The air flow meter found in your vehicle is actually a sensor that is referred to commonly as a mass airflow sensor, or MAF sensor. It is an essential piece of your computer system and is found in most modern vehicles. This sensor has the highest influence on your gas economy. This is in comparison to all of the other electronic components in your car.

When your MAF goes bad it will more than likely throw a code and illuminate your dashboard light. You can experience a rough idle, hesitation in your engine, lack of power, and poor mileage. This may be the signal that you need an upgrade or replacement. This article will give you an idea and importance of having a well-functioning air flow meter, how it works, and where to look for a replacement.

air flow meter

How Does an Air Flow Meter Work?

There are two types of air flow meters. The first is a vane type sometimes called a VAF, or volume air flow sensor. The VAF is an older type and not commonly found on newer model vehicles. It would use a door, or flapper, to measure airflow by how much drag force was found in an airfoil that was in the airstream. Drag force is determined by the density of the air, air velocity, and the shape of the sensor.

The second, and more commonly used type of air flow meter, is the MAF sensor. A MAF sensor uses an electronically charged wire to define the quantity of airflow coming into the intake. This heated wire is suspended in the air stream of the engine. The resistance of the wire will increase as the temperature of the wire increases. That in turn will fluctuate the current that runs through the circuit.

The computer in your vehicle then uses that information to figure out the ideal air to fuel ratio needed. If there is a fault in the sensor, you may notice rough idling, bad gas mileage, or even find yourself stalling. There is also a cold wire version of the MAF sensor. This works similar to the hot wire MAF. The difference is that it uses a cold resistor in addition to the hot one in order to give a more accurate reference point.

Most cars function properly with the stock MAF sensor that comes standard on their vehicle. Others are looking for a performance boost and an upgrade can help with that. Another reason to install a MAF sensor is if you are upgrading from a carburetion system to a fuel injected one.

General Specifications

  • Generally speaking, an upgraded MAF sensor will entail a larger diameter than a stock part.
  • A larger MAF sensor diameter allows the production of more horsepower. This is because it allows more airflow to the engine. Consequently, more airflow allows for more fuel to be burned.
  • An upgrade to this component gives you a more precise and calibrated metered airflow than the original stock part.
  • Increases performance in vehicles that have been modified and need a higher fuel to air ratio.
  • To further a boost in your horsepower, pair an upgraded MAF sensor with an aftermarket throttle body and cold air intake system.

PROs and CONs of Types of MAF Sensors

Vane Type Cons

  • Engine output can become restricted because of the airflow being constrained.
  • Over time, the moving part’s contacts can wear down resulting in a need to replace the entire sensor.
  • Engine compartments, especially newer ones, are tightly packed and make it difficult to mount.
  • You must orient it with respect to gravity in order to function properly.
  • Some manufacturer’s include an internal wire to control the fuel pump.

MAF sensor/Airflow Meter Pros and Cons

  • It reacts quickly to airflow changes.
  • Minimizes airflow restriction.
  • Small in size allowing for easy mounting and replacement.
  • Less sensitive to positioning.
  • Does not have moving parts that will wear over time.
  • Economical.
  • All inclusive design eliminates the need for separate temperature and air pressure sensors.
  • Can become soiled by oil and dirt which will affect its accuracy.
  • The hot wire in the sensor must have a laminar flow to work properly.
  • The sensor wire is very delicate and you it can damage easily if you handle it incorrectly.

Upgraded Airflow Meter

  • Larger diameter allows more airflow that will increase fuel permitting you to get more horsepower.
  • Can upgrade an older muscle car to allow for a more efficient fuel injection system option.
  • It measures air flow more precisely.
  • Produces more horsepower while keeping the sensor’s voltage within range.
  • Allows maximum voltage to be hit at better RPMs.

air volume meter

Examples of Airflow Meter Parts

AmericanMuscle C&L Street Performance Slot-Style MAF Sensor – Calibrated

AmericanMuscle has established itself as a go-to for aftermarket parts that cater to late model Mustangs. Their customers look to them for reliable aftermarket parts and upgrades. This sensor has been pre-calibrated for top street performance.

It increases your limit of 2000 rpm to red-line. You can expect to enjoy a horsepower increase of 10 to 18. Customers love the throttle response felt after such an easy plug-n-play install. They also compliment the noticeable increase in gas mileage.

JDM Engineering 90MM Lightning MAF Upgrade

JDM Engineering is another company that provides quality upgrades to Ford owners. They will test and tune your vehicle after any install and have a large knowledge base to help with maxing out your performance. Customers enjoy the reliable upgrades they offer as well as the wide variety of parts they have in stock.

It has a machine shop, fabrication and custom development area, tuning center and dyno facilities. So JDM becomes a one stop shop for any owner looking to tune their vehicles.

AAM Competition Dual R-MAF Sensor Upgrade

Meant for the serious driver, this upgrade more than doubles the range of a stock air flow meter. You can use it with engines that clock up to 1500 hp. So people looking for a high performance sensor look to this brand for a reliable and powerful part.

Customers like that they can use it with nearly any intake system set up. Sold by Z1 Motorsports, this upgrade is an example of how the company strives to provide the best aftermarket parts. They also offer in-house performance build and tuning.

To Sum It Up

Most electrical components have a direct effect on your fuel economy. The air flow meter in your vehicle is no different. It measures airflow that allows your car or truck to adjust for proper air to fuel ratio. When this sensor goes bad or cannot keep up with your mod, you can expect a loss in power, rough idling, or even stalls.

What types of upgrades do you suggest when looking for higher horsepower? What upgrades would you couple with an air flow meter upgrade? Leave your comments below for others to consider.

The images are from depositphotos.com.

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