The electrical control unit is a catch-all phrase for computer systems that are embedded in cars, with a car having up to 80 electrical control units. Each unit has certain functions. The body control module, for example, is in charge of door locks, courtesy lights, and electric windows. Modern cars also have an automated device called engine control unit or ECU. The system monitors and controls a variety of engine functions of a car including idle speed control, variable valve timing, ignition control timing, and air-fuel ratio control.
The ECU can be modified or upgraded to increase power and torque and for crisper and faster acceleration in turbo diesel engines and petrol engines. Furthermore, the method of modifying or upgrading an engine control unit can vary, from the original chip "swapping" to using a tuning box to remapping. When buyers choose to install car performance chips, doing so can change various settings in order to improve fuel efficiency and thereby save money on petrol.
Engine Control Unit
The engine control unit performs several functions inside a car. Its operation involves controlling the idle speed, variable valve timing, ignition timing, and air-to-fuel ratio.
Idle Speed Control
An engine control unit handles the idle speed of the car, which is a speed when the accelerator is not depressed and the engine is not connected to the powertrain. In an idle speed mode, the car uses enough power for the engine to run smoothly and operates its ancillaries, such as the water pump and alternator.
Idle speed occurs when the car is being warmed up or after the car stops at a red light. An ECU should effectively anticipate the idle speed mode of the engine. The changes in the idle load can come from HVAC systems, power brake systems, power steering systems, and electrical charging and supply systems.
Variable Valve Timing
When standard engines with fixed valve events perform at different loads and speeds, the driveability, the fuel economy, or the emissions can be compromised. An engine with variable valve timing can perform at different loads and speeds without having to compromise the three-mentioned aspects.
The role an engine control unit plays in valve timing concerns controlling the time at which the valves open, making valves open sooner at a higher speed than a lower speed to optimise the flow of air into the cylinder, which increases the power and facilitates fuel economy.
Ignition Control Timing
To initiate combustion in the combustion chamber, an ignition engine requires a spark. An engine control unit allows increase of power and economy in fuel by adjusting the exact timing of the spark. A "knock", which is the condition that potentially damages engines, may be a result of the ignition timing being too early in the compression stroke. An ECU prevents a knock to occur by delaying the timing of the spark. When a knock occurs for the first time, the engine control alleviates the problem by sending a signal for the automatic transmission to downshift.
Air-Petrol Ratio Control
The engine control unit manages the amount of petrol to inject by following some steps. It starts with the mass flow sensor. When the accelerator is pressed further down, the mass flow sensor measures the amount of air sucked into the engine. Then the engine control unit injects a fixed quantity of petrol into the engine based on the amount of air that enters the engine. If, however, the engine coolant temperature sensor shows that the engine has not warmed up yet, additional fuel is injected.
Modifying the Control Engine Unit to Save Petrol
Although the control engine unit helps in the economy of petrol, there is a way to help car owners to save money on petrol. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, an ECU was upgraded with the installation of a car performance chip. However, from 2001 onwards, cars come with on-board diagnostic ports that provide a connection to the control engine unit of a car.
Engine remapping or chipping is a procedure that improves the performance of an engine and at the same time increases the fuel efficiency in diesel-powered cars and in some petrol-powered cars. A remapping or chipping company reprogram the engine control unit of a car to eradicate the limits the manufacturer placed on it. This is done by installing software using a laptop that connects to the diagnostic port in the vehicle. The second option requires no chip installation.
Another option is to add an external device known as a tuning box. The device modifies the engine control unit as long as it is connected to the on-board chip, so when the tuning box is removed, the car returns to standard settings. Adding a tuning box can only be done on modern engines with external management system.
Types of Car Performance Chips or Tuning Boxes
Car performance chips, which are sometimes called superchips, come in different categories. The categories include control modules and power programmers.
Control modules are placed in between the various sensors and the computer under the hood of the car. The data from the various sensors are intercepted by the control module before it even reaches the computer. The control module assesses the data and makes smart adjustments to the air-to-fuel ratio, ignition timing, and other functions before sending the data to the computer. Control modules can be custom-programmed to reach the full potential of a car's output and efficiency while considering the engine size, transmission types, and other parts of the car.
Instead of being a fixed instalment in the car, a power programmer is a plug-and-play device, which means it can be connected before driving. Connect it to the OBD-II Port located under the dashboard of the car. After installation, users need to type answers to questions about some specifications of the computer and power level preferred before it can be used.
Power programmers also maximises the efficiency of the car, and what sets it apart from other car performance chip is the function that allows car owners to update the system anytime there are modifications made on the car. The changes car owners make to their cars, like a change of tyres, can greatly affect the power and fuel economy of the engine. What a power programmer does is recalculate the changes and find a way for the engine to perform at its fullest capacity while saving petrol.
Other Tips to Save Petrol
Aside from car performance chips, there are other ways to save money on petrol. Car owners can look for petrol promotions online. Car owners would want to sign up on websites that offer petrol promotions. One time-worn tip is to carpool with friends. This way, people in the carpool only need to chip in for petrol and not have to pay individually for the petrol used in the entire travel duration. Another way to save money on petrol is knowing the health of the car. A diagnostic device can tell a car owner what needs to be replaced in order to increase car efficiency, making it easier to economise on fuel.
The engine control unit controls the engine functions of a car. The system manages the idle speed control, variable valve timing, ignition control timing, and air-to-fuel ratio. But despite the effectiveness of the ECU in making the car run smoothly and efficiently, there is still another way to increase its power and fuel economy. This comes in a car performance chip that modifies the engine control unit so the engine can make smarter decisions in valve timing, ignition control timing, and air-to-fuel ratio control to allow the car to perform at its maximum potential while saving petrol usage at the same time.
A conventional car performance chip is installed in the circuit board of the engine, but the latest engine modification procedures need only a computer to plug into the diagnostic part to install modification software. A conventional car performance chip puts a certain strain to the engine though it does not damage the engine in any way. Car owners who want to boost the power of their car, save money on petrol, and ultimately, get the car to perform at its peak need a car performance chip, a tuning box, or an expert to remap the car through software installation.