What Does The MAF Sensor Do? (1989-1993 3.3L V6 Buick, Oldsmobile)

What Does A MAF Sensor Do? (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 3.3L V6 Buick Century, Skylark, 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Achieva, Calais, Cutlass Ciera)

Your 3.3L V6 Buick (Oldsmobile) comes equipped with a mass air flow (MAF) sensor. It's a key component of the fuel injection system and one that your vehicle's fuel injection computer relies on heavily to keep the engine running optimally.

In this article I'm gonna' answer the most commonly asked MAF sensor questions. I've also included the link to the MAF sensor tutorial you'll need to test it.

In Spanish You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: El Sensor MAF ¿Qué Es Y Para Que Sirve? (3.3L V6 Buick, Oldsmobile) (at: autotecnico-online.com).

APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:

  • 3.3L V6 Buick Century: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993.
  • 3.3L V6 Buick Skylark: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993.
  • 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Achieva: 1992, 1993.
  • 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Calais: 1989, 1990, 1991.
  • 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993.

What Does A MAF Sensor Do?

In a nutshell, the MAF sensor is tasked with measuring the amount of air entering the engine (whenever the engine is running of course).

The MAF sensor is installed right before the throttle plate. In this location, it is able to easily measure the amount of air entering the engine as you step on or step off the accelerator pedal.

What Happens When A MAF Sensor Goes Bad?

When the mass air flow sensor fails, your vehicle's fuel injection computer no longer receives any intake air flow information.

Without this critical information, the fuel injection computer cannot calculate the correct amount of fuel to inject into the engine.

The end results are engine performance, driveability, and emissions problems.

In the next section, I'll go into some of the specific symptoms you'll see when the MAF sensor fails.

What Problems Can A MAF Sensor Cause?

A bad MAF sensor will cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Bad gas mileage.
  • Lack of power.
  • Black smoke coming out of a tailpipe.
  • Check engine light is illuminated by one or more MAF sensor trouble codes.
  • Rough idle.
  • The engine may start and immediately stall.
  • Extended engine cranking (the engine has to be cranked a long time for it to start).
  • The engine may not start.

How Can You Tell If A MAF Sensor Is Bad?

Testing the MAF sensor is the surest way to find out if it has failed and is the cause of the engine performance or drivability problem you're currently experiencing.

See the next section to find out more.

How Can I Find Out If The MAF Sensor Is Bad?

Checking for MAF sensor trouble codes is the first step in finding out if the MAF sensor is bad.

If your vehicle does have a MAF sensor trouble code stored in the fuel injection computer's memory, then the next step is to test the MAF sensor's output signal with a multimeter.

Testing the MAF sensor itself (with a multimeter) is done to confirm that the MAF sensor trouble code is really telling the truth. Otherwise you might end up replacing a good MAF sensor and not solve the problem.

The MAF sensor diagnostic test involves the following:

  • Checking for MAF sensor trouble codes with a code reader or scan tool.
  • Making sure that the MAF sensor is receiving 12 Volts.
  • Making sure that the MAF sensor is receiving Ground.
  • Making sure that the sensor's MAF Hertz frequency signal increases/decreases as the engine is accelerated/decelerated.

If the MAF Hertz frequency signal does not increase/decrease as you accelerate/decelerate the engine, then you can conclude that your 3.3L Buick or Oldsmobile's MAF sensor is bad and needs to be replaced.

Testing the mass airflow sensor is something that you can do without having to take it to an automotive repair shop.

I've written a tutorial on how to test it with a multimeter, you can find that tutorial here: How To Test The MAF Sensor (3.3L V6 Buick, Oldsmobile).

Can I Drive My Car With A Bad MAF Sensor?

Depending on the severity of the symptoms the bad MAF sensor is causing, you may not be able to safely drive the vehicle.

Even if it's possible to drive your car (with a bad mass air flow sensor), you should avoid doing so.

Where Can I Buy The MAF Sensor?

The following links will help you to comparison shop for a known automotive name-brand MAF sensor (no knock-offs) for your 3.3L V6 Buick or Oldsmobile vehicle:

More 3.3L V6 Buick, Oldsmobile Tutorials

You can find a complete list of 3.3L V6 Buick and Oldsmobile tutorials in this index:

Here's a small sample of the tutorials you'll find in the index:

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Buick Vehicles:

  • Century 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993
  • Skylark 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993

Oldsmobile Vehicles:

  • Achieva 3.3L
    • 1992, 1993
  • Calais 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Cutlass Ciera 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993