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Temporary Fix for Crankshaft Position Sensor (Explained)

Updated: Feb 1

✔ This article has been fact checked.

If the crankshaft position sensor (CKP) malfunctions, it can lead to a range of potentially severe issues with your vehicle, such as reduced fuel efficiency, misfires, hesitation during acceleration, and even engine stalling or failure to start.

Some people may want to try a temporary fix for the crankshaft position sensor as a way to get by until they can do a permanent fix. There are a few options you can try such as cleaning the sensor and resetting the ECU.

In this article, we will explain if it's possible to temporarily fix the crankshaft sensor and the different ways you can do this. We'll also explain the signs and causes of a sensor failure and what happens if you don't fix it.

Table of Contents:

mechanic holding a crankshaft position sensor

How to Temporarily Fix the Crankshaft Position Sensor

If a crankshaft position sensor malfunctions, some people try performing a temporary fix to get by until they can make a permanent repair.

However, it is essential to note that this is generally only a short-term solution and will only partially fix the problem. Furthermore, these quick fixes are not guaranteed and may not work.

A temporary fix can involve cleaning or realigning the sensor, applying an electrical contact cleaner to the electrical connector, and resetting the ECU and sensor.

However, these measures will only provide a short-term fix and will not address the underlying issue causing the crankshaft sensor to malfunction.

1. Switch Off the Vehicle and Restart It

Sometimes simply switching off the vehicle and restarting it may be a way to quickly fix the issue. Follow the steps below to see if this method works.

  1. Switch off the ignition.

  2. Exit the vehicle and lock the doors.

  3. Wait 15-30 minutes for the computers to reset.

  4. Try and restart the vehicle.

If this fixed the issue then it was a temporary issue with the crankshaft sensor.

2. Reset the ECU (Disconnect Battery & Clear Codes)

Resetting the ECU and clearing its memory by disconnecting the battery may be able to temporarily fix the crankshaft position sensor.

  1. Clear all trouble codes using a professional OBD scanner.

  2. Disconnect the negative (ground) terminal on the battery (negative terminal outlined with a red circle in the image below).

  3. Wait 15-30 minutes for the ECU to reset.

  4. Connect the negative (ground) terminal of the battery.

  5. Start the engine and observe for issues.

If no issues arise test drive the vehicle for 15-30 minutes, check for fault codes using an OBD reader. If fault codes reappear or issues arise then the crankshaft sensor will likely need replacing.

car battery with negative terminal outlined with a red circle

3. Clean the Crankshaft Position Sensor

Sometimes the issue with the crankshaft sensor may be as simple as a dirty connection or a dirty sensor. Follow the steps below to see if cleaning the sensor fixes the issue.

  1. Disconnect the battery (ground / negative terminal).

  2. Unplug the sensor connector.

  3. Remove the sensor by unscrewing the bolt.

  4. Use compressed air or a clean brush to remove any loose debris.

  5. Use electrical contact cleaner to clean the sensor and the connector.

  6. Allow 5 minutes for the sensor to dry.

  7. Reinstall the crank sensor.

  8. Plug the connector back in.

  9. Reconnect the battery.

What the Crankshaft Position Sensor Is

The crankshaft position sensor keeps track of the crankshaft's location and rotational speed.

crankshaft position sensor diagram

It is a vital component of a vehicle's ignition system that helps the engine control unit (ECU) determine the position and rotational speed of the crankshaft.

This sensor will transmit the data to the ECU, which will use this data to regulate the timing of the ignition and fuel injection. The crankshaft position sensor and the camshaft position sensor work together to enable the engine to be in sync.

Location of the Sensor

The main crank pulley or near the flywheel, in the bottom of the engine bay, is typically where you'll find the crankshaft sensor.

Searching "(your vehicle) crankshaft position sensor location" on the internet is a good way to find the location of this sensor.

It has a unique appearance that makes it easy to recognise.

red circle outlining a crankshaft position sensor

Signs of a Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor

You'll typically notice the check engine light (CEL) illuminate. An error code, sometimes multiple codes, will usually accompany this issue, it'll sometimes show "intermittent" meaning the issue sometimes resolves itself but will almost certainly return.

You should use a professional OBD scanner to diagnose whether the crankshaft position sensor is the issue. There are many signs and symptoms of a faulty crankshaft position sensor, such as the following.

  1. Reduced engine performance

  2. Misfires

  3. Shuddering, shaking and jerking

  4. Stalling

Your vehicle will also likely produce more emissions and fail emissions testing with this issue. You may also experience a no-start situation, potentially resulting in a breakdown situation.

1. Reduced Engine Performance

When an engine's crankshaft position sensor is malfunctioning, it may not move into higher RPMs as easily or at all, and if it does, it may cause knocking and detonation in the engine.

You may notice increased fuel usage, reduced power output, and difficulty accelerating.

2. Misfires

Because the engine must be in sync with the timing of the ignition, fuel injection, and valves, it will likely misfire.

The term "misfire" refers to combustion that occurs either too early or too late. Performance, fuel economy, and emissions production are all impacted by this issue.

It may seriously harm the engine if left unfixed over an extended period of time.

3. Shuddering, Shaking and Jerking

The engine is designed to function in a coordinated manner with very few vibrations. The engine will go out of sync when the crankshaft position sensor fails, causing it to shudder, shake, and jerk.

If the engine is left running like this it can cause serious damage to the engine.

4. Stalling

You may notice the engine has less power, causing stalling while accelerating or under high-loads such as going up a steep hill or pulling away from a stop.

The engine may also stall unexpectedly while driving.

Causes of Crankshaft Sensor Failure

Like all mechanical parts, the CKP sensor can wear out and fail over time, leading to a number of issues with the engine.

