Oxygen sensors

93lxtwin

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Apr 16, 2009
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Wilmington, NC
Evening guys, so I was working on the car this evening and had been reading some threads about running rich issues. My ride has always smelled rich no matter what, even when the motor was stock it smelled like it was running rich. Last year about this time is when I rebuilt the bottom end, added trick flow track heat heads, cam and intake combo, msd distributor, 190lph fuel pump, 75mm throttle body, and egr spacer. I have since purchased 30# ford racing injectors, they came with a "matching" c&l mass air flow meter. Now I tried to install the injectors and the car ran like crap, which leads me to what I found tonight, and shouldn't have overlooked this whole time. Oxygen sensors. I warmed the car up and checked voltage on my signal wire, both sides were hovering around 200 to 250 millivolts. Not even close to performing properly. So I just want to be sure, and double check with all the great minds here on the forum, my sensors are telling the ecm that I'm running lean, correct? Well my nose and everyone else's nose in the shop, say I'm running very rich. So if the sensors send garbage into the ecm, I must be getting garbage out, right? I have no clue as to when these sensors were installed, they aren't factory, but they do look like they have so mileage on them. I'd appreciate some insight to know if I'm on the right track, I might pick up some new sensors and replace them to see if there is any change. Thanks again in advance.
 
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jrichker

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Code 41 or 91 Three digit code 172 or 176 - O2 sensor indicates system lean. Look for a vacuum leak or failing O2 sensor.

Revised 22-Jun-2009 to include 3 digit code and wiring for 94-95 5.0 Mustangs

Code 41 is a RH side sensor,
Code 91 is the LH side sensor.

Code 172 is the RH side sensor
Code 176 is the LH side sensor

The computer sees a lean mixture signal coming from the O2 sensors and tries to compensate by adding more fuel. Many times the end result is an engine that runs pig rich and stinks of unburned fuel.

The following is a Quote from Charles O. Probst, Ford fuel Injection & Electronic Engine control:
"When the mixture is lean, the exhaust gas has oxygen, about the same amount as the ambient air. So the sensor will generate less than 400 Millivolts. Remember lean = less voltage.

When the mixture is rich, there's less oxygen in the exhaust than in the ambient air , so voltage is generated between the two sides of the tip. The voltage is greater than 600 millivolts. Remember rich = more voltage.

Here's a tip: the newer the sensor, the more the voltage changes, swinging from as low as 0.1 volt to as much as 0.9 volt. As an oxygen sensor ages, the voltage changes get smaller and slower - the voltage change lags behind the change in exhaust gas oxygen.

Because the oxygen sensor generates its own voltage, never apply voltage and never measure resistance of the sensor circuit. To measure voltage signals, use an analog voltmeter with a high input impedance, at least 10 megohms. Remember, a digital voltmeter will average a changing voltage." End Quote

Testing the O2 sensors 87-93 5.0 Mustangs
Measuring the O2 sensor voltage at the computer will give you a good idea of how well they are working. You'll have to pull the passenger side kick panel off to gain access to the computer connector. Remove the plastic wiring cover to get to the back side of the wiring. Use a safety pin or paper clip to probe the connections from the rear. The computer pins are 29 (LH O2 with a dark green/pink wire) and 43 (RH O2 with a dark blue/pink wire). Use the ground next to the computer to ground the voltmeter. The O2 sensor voltage should switch between .2-.9 volt at idle.


Testing the O2 sensors 94-95 5.0 Mustangs
Measuring the O2 sensor voltage at the computer will give you a good idea of how well they are working. You'll have to pull the passenger side kick panel off to gain access to the computer connector. Remove the plastic wiring cover to get to the back side of the wiring. Use a safety pin or paper clip to probe the connections from the rear. The computer pins are 29 (LH O2 with a red/black wire) and 27 (RH O2 with a gray/lt blue wire). Use pin 32 (gray/red wire) to ground the voltmeter. The O2 sensor voltage should switch between .2-.9 volt at idle.


Note that all resistance tests must be done with power off. Measuring resistance with a circuit powered on will give false readings and possibly damage the meter. Do not attempt to measure the resistance of the O2 sensors, it may damage them.

Testing the O2 sensor wiring harness
Most of the common multimeters have a resistance scale. Be sure the O2 sensors are disconnected and measure the resistance from the O2 sensor body harness to the pins on the computer.

The O2 sensor ground (orange wire with a ring terminal on it) is in the wiring harness for the fuel injection wiring. I grounded mine to one of the intake manifold bolts

Make sure you have the proper 3 wire O2 sensors. Only the 4 cylinder cars used a 4 wire sensor, which is not compatible with the V8 wiring harness.

