The mass air flow sensor (MAF) is used to measure the amount and temperature of air that is entering the engine at any one time. The mass air flow sensor senses the total amount of air passing the sensor and allows the fuel injection system to adjust the fuel mixture to compensate for cold weather and/or high altitude conditions. The MAF also incorporates an internal intake air temperature sensor which measures the temperature of the intake air.
The first indicator that you might have a problem with the MAF is the presence of a check engine light (CEL) on your dashboard. The check engine lamp can be caused by a wide variety of problems with the engine: you need to read the codes from the computer to get a starting clue as to what the problem is. However, the engine will not be operating at peak efficiency, and you will most likely experience a loss in power and a decrease in gas mileage as a result. It's best to get the problem taken care of relatively quickly, as running the engine in this condition can potentially cause damage to other components like the catalytic converters.
Vacuum leaks and other air leaks in the system can cause MAF sensor errors. If you have a crack or leak in your air intake downstream of the sensor, then the MAF will be sensing less air than the engine is actually receiving. You should carefully inspect all of your hoses, clamps and intake tubes for air leaks prior to replacing the sensor.
The new MAF comes complete in the air body housing so you will have to remove the complete housing to replace it.
The MAF sensor is located on the right side of the engine compartment (red arrow).
You want to get a good seal when installing the housing and there is a rubber gasket in the air filter housing (red arrow). Before installing the sensor make sure that the gasket is seated properly to avoid any air leaks. Installation is the reverse of removal.