The coolant temperature sensor is used to measure the temperature of the engine coolant of an internal combustion engine. The readings from this sensor are then fed back to the Engine control unit (ECU), which uses this data to adjust the fuel injection and ignition timing. On some vehicles the sensor may also be used to switch on the electric cooling fan.
Coolant sensors have two wires (input and return). A 5-volt reference voltage signal is sent from the PCM to the sensor. The amount of resistance in the sensor reduces the voltage signal that then returns to the PCM. The PCM then calculates coolant temperature based on the voltage value of the return signal. This number can be displayed on a scan tool, and may also be used by the instrument panel cluster or driver information center to display the temperature reading of the coolant.
On some applications, a "dual range" coolant temperature sensor may be used. When the coolant reaches a certain temperature, the PCM changes the reference voltage to the sensor so it can read the coolant temperature with higher accuracy (higher resolution).
On some older vehicles, a different type of coolant sensor may be used. Some of these are essentially an on/off switch that opens or closes at a predetermined temperature. The sensor may be wired directly to a relay to turn the electric cooling fan on and off, or it may send a signal to a warning light on the instrument panel. These older coolant sensorsare typically single wire sensors. On other older applications, a single wire variable resistor temperature sensor that grounds through the threads may be used to send a temperature signal to a gauge on the instrument panel. These are typically called temperature "senders" rather than sensors.
Engine coolant temperature sensors: