Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: How Does Your ECU Use Sensor Data?

asked by on

How does your ECU use sensor data?

A: Today’s modern vehicles are made up of anyw...

Today’s modern vehicles are made up of anywhere from one to seven computers that assist with the car’s day to day functions. An engine control unit (ECU), is a computer that similar to that of a laptop or smartphone in terms of responsibility. The ECU has the important job of processing all of the data that is sent by the sensors throughout the vehicle. It “uses” the sensor data that is being sent to help read the messages revealed by the vehicle on its current status. Different sensors perform different operations, therefore the software in the ECU has to be able to process all of the different information from the variety of sensors and not only determine what each sensor is doing but also respond accordingly.

One such sensor that the ECU helps to monitor is the Mass Air Flow sensor. While the engine is running, the ECU uses this sensor to read how much air is entering the engine. At the same time the ECU is also reading the position of the gas pedal through the throttle position sensor. While this is going on, the oxygen sensor takes readings from the exhaust gases to determine how much fuel to add with the fuel injectors into the combustion chamber. The ECU uses the camshaft and crankshaft position sensors to determine where the pistons and valves in the engine are at any given time.

The ECU uses all of this information to start and keep the engine running. Quite a task for these computers to handle. It is important to keep up with routine maintenance to ensure that all of the ECUs and the sensors continue to work in harmony together and keep the vehicle running efficiently and safely.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Loss of power my tool says map sencors is bad burning rich

Hello and thank you for contacting YourMechanic. If the engine light is on for code P0105, then the computer has lost communication from the MAP (Manifold Absolute Pressure) sensor. Check the harness to the sensor for any corrosion and look...

Q: How long for mass airflow sensor to recalibrate with new cold air intake?

Hi, thanks for writing in. The stock mass airflow sensor is designed for stock tuning (air and fuel flow) and will not automatically re-calibrate for additional air flow. Upgraded intakes can lose power with newer cars because most use MAF-based...

Q: Engine runs erratically and dies

Typically the "hot cam" engine lope is caused by restrictions in fuel flow at idle. Along with changing and inspecting the sensors and items you described above, most mechanics will clean the throttle body and fuel injectors as this is...

Related articles

P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...
How Much Does a Mechanic Make in Vermont?
Automotive technician jobs in Vermont have an average mechanic salary of $37k, with some mechanics earning a salary of $53k.