Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

1.8-liter VVTL-i (2ZZ-GE) and VVT-i (1ZZ-FE) engine, transmission, exhaust, intake, and performance tuning discussions
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jsmellie
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Location: Ferndale, Michigan

Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby jsmellie » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:05 am

The short story: I need a new upstream O2 sensor. Does anyone have experience with buying any of the ones listed below?

My 2005 FWD has had the CEL on for a month or so, and I finally checked it. I got code P0171, and spent a few hours reading about it here on the forums.

I took my car into my mechanic today for an oil change and tire rotation, asked them to check the code, and told them it was likely a vacuum leak caused by a failed intake manifold gasket. The tech came back and recommended a full tune-up-- new spark plugs, plug boots, engine air filter, fuel filter, and upstream O2 sensor-- then re-evaluate to see if the P0171 comes up again. I have 215,000 miles on the car and I don't think I've ever replaced any of those except the two filters; they said I'm about 160,000 miles overdue for it.

The cheapest they could find the upstream O2 sensor from any of their suppliers was $151 (he even put the guy on speakerphone so I could hear it for myself) and book time is an hour for the labor, so I'd be at $200-250 just for the O2 sensor. I knew that replacing the sensor is basically just unscrewing the sensor, unplugging the harness, and replacing with a new one. I'd seen O2 sensors on Amazon for $50-100, so I decided that $200-250 to have my mechanic do it seemed unwise.

The OEM part number is 88974015, according to GMPartsDirect.com. The list price is an insane $338.43, and GMPartsDirect is charging $182.76 for it.

On Amazon, I found four parts that all claim to be a match for the OEM:

1) the Roadstar 234-9052, at $60
2) the Bosch 15974, at $85
3) the ACDelco 213-2825, at $96
4) the Walker 250-54006, at $100

(The Bosch has 9 reviews and the Walker has 2 reviews-- neither of which is enough to rely on. The Roadstar and ACDelco both have zero reviews.)

AutoZone also has three worth considering:

5) the Walker 350-34345 at $51
6) the NTK 24806 at $70
7) the Denso 234-4802 at $80; AutoZone claims this is an "OEM equivalent", and Denso is indeed the OEM for the sensors.

Are any of these a particularly good or bad choice?

I've never heard of Roadstar or Walker, but Bosch and ACDelco are obviously well-known names (and Bosch's website claims that they invented the O2 sensor!). #1 and #5 are noticeably cheaper, though.

--------------------

I know I'll also need an O2 sensor socket. This YouTube video showed me that a low-profile crowfoot (crows-foot) socket will work even if it can't complete a full rotation due to the short flange and short offset. Using a longer flange seems like it'd be more convenient because you could make more of a rotation before needing to reseat the socket.

1) I just discovered the "loaner tool" programs from the auto-store chains. AutoZone has this "great neck" socket, which seems perfect, but it's hard to tell if the flange will be deep enough to get seated or not. If not, they also have this crowfoot socket, which has a short offset but a long enough flange that it should work well. I'll probably just borrow both of these and see which works better.

2) If you'd rather purchase your own, this Ares 70039 ($7.82) with a short flange and short offset seems to be the most common size, but might be too short to work well on the Vibe's upstream sensor (unless you're going to remove the heat shield, which you otherwise don't need to do).
3) This Ares 70325 ($10.64) seems like the same short flange, but has a longer offset. This is what I'd buy if I were going to purchase one.
4) This Tekton 4929 ($10.64) is an example of a 'full-size' socket, but seems like it runs the risk of being too long to fit into that part of the Vibe's engine compartment. I don't want to roll the dice on that.

I have very little experience doing my own auto repairs or maintenance of any kind, and I don't have much money or time that I can use to experiment and learn, so I have to be careful with my research when deciding what to do myself. I used a lot of posts here from 5-7 years ago, so hopefully my research will help out other Vibe owners like me who are new to replacing O2 sensors.
Last edited by jsmellie on Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Coolharts
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Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby Coolharts » Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:12 pm

AC Delco is GM.

Replace the intake gasket first, it is easy, clear the codes and drive it for a week to see how it does. O2 sensors are a quick fix if needed.

jolt
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Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby jolt » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:12 pm

Denso is what the car came with from the assembly line. Toyota electrical system on the Vibes is Denso. Spark plugs are Denso. The Toyota factory software to read the codes and program the car is by Denso. Stick with Denso for OEM electrical parts on a Vibe. About the only GM parts in the Vibe are the radio and the AC compressor.

