How to Clean Automotive O2 Sensors

by Johnathan Cronk
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Automobiles are equipped with a specialized sensor, called the oxygen sensor. The sensor is commonly referred to as the O2 sensor, which measures the amount of oxygen mixed with the fuel. The O2 sensor is in contact with extreme high temperatures within the exhaust system, creating baked-on carbon deposits. When the O2 sensor begins to fail, cleaning the sensor with high heat and specialized solvent may avoid having to purchase an entirely new sensor.

Step 1

Open the hood of the vehicle and locate the oxygen sensor. The sensor is located on the passenger side of most vehicles, on top of the exhaust manifold. It's best to refer to your owner's manual for the exact location. It is a white, rubber plug component.

Step 2

Loosen and remove the O2 sensor from the automobile using a socket wrench paired with an oxygen sensor socket, which you can buy at your local auto part store. Twist the wrench counterclockwise to loosen the sensor; continue this until you can easily remove the sensor. Pull the sensor off of the manifold.

Step 3

Heat the tip of the O2 sensor using a blowtorch just enough to where it's about to turn red. Quickly dip the sensor into a bowl of water. This will cool the tip quickly, causing baked-on debris to fall off. Finish cleaning the tip with a can of compressed air. Continue this process until all deposits and debris are gone.

Step 4

Soak the O2 sensor in a bowl of seafoam cleaner. Seafoam cleaner is available at your local auto part store. Allow the O2 sensor to sit in the cleaner overnight. This will allow the cleaner to penetrate and break up any remaining deposits.

Step 5

Dry the O2 sensor using a clean cloth. The sensor is now cleaned and ready to be reinstalled.

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