Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor – Testing The Easy Way

Crankshaft - Camshaft Position Sensor - Testing The Easy Way
Crankshaft - Camshaft Position Sensor - Testing The Easy Way

When a Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor goes BAD, your vehicle will not start.

Distributorless Ignition Systems (DIS) require a Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP), and sometimes a Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP).

So, the main difference between Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensors is that:

  • The crankshaft position sensor (CKP), is used to detect the position, of the crankshaft.

  • The camshaft position sensor (CMP) is used to detect the position, of the camshaft.

Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensors, serve the same purpose as, the ignition pickup and trigger wheel in an electronic distributor.

Crankshaft Camshaft Sensors
Crankshaft Camshaft Sensors

The only difference is the basic timing signal, is read off the crankshaft or balancer, instead of the distributor shaft.

Consequently, if either of these sensors fail, your engine will crank but not start.

Your car (or truck) may not start, due to a ton of different reasons like:

  • A BAD Fuel Pump
  • BAD Ignition Coil
  • A BAD Ignition Control Module
  • BAD Spark Plug Cables, etc.

Consequently, a failing Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor can produce, a confusing range of symptoms and problems.

All depending on, the type of failure, and the type of car (or truck) you have:

  • Transmission locking in a single gear, until you turn it off and restart
  • Car jerking and losing power
  • Loss of engine power, for example, no acceleration above 35 (MPH)
  • Stalling
  • Irregular acceleration
  • Misfiring
  • Hard starting
  • Surging
  • No spark: no start at all
  • No Fuel Injector Pulse

So, there are other things that can make testing, the Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor seem intimidating. One, is the fact that every make and model, uses a different type of Position Sensor. Therefore, it’s not enough to say that your car (or truck) won’t start.

Because, what you need to know are some of the measurable/testable effects/ failure symptoms. And, what effect a BAD Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor has, on the Ignition System.

Crankshaft Position Sensor
Crankshaft Position Sensor

Not only that, but these sensors are called by, so many different names like:

  • Hall Effect Sensor
  • CKP Sensor
  • CMP Sensor
  • Pickup Coil
  • Magnetic Pulse Generator
  • Variable Reluctor

This may make it seem like every single one, is tested in a different way.

They all differ from one another physically, and are called so many names. Well, the good news is that, they can usually be generalized into, two basic categories:

  • 2 Wire type
  • 3 Wire type

I want to emphasize that the key to successfully testing and diagnosing, is having the correct information. So, you need to know if they are either, a two or three wire type !

Two And Three Pin Connector
Two And Three Pin Connector

Now in case you’re wondering what I mean by, two and three wire types. I’m referring to, the amount of wires in their connector. (of course there’s always an exception to every rule).

Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor Troubleshooting

If your car (or truck) (ECU) has already triggered the, (CEL). Then, you may retrieve the (DTC) using a code reader. If you don’t own a code reader, most auto parts stores will retrieve (DTC)s for free.

After confirming a Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor related (DTC)s, it’s worth doing some simple tests. A (DTC) pointing to a potential Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor failure, doesn’t necessarily mean that the sensor is bad. Because, you may be dealing with a wire, connector, or related component failure that you can fix yourself.

However, confirming the good or bad operation of a Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor may require a scope. A failing sensor signal, for example, may be hard to check, without special equipment.

Still, You Can Do Some Simple Checks In Your Garage, Using A Digital Multimeter Tool.

First, check the condition of the sensor electrical connector and wires. Unplug the connector and check for rust or contamination, like oil, that is interfering with good electrical contact. Then check for wire damage, broken wires, loose wires, and signs of burns caused by nearby hot surfaces. And, if you do notice any wire damage, it’s imperative you replace it immediately.

Broken Wire On Sensor Connector
Broken Wire On Sensor Connector

Also, make sure that the sensor wires are not touching, spark plug wires or ignition coils. Because, that can interfere with the sensor’s signal.

After these checks, use a digital multimeter that can test, either alternate current (AC) voltage or direct current (DC) voltage. Depending on your particular type of Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor. You’ll also need the correct electrical values for your particular type of sensor. You may find this information in your, vehicle repair manual.

Back Probe Piercing Tools
Back Probe Piercing Tools

With some sensors, you may back-probe the wires, through the sensor electrical connector. But, if this isn’t possible, see if you can unplug the sensor connector. If so, attach a strand of copper wire, to each terminal on the connector. Then, plug the connector back in, so that the two strands stick out through the connector’s housing.

Another solution, is to pierce through each wire using a pin. But, be careful not to short out the wires during your tests. If you use this last method, use electrical tape to cover the pin holes on the wires. This will help prevent corrosion, from creeping into the wires.

How To Test, A Two-Wire Crankshaft – Camshaft Sensor:

  • If you have a two-wire, magnetic-type sensor, set your multimeter to “AC volts.”
  • Have an assistant turn the ignition key on, without starting the engine.
  • Check for the presence of power flowing through the circuit. Touch one of your probes to ground, and the other probe to each one of the sensor wires. If neither wire has current, there’s a failure in the sensor circuit.
  • Have your helper, crank or start the engine.
  • Touch one of your meter probes to either one of the sensor wires, and the other to the other wire. Check your meter display and compare your reading to your manual specs. In most cases, you’ll see a fluctuating signal between 0.3 volts and 1 volt.
  • If there’s no signal, you have a bad sensor.

How To Test, A Three-Wire Crankshaft – Camshaft Sensor:

  • First, identify the power, ground, and signal wires using your vehicle repair manual. Next, test the sensor circuit by setting your multimeter to “DC volts.”
  • Have your helper turn the ignition key on, but don’t start the engine.
  • Touch the black probe on your meter to ground, and the other probe to the power wire. Compare your reading to the specs in your manual.
  • Have your helper, crank or start the engine.
  • Touch the signal wire with the red probe from your meter, and the ground wire with the black probe. Compare your reading to the specs in your vehicle repair manual. If the voltage signal is lower than the specs, most likely the sensor is bad. If no signal comes out of the sensor, most likely the sensor is bad.
  • Remove the sensor and inspect it for signs of physical damage or contamination.

If you can’t find anything wrong with the Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor or its circuit. It’s possible, you may have an intermittent failure or a failure in a related component. For example, you may have a weakened or overstretched timing belt or timing belt tensioner.

Loose Timing Belt
Loose Timing Belt


So, a loose or worn out timing belt can prevent the Crankshaft – Camshaft Position Sensor from synchronizing. Consequently, causing the sensor, to send the wrong signal.