Automobile Electrical and Electronic Systems

Automobile Electrical and Electronic Systems
Automobile Electrical and Electronic Systems
Third edition
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Automobile Electrical and Electronic
Third edition
Tom Denton BA, AMSAE, MITRE, Cert.Ed.
Associate Lecturer, Open University
Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann
Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP
200 Wheeler Road, Burlington, MA 01803
First published in Great Britain in 1995 by
Arnold, a member of Hodder Headline plc.
Second edition, 2000
Third edition, 2004
Copyright © 1995, 2000, 2004, Tom Denton. All rights reserved
The right of Tom Denton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form (including photocopying
or storing in any medium by electronic means and whether or not transiently or incidentally
to some other use of this publication) without the written permission of the copyright holder
except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
or under the terms of a licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham
Court Road, London, England W1T 4LP. Applications for the copyright holder’s written
permission to reproduce any part of this publication should be addressed to the publisher.
Permissions may be sought directly from Elsevier’s Science and Technology Rights Department
in Oxford, UK: phone: (44) (0) 1865 843830; fax: (44) (0) 1865 853333;
e-mail: [email protected] You may also complete your request on-line via the
Elsevier Science homepage (, by selecting ‘Customer Support’ and
then ‘Obtaining Permissions’.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 0 7506 62190
For information on all Butterworth-Heinemann publications
visit our website at:
Composition by Charon Tec Pvt. Ltd
Printed and bound in Great Britain
Introduction to the third edition
Development of the automobile electrical system
A short history
Where next?
Electrical and electronic principles
Safe working practices
Basic electrical principles
Electronic components and circuits
Digital electronics
Microprocessor systems
Sensors and actuators
New developments
Diagnostics – electronics, sensors and actuators
New developments in electronic systems
Tools and test equipment
Basic equipment
Specialist equipment
Dedicated equipment
On-board diagnostics
Case studies
Diagnostic procedures
New developments in test equipment
Electrical systems and circuits
The systems approach
Electrical wiring, terminals and switching
Multiplexed wiring systems
Circuit diagrams and symbols
Case study
Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)
New developments in systems and circuits
Vehicle batteries
Lead-acid batteries
Maintenance and charging
Diagnosing lead-acid battery faults
Advanced battery technology
Developments in electrical storage
New developments in batteries
Charging systems
Requirements of the charging system
Charging system principles
Alternators and charging circuits
Case studies
Diagnosing charging system faults
Advanced charging system technology
New developments in charging systems
Starting systems
Requirements of the starting system
Starter motors and circuits
Types of starter motor
Case studies
Diagnosing starting system faults
Advanced starting system technology
New developments in starting systems
Ignition systems
Ignition fundamentals
Electronic ignition
Programmed ignition
Distributorless ignition
Direct ignition
Case studies
Diagnosing ignition system faults
Advanced ignition technology
New developments in ignition systems
Electronic fuel control
Engine fuelling and exhaust emissions
Electronic control of carburation
Fuel injection
Diesel fuel injection
Case studies
Diagnosing fuel control system faults
Advanced fuel control technology
New developments
Engine management
Combined ignition and fuel management
Exhaust emission control
Control of diesel emissions
Complete vehicle control systems
Case study – Mitsubishi GDI
Contents vii
Case study – Bosch
Diagnosing engine management system faults
Advanced engine management technology
New developments in engine management
Lighting fundamentals
Lighting circuits
Gas discharge and LED lighting
Case studies
Diagnosing lighting system faults
Advanced lighting technology
New developments in lighting systems
Windscreen washers and wipers
Signalling circuits
Other auxiliary systems
Case studies
Diagnosing auxiliary system faults
Advanced auxiliary systems technology
New developments in auxiliary systems
Gauges and sensors
Driver information
Visual displays
Case studies
Diagnosing instrumentation system faults
Advanced instrumentation technology
New developments in instrumentation systems
Air conditioning
Conventional heating and ventilation
Air conditioning
Other heating systems
Case studies
Diagnosing air conditioning system faults
Advanced temperature control technology
New developments in temperature control systems
Chassis electrical systems
Anti-lock brakes
Active suspension
Traction control
Automatic transmission
Other chassis electrical systems
Case studies
Diagnosing chassis electrical system faults
Advanced chassis systems technology
New developments in chassis electrical systems
viii Contents
Comfort and safety
Seats, mirrors and sun-roofs
Central locking and electric windows
Cruise control
In-car multimedia
Airbags and belt tensioners
Other safety and comfort systems
Case studies
Diagnosing comfort and safety system faults
Advanced comfort and safety systems technology
New developments in comfort and safety systems
Electric vehicles
Electric traction
Hybrid vehicles
Case studies
Advanced electric vehicle technology
New developments in electric vehicles
World Wide Web
Automotive technology – electronics
In the beginning, say 115 years ago, a book on vehicle
electrics would have been very small. A book on
vehicle electronics would have been even smaller!
