P0100 – Mass air flow (MAF) sensor/volume air flow (VAF) . sensor circuit malfunction

By Ti (Contact Me)
Last Updated 2016-07-29
Mechanical Engineer
CodeFault LocationProbable Cause
P0100 Mass air flow (MAF) sensor/volume air flow (VAF) . sensor circuit malfunction
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Table of Contents

  1. What Does Code P0100 Mean?
  2. What are the common causes of code P0100?
  3. What are the symptoms of code P0100?
  4. How do you troubleshoot code P0100?
  5. Codes Related to P0100
  6. Get Help with P0100

What Does Code P0100 Mean?

The troublecode P0100 is set when the MAF sensor circuit is malfunctioning.  This code is similar to P0104 – MAF sensor circuit intermittent.  The difference between the two codes is the consistency of the malfunction in the MAF sensor circuit.  Troubleshooting will be the same for both codes.

When diagnosing MAF sensor codes, understanding fuel trims is very important.  Please see the fuel trims article (P0171):

Fuel Trims – Lean

Identifying the type of MAF sensor in your car will also aid diagnosis.  There are a number of different MAF sensors including the most common – hot-wire sensors.  The following Youtube video describes vane, analog or digital hot-wire, and vortex MAF sensors:

Note: “Circuit Malfunction” indicates that there is a malfunction in the control circuit, as opposed to a fault in a sensor or other component. With “Circuit Malfunction” codes, replacement of sensors and components in the affected circuit will almost never resolve the problem, since as the code suggests, the trouble is in the circuit. This distinction between “circuit” and “sensor/component” is a great help to anyone trying to diagnose a circuit malfunction code, since it narrows the list of possible causes down considerably.

The causes of “Circuit Malfunction” codes are much the same as those for “Open Circuits” i.e., broken wiring, poor connections across electrical connectors or previously repaired wiring, loss of ground that prevents current flow, blown fuses, defective relays, faulty switches, or any of a host of other issues and problems that prevents a flow of current through wiring. Issues like high/low/intermittent voltages can set a “Circuit Malfunction” code on some applications. Moreover, “Circuit Malfunction” codes could also indicate a problem with negative current control / flow, as well as issues with failed or failing PCM’s (Powertrain Control Modules), although control module failure is a rare event.



What are the common causes of code P0100?

Depending on year, make, and model, DTC P0100 may have a number of causes. Here are some of the most common.

  • Toyota / Lexus – The hot-wire MAF sensor is notoriously susceptible to oil contamination and aftermarket air filter contamination. Cleaning may work, but replacement of the MAF sensor and an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) air filter are a sure fix.
  • Cars over Ten Years Old – Over time, the rubber hoses can become brittle, cracking where it should flex. Do a thorough check on all rubber hoses, from vacuum lines to the intake tube.
  • General Motors – Some vehicles, with a heavily contaminated catalytic converter, may set this DTC. Do an engine vacuum test
  • Volkswagen / Audi vehicles
  • Vehicles in Storage – Check wiring harnesses and air intake systems for rodent infestation and damage. Mouse nests are not uncommon in stored vehicles, and they tend to build their nests in inaccessible places, such as the air intake tubing. To build their nests, they seem to have a liking for air filter and noise deadening materials, which can easily clog the intake system or contaminate the MAF. Mice also seem to have a taste for rubber hoses and electrical insulation, and chewed-through hoses and wires are a common issue.
  • Cars with EGR Valves – Some EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valves, over time, may become carbon-contaminated, sticking open and adversely affecting intake air flow, leading to this DTC.
  • Faulty PCV Valve – A fault PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve may allow too much air from the crankcase into the intake tube. Depending on where the PCV inlet is, it may simply introduce too much air, or contaminate the air filter and MAF with oil.
  • Faulty MAP Sensor – Some cars may use a MAP (manifold absolute pressure) sensor in conjunction with the MAF. If the MAP is faulty, this may throw off the accepted-values table for the MAF, leading to this DTC, even if there is nothing wrong with the MAF. As always, check and repair any concurrent DTCs.

Generally-speaking, if something looks out of place, then it probably is. In the case of a MAF sensor, contamination can just as easily set DTC P0100 as can a split intake tube. Usually, best practice dictates starting with the simplest and least expensive repair first. If an alcohol bath and a new air filter solves your MAF contamination problem, then you’ll save yourself a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, if you can eliminate broken vacuum lines, corroded electrical connections, and clogged air intake tubing, you can spend the money on a new MAF with confidence.

What are the symptoms of code P0100?

The ECU will also illuminate the MIL (malfunction indicator lamp), also referred to as the CEL (check engine light), though you may not notice any drivability issues. Still, aside from the MIL, some common symptoms may include difficulty starting, poor idle quality, or lack of power. Additionally, since the MIL indicates that the ECU is now running the engine in open-loop “limp home mode,” you may also notice poor fuel economy.

How do you troubleshoot code P0100?

In the intake air stream, the MAF is located somewhere between the air filter box and the intake manifold, some models placing the sensor right on the air filter box, and others in the intake hose. Depending on if the MAF has an integrated IAT (intake air temperature) sensor, it may have between four and seven wires coming out of it. The following troubleshooting steps should be taken to confirm failure and make a proper repair.

  1. If you can save or print freeze frame (FF) data, taking note of important FF data points, such as RPM, vehicle speed, and gear position. Try to recall driving conditions, as well as any recent maintenance or repairs, when the MIL came on the first time. All of these can give you clues as to when the problem is occurring. Concurrent DTCs should also be noted, especially if they are related to the Fuel and Air Metering System, such as P0171 or P0111.
  2. Clear the DTC, shut the engine off, then turn the ignition to KOEO (Key ON, Engine OFF) position.
    1. If the same DTC comes back immediately, chances are that you have a hard fault, perhaps a broken wire, dead sensor, or unplugged sensor. If this is the case, take a look at the connector and wiring going to the MAF.
    2. Unplug the MAF and inspect the connector for corroded or damaged pins or sockets.
    3. If the same DTC doesn’t come back on KOEO, the sensor internals and wiring are probably electrically sound.
  3. If the KOEO test doesn’t illuminate the MIL, start the engine and leave it idling.
    1. If MIL illuminates during the KOER (Key ON, Engine RUNNING) test, with the same DTC, suspect the MAF sensing portion of contamination or blockage. Take out the MAF and inspect it with a flashlight. Blow out any dust or debris which may be blocking the sensing portion. If you suspect oil contamination or similar, you can attempt to clean it in a bath of isopropyl alcohol (90% or better), electrical contact cleaner, or MAF sensor cleaning spray. Do not attempt to brush or scrub the sensing portion, as it can be extremely fragile. Even so, excessive contamination may be impossible to clean, even after multiple applications, and replacement may be the only option.
    2. A concurrent fuel trim DTC, such as P0171, may point to an intake leak or vacuum leak. In either of these cases, more air is getting into the engine than the MAF and ECU can properly account for. Look for loose or cracked vacuum lines, including those to the vacuum brake booster or power steering idle-up switch. Also check the intake air hose after the MAF, making sure there are no holes or cracks.
  4. If the KOER test is inconclusive, taking the car for a test drive may be necessary. If you were able to glean any important information from the FF data, try to reproduce the driving conditions during which the fault was detected. Lack of power and an illuminated MIL on hard acceleration might point to a cracked intake hose, for example.








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