How to Reset the Ambient Temperature Sensor in a Ford

When it comes to an internal combustion engine temperature is a big thing and extremes can be damaging to the system. It is for this reason that sensors such as the ambient temperature sensor were created.

In modern day cars that have onboard computers like the Fords of today have they use a lot of different sensors. These sensors collect information that helps to make the engine work in the most optimum manner possible. When a sensor is wrong however it can cause problems.

What Is an Ambient Temperature Sensor?

The ambient temperature sensor is a small device usually found on the intake manifold, radiator or sometimes near the headlights. It is attached to the engine by a single wire through which it relays temperature information from the surrounding air.

This information is received by the car's computer to let it know based on the outside temperature how much fuel should be injected into the combustion cylinders. It helps to make sure the engine is running at its best based on the outside temperature.

The sensor is essentially a resistor that changes its level of electrical resistance based on the temperature outside. The computer can interpret from the current supplied by the sensor what temperature it is outside.

As an example of how this sensor helps let's say you are driving in the Winter and your car engine will have to work harder because of the cold. Without this sensor the car does not know it will need to burn more fuel.

When this sensor detects that conditions outside are cold then the message to the engine is to burn more fuel so that the engine can deal with the cold conditions and perform at its best.

How to Reset the Ambient Temperature Sensor on a Ford

The weather app on your phone says it’s 98 degrees outside but the temperature on your Ford display reads 79 degrees. There’s something wrong clearly because this is not representative of the known outdoor temp.

There may be an issue with the sensor which with luck may need only a reset to fix. It may also indicate a need to replace the unit but we will get to that later in the article just in case. Now the process can differ based on the Ford model but in this case we will assume we are working with a Ford F150 truck.

Resetting From the Control Panel

This is the simplest way to attempt a reset for the Ford F150. From the Control Panel go to the menu bar and locate the AC and Recirculation buttons. Press and hold them both at the same time for 12 – 16 seconds.

Once released the temperature should have been reset and will hopefully now match the actual outside temperature.

Pressing AC and MAX AC Buttons Together

This is again a simple way to reset the ambient temperature sensor while at the same time recalibrating it. Make sure your truck is in shift to drive mode (D) before doing this.

From your climate control panel press and hold the AC and MAX AC buttons at the same time for 2 – 3 seconds. Release the buttons and after 1 – 2 minutes the sensor will have reset and also hopefully recalibrated to match the correct temperature outside.

A Manual Reset

This method will require you to locate the sensor itself which in a Ford F150 is either near the grill on the bumper side, near the radiator or in the engine bay separate from the engine. Once located, disconnect the battery and leave for 15 minutes to allow any residual electrical charge in the system to dissipate. An electric shock is no fun.

Disconnect the wire leading from the sensor to the engine and unscrew the sensor itself. This is a delicate component so be careful with it. Gently remove any dust or dirt you can see.

Once clean, seek out the reset button on the physical sensor and press it. The final step is to replace the sensor and connect everything back together.

What if the Reset Doesn’t Help?

There is a chance that the reset may not make a difference which can lead to potential issues. If your sensor doesn’t tell the engine that it is hot outside it may decide on its own to work harder. This will make the car burn more fuel and the engine to run at a higher temperature.

Sometimes a reset wont work because the sensor is damaged and actually needs to be replaced rather than reset. In this case you have no other option but to opt for the replacement option. A non-functioning ambient temperature sensor can cause a lot of issues.

How to Replace a Ambient Temperature Sensor

Replacing the ambient temperature sensor is not a difficult task but it does require a gentle touch. Thankfully a replacement sensor will not cost too much and if you are supplying the labor yourself it is a really inexpensive fix.

  • Disconnect the battery allowing 15 minutes before starting further work to allow residual electric charge to dissipate (you may even want to wear shock proof gloves as you are working on the electrical system)
  • Locate where the ambient temperature sensor is located in your specific model of vehicle. It will usually be close to the front of the vehicle where it can more easily sample the outside air temperature
  • Disconnect the wires and screws holding the old sensor in place, you will likely need a screwdriver for this
  • With the old unit removed replace it with the new ambient temperature sensor reconnecting it to the engine and the wires
  • Once all has been reconnected, connect the car battery back up and you are ready to test your new sensor

You may want to watch a video of this type of sensor being replaced to get a better idea of the process. You should also be sure to take a delicate touch with these sensors as they can be broken with relative ease if roughly handled.

Why Is the Ambient Temperature Sensor so Important?

As mentioned the ambient temperature sensor is important for several reasons regarding the efficient running of the vehicle. However it goes beyond this and it can help regulate the environmental control systems in the car as well.

Detecting the outside temperature helps the computer to set the heating and AC systems accordingly. If you were to be driving through a hot desert for example the sensor would know this and send a message to increase AC output.

How Often Should You Reset the Ambient Temperature Sensor?

At least once a week compare the temperature outside to the readings shown on your Ford's control panel display. If the temperature is notably different then it may be time for a reset. Ideally this will bring the reading closer to the true outside temperature.

If the sensor still is wildly inaccurate it may be time to replace it completely.


The ambient temperature sensor does an important job when it comes to your Ford. The readings it gathers help regulate the performance of the engine and avoids overheating issues. It also has an impact on creating a comfortable internal cabin temperature.

This is a delicate piece of equipment which can be easily reset and replaced if needs be. Of course as with all things automotive if you do not feel confident in making repairs there is no shame in seeking assistance.

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