Oxygen sensors do not just spin out unless you are really, really lucky. It has been in the hot exhaust system for a long time now. Things get fused together from the heat. I have see sockets broken by people trying to get their oxygen sensors out. Some times a torch is needed to heat up the threads to get the thing loose. You have a better chance of getting the sensor out if the exhaust system is hot and up to operating temperature before you try turning the sensor out. The same thing goes for the spark plugs. If you do not change them, they will get fused to the cylinder head and you will strip the threads out or break a spark plug off in the head. Letting things go when it comes to maintaining a car can cost you a whole lot more later then if you had done the maintenance when it was recommended. It sounds like you are way over due for some engine maintenance. I think you should try to do the tuneup and replace the intake gasket first but with that many miles on it, you had better start spending some money or you will not have a car to drive.

Good luck and Vibe on!

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jsmellie
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Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby jsmellie » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:51 am

Thanks, jolt. I'm not trying to defer maintenance- I just never had an opportunity to learn about these infrequent/long-term maintenance items like this; I've never had anybody in my family or friends who knew anything about cars, and I'm just now starting down the path of learning for myself so I can do my own maintenance and repairs. I can't begin to afford another car (not even a used one) in the foreseeable future, so I'm trying to learn how to keep this one in decent shape, as you said.

All that said, my mechanic did mention that O2 sensors can become fused in and sometimes need a torch to heat them up to get them loose.

I read the Technical Service Bulletin about changing the intake manifold gasket (this thread), and I wasn't confident whether or not I could do that myself. I don't have a garage or a driveway, so I'd be doing this out on the curb in 35-degree weather. On the other hand, when I asked my mechanic for an estimate on replacing that gasket, they recommended I spend $360 on having them replace the spark plugs, plug boots, and fuel filter, plus another $200 to replace the upstream O2 sensor, then they'd look at the car again and see if the gasket might need to be replaced. All those hoses make me a bit worried, but if there's nothing more challenging than disconnecting and reconnecting them (and not having to do anything complicated to drain/replace any fluids), then I can probably do it.

Are you recommending I replace the gasket myself, then take it to the mechanic to let them handle the O2 sensor and spark plugs since those might be fused into place? Or should I try those myself first?

ehoff121
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Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby ehoff121 » Wed Mar 14, 2018 9:57 am

Why would a mechanic say that a code is probably caused by "X", and then tell you to replace "Y" and "Z" first?

There isn't much to "Tune-up" on these engines- spark plugs, air filter, MAF sensor cleaning, Throttle body cleaning, IACV cleaning, PCV cleaning/replacement. The rest is fluid and filter changes and maybe a belt, a battery, and some hoses (anything rubber will degrade over time).

There are "how to" explanations for all of these on the forum and plenty of YouTube videos to decide if you can do them yourself.

If you can handle a socket wrench, you can do an intake manifold gasket- there's not much to screw up.

If you decide to replace the O2 sensors, go with Denso and check http://www.rockauto.com
2005 Pontiac Vibe AWD - Platinum

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jsmellie
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Location: Ferndale, Michigan

Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby jsmellie » Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:37 am

If you can handle a socket wrench, you can do an intake manifold gasket- there's not much to screw up.

Yep, I'm perfectly comfortable with a socket wrench and regular hand tools. I was mostly concerned about tubes/hoses that contain fluids, and I don't know which ones those are just from reading the service bulletin. I guess I can look them up one by one, though.

I'm going a bit off of my original topic here, but I guess it's still under the umbrella of periodic maintenance.

  • spark plugs - I'm currently trying to decide whether to attempt these myself to save money and gain experience, or have my mechanic do them because they're way overdue and I don't have any idea what their condition is. Either way, they'll get done soon.
  • MAF sensor cleaning - I just learned about this the other day; seems easy, going to do it myself.
  • throttle body cleaning & IACV cleaning - I had never heard of these before; is this a good summary?
  • PCV cleaning/replacement - I had never heard of this before either, but it appears pretty straightforward based on this video unless the PCV is corroded into place.
  • fluid changes - I'd rather sound uneducated than have a broken car, so: what fluids need to be changed?
  • filter changes - Same as above: what filters needs to be changed? I know about engine air and cabin air. My mechanic said my fuel filter should be replaced; that seems unlikely, but I don't think I'm going to do that one myself.
  • belts - Same as above: what belts likely need to be changed? I was told 5 years ago that my serpentine belt should be replaced, but my current mechanic has never said anything about it since then.
  • hoses - Same as above: what hoses need to be changed? I'm more likely to try replacing hoses that carry air than hoses that carry fluids, but I need to know either way, I guess.
  • engine air filter - Easy, I already do this myself.
  • battery - Easy; I just replaced this a few months ago.

