If you have a P1101 Chevy Cruze code, it means your mass air flow sensor (AKA MAF sensor) is out of test range.
So what the hell does that actually mean?
In simple terms, it means the system that draws in fresh air into your Chevy Cruze’s engine has a problem.
You may already know this, but the Chevy Cruze is known for having a terrible PCV check valve system that is almost guaranteed to give you problems.
If you didn’t know this, I’m sorry to drop some bad news on you!
But don’t start losing sleep over your Cruze’s ticking-time-bomb PCV system! If (when) your system does start acting up, the problems generally aren’t severe and you can probably fix them yourself. Hopefully this article will help you find and fix the reason for your P1101 Chevy Cruze OBD Code.
You’ll first learn about the most common reasons for any car to have a P1101 code. One of these reasons may be why your Cruze is throwing a P1101 code.
We’ll then dive into some of the P1101 reasons specific to the Chevy Cruze.
There are many possible reasons why you are getting a P1101 code. At the core of most of them is your MAF sensor.
What is a MAF sensor?
Let’s begin with a quick overview of what a MAF sensor is.
Most of you know how an engine works, but if you don’t… check out this great overview by Car and Driver Magazine.
An engine needs air in order to create combustion in the cylinders. Your air intake system does just what it sounds like – it takes in the air your engine needs to operate.
What your mass air flow sensor does is monitor the flow of air going into your engine.
When it detects too much air or too little air, your mass airflow sensor sends an alert to your Cruze’s computer, which then alerts you of the problem via the check engine light.
There are several possible causes for a P1101 Chevy Cruze OBD code, so you’re going to have to do a little bit of detective work to find the right one.
Go through this list one-by-one. If one solution doesn’t work, move on to the next.
NOTE: Be sure to give your Cruze some time to reset the check engine light after you try a fix. It should reset on its own after about 20 minutes of driving. You can also reset it if you have your own OBD tool.
Dirty Air Filter
If you haven’t replaced or cleaned your Chevy Cruze’s air filter in a long time, it could be causing the P1101 code.
Your air filter catches debris and prevents it from getting sucked into your engine. Over time, the air filter gets clogged up and restricts the flow of air into your engine.
When this happens, your engine becomes air starved, so it can’t deliver the precise amount of air to the cylinders for combustion.
Dirty Throttle Body
It’s common for a throttle body to get all gunked up and dirty.
For those of you not familiar with what a throttle body does, learn all about it in this article from Haynes.
A dirty throttle body is especially likely to happen if your air filter is dirty. A dirty air filter could be allowing crap to pass through the air intake system. Said crap gets into your throttle body and gunks up the butterfly valve, restricting its movement.
Because your throttle body is struggling to work properly, the airflow into your engine can be restricted. This can cause the P1101 OBD code.
To fix this problem, all you need is a bottle of throttle body cleaner and a little mechanical courage to access your throttle body. Here’s a great short video that shows you how to do it.
Just a couple things to note about this video. It is helpful because it shows you where the throttle body is on a Chevy Cruze. HOWEVER… the mechanic does a couple of things incorrectly.
First, at 5:13, he uses brake cleaner to clean the throttle body. Don’t use brake cleaner to clean your throttle body! You should use a throttle body cleaner. (Duh!) Here’s an example of a throttle body cleaner.
And second, at 8:07 the clip on the charge air coupler (tube that connects to the throttle body) disappears and he doesn’t properly re-attach it.
Your air intake system sucks. LIterally.
So if there’s a leak anywhere in the system, it’s going to impact air flow. And when there’s a problem with air flow, you know what can happen – a P1101 Chevy Cruze OBD code.
So how do you find a vacuum leak?
Start by looking for it. Maybe there’s a crack or a hole in a hose that you can see. If you can’t see anything, use your ears.
You can often hear a vacuum leak. It will make a hissing noise at the source of the leak. So open your hood while the car is running and take a listen. This isn’t always easy to do because your engine makes a lot of noise and it could be hard (or impossible) to hear the leak.
Some people find vacuum leaks by spraying carburetor cleaner in the suspected areas. When the carburetor cleaner gets sucked in by the leak, there will be a change in the car’s idle. I don’t recommend doing this because there’s a chance the carburetor cleaner can start a fire on your engine. And an engine fire is not fun.
A great way to find a leak is to use a smoke machine. What you do is pump smoke into your car’s engine while it’s not running. If you have a leak, you’ll see smoke coming out of it.
Smoke machines built for engine diagnostics can be expensive. If you’re looking for a hack, you can try using a cigar. Love him or hate him, here’s a video by the legendary Scotty Kilmer that shows how to do the cigar hack:
Dirty Mass Air Flow Sensor
Another reason why you might be getting a P1101 code is a dirty mass air flow sensor.
Just like with a gummed up throttle body, contaminants that come through a dirty air filter can get on your mass air flow sensor and make it malfunction.
Cleaning your mass air flow sensor is easy. Just be sure to use a mass air flow sensor cleaner. Yes, mass air flow sensor cleaner is an actual thing and it’s what you should use. Your mass air flow sensor is very delicate and this cleaner will not damage the sensors on it.
Some people might tell you it’s OK to use a carburetor cleaner or throttle body cleaner to clean your mass air flow sensor.
Don’t listen to them!
These other cleaners can leave residue behind that could damage your mass air flow sensor. Use the proper cleaner for the job!
Bad Mass Air Flow Sensor
If all else fails, you just might have a bad mass air flow sensor.
Before buying a replacement part, be sure to inspect your mass air flow sensor’s connections. Make sure it is connected and that the wires going to it are not damaged. If everything looks good, it might be time to replace the sensor.
Replacing this part is very easy to do on a Chevy Cruze. Here’s quick video that shows how to do it:
P1101 Chevy Cruze specific problems
There are some specific reasons for the P1101 code that are very common for Chevy Cruzes.
I mentioned earlier that the Chevy Cruze has a shitty PCV check valve system that is likely to give you problems at some point. Issues with the system can throw the P1101 code you are receiving.
One of the members on the Chevy Cruze forum cruzetalk.com made a super in-depth post about the Cruze’s troubled PCV system. If you are having trouble with your PCV system, this post is an absolute MUST READ.
Here are some other common reasons for the P1101 code that are specific to a Chevy Cruze…
Clogged PCV Orifice
A clogged PCV orifice is so common on a Chevy Cruze that General Motors issued a service bulletin – number 20-NA-047.
The P1101 code is thrown because your Cruze’s computer detects higher than normal pressure in the engine’s crankcase. This can be happening because there is a blockage in your Cruze’s air intake system or a blockage in the PCV orifice.
Warped air cleaner mounting bracket
On some 2016-2018 Chevy Cruzes, a problem can develop with the air cleaner mounting bracket.
If the piece that holds the air cleaner is not properly mounted to the element bracket, the plastic can warp and will cause a little gap around the air cleaner seal that allows air to escape and not flow through the filter.
Check out this service bulletin from General Motors for more information and how to fix this problem
If your Chevy Cruze is throwing a P1101 OBD code, It means your Cruze has a problem with its air intake system. The solution is usually pretty easy. Things like cleaning your throttle body, replacing your air filter, or repairing a vacuum leak will clear the code and get you back on the road.
Header image source: Jamie R Rytlewski