What happens when a Camshaft Sensor goes Bad

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A car engine runs on a delicate balance of forces and timing. Every second, many sensors transfer data to and from the ECM (Engine Control Module) to carefully control and monitor the host of variables it will encounter to continue running efficiently. Below we will discuss what happens when a camshaft sensor goes bad.

If the camshaft sensor goes bad, it can cause all sorts of problems. One common problem is that the engine will start to misfire. This is because the valve timing is off and the air and fuel are not mixing correctly. The engine may also stall or hesitate when you try to accelerate.

The best way to test if the camshaft sensor is bad is to check the engine code. The code will give you a specific error code that points to the problem. There are many different codes, so you will need to look up the code for your car.

In this article, we will go over the most common symptoms and signs of a bad camshaft sensor and related information. 

What is a Camshaft Position Sensor and How Does It Work?

Dorman 907-700 Engine Camshaft Position Sensor Compatible with Select BMW Models

One of the key components in ensuring everything works together in harmony is the camshaft sensor. This sensor helps to monitor and adjust the timing of the engine valves which allow air and fuel to mix and ignite. When it goes bad, it can cause all sorts of problems with the engine.

It works by having a small metal cylinder with a protrusion on one end. There are usually two wires coming out of it. The sensor monitors the position of the camshaft and sends data to the ECM which uses it to adjust ignition timing and other engine parameters.

The camshaft sensor is usually located on the side of the engine near the valve cover and is easy to access. The wires typically go to a connector near the battery. When you remove the connector, you will be able to see the sensor and the wires.

If your car has a problem with the camshaft sensor, you will likely see an engine code that points to it. The code will either be a P0340 or a P1340. These are the most common codes for this sensor. If you have a problem with the camshaft sensor, you will need to remove it and replace it with a new one. The part can be expensive, so it is a good idea to check the code first to see if that is the problem.

What Happens When A Camshaft Sensor Goes Bad – Signs and Symptoms

What Happens When A Camshaft Sensor Goes Bad - Signs and Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of a bad camshaft sensor:

1. Check Engine Light Illuminates

A clear indicator or first sign you are most likely to notice is the illumination of your check engine light. This will come on anytime there is a problem with one or more of the sensors in your car. The camshaft sensor is just one of these, and when it goes bad, the light will turn on.

To identify if it is the camshaft sensor, you will need to pull the code. The code will give you a specific error code that points to the problem. There are many different codes, so you will need to look up the code for your car.

2. Ignition Problems

When the camshaft sensor starts to go bad, you may start to experience problems with the ignition. This can manifest as the engine not starting, stalling, or hesitating when you try to accelerate.

Why this happens is because the valve timing is off and the air and fuel are not mixing correctly. This can cause all sorts of other problems as well, so it is important to address this as soon as possible.

3. Car Jerking or Surging

If you have a bad camshaft sensor, you may notice your car jerking or surging when you try to drive it. This is usually a result of the engine not running smoothly and can be a dangerous problem to have. The engine shows signs of being out of sync and it can be difficult to control the car.

The reason this is that the air and fuel are not mixing correctly which can lead to the engine running too rich or too lean. When this happens, it can cause the vehicle to jerk or surge which is clearly not safe to have.

4. Engine Stalling

If ignored for too long, your car’s engine may eventually stall. This happens when the car is not able to get enough air and fuel to the engine to keep it running. The sensor will keep sending irregular data to the ECM which will eventually cause the car to stall due to the engine not being able to run properly with it’s balance thrown off.

This is a serious problem and should not be taken lightly. If your engine stalls, you will need to pull over to the side of the road and turn off the engine. Do not try to start the car again until you have fixed the problem.

5. Poor Acceleration

Another sign that your camshaft sensor may be going bad is poor acceleration. When the sensor is not working correctly, the car will not be able to get up to speed as quickly as it should. This can be very frustrating when trying to merge into traffic or get to the front of a long line.

The engine is not able to function properly and this can cause you to lose precious time when trying to get somewhere. This occurs because the camshaft sensor helps provide power to the engine and when it is not working the way it should, you will miss out on the oomph when needed.

Also Read: Why is my Car Sputters When Accelerating

6. Problems Shifting

Not only will you have problems accelerating, but you may also experience difficulties when shifting gears. This is because the camshaft sensor helps with the synchronization of the engine and transmission. When it starts to go bad, the car will start to shift gears improperly which can be very dangerous.

This can cause you to miss a gear altogether or to slip out of gear when you are driving. Both of these scenarios can lead to accidents, so it is important to address this problem as soon as possible.

7. Bad Fuel Mileage

What happens when a camshaft sensor goes bad? A fairly obvious one by now but also one of the most important, bad fuel mileage is another sign that your camshaft sensor may be going bad. When the sensor is not working correctly, the car will not be able to use the fuel efficiency which will lead to you using more gas than normal.

This is a problem because it can end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. Not to mention, it is also bad for the environment. So if you start to notice that your gas mileage has gone down, be sure to check the camshaft sensor for problems.

Also Read: How To Test a Fuel Pressure Sensor With a Multimeter

FAQ

Can a car run without a camshaft position sensor?

The should run, however, the car will not run as efficiently as it should and you may experience some or all of the problems listed above.

What happens if you drive with a bad camshaft sensor?

In a worst-case scenario, the engine may stall. However, it is more likely that you will experience poor acceleration, problems shifting gears, and bad fuel mileage first. The engine stalling can be a very expensive and dangerous problem to have, so it is important to address any issues with the camshaft sensor as soon as possible.

What does a bad camshaft sound like?

In general, a bad camshaft sensor will cause the engine to run poorly. The sound will manifest itself in a variety of ways such as poor acceleration, problems shifting gears, etc. These symptoms should be a better indicator than sound. 

Will a bad camshaft sensor always throw a code?

It is not always necessary for the camshaft sensor to throw a code in order for there to be a problem. You may experience some or all of the symptoms listed above without the car throwing a code even though that is rare. If you are experiencing any of these problems, it is important to have the car checked out by a mechanic to determine if the camshaft sensor is the issue.

Related Codes

Conclusion 

If you are experiencing any of the problems listed in this article, it is important to have your car checked out by a mechanic. The camshaft sensor is an important part of the engine and when it goes bad, the car will not run as efficiently as it should. Be sure to address any issues with the camshaft sensor as soon as possible to avoid costly repairs and accidents.

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