What Is an Air-Fuel Ratio Meter?
An air-fuel ratio (AFR) meter also called an air-fuel gauge, monitors the air-fuel ratio of an engine. It analyzes the power output of a narrow band or wide-band oxygen sensor.
Narrowband Vs Wideband AFR Meters
Narrowband oxygen sensors became factory standards since the early 1980s but manufacturers started to replace them with more efficient wide-band sensors. The main objective of narrowband meters was to control degradation factors such as damaged fuel injectors or vacuum leaks. They would indicate if the car is running at a stoichiometric ratio when idle or while cruising and adjust the width of the injector pulse to richen or lean the engine. The engine would be operating in closed-loop mode. In high acceleration conditions, the car's computer doesn't factor in the lambda sensor because it needs an air/fuel ratio different than the stoichiometric 14:7:1 standard. The engine would run in open-loop mode.
An oxygen sensor sends a voltage signal to the computer of between 0 to 1 volt and the narrowband meter acts like a voltmeter for it. For example, if the narrowband gauge measures a 0V it will show you that the engine is running lean, but it won't tell you how lean. On a narrowband gauge, Stoic equals around 0.5V and Rich shows 1V.
However, wideband Air Fuel Ratio Meters provide air/fuel ratio information under any circumstances ranging from WOT to different ratios. For example, a wideband gauge will measure the engine operation at ratios which are leaner than the stoichiometric level under cruise circumstances. Wideband meters have an increased voltage range for the oxygen sensor's feedback and have specific voltage levels for different air/fuel ratios. A standard wideband gauge will cover a range of between 0 to 5V which provides a more accurate reading with a precision of 0.1 volts translating into 50 possible data outputs.
Narrowband AFR meters are usually available in 3 1/16" or 2 5/8" diameter housing and include a display of around 20 LED and the option of a digital or needle style.
However, wideband meters either come as a stand-alone device or can be installed in housings. They provide a digital numeric or analog display of the readings and guarantee an incredibly accurate monitoring of the air fuel ratio.
Digital And Analog Display Wideband Air Fuel Ratio Meters
Wideband Air Fuel Ratio Meters can feature a digital or analog display. The digital display includes LED lighting which shows the 0-5V interval and a LED needle which changes color depending on lean or rich circumstances. This type of display shows changes of even 0.1 V to prevent the slightest damage to your engine.
The analog display wideband air/fuel ratio gauge features a very fast needle movement which will alert you in case of the slightest 0.1 V change which guarantees extremely precise monitoring.
Why Use Air-fuel Ratio Meters?
Air-fuel ratio meters can identify any malfunction of the lambda sensor which may have a decreased response time in different engine conditions. A damaged oxygen sensor can result in high fuel consumption, increased emissions and reduced engine power.
An air-fuel ratio meter helps by ensuring that the catalytic converter is functioning at optimized efficiency by maintaining the air-fuel ratio close to the stoichiometric ratio equal to 14.7:1.
A leaner mixture which allows smooth driving would guarantee an optimal fuel consumption and reduce the CO2 emissions. However, factories are maintaining operations at stoichiometric ratios to extend the lifespan and efficiency of catalytic converters which has become a priority due to international regulations.
Although lean mixtures can significantly reduce fuel consumption they can also cause a spike of nitrogen oxides which can lead to the engine's failure to ignite and increases the level of hydrocarbon emissions. Because they burn hotter, mixtures which are too lean can also damage the catalytic converter or the engine's valves. However, an uncontrolled rich mixture can cause severe damage such as poor fuel consumption, fast bore wear and deteriorated spark plugs.