Replace the O2 sensors in pairs if replacement is indicated. If one is weak or bad, the other one probably isn't far behind.

If you get only code 41 and have changed the sensor, look for vacuum leaks. This is especially true if you are having idle problems. The small plastic tubing is very brittle after many years of the heating it receives. Replace the tubing and check the PVC and the hoses connected to it.
A secondary problem with only a code 41 is for cars with an intact smog pump and cats. If the tube on the back of the heads clogs up the driver’s side, all the air from the smog pump gets dumped into one side. This excess air upsets the O2 sensor calibration and can set a false code 41. The cure is to remove the crossover tube and thoroughly clean the insides so that there is no carbon blocking the free flow of air to both heads.
 

93lxtwin

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Apr 16, 2009
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Wilmington, NC
Put new sensors on the car today at work. Leaps and bounds better at idle and while driving. Thanks jrichker for the info. Lesson learned, dont wonder why you're wasting gas and running rich, go find out why. lol
 

PonyGTrider

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I heard some people said you don’t need to clock the MAF and don’t believe in that thick, well I just did that and still have the same high readings at idle. So I guess it didn’t work.

I then proceeded to measure the voltage on the O2 sensors and on both sensors the voltage is all over switching from few millivolts to over 1 volt. The strange thing is that they don’t trigger a fault on the ECM.
 
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jrichker

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I heard some people said you don’t need to clock the MAF and don’t believe in that thick, well I just did that and still have the same high readings at idle. So I guess it didn’t work.

I then proceeded to measure the voltage on the O2 sensors and on both sensors the voltage is all over switching from few millivolts to over 1 volt. The strange thing is that they don’t trigger a fault on the ECM.
That's exactly what the O2 sensors are supposed to do...

Dump codes sticky

Look at the top of the 5.0 Tech forum where the sticky threads are posted. One of them is how to dump the computer codes. Codes may be present even if the CEL (Check Engine Light) isn’t on. You don’t need a code reader or scanner – all you need is a paper clip, or if your lady friend has a hair pin, that will do the job.
I highly suggest that you read it and follow the instructions to dump the codes. http://www.stangnet.com/mustang-forums/threads/how-to-pull-codes-from-eec4.889006/


Code 41 or 91. Or 43 Three digit code 172 or 176 - O2 sensor indicates system lean. Look for a vacuum leak or failing O2 sensor.

Revised 01 Sep 2019 1.) To emphasize do not attempt to measure the O2 sensor resistance. Disconnect the O2 sensor from the wiring before doing any resistance checking of the sensor to computer wiring.

Code 41 is the passenger side sensor, as viewed from the driver's seat.
Code 91 is the driver side sensor, as viewed from the driver's seat.

Code 172 is the passenger side sensor as viewed from the driver's seat.
Code 176 is the driver side sensor, as viewed from the driver's seat.

Code 43 is not side specific according to the Probst Ford Fuel injection book.

The computer sees a lean mixture signal coming from the O2 sensors and tries to compensate by adding more fuel. Many times the end result is an engine that runs pig rich and stinks of unburned fuel.

The following is a Quote from Charles O. Probst, Ford fuel Injection & Electronic Engine control:

"When the mixture is lean, the exhaust gas has oxygen, about the same amount as the ambient air. So the sensor will generate less than 400 Millivolts. Remember lean = less voltage.
When the mixture is rich, there's less oxygen in the exhaust than in the ambient air , so voltage is generated between the two sides of the tip. The voltage is greater than 600 millivolts. Remember rich = more voltage.
Here's a tip: the newer the sensor, the more the voltage changes, swinging from as low as 0.1 volt to as much as 0.9 volt. As an oxygen sensor ages, the voltage changes get smaller and slower - the voltage change lags behind the change in exhaust gas oxygen.

Because the oxygen sensor generates its own voltage, never apply voltage and never measure resistance of the O2 sensor. Before checking the O2 sensor circuit wiring resistance, disconnect the O2 sensor from the rest of the circuit wiring. To measure voltage signals, use an analog voltmeter with a high input impedance, at least 10 megohms. Remember, a digital voltmeter will average a changing voltage. End Quote

Testing the O2 sensors 87-93 5.0 Mustangs

Measuring the O2 sensor voltage at the computer will give you a good idea of how well they are working. You'll have to pull the passenger side kick panel off to gain access to the computer connector. Remove the plastic wiring cover to get to the back side of the wiring. Use a safety pin or paper clip to probe the connections from the rear.


