Engines are complex machines are controlled by a computer called the ECU or Engine Control Unit. This little baby is the brains of the car. But even the ECU is deaf and torque sensor unless it has the proper input. Sensors provide the input to the ECU.
This article is about these sensors. The ECU is further subdivided into different functions but for this article suffice to say that it makes the decisions based on sensor input.
There’s a plethora of sensor suites in a car that track a host of functions. A car’s ECU controls “ignition timing, fuel delivery, emission controls, transmission shifting, cruise control, engine torque reduction (if the vehicle has antilock brakes with traction control) and charging output of the alternator.”
To be more specific, here are some of the more important sensors for the ECU:
Coolant Sensor. The ECU monitors the temperature of the coolant so it can determine it can switch its mode into a “closed loop feedback fuel control” after startup. After startup, the engine is usually cold and designers left the engine in open loop mode until it the ECU determines it reaches the right operating temperature to switch to closed loop.
During open loop, the engine is not being very efficient and gas is wasted because the mix is too rich uncontrolled. Damaged coolant sensors will also cause this.
Oxygen (O2) Sensor. O2 Sensors are usually located near the exhaust manifold of most cars. There can be about 1 to as much as 4 O2 sensors in cars. The role of the O2 sensor is to measure the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust. They do this by comparing the temperature inside the exhaust pipe to that of the outside atmosphere. This sends a signal to the ECU to adjust the air-fuel mix and timing accordingly.
Damaged O2 sensors will also cause the ECU to deliver an air-fuel mix that is too rich for the engine.
Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) Sensor. MAP sensors are located near the intake manifold to measure engine load or the intake vacuum.
When vacuum occurs, the engine is usually on idle and the ECU will shift the timing and fuel ratio accordingly. When the car is running, the engine is taking in more air, which signals the ECU to enrich the mixture for more power. Vacuum is still present but is variable when the engine is in operation.
Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor. The MAF sensor detects the volume of air entering the engine. It’s vital element is usually a heated filament that is put against incoming air in the tube to measure airflow and density. Changes in temperature sends a signal to the ECU to respond to the needs of the engine accordingly.
Throttle Position Sensor (TPS). The TPS monitors the throttle position which accordingly measures the engine’s load, acceleration, deceleration, idle or wide open. The ECU utilizes this data to determine the air-fuel ratio adjustments.
Crankshaft Position Sensor (CPS). The CPs is used to determine the position of the crankshaft and number 1 cylinder. This specifically is used to control the timing of ignition and the injection of fuel. This can also measure the RPM (revolutions per minute).
Failure of the CPS will render the car inoperable.
The Effect of 3Rd Party Mods
Manufacturers usually would warn against 3rd party modifications to the engine or electronics. Despite this a large industry has sprung up to take advantage of some shortcomings of standard production vehicles.
One area of 3rd party modification involves improving the air-fuel mixture with other substances. More specifically hydrogen.
Hydrogen is a gaseous substance that is combustible. The benefits of the introduction of hydrogen to internal combustion is that:
-Engines become more quieter, knocking and pinging is reduced -Emissions give off a cleaner burn -Hydrogen when burned turns to water vapor out the tailpipe -Hydrogen raises the octane level of gasoline, encouraging combustion at the piston’s top dead center -Less fuel is used when mixed with hydrogen, giving better fuel economy. -The engine is cooled which promotes better performance
Things to consider:
Introduction of hydrogen to a regular internal combustion engine will in time influence the ECU to enrich the mixture further. This is due to the O2 sensor detecting more oxygen in the exhaust.
The ECU is programmed from the factory to maintain a “stochiometric” or air-fuel mixture of about 14.7 parts oxygen to 1 part fuel. Even if the engine is performing better at a leaner mixture, it is only capable of following its programming.
The ECU will then pump more fuel into the mixture to meet the 14.7:1 ratio, ruining performance.
There is still hope!
Fortunately, the problem with the ECU can be addressed. The introduction of a controller to the ECU’s sensors can nudge the ECU to accept a leaner fuel mix with no need for expensive modifications:
These are by far the most easily modifiable with the least cost between $20 to over $100 USD.
Are these safe?
Hydrogen systems have been tried and tested by dozens of alternate fuel enthusiasts for years and they attest to the safety of both systems.
Several hydrogen generation systems have already been developed to deliver hydrogen-as-needed-only. When the engine is off, the danger of hydrogen sparks is nil because the process to create hydrogen is by electricity in a water medium. No electricity, no hydrogen.
As an alternate fuel enhancement, hydrogen technology has matured and delivers the best value in terms of return on investment over other more expensive enhancement systems.
For more detailed information on increasing engine performance, fuel efficiency without the need for a mechanic or a degree in engineering, please visit the URL below.