive With A Bad O2 Sensor

#2. How serious is a bad O2 sensor?

It’s quite a serious matter if your car’s O2 sensor is not working. 

First, if all your car’s fuel efficiency is badly affected due to a faulty sensor, the engine will also start showing signs of damage. 

In both cases, you will end up spending hundreds of dollars. Hence you mustn’t leave the problem unattended for a long time.

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A Few Final Words

The oxygen sensor might be a small part of your car’s engine system, but it severely affects your car’s performance if you don’t replace it after every 60,000 to 90,000 miles. 

A faulty sensor can be a costly affair where you can spend a fortune filling the tank every day or getting the engine repaired. Moreover, you might fail an emissions test and be completely taken off the road.

If you have any issue with your car’s oxygen sensor or show any sign of damage, take your vehicle to an expert immediately. By doing so, you might save a lot of time and money.

We hope we were able to help you with your problem. If you have any queries or suggestions, feel free to write to us in the comments section and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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