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on my mass air sensor, ther is a shaft that sticks out, on the other side a small metal cylinder with a spring behind it, it bolts into my sensor housing, and that little gate that opens per throttle input pushes it when open near full swing, what does that do?, can this be adjusted for any kind of power?
 

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It measures the amount (mass) of air entering the engine.

While it may be possible to modify this to make adjustments to it, there is no point to it. The computer uses this sensor to determine how much fuel to add to the air to maintain a 14.7 to 1 air/fuel mixture. Any change to this can cause poor power or economy as the engine is going to be running too rich or too lean.

As a result, unless you're changing the type of fuel you're burning (such as alcohol), there really isn't any point or any potential gain to be made by adjusting this sensor.
 

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Actually the Escort GT has a Volume Air Flow (VAF) meter, not a Mass Air Flow (MAF) meter like most modern cars. As the name implies, a VAF measures the volume of air that enters the engine, whereas a MAF measures the mass of air.

The mass of air is what the ECU really needs to know, as that determines how much fuel needs to be injected into the cylinders to get the right air fuel ratio. If you measure the volume of air, you then have to guess the density of the air (which changes depending on things like the temperature) to determine its mass. It's that guessing that makes a VAF not as accurate.

You can tune the VAF. Not sure if its worth the trouble on a stock 1.8L, but many people replace the stock VAF with one from an RX7 as it has a much bigger opening for more air flow. The RX7 VAF will need to be tuned when used on an Escort. Check out this howto: http://nwerdt.com/how-to/mechanical/rx7vaf swap/rx7vafswap.htm
 
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