As we continue our drive into the new millennium,
the subject of vehicle electrics is becoming ever
larger. Despite the book likewise growing larger, some
aspects of this topic have inevitably had to be glossed
over, or left out. However, the book still covers all of
the key subjects and students, as well as general readers, will find plenty to read in the new edition.
This third edition has once again been updated
and extended by the inclusion of more case studies
and technology sections in each chapter. Multiple
choice questions have also been added to most chapters. Subject coverage soon gets into a good depth;
however, the really technical bits are kept in a separate section of each chapter so you can miss them
out if you are new to the subject.
I have concentrated, where possible, on underlying
electrical and electronic principles. This is because
new systems are under development all the time.
Current and older systems are included to aid the
reader with an understanding of basic principles.
To set the whole automobile electrical subject in
context, the first chapter covers some of the significant historical developments and dares yet again to
speculate on the future …
What will be the next major step in automobile
electronic systems? I predicted that the ‘auto-PC’
and ‘telematics’ would be key factors last time, and
this is still the case. However, as 42 V systems come
on line, there will be more electrical control of
systems that until recently were mechanically or
hydraulically operated – steer-by-wire, for example. Read on to learn more …
Also, don’t forget to visit where comments, questions and
contributions are always welcome. You will also
find lots of useful information, updates and news
about new books, as well as automotive software
and web links.
Tom Denton, 2004
Introduction to the third edition
The book has grown again! But then it was always
going to, because automobile electrical and electronic systems have grown. I have included just a
bit more coverage of basic electrical technology in
response to helpful comments received. This can be
used as a way of learning the basics of electrical and
electronic theory if you are new to the subject, or as
an even more comprehensive reference source for
the more advanced user. The biggest change is that
even more case studies are included, some very new
and others tried and tested – but they all illustrate
important aspects.
There has been a significant rationalization of
motor vehicle qualifications since the second edition.
However, with the move towards Technical Certificates, this book has become more appropriate
because of the higher technical content. AE&ES3 is
ideal for all MV qualifications, in particular:
All maintenance and repair routes through the
motor vehicle NVQ and Technical Certificates.
BTEC/Edexcel National and Higher National
International MV qualifications such as C&G
Supplementary reading for MV degree level
The needs of these qualifications are met because
the book covers theoretical and practical aspects.
Basics sections are included for ‘new users’ and
advanced sections are separated out for more
advanced users, mainly so the ‘new users’ are not
scared off! Practice questions (written and multiple
choice) are now included that are similar to those
used by awarding bodies.
Keep letting me know when you find the odd
mistake or typo, but also let me know about new and
interesting technology as well as good web sites.
I will continue to do the same on my site so keep
dropping by.
Tom Denton, 2004
I am very grateful to the following companies who
have supplied information and/or permission to
reproduce photographs and/or diagrams, figure
numbers are as listed:
AA Photo Library 1.8; AC Delco Inc. 7.26; Alpine
Audio Systems Ltd. 13.27; Autodata Ltd. 10.1
(table); Autologic Data Systems Ltd.; BMW UK
Ltd. 10.6; C&K Components Inc. 4.17; Citroën UK
Ltd. 4.29, 4.31, 7.31; Clarion Car Audio Ltd. 16.21,
16.24; Delphi Automotive Systems Inc. 8.5;
Eberspaecher GmbH. 10.13; Fluke Instruments UK
Ltd. 3.5; Ford Motor Company Ltd. 1.2, 7.28, 11.4a,
12.18, 16.37; General Motors 11.24, 11.25, 15.20,
17.7; GenRad Ltd. 3.11, 3.18, 3.19; Hella UK Ltd.
11.19, 11.22; Honda Cars UK Ltd. 10.5, 15.19;
Hyundai UK Ltd. 11.4d; Jaguar Cars Ltd. 1.11,
11.4b, 13.24, 16.47; Kavlico Corp. 2.79; Lucas Ltd.
