Amount Of Air A Mass Air Flow Sensor Measure Volumetric Efficiency – OR – How Well Does the Engine Breathe?

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Volumetric Efficiency – OR – How Well Does the Engine Breathe?

All technicians know that good compression is essential for an engine to run well. But the engine also needs to “breathe” well, or move air in and out with minimal restriction. Restricted catalytic converters, improper cam timing, even clogged air filters can affect an engine’s ability to do this, resulting in various drivability concerns.

In addition, most cars today use a mass airflow sensor to tell the ECM how much air is being drawn in. If this information is incorrect, the ECM will not provide the proper fuel charge for optimal performance and may result in a check engine light. An easy way to tell if a light engine’s ability to “breathe” or a faulty MAF sensor is the cause of the drivability complaint you’re diagnosing.

It is called Volumetric efficiency and is a measure of the percentage of an engine’s actual ability to move air versus what it could move in a perfect world. To use this test, you need a scan tool capable of recording data and a VE calculator. The calculator requires engine size, cubic inch displacement, air flow in grams/second, engine rpm, and air temperature when testing. Set your scan tool to record this PID (Parameter Identification) and take the car out for a test drive. If you want to check the accuracy of the MAF sensor, also record the fuel trim PID (STFT and LTFT).

From a rolling start in first or second gear, do a wide open throttle run while recording data. Do 3 or 4 passes to compare results. Back in the shop, find the point in your recording where the airflow recorded by the MAF and engine rpm is the highest. Enter these values ​​into the calculator. The result is a percentage of “ideal”. Engine displacement would be 100% ideal. However, “ideal” is not the real world and typical efficiency is usually 80% or more. Turbocharged and supercharged engines will naturally run higher than 100%, so keep this in mind if testing equipped engines.

If VE is low and fuel trim is positive (for lean conditions), suspect an incorrect reading from the MAF sensor. If VE is low and fuel trims are normal, look for airflow restriction. A “running” compression test can help distinguish whether the restriction is on the combustion chamber or exhaust side.

VE Calculator is another diagnostic tool that can provide quick direction in diagnosing various driving complaints. But as with other diagnostic tools, more accurate tests should be performed to verify results and failures.

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