Thanks!

jolt
Posts: 555
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:07 am

Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby jolt » Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:25 pm

Hoses and such.... take pictures before you take things a part. That way you have some reference as to how it should look when you put it back together. Mark hoses and lines with tape at both the hose and where the hose was connected too. Do one at a time and label them "A to A", "B to B", etc. You do not need to know the name of the hose, just that it hooks back up to the right spot.

If you have not done much wrenching, you may need a torque wrench so that you do not over or under tighten the different bolts. A lot of parts stores have loaner or rental tools that you can get to use. Torque values can be found in a service manual and if you look around on this board, you will find a link to a service manual.

Here are some links to "How to..." on the Vibes that may be helpful.
viewtopic.php?f=20&t=44875
viewtopic.php?f=28&t=755 This has links to the owners manuals, which has the suggested maintenance mileage and what items need looking at.

Fluids: At this point all fluids need to be changed. Engine oil and filter, transmission oil (and filter if an automatic transmission), engine coolant, power steering fluid. As for the fuel filter, I would not worry about that. It is part of the fuel pump in the gas tank. Replace it when the fuel pump goes out.

ehoff121
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Location: Conn.

Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby ehoff121 » Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:20 am

jsmellie wrote:Yep, I'm perfectly comfortable with a socket wrench and regular hand tools. I was mostly concerned about tubes/hoses that contain fluids, and I don't know which ones those are just from reading the service bulletin. I guess I can look them up one by one, though.

I'm going a bit off of my original topic here, but I guess it's still under the umbrella of periodic maintenance.

  • spark plugs - I'm currently trying to decide whether to attempt these myself to save money and gain experience, or have my mechanic do them because they're way overdue and I don't have any idea what their condition is. Either way, they'll get done soon.
  • MAF sensor cleaning - I just learned about this the other day; seems easy, going to do it myself.
  • throttle body cleaning & IACV cleaning - I had never heard of these before; is this a good summary?
  • PCV cleaning/replacement - I had never heard of this before either, but it appears pretty straightforward based on this video unless the PCV is corroded into place.
  • fluid changes - I'd rather sound uneducated than have a broken car, so: what fluids need to be changed?
  • filter changes - Same as above: what filters needs to be changed? I know about engine air and cabin air. My mechanic said my fuel filter should be replaced; that seems unlikely, but I don't think I'm going to do that one myself.
  • belts - Same as above: what belts likely need to be changed? I was told 5 years ago that my serpentine belt should be replaced, but my current mechanic has never said anything about it since then.
  • hoses - Same as above: what hoses need to be changed? I'm more likely to try replacing hoses that carry air than hoses that carry fluids, but I need to know either way, I guess.
  • engine air filter - Easy, I already do this myself.
  • battery - Easy; I just replaced this a few months ago.

Thanks!


All of the hoses involved in the intake manifold gasket replacement are vacuum, so no fluids there. Just but a piece of painter's tape on each hose and each connection as you take it off. Mark the tape pieces on the first hose and connection 'A', second one 'B', etc. When you reassemble, if you had up to letter D for example, make sure you have removed 8 pieces of tape when you are done. :D

Be sure to disconnect the battery when doing work on anything that has a wire connected to it, especially the MAF sensor.

Yep, that is a long thread on the IACV/TB cleaning and gaskets, but it will do. The IACV has two hoses connected that have coolant in them, but not too much- just put a paper towels underneath to catch the spill and use a spare bolt or rag to plug the hoses. If you decide to change the IACV gasket, the screws are tight and easy to strip so go slowly and use the right size Phillips.

You only have one belt- get a breaker bar or a pipe to fit over a ratchet to move the tensioner pulley and you will be able to change out the belt.

Hoses are the upper an lower radiator, which you could do in the summer when you drain/flush and change the coolant/water pump/thermostat ;)
2005 Pontiac Vibe AWD - Platinum

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PonchoGT
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Re: Buying a new upstream O2 sensor

Postby PonchoGT » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:30 am

Get a can of PB Blaster at your local auto parts store. It'll make coaxing that old sensor out of its hole much easier. Spray and let it sit 15 minutes or so before applying torque with your breaker bar.


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