Camshaft Sensor vs. Crankshaft Sensor: What is Different?

The modern engine runs far more efficiently, thanks to various sensing devices. This article covers two of the most critical sensors in your car engine: camshaft sensor vs. crankshaft sensor. We will see where to find each, their different functions, and other essential information about them.

Are the Camshaft Sensor and Crankshaft Sensor the Same?

No, they’re not. Despite operating on similar working principles, cam and crank sensors differ in many ways. Technically, though, they may use identical sensing technologies.

They typically employ permanent magnets and the change that occurs when an object disrupts their field. Some operate based on the interruption of a light beam instead. These are called optical sensors.

Magnetic field sensors are the most common. They offer higher reliability levels, among other advantages such as compactness and longer lifespans. They also operate in harsh conditions without losing accuracy, making them a more preferred type.

Difference between Camshaft and Crankshaft Sensor

The cam sensor monitors the camshaft position and rotation, while the crank sensor monitors the crankshaft angle and speed of spin. That means they serve unrelated purposes in the engine.

In addition to the functional differences, the parts are installed in different locations, even though their exact mounting points depend on the vehicle type and make.

Usually, a vehicle has one crank-sensing device. In contrast, the number of cam sensors may vary from one to four. In some older engines, the cam sensing device may not be necessary, and only the crank has it.


As you can see, various factors distinguish the two components. To help you grasp the variations, we compared them below.

Crankshaft and camshaft position sensors
Crankshaft and camshaft position sensors
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?zpEm8qk597o

Camshaft Sensor vs. Crankshaft Sensor

Here is a more detailed comparison showing the difference between the camshaft and crankshaft sensor for location in the engine, intended purpose, and function.

Location

The camshaft position sensor usually mounts in the cylinder head. It has a typical cylindrical structure or body that goes into an opening in the cylinder head to facilitate installation.

In contrast, the crank sensor mounts in the timing cover or is located on the engine block, on the side. Like the cam type, it has a cylindrical body that goes into the block. You may also find it installed in the timing cover.

Function

The primary function of the cam position sensing device is to collect camshaft data for the ECM or Engine Control Module in full. The ECM utilizes this data to determine when and which cylinder is up for firing. That, in turn, helps synchronize fuel injection and sparking sequences, ensuring an efficient engine that also produces optimal power.

The crankshaft sensing device monitors the shaft’s rotation and other vital information to help the ECM set ignition timing and RPM. It determines the engine speed by detecting the crank revolutions.

Purpose

Camshaft sensors perform the critical task of ensuring the combustion process is optimized. Depending on the vehicle type, it helps the onboard computer detect misfires in the engine or when a firing stroke has failed.

The crank sensing device is responsible for the data that the engine control or management system uses to regulate timing. It’s also the part that sends information that shows the engine speed.

Are Camshaft and Crankshaft Sensors Interchangeable?

No, they’re not. The two components work together to ensure an optimally performing engine: better fuel, economy, more power from the combustion process, and reduced emissions.

However, while that is so, each is designed for its exact purpose, and interchanging them may not produce the intended results. The crank sensor may also provide camshaft position information since the two shafts rotate together.

Replacing a damaged camshaft position sensing device
Replacing a damaged camshaft position sensing device
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?mg5Pi1blmes

Camshaft Sensor vs. Crankshaft Sensor Symptoms

Camshaft and crankshaft sensor symptoms are broadly similar. The two devices use identical technologies and connect to the same onboard computer. Their symptoms will, therefore, be similar and include the following;


  • The car failing to start

  • Car stalling on the road

  • Engine misfires or rough idling

  • The check engine light coming on

  • Poor fuel economy/increased consumption

  • Reduced engine power and poor acceleration

  • Increased emissions and failed emissions test

These parts fail if subjected to extreme conditions like excessive heat and vibrations. In the engine where the components reside, these conditions can be extreme.

Other causes of failure include dirt accumulation or loss of electrical conductivity in the connections. Electrical issues may result from corroded contacts, broken wires, or shorts.

In addition to the noticeable symptoms of failing cam and crank sensing devices, a proper diagnosis can help reveal the causes of damage and its location.

The following tools are required: a digital multimeter, a fault codes scanner, and parts removal tools such as wrenches and spanners. With these tools, you can troubleshoot and replace the device if damaged.

Replacing a failed crankshaft position sensing device
Replacing a failed crankshaft position sensing device
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?zpEm8qk597o

Camshaft and Crankshaft Sensor Replacement

If confirmed to be faulty, the position sensors require immediate replacement, or the performance and efficiency of the engine may drop. If not operational, they can cause a vehicle to stall or lead to engine damage over time.

Timely camshaft and crankshaft sensor replacement can go a long way in ensuring your engine remains in good health.

To replace either part, you must identify its location first. Your car manual is a good reference. After that, you only need to confirm if either part is faulty and remove it to install a new one.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions during removal and installation. These parts are also delicate. Handle them carefully and avoid subjecting them to impact or ingress by dirt.

Camshaft and Crankshaft Sensors Replacement Cost

The cost of replacing both sensors varies by car type and make. Generally, it can cost you between $150 and $350 to change either part. If you have a high-end vehicle, expect to pay more.

You can do the replacement yourself. However, that’s only advisable if you understand a few things about the part and the use of various tools like the OBD-II scanner.

You’ll also need to scan your car computer for fault codes and clear them when replacing the failed part. These are faults the failed component caused the computer to generate.

Conclusion

The camshaft and crankshaft position sensors perform similar functions, such as monitoring a rotating component. However, they serve different purposes, in addition to their varied locations. WanTuo manufactures camshaft and crankshaft sensors for different vehicles and to high-quality standards.

We use advanced electronics to make them immune to interference, which ensures their reliability, and we test them for 100% environmental protection, ensuring their longevity. Reach out to us now and we will help you find the best solution for your business or other need.

Louis
Louis

I'm Louis, a seasoned writer specializing in auto parts, particularly the science behind components like cylinder heads and pistons. With over a decade of experience and a background in mechanical engineering, my articles reflect a commitment to professionalism, blending technical insight with engaging content.

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