Crankshaft sensor failure can be caused by a variety of factors including wear and tear, exposure to contaminants, improper installation, ageing and high mileage. It's important to fix issues with the sensor to avoid further damage to the engine and ensure the vehicle runs properly.

1. Wear and Tear

One of the main causes of sensor failure is wear and tear. As the sensor is constantly exposed to heat and vibration, the internal components can become damaged or worn out, leading to inaccurate readings or complete failure.

2. Contamination

Exposure to dirt, debris, and other contaminants can also cause the crankshaft sensor to malfunction. Cleaning it could temporarily fix the issue.

3. Improper Installation or Low-Quality Replacement

Another cause of failure is improper installation or a poor-quality replacement sensor. If the sensor is not properly aligned with the crankshaft or if the wrong type of sensor is used, it may not function correctly and may fail prematurely.

4. High-Mileage and Ageing

Ageing and high mileage can also contribute to sensor failure. As a vehicle gets older and accumulates more miles, the crankshaft position sensor may become less reliable and may fail more frequently.

5. Wiring Issues

Sometimes wiring issues like corrosion, short circuits, damage, and loose connections can all cause the crankshaft position sensor to fail.

damaged car wiring

Fixing the Crankshaft Position Sensor

If the issue wasn't resolved by using the temporary repairs at the beginning of the article then you can either try testing the sensor or just replace it entirely with a new crankshaft position sensor.

Testing the Sensor

You'll need to use a test light to examine the crankshaft position sensor. There are two types of sensor: 2-wire and 3-wire, and each one has a different testing procedure.

How to Test the 2-Wire:

  1. Unplug the sensor.

  2. Attach the test light to the battery's positive terminal.

  3. Turn the ignition to the "on" position.

  4. Tap the sensor terminals repeatedly and quickly.

  5. When you do this, if you hear the spark plug click, the sensor is functional.

How to Test the 3-Wire:

  1. Unplug the sensor.

  2. Attach the test light to the negative (ground) terminal.

  3. Turn the ignition to the "on" position.

  4. Tap the middle, signal terminal.

  5. When you do this, if you hear the spark plug click, the sensor is functional.

If you have a 2-wire sensor, make sure to connect the test light to the positive terminal. If you have a 3-wire sensor, make sure to connect it to the negative (ground) terminal.

Crankshaft Position Sensor Replacement

To replace a crankshaft position sensor, you will need to first locate the sensor in your vehicle. It is typically located on the engine block, near the crankshaft pulley.

  1. To remove the old sensor, you will need to unplug the electrical connector that connects the sensor to the vehicle's wiring harness.

  2. Then, use a wrench or socket to loosen the bolt or screw that secures the sensor in place.

  3. Once the bolt or screw is loosened, you can gently pull the sensor out of its mounting location.

To install the new crankshaft position sensor, simply reverse the process.

Insert the new sensor into the mounting location, securing it with the bolt or screw. Then, reconnect the electrical connector to the wiring harness.

It is important to ensure that the new sensor is properly tightened and seated in its mounting location, as a loose or misaligned sensor can result in inaccurate readings and potentially cause engine performance issues.

Once the new crankshaft position sensor is installed, you will need to perform a procedure known as "relearning" the sensor. This involves resetting the vehicle's engine control module (ECM) so that it can properly recognize and calibrate the new sensor.

The specific steps for relearning a crankshaft position sensor will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle, so you should consult your vehicle's service manual or a mechanic for guidance.

Failing to properly relearn the new sensor can result in the same issues as a faulty sensor, such as poor engine performance, stalling, and inaccurate diagnostic trouble codes.

Can You Start a Car Without the Crankshaft Position Sensor?

The crankshaft position sensor is a vital component of a vehicle's ignition system that helps the engine control unit (ECU) determine the position and rotational speed of the crankshaft. This information is used to properly time the ignition spark and fuel injection.

So, can you start a car without a crankshaft position sensor? The short answer is no, as the sensor is necessary for the ignition and fuel injection systems to function properly.

Without a functioning crank sensor, the ECU will not be able to accurately determine the position and speed of the crankshaft, leading to poor engine performance and potentially causing the engine to stall or not start at all.

However, it is possible to start a car with a bad crankshaft position sensor, but this will likely result in issues such as reduced fuel efficiency, misfires, and hesitation during acceleration. Try using the temporary fixes listed in this article to quickly resolve the issue.

car ignition start button

What Happens if You Don’t Fix the Crankshaft Sensor?

If the crankshaft position sensor fails or malfunctions, it can lead to a range of issues that can affect the performance of the engine. One of the most common symptoms of a fault is an engine that refuses to start or stalls unexpectedly.

This is because the ECU relies on the sensor to accurately determine the position and speed of the crankshaft in order to properly time the ignition spark and fuel injection. Without this information, the engine may not run properly or may not start at all.

Other symptoms of a faulty crankshaft position sensor may include poor engine performance, such as reduced fuel efficiency and hesitation during acceleration.

In some cases, a faulty sensor may also cause the check engine light to illuminate on the dashboard and trigger diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs).

If you are experiencing issues, it is important to have it fixed or replaced as soon as possible. Failing to fix a the problem can lead to ongoing issues with engine performance and potentially cause damage to the vehicle.

Can You Fix a Crankshaft Position Sensor Yourself?

It is possible to fix a crankshaft position sensor yourself, but it does require some mechanical knowledge and experience.

Replacing the sensor is a relatively straightforward process, but it does involve working with the engine and electrical components, which can be dangerous if you are not familiar with these systems.

It's also important to note that if you are not confident in your ability to diagnose and repair the problem, it is always best to consult a professional mechanic to avoid any further damage or safety issues.

If you have knowledge and understanding of the vehicle you could follow the steps outlined in this article and try a temporary fix.


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