A few decades ago, the concept of an onboard computer would be completely alien to a car mechanic. Yet today, every new vehicle must contain an engine control unit (ECU), which is essentially the central computer that helps regulate not just performance but also compliance. As such, this component is extremely important today and although typically reliable, will occasionally play up. How do you know if your ECU is in need of some attention?
The ECU looks just like a miniature computer, and if you were to open it up, you would see the microprocessor and the motherboard. This kind of processing power is essential when trying to restrict emissions, and the ECU gathers information from various sensors positioned throughout the vehicle. Given this information, the computer is then able to control other parts of the system such as coolant temperature, fuel delivery, etc. It can perform all of this work in a fraction of a second to ensure that your vehicle is as reliable, safe and clean as possible.
As the unit controls so much of the vehicle's capability, you should immediately focus on this part if your car is suffering from strange symptoms. You may have ruled out other more straightforward problems and still can't get to the bottom of a fault, and, in this case, the ECU may be to blame.
Sometimes, the ECU will trigger those "check engine lights" repeatedly. You may see the dashboard light and try to diagnose the problem but to no avail. So, if the light remains on, the ECU may need to be checked.
You may also come across more subtle issues. As an example, your fuel economy may plummet, or you may notice that the automatic transmission is not as smooth as it should be. If you have maintained the transmission as carefully as you should, then the ECU may be faltering.
Take the vehicle to a mechanic as they will have the electronic tools available to diagnose any problems. If the ECU is suspect, they may need to change it, although it can be repaired and reprogrammed in certain circumstances too.
Remember, your ECU is basically a computer and, just like your laptop, can be subject to overheating and other issues. However, your vehicle will certainly not perform as it should if anything is untoward, so book your car in for a service as soon as possible.
For more information on auto electrics, contact a mechanic in your area.