Understanding Your Car’s Computer

Understanding Your Car’s Computer

Nov 7

Cars have come a long way in recent years. Modern advancements in technology have transformed the humble car into a highly advanced and complex piece of machinery. The majority of your car’s functions are controlled by a futuristic computer, often referred to as an Engine Control Unit (ECU). In this article, we’re explaining how your ECU works and what can go wrong.

What Does a Car’s Engine Computer Do?

Just like the computer you have at work or at home, your car’s ECU processes huge amounts of information. Your car’s computer controls almost every function and monitors everything that goes on, sending signals throughout the car and back to itself if something goes wrong.

Simply enough, the ECU is in control of:

  • Regulating the fuel injectors
  • Adapting the idle speed
  • Controlling the spark plugs
  • Monitoring the ignition
  • Notifying the driver of an issue (it uses the engine light to do this)
  • Deliver electrical commands to the camshaft and transmission

The ECU uses a range of sensors to monitor these functions and transfer information, including the air pressure sensor, air temperature sensor, oxygen sensor, and many more. Its main goal is to ensure your car runs at peak performance with minimal emissions.

Advanced Technology that Improves Daily

Engine computers are amazing in so many ways. They are self-learning devices that are able to adjust to the driving conditions and small habits of the driver. They improve constantly as they make small adjustments to different parts of the engine to match your driving style and the environmental conditions.

Some of these amazing functions include altering how it uses the throttle, performing millions of calculations to decide when to use the spark plug, determining how long the fuel injector stays open, improving fuel economy, and generally improving the car’s performance.

Here’s How an ECU Works

Your ECU depends on a large number of microprocessors (up to 50) that allow it to control every little function in your car. Each year, the number of microprocessors increases as technology advances. Typically, car computers contain a 32-bit, 40MHz processor. This is more advanced than the one inside your laptop.

Some other components in your ECU’s multi-level circuit board include:

  • Devices that convert information from analogue to digital, allowing the processor to understand information from the sensors
  • Digital outputs that fire the spark plugs, opens and closes the fuel injectors and controls the cooling fan
  • Chips that streamline communication between the processor and the individual engine systems
Solving Problems with Car Engine Computers

Regardless of how quickly this technology advances and improves, things go wrong sometimes. Just like in a regular computer, electrical shorts, broken parts, bad inputs, overloaded circuits, and many more issues can occur.

An experienced and highly trained mechanic can take care of these issues for you as they occur, and offer regular maintenance to ensure you aren’t heading towards a breakdown. Book a log book service with the team at MV Auto to keep your car’s computer in perfect condition.

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