Disconnect the O2 sensor from the harness and use the body side O2 sensor harness as the starting point for testing. Do not measure the resistance of the O2 sensor, you may damage it. Resistance measurements for the O2 sensor harness are made with one meter lead on the O2 sensor harness and the other meter lead on the computer wire or pin for the O2 sensor.
Computer wiring harness connector, computer side.
88243.gif


Backside view of the computer wiring connector:
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87-90 5.0 Mustangs:
Computer pin 43 Dark blue/Lt green – LH O2 sensor
Computer pin 29 Dark Green/Pink – RH O2 sensor

The computer pins are 29 (RH O2 with a dark green/pink wire) and 43 (LH O2 with a dark blue/lt green wire). Use the ground next to the computer to ground the voltmeter. The O2 sensor voltage should switch between .2-.9 volt at idle.


91-93 5.0 Mustangs:
Computer pin 43 Red/Black – LH O2 sensor
Computer pin 29 Gray/Lt blue – RH O2 sensor

The computer pins are 29 (RH O2 with a Gray/Lt blue wire) and 43 (LH O2 with a Red/Black wire). Use the ground next to the computer to ground the voltmeter. The O2 sensor voltage should switch between .2-.9 volt at idle.


94-95 5.0 Mustangs; note that the 94-95 uses a 4 wire O2 sensor.
The computer pins are 29 (LH O2 with a red/black wire) and 27 (RH O2 with a gray/lt blue wire). Use pin 32 (gray/red wire) to ground the voltmeter. . The O2 sensor voltage should switch between .2-.9 volt at idle.


Note that all resistance tests must be done with power off. Measuring resistance with a circuit powered on will give false readings and possibly damage the meter. Do not attempt to measure the resistance of the O2 sensors, it may damage them.

Testing the O2 sensor wiring harness
Most of the common multimeters have a resistance scale. Be sure the O2 sensors are disconnected and measure the resistance from the O2 sensor body harness to the pins on the computer. Using the Low Ohms range (usually 200 Ohms) you should see less than 1.5 Ohms.



87-90 5.0 Mustangs:
Computer pin 43 Dark blue/Lt green – LH O2 sensor
Computer pin 29 Dark Green/Pink – RH O2 sensor
Disconnect the connector from the O2 sensor and measure the resistance:
From the Dark blue/Lt green wire in the LH O2 sensor harness and the Dark blue/Lt green wire on the computer pin 43
From the Dark Green/Pink wire on the RH O2 sensor harness and the Dark Green/Pink wire on the computer pin 29


91-93 5.0 Mustangs:
Computer pin 43 Red/Black – LH O2 sensor
Computer pin 29 Gray/Lt blue – RH O2 sensor
Disconnect the connector from the O2 sensor and measure the resistance:
From the Red/Black wire in the LH O2 sensor harness and the Red/Black wire on the computer pin 43
From the Gray/Lt blue wire on the RH O2 sensor harness and the Gray/Lt blue wire on the computer pin 29

94-95 5.0 Mustangs:
Computer pin 29 Red/Black – LH O2 sensor
Computer pin 27 Gray/Lt blue – RH O2 sensor
From the Red/Black wire in the LH O2 sensor harness and the Red/Black wire on the computer pin 29
From the Dark Green/Pink Gray/Lt blue wire on the RH O2 sensor harness and the Gray/Lt blue wire on the computer pin 27


There is a connector between the body harness and the O2 sensor harness. Make sure the connectors are mated together, the contacts and wiring are not damaged, and the contacts are clean and not coated with oil.

The O2 sensor ground (orange wire with a ring terminal on it) is in the wiring harness for the fuel injection wiring. I grounded mine to one of the intake manifold bolts

Check the fuel pressure – the fuel pressure is 37-41 PSI with the vacuum disconnected and the engine idling. Fuel pressure out of range can cause the 41 & 91 codes together. It will not cause a single code, only both codes together.

Make sure you have the proper 3 wire O2 sensors. Only the 4 cylinder cars used a 4 wire sensor, which is not compatible with the V8 wiring harness. The exception is that the 94-95 uses a 4 wire O2 sensor.

Replace the O2 sensors in pairs if replacement is indicated. If one is weak or bad, the other one probably isn't far behind.

