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Understanding Your Car's Engine Control Unit (ECU)

Jul 13, 2008
These days, you will find new cars with the latest incorporated engine technology. The engine of a car has undergone a massive change, right from the age old carburetor to the Engine Control Unit (ECU). In the 19th century, when the first single-cylinder petrol engine driver car came into force, it was the "Carburetor" that came into existence. Later on, multi cylinder engines were considered as a new thing. Finally, in the early 80's we got a new car system, consisting of controlled - feeding of fuel, air and ignition spark to the ICE cylinders. It was the fuel-injection system that was born, which replaced the century old carburetors. In a multi point fuel injection system, it injects fuel into individual cylinders. The injection of the fuel takes place on the basis of the commands from the "on board engine management system" computer. This computer is known as the engine control unit or the ECU.

The main process based job of an engine control unit (ECU) is to control the various features of an internal combustion engine's operation. Earlier, the ECU that was fitted in most of the cars and had their engine parameters fixed. Also, the carburetor would determine the required quantity of fuel per cylinder/per engine cycle. In other words, the simple version of the ECU'S would control only the quantity of fuel injected into each cylinder, at each engine cycle. The advanced types of engine control unit (ECU), which are fitted on most modern cars, are capable of controlling the ignition timing, variable value timing (VVT) and other peripherals.

The ECU'S (Engine control unit) monitors the engine by using sensors so that it can gather information about the cars quantity of fuel, ignition timing and other such parameters. The ECU works according to the input data that it gets from the various sensors that are located within the engine. The various types of sensors that are fitted all over the engine are MAP sensor, throttle position sensor, air temperature sensor, oxygen sensor and many more. The sensors incorporated within the engine, are basically used to determine the various "operating states of the engine and its performance. These sensors monitor's various aspects such as the ambient air temperature, engine/coolant temperature, exhaust /main fold temp, exhaust O2 content, throttle position, the rpm of the engine, the vehicle road speed and crankshaft position. The ECU (Engine Control Unit) uses the closed -loop control method, where it monitors the output of a system in order to control the inputs to a system. Since, the ECU (Engine Control Unit) gathers data from various different sensors, it knows all about the coolant temperature to the amount of oxygen in the exhaust. On the basis of this available data, the ECU (Engine Control Unit) starts performing huge calculations every second. On the bases of the programmed interpretation of all the available input data, the ECU ( Engine Control Unit) will deliver the required commands to the engine's fuel intake and spark ignition timings system and thus help in bringing out a satisfactory performance of the car's engine.
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