The ECM uses information from the Air-Fuel Ratio (A/F) sensor to regulate the air-fuel ratio and keep it close to the stoichiometric level. This maximizes the ability of the Three-Way Catalytic Converter (TWC) to purify the exhaust gases.
The A/F sensor detects oxygen levels in the exhaust gas and transmits the information to the ECM. The inner surface of the sensor element is exposed to the outside air. The outer surface of the sensor element is exposed to the exhaust gas. The sensor element is made of platinum coated zirconia and includes an integrated heating element.
The zirconia element generates a small voltage when there is a large difference in the oxygen concentrations between the exhaust gas and outside air. The platinum coating amplifies this voltage generation.
The A/F sensor is more efficient when heated. When the exhaust gas temperature is low, the sensor cannot generate useful voltage signals without supplementary heating. The ECM regulates the supplementary heating using a duty-cycle approach to adjust the average current in the sensor heater element. If the heater current is outside the normal range, the signal transmitted by the A/F sensor becomes inaccurate, as a result, the ECM is unable to regulate air-fuel ratio properly. When the current in the A/F sensor heater is outside the normal operating range, the ECM interprets this as a malfunction in the sensor heater and sets a DTC. Example:
The ECM sets DTC P0032 when the current in the A/F sensor heater is more than 10 A. Conversely, when the heater current is less than 0.8 A, DTC P0031 is set.
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