Code 41 can also be due to carbon plugging the driver’s side Thermactor air crossover tube on the back of the engine. The tube fills up with carbon and does not pass air to the driver’s side head ports. This puts an excess amount of air in the passenger side exhaust and can set the code 41. Remove the tube and clean it out so that both sides get good airflow: this may be more difficult than it sounds. You need something like a mini rotor-rooter to do the job because of the curves in the tube. Something like the outer spiral jacket of a flexible push-pull cable may be the thing that does the trick.

If you get only code 41 and have changed the sensor, look for vacuum leaks. This is especially true if you are having idle problems. The small plastic tubing is very brittle after many years of the heating it receives. Replace the tubing and check the PVC and the hoses connected to it.

Complete computer, actuator & sensor wiring diagram for 94-95 Mustangs


Complete computer, actuator & sensor wiring diagram for 91-93 Mass Air Mustangs


Complete computer, actuator & sensor wiring diagram for 88-90 Mass Air Mustangs
 

PonyGTrider

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Feb 27, 2019
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Wel that’s a bit confusing, my sensors really jump all over! But according with the article you shared the voltage can go from 600 milivolts to 1.0 volts... but yet a good sensor should be between 0.2 to 0.9 volts, what should I follow?
 

LiquidStangs

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Dec 13, 2015
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Wel that’s a bit confusing, my sensors really jump all over! But according with the article you shared the voltage can go from 600 milivolts to 1.0 volts... but yet a good sensor should be between 0.2 to 0.9 volts, what should I follow?
I didn't see the part about 600 millivolts to 1 volt. I did see a section that mentioned the switching going under 400 millivolts and over 600 millivolts; perhaps you misread something there.

Think of a narrowband O2 sensor as something like a switch. As the oxygen level in the exhaust rises, the voltage doesn't really change until it reaches the magic level, at which point it suddenly "flips" to the higher voltage. Then, as the oxygen level goes back down, the voltage stays high until the magic level, at which it "flips" back to the lower voltage.

The way you can tell that you're at the right level -- the "magic" level, if you will -- is if the tiny fluctuations that naturally occur in the oxygen level cause the voltage to flip back and forth fairly rapidly. If the voltage stays the same constantly, then you're not at the right level. If the voltage is low, then you're lean (not enough fuel); if the voltage is high, then you're rich (too much fuel). You don't know how far off you are, but you're definitely off.

The specific voltages aren't really that important. If anything, they measure how old and worn out the sensor is. New sensors have a big difference between low and high voltage; old sensors have a difference that's much less. They also respond more slowly; if this gets bad enough, you should replace the O2 sensor. "Bad enough" largely has to do with whether the ECU (the car's computer) can make sense of the sensor or not. The situation described above, where the exhaust stinks of fuel yet the car is throwing 41/91 codes, would be a good indication that the ECU is confused, and maybe the sensor or the ECU is bad. That's what the above directions are telling you to check for.

If you're seeing the switching happening, then the ECU (the car's computer) is successfully managing fuel levels so they're just right. That doesn't mean everything's fine; it just means that the ECU is able to handle whatever's going on in the engine. With newer cars, you can ask the ECU to tell you whether it's having to compensate for a problem; this is represented as groups of numbers called "fuel trims". Even though Fox cars can't tell you those numbers (as far as I know), the ECU still has them, and will store a code if it thinks the numbers are out of whack. This is another way codes 41 and 91 get thrown; the ECU thinks it has to add a lot of fuel to make the O2 sensors flip like they should, which means there's more air coming into the engine than it was able to measure with the MAF sensor. That's most likely a vacuum leak.

The checklists jrichker posts typically have all those details figured out, so you don't have to understand all the stuff above to fix your problem. That's why we typically tell everyone "follow the checklist, don't deviate or skip steps, just do what it tells you". Nearly all the time, that's sufficient to fix the problem. If it's not, post what you see, and maybe you'll end up being a footnote in the next edition of the checklist. Nobody's perfect.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to understand stuff like this, but it takes a lot of time and effort to learn these things, and in the meantime, your car is still broken, so the checklists help you get back to where you need to be.
 

PonyGTrider

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Feb 27, 2019
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Thank yo for this extended explanation on the O2 sensors tasks and behavior. It is complicated to fully understand the whole function of the system and here things seem a bit easier for that much information from you and other classy members

Thank you all for the patience and help
 

LiquidStangs

Well-Known Member
Dec 13, 2015
182
211
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Indianapolis metro area
No problem.

BTW, forgot to mention that I'm still a noob at all of this too. So if you see any advice from some of the other folks, or a note in a checklist, that contradicts me, I'm almost certainly wrong. That goes double if I get called out here in the thread!