What to Use to Clean Intake Air Temperature Sensor?

Your car’s running rough or stalling. And you’ve narrowed the problem down to a dirty intake air temperature sensor. But, what now?

Do you want to know what to use to clean intake air temperature sensor?

The simplest way forward is to get an off-the-shelf sensor cleaner. These will be easier to use. If you have time on your hand you can try a DIY method. For that, you’ll need Iso-Propyl Alcohol, a clear plastic bag, and q-tips. 

So, in short, that’s what you can use to clean an IAT sensor. However, we suggest you stick with us a bit longer. We’re going to cover a lot more about the topic.

Let’s get started.

How to know If an IAT Sensor Is Dirty?

There are quite a few telltale signs of a problematic air intake sensor. 

Sign 1: Loss of Power When Accelerating

A dirty IAT sensor will not be as effective at measuring the temperature of the air. Faulty readings from this sensor mean incorrect results when calculating air & fuel mixture.

As a result, the car will lose power when accelerating. 

Sign 2: Trouble Starting the Car in Cold Conditions

Colder air is denser. Therefore, air at a lower temperature will require more fuel. But a dirty sensor will not provide the right reading. This will mess up the ECUs’ calculations. 

The result of this mess-up might be a stalled engine. Or a rough start. 

Sign 3: Loss of Fuel Efficiency 

The IAT plays a big part in ensuring maximum fuel efficiency for your car. It constantly adjusts the readings for the ECU. This helps the ECU accurately calculate the fuel: air mixture for the engine. 

This keeps the engine from burning any more fuel than is needed. If the intake air temperature sensor is dirty, the fuel efficiency will take a hit.

You should check your intake air temperature sensor if you see any of these signs.

Clean Intake Air Temperature Sensors (2 Alternatives)

Cleaning the IAT is a bit tricky. But we have two cleaners for the sensor.

Cleaner 1: Factory Made Cleaning Solution

The most straightforward answer is getting a factory-made cleaning solution. Here are our suggestions for that.

These will come in pressurized cans and will be easy to apply. Use this method if your 

How to Use It?

Start by locating your IAT. It is usually housed between the air filter and the throttle body. On older cars the sensor can come threaded on the intake manifold. 

Once you’ve located the sensor, remove it from its housing. Then, take out the electrical connections. With that done, take the sensor and hold it over an open surface.

Now give the cleaner 10-15 taps, holding down for 30-45 seconds each time. And wait for the solution to evaporate from the sensor. 

Your sensor is now clean.

Cleaner 2: DIY Cleaning Solution

This will require a bit more work on your part. But you won’t need any specific product. You’ll just need some Iso-Propyl Alcohol and a few q-tips. 

How to Use It?

The first step is the same. You need to locate and remove the sensor. Now, put it in a zip-locked bag and pour in some Iso-Propyl Alcohol. 

Pour in enough to fully submerge the sensor. Shake the bag a bit to separate the loose dirt from the sensor. 

Keep it like this for 20 minutes, shaking the bag every few minutes. Once the time’s up, take out the sensor. 

Now, dip a q-tip in the alcohol and gently swipe over the sensor. Keep doing this till q-tips keep picking up dirt. Stop when you swipe and get a clean q-tip. 

Either solution will give you a clean IAT sensor. And might even breathe new life into your car. 

How to Clean an IAT Integrated with Other Sensors?

Newer cars come with IATs integrated with sensors like the MAF or MAP. If that is true for you then you won’t be able to use the DIY method. In that case, you’ll need to use an off-the-shelf cleaning solution.  

Just take the sensor out and spray it with the solution. Make sure to not touch any of the wires on the sensors. Or else, you could end up damaging the sensor. 

This will clean the MAF or MAP along with the integrated IAT. 

When to Replace the Sensor?

The methods above will definitely clean your IAT sensor. However, it might not do the job. There is a possibility that your sensor has actually gone bad. 

If you use your car fairly regularly, you will easily notice the bad IAT sensor signs. And a bad sensor will need replacement. Here are a few IAT sensors we suggest you buy.

When replacing the sensor, it’s best to lubricate the sensor. This will prevent damage due to friction. You can use one of these lubricants for your sensor. And with that, we end our discussion on the topic of cleaning IAT sensors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How often should I clean the IAT sensor?

Answer: You should clean the IAT sensor every 15,000 – 20,000 miles. This will help prevent any serious damage to the sensor. It will also keep your car fuel-efficient. 

Question: Do I need to disconnect the battery while taking out the sensors?

Answer: Yes. As a safety protocol, it is best to always disconnect the battery while working. Once the battery has been disconnected, cover the negative terminal with an insulating material.

Question: Does the check engine light come on when the IAT is dirty?

Answer: Yes. If enough dirt accumulates to keep the IAT from functioning at all, it can. However, the check engine light could indicate any number of issues with the engine. See a mechanic to make sure everything is alright.


What to use to clean intake air temperature sensor? You can use an off-the-shelf cleaner for the sensor, or Iso-Propyl alcohol.

Based on what cleaning solution you use your method of cleaning will vary. We’ve covered both methods. So, you can use either method and get your car running at peak performance again.

Rob Dahm

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