Air flow meter - hot wire

The purpose of this test is to evaluate the voltage output and response time of the AFM during engine idle, WOT and over-run conditions. 

Connection guidance

Connection for diagnostic work will vary dependent on application.

Technicians should whenever possible gain access to the test circuit without damage to seals and insulation. If this is not possible then make sure appropriate repairs are completed.

General connection advice

PicoScope offers a range of options within the test kits.

Dependent on difficulty of access, choose from:

  1. Breakout leads.
  2. Back-pinning probes.

Testing Sensors and Actuators (to include relevant circuit/connectors):

  • When testing a sensor, it is desirable to gain access at the control unit.
  • When testing an actuator, it is desirable to gain access at the actuator.

How to perform the test

  1. Identify the Air flow meter output signal terminal, at the control unit if access allows, connect to Channel A of your PicoScope.
  2. Start the engine.
  3. Minimise the help page and with the example waveform on your screen PicoScope has already selected suitable scales for you to capture a waveform.
  4. Select GO or press the space bar to see live data.
  5. Carry out a Wide Open Throttle (WOT)  test to capture your waveform. 

Example waveform

Waveform notes

The example waveform shows the initial idle voltage rise rapidly to almost 4.0 volts, then fall to around 2.5 volts. This initial peak and drop is due to the rapid influx of air at the instant the throttle opens. The voltage then climbs to around 4 volts with the throttle fully open.

You can then see a rapid drop in voltage as the throttle closes. This is followed by a gradual reduction as the engine returns to idle.

There are a number of control units that will maintain or even increase air flow in this phase as an anti-stall protocol.

The hash on the waveform is due to fluctuations caused by induction pulses from the engine.

Waveform Library

There are 70 examples of hot wire AFM waveforms in the Waveform Library.

Go to the drop-down menu bar in the lower left corner of the Waveform Library window and select Mass air flow sensor (MAF) hot wire.

Further guidance

Technical Information

The Hot Wire Air Flow Meter has a few major advantages over the earlier Vane type meters in that it has very little restriction to air flow. The mass air flow is measured by the cooling effect of the incoming air on an electrically heated wire suspended in the flow. The Hot Wire sensor will also respond to air density, increased density will increase this cooling effect. Vane type meters cannot do this and require a separate pressure sensor to determine mass.

The Hot wire meter is able to react very quickly to temperature changes in the wire by increasing current to heat up or reducing current to cool down. The system attempts to maintain a constant wire temperature of around 120°C. These current changes are therefore directly proportional to air mass flow.

The current flow changes are converted by the meter into a calibrated voltage signal which is sent to the Engine Control Module (ECM), which in turn changes fuel delivery to maintain efficiency.

The heated wire will suffer from a build-up of oxides on the surface. This is negated by the fact that the ECM will clean the wire after each engine run by increasing current to get the temperature up to around 1000°C.

Generic DTC’s MAF Sensor.

P0100 - MAF Sensor Circuit Insufficient Activity

P0101 - Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor Performance

P0102 - Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor Circuit Low Frequency

P0103 - Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor Circuit High Frequency

P0104 - Mass Air Flow Circuit Intermittent


This help topic is subject to changes without notification. The information within is carefully checked and considered to be correct. This information is an example of our investigations and findings and is not a definitive procedure. Pico Technology accepts no responsibility for inaccuracies. Each vehicle may be different and require unique test settings.

Suitable accessories

  • Premium 6-way breakout lead set


  • Back-pinning Probe Set


  • Flexible Back-pinning Probe


  • Large Dolphin/Gator Clips


  • Premium Test Lead: BNC to 4 mm, 3 m


  • Premium Test Leads: Set of four leads 3 m (TA125 - TA128)


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Guided test: Hot Wire (Petrol)