Is It Harmful To Drive A Car With A Bad Oxygen Sensor?

An oxygen sensor maintains the air-fuel ratio in the engine. This device makes the car more fuel economical. A bad one is responsible for some significant issues. But is it harmful to drive a car with a bad oxygen sensor?

It’s a dangerous idea to drive a car with a bad oxygen sensor. The vehicle consumes more fuel for a short trip. Incomplete combustion produces black smoke that is responsible for heavy pollution. Poor fuel economy, engine performance, and a rotten egg smell indicate a defective O2 sensor. You can fix these sensors in your home.

An OBD II scanner plays a significant role while replacing oxygen sensors. Consulting with an expert to replace the oxygen sensor is the best solution. It’ll cost you some bucks but saves a lot of time.

How To Find A Bad Oxygen Sensor?

Some signs point to a faulty oxygen sensor. These signs can be detected with bare eyes. An elaboration of these symptoms helps to find them faster.

Unsteady Check Engine Light

An unsteady check engine light sends indirect notice to the driver. A faulty oxygen sensor can’t balance the oxygen amount after the combustion.

So, a shaky check engine light means the oxygen sensor has gone wrong. Some cars send error codes about the malfunctioned oxygen sensor.

Fuel Economy

A poor fuel economy represents a broken oxygen sensor. Fuel consumption spikes with an old oxygen sensor. The car will burn more fuel to go at a particular speed. Less fuel also indicates the same problem.

Poor Engine Performance

An acceleration problem indicates poor engine performance. More oxygen is needed for proper combustion. But a bad oxygen sensor can’t cope with the oxygen demand. Hence, the engine can’t perform correctly.

Awful Egg Smell

Unused fuel in the engine creates a sulphuric smell in the car. The fuel smells like a rotten egg. Black smoke clouds from the exhaust mean the amount and frequency aren’t leveled.

Is It Possible To Drive A Car With A Damaged Oxygen Sensor?

Yes, you can drive a car with a broken oxygen sensor. However, it would help if you took some precautions before moving. Some nifty tips will help you to drive with a bad oxygen sensor.

1. Maintain Speed Limit

Don’t speed up with a defective oxygen sensor. A broken sensor affects the performance of the gas mileage and catalytic converter. The faster you go; the more damage occurs to the oxygen sensor.

2. Slow Acceleration

Slow acceleration means a balanced fuel economy. Consumption of more fuel creates black smoke. Plus, it damages the sensor. So, slowly driving the car saves the oxygen sensor.

3. Brake Frequently

The slower you go, the better for your car. Brake frequently while driving the vehicle. The time gap between your car and the vehicle ahead must be three to five seconds.

Ways Of Replacing A Oxygen Sensor

Replacing a bad oxygen sensor isn’t a tough job. You must have adequate knowledge about your car. This popular method will help you to replace a broken oxygen sensor.

Step 01: Find The Broken Sensor

Use an OBD II scanner to identify the broken sensors. The scanner troubleshoots the code to find the location and the sensor simultaneously.

Step 02: Lift The Car

Put the chocks behind the wheels to fix the car’s position. Then lift the car using a jack. There’s a jack point under every car. It’s essential to take an expert’s help.

Step 03: Find The Oxygen Sensor

A spark with thick black cables identifies it as an oxygen sensor. Another one is beside the exhaust pipe. Modern cars have one sensor at the back of the catalytic converter.

Step 04: Cut Off The Connections

Use a flathead screwdriver to detach the wires from the sensor. Don’t cut wires and add them to new oxygen sensors. These sensors can’t perform up to the mark if the cables are connected randomly.

Step 05: Remove The Oxygen Sensor

A ratchet wrench is the best tool to take out the screws. You can use a socket or an open-end wrench to replace the sensor.

Step 06: Compare The New One With The Old One

Before installing the new oxygen sensor in the car, compare it with the old one. It’s essential to check out the proper size for a perfect fit.

Step 07: Installation

Attach the harness once the new sensor has matched the configuration of the old one.

Step 08: Clearing The Codes

Again, use the OBD II scanner to scan the codes. The scanner will clear the codes so that the new oxygen sensor can work perfectly.

Step 09: Start Your Car

Start the car to inspect the signs of a bad oxygen sensor. The unsteady check engine light and poor fuel economy problem will be solved in a few days.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can a bad O2 sensor cause engine damage?

Driving the car for a long time with a bad oxygen sensor can cause engine damage. Fuel consumption and less filtration of gasses hamper engine performance. The time needed to speed up the car increases significantly.

2. What happens if I don’t fix the oxygen sensor in my car?

A lower mileage and disgusting egg smell come out of the engine. The air-fuel ratio becomes unstable. The emission of CO2 increases. The emission highly damages the catalytic converter.

3. Can you drive without an oxygen sensor?

It’s possible to drive a car without an oxygen sensor. But it’ll be tough to start the engine. Safety becomes a significant concern if you don’t use the oxygen sensor.

4. Can a bad oxygen sensor cause transmission problems?

A bad oxygen sensor is responsible for transmission problems. It has a high probability of decreasing the car’s performance. The car uses more fuel for a short drive.

5. How long can you drive with a broken oxygen sensor?

You can drive 60000 to 90000 miles with a new oxygen sensor. A broken one can be used for a couple of days. It would be best to change the sensor once you find a faulty one.

6. How much does it cost to replace an O2 sensor?

The average replacement cost is around $296. The price varies depending on the expertise of the professionals. You can fix the sensor yourself by spending $20 to $94.

7. Should I replace all oxygen sensors?

The best option is to replace them in pairs. You’ve to replace the right and left downstream sensors for better performance. It becomes permanent within 3060 days.

8. Does an oxygen sensor affect the catalytic converter?

A bad oxygen sensor put the catalytic converter in danger. An unstable oxygen sensor is responsible for the jamming of the catalytic converter. The muffler faces the consequences of a jammed catalytic converter.


A defective oxygen sensor is bad news for the car. It’ll cost you both your time and money. You can identify the bad O2 sensor if you’re aware of the symptoms. Follow the manual to fix the sensor yourself if you don’t have enough money.

Is it harmful to drive a car with a bad oxygen sensor? We have all the possible solutions for a bad oxygen sensor. Follow these instructions carefully to replace your car’s oxygen sensor. Don’t forget to do a routine check of your vehicle!

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