8 Types of Sensors Used in Automobiles

Sensor technology is one of the fastest moving developments in modern cars and trucks, particularly those used in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Each year, car manufacturers build their vehicles with better, faster technology that uses various sensors, from cameras to oxygen sensors. These advancements present unique challenges for collision repair facilities because the line between mechanical and collision repairs has all but disappeared.

Modern collision repair means working with composite materials, mixed steel frames, and a range of sensors that interconnect with so many parts and systems. Safety and accuracy have always been tenets of professional collision repair. Nowhere are those tenets more critical than the types of sensors used in automobiles that keep drivers safe and help them maintain their vehicles for optimal performance.

Because of the interconnectivity of ADAS and other vehicle sensors, even the slightest collision could affect multiple sensors and systems. For these sensors to work independently and together successfully, each sensor must be aligned and calibrated to exact specifications. That means body shops must have the most up-to-date OEM diagnostic information, specifications, and comprehensive wiring diagrams.

Read on to learn about some common vehicle sensors and how SUN® Collision Repair Information can help your body shop perform safer, more accurate repairs in less time. From oil pressure sensors to lane-departure sensors, we give you on-demand OEM and real-world repair information from bumper to bumper.

Why Collision Repair Should Include Repair Procedures for Sensors in Cars

 There are so many types of sensors used in automobiles, so it can be challenging to know where they are, what they do, and most importantly, how to repair them. As with any collision repair, the only proper way to repair or replace a sensor is by using OEM and real-world repair information to diagnose, repair, and realign or recalibrate them. Many types of sensors used in automobiles must be calibrated to exact specifications for optimal and vehicle safety.

While accurate car sensor repair is above all a safety issue, keeping more collision repair jobs like ADAS and sensor repair in-house simply makes good business sense. Less outsourcing of collision repair work means less markup on repairs, more quality control, and a healthier bottom line. And when you invest in collision repair software that gives you the most up-to-date repair information, you not only keep more work at home, you save time and decrease your overhead.

 From rear bumpers to inside engine blocks, windshields to brakes, car sensors are an integral part of modern vehicle safety, comfort, and so much more. So how many sensors are in a car? According to Tech Briefs, modern vehicles can have 10 or more cameras for ADAS alone, and Automotive World estimates an average of between 60 and 100 sensors in total. And with the constant advancements in technology, body shops can expect to encounter even more sensors in the near future.

For now, the most common collision repairs will involve familiar sensors in engines, transmissions, and other mechanical systems and ADAS sensors.

Engine and Transmission Sensors in Cars

Most of these sensors will be familiar to any collision repair shop that also performs mechanical repairs. Each sensor will typically throw a code or trigger a check engine light or other alerts.

 Mass Air Flow Sensor

The MAF or Mass airflow sensor is one of the essential sensors for optimal engine performance and is controlled by a vehicle’s computer system. Because the system calculates the air density of the engine, a malfunctioning airflow sensor can affect fuel economy or even cause a car to go into limp mode. While these sensors have been around for a while, they are becoming more interconnected and complex than ever.

Oxygen Sensor

The oxygen sensor (O2 sensor) monitors the level of exhaust gases to create the optimal oxygen mix. The sensor compares the readings to the ambient air to determine if the engine is running lean or rich. Depending on the measurements, a vehicle’s computer adjusts fuel metering and emission levels to compensate. Symptoms of a faulty oxygen sensor include poor fuel economy, a rough running engine, or an emissions test failure.

Spark Knock Sensor

The spark knock sensor monitors how smoothly fuel is burning to prevent fuel ignitions that could damage an engine. When a spark knock sensor isn’t working correctly, rings, rod bearings, head gaskets, and other engine components are at risk. Besides a code or dashboard warning light, a faulty spark knock sensor could cause reduced engine power and higher fuel consumption.

Coolant Sensor

A coolant sensor’s only task is to monitor the temperature of the engine’s coolant. But a vehicle’s computer system relies on the coolant sensor data to determine the flow of the EGR, spark advance, early fuel evaporation system management, and more. Common symptoms of a faulty coolant sensor are overheating, a rough idle, and reduced engine performance.

Now let’s look at some of the more advanced sensors used by ADAS in modern vehicles. These sensors vary significantly in design and functionality and often require precise recalibration.

ADAS Sensors in Cars

ADAS technology uses various sensors and cameras to prevent and minimize collision severity. From automatic parking to driver fatigue detection, these advanced sensors keep the focus on vehicle safety. Because of the increasingly complex technology in ADAS, collision repair facilities must learn how to diagnose, repair, and recalibrate the relevant sensors.

Many ADAS sensors that fail won’t present immediate and apparent signs like engine sensors. Collision technicians must rely on scanning and other detection methods, along with up-to-date OEM repair information to determine if a sensor needs repair or recalibration.

 Radar Sensors

Radar technology is not new, but how it’s used in ADAS and recent advancements can be new to collision repair shops. Using short-range, mid-range, and long-range radar, radar sensors have been a staple since the inception of ADAS. Because radar has a limited detection field, vehicles will often have multiple radar sensors for a more comprehensive field of view. Radar sensors may become obsolete soon because of recent sensing technology, but collision shops will continue to encounter them for decades.

Ultrasonic Sensors

More advanced than radar sensors, ultrasonic sensors use sound waves to calculate the distance to objects. While ultrasonic sensors have a short effective operating range of about two meters, they are typically used for more precise, low-speed systems. From parking assistance to blind-spot monitoring, these types of sensors used in automobiles are cost-effective and reliable components that should continue to be a part of modern ADAS.

Cameras

Cameras are the preferred sensors for many advanced ADAS-equipped vehicles for some obvious reasons. While cameras may not have the reliability of radar or ultrasonic sensors in bad weather and low light (yet), their positives more than make up for the deficiency. An ADAS camera’s ability to identify color, contrast, and other minute details make them uniquely suited for monitoring and identifying road markings, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. Many ADAS use cameras and radar sensors together to provide a more comprehensive stream of feedback and analysis.

Lidar Sensors

While this exciting sensor technology hasn’t found its way into mass-produced vehicles, many manufacturers are betting on Lidar as the future for ADAS. Lidar (light detection and ranging) is used for everything from discovering lost civilizations in the Amazon to a catalyst for autonomous vehicle prototypes. This technology works much like radar but uses lasers instead of electromagnetic waves to create the most complete 3D image of its surroundings.

Lidar and other advanced technology on the horizon have been too expensive for use in ADAS, but as the costs continue to decline, it’s inevitable they will become standard equipment on vehicles. If your body shop isn’t prepared to handle the challenges of the ever-changing landscape of vehicle sensors today, how can it be prepared for the car sensors of tomorrow like Lidar?

Wrapping Up

 The advancements in vehicle technology like ADAS and car sensors aren’t going to slow down. For body shops to keep up with vehicle manufacturers, they will need the most comprehensive and current OEM information found in advanced collision repair software. SUN Collision provides the latest repair information for collision facilities, including interactive wiring diagrams, OEM service manuals, recalls, TSBs, and real-world resources for mechanical repairs.

From our intuitive search engine, 1Search Plus, to our easy-to-understand graphic layouts, collision repair technicians can find the most current repair information with the click of a button.

When you partner with SUN Collision, we provide the customer support and training you need to put our technology to work in your body shop.

From installation and updating to 1-on-1 live training, we’re committed to helping collision repair professionals meet the challenges of vehicle technology today and in the future. Call 877-840-1973 for immediate assistance or get a free demo today.

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