Types of Sensors in Cars

by Rick Carlton

The modern automobile sensor is essential to the efficient operation of today's vehicles. Sensor packages range from monitoring systems leading to simple lighted or audible alarms, to those that trigger secondary active responses by a host of mechanisms, including engine-fuel components that control valve timing. Going forward, sensors will play a bigger role because manufacturers like the idea of smart vehicles. The sensor is where a vehicle's intelligence begins.

Exhaust Gas Recirculation

The exhaust gas recirculation sensor is inside an engine's manifold and works in concert with what is referred to as the air injector. The point of the process is to add fresh air during the combustion cycle in order to ensure that any unspent fuel is completely eliminated. The sensor monitors the fuel-air mixture. If it identifies too much raw fuel, the system activates the air injector, which then pumps more fresh air into the manifold to increase combustion and burn off excess fuel.

Antilock Braking System

Antilock braking systems have been around since the early '80s; however, they have only recently been particularly effective or comfortable for the driver. The system's goal is to prevent all four wheels from locking up under heavy braking and risking the loss of tire traction and steering control. ABS sensors are located at each wheel-hub assembly. If a sensor identifies a failure of rotation for a period of time, it automatically releases the brakes before locking them again on a rapid and repetitive basis. This allows the tires to rotate momentarily and gives the driver some degree of traction instead of skidding.

Throttle Position Sensor

The throttle position sensor is within the fuel-air system. It monitors differences between the physical position of the gas pedal in the car and the amount of fuel being pumped into the engine. The fuel-air mixture can't change without this information. Sensors are intrinsic to the efficiency of the power plant in terms of its performance and fuel mileage, along with the engine's emissions level.

About the Author

Since 1984, Rick Carlton has authored more than 450 articles on the principles, application, analysis and deployment of interoperable enterprise technologies. Additionally, he has written more than 150 feature articles on aviation, auto and motorsports topics including work for The Auto Channel, "Automobile," "Flight Training" and "On-Track" magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.