3.14, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 6.5, 6.6, 6.23, 6.34, 7.7, 7.10,
7.18, 7.21, 7.22, 8.7, 8.12, 8.37, 9.17, 9.24, 9.25,
9.26, 9.32, 9.33, 9.34, 9.46, 9.47, 9.48, 9.49, 9.51,
10.43; LucasVarity Ltd. 2.67, 2.81, 2.82, 2.83, 9.38,
9.60, 9.61; Mazda Cars UK Ltd. 9.57, 9.58, 9.59;
Mercedes Cars UK Ltd. 5.12, 5.13, 11.4c, 16.14;
Mitsubishi Cars UK Ltd. 10.21 to 10.38; NGK Plugs
UK Ltd. 8.28, 8.30, 8.31, 8.32, 8.38, 9.41; Nissan
Cars UK Ltd. 17.8; Peugeot UK Ltd. 16.28; Philips
UK Ltd. 11.3; Pioneer Radio Ltd. 16.17, 16.18,
16.19; Porsche Cars UK Ltd. 15.12, 15.23; Robert
Bosch GmbH. 2.72, 4.30, 5.2, 6.24, 7.19, 7.24, 7.25,
8.1, 8.9, 9.28, 10.10, 10.42, 10.53, 10.55a, 11.21;
Robert Bosch Press Photos 1.1, 2.57, 2.58, 2.63,
2.69, 3.16, 4.21, 4.24, 4.25, 4.26, 6.35, 8.26, 9.18,
9.19, 9.27, 9.29, 9.30, 9.31, 9.35, 9.42, 9.43, 9.44,
9.45, 9.52, 9.53, 9.54, 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.14, 10.15,
10.18, 10.19, 10.20, 10.59, 10.61, 11.7, 12.15, 12.19,
15.3, 15.8, 16.16, 16.33, 16.36, 16.52; Robert Bosch
UK Ltd. 3.7, 6.28, 7.30, 8.34, 8.39; Rover Cars Ltd.
4.10, 4.11, 4.28, 8.19, 8.20, 10.3, 11.20, 12.17,
13.11, 14.9, 14.12, 14.13, 14.14, 14.15, 14.16, 14.17,
15.21, 16.2, 16.46; Saab Cars UK Ltd. 18.18, 13.15;
Scandmec Ltd. 14.10; Snap-on Tools Inc. 3.1, 3.8;
Sofanou (France) 4.8; Sun Electric UK Ltd. 3.9;
Thrust SSC Land Speed Team 1.9; Toyota Cars UK
Ltd. 7.29, 8.35, 8.36, 9.55; Tracker UK Ltd. 16.51;
Unipart Group Ltd. 11.1; Valeo UK Ltd. 6.1, 7.23,
11.23, 12.2, 12.5, 12.13, 12.20, 14.4, 14.8, 14.19,
15.35, 15.36; VDO Instruments 13.16; Volvo Cars
Ltd. 4.22, 10.4, 16.42, 16.43, 16.44, 16.45; ZF
Servomatic Ltd. 15.22.
Many if not all the companies here have good
web pages. You will find a link to them from my
site. Thanks again to the listed companies. If I have
used any information or mentioned a company
name that is not noted here, please accept my
apologies and acknowledgements.
Last but by no means least, thank you once again
to my family: Vanda, Malcolm and Beth.
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Development of the automobile
electrical system
1.1 A short history
1.1.1 Where did it all begin?
The story of electric power can be traced back to
around 600 BC, when the Greek philosopher
Thales of Miletus found that amber rubbed with a
piece of fur would attract lightweight objects such
as feathers. This was due to static electricity. It is
thought that, around the same time, a shepherd in
what is now Turkey discovered magnetism in lodestones, when he found pieces of them sticking to
the iron end of his crook.
William Gilbert, in the sixteenth century, proved
that many other substances are ‘electric’ and that they
have two electrical effects. When rubbed with fur,
amber acquires ‘resinous electricity’; glass, however,
when rubbed with silk, acquires ‘vitreous electricity’.
Electricity repels the same kind and attracts the
opposite kind of electricity. Scientists thought that the
friction actually created the electricity (their word
for charge). They did not realize that an equal amount
of opposite electricity remained on the fur or silk.
A German, Otto Von Guerick, invented the first
electrical device in 1672. He charged a ball of sulphur with static electricity by holding his hand
against it as it rotated on an axle. His experiment
was, in fact, well ahead of the theory developed in
the 1740s by William Watson, an English physician,
and the American statesman Benjamin Franklin, that
electricity is in all matter and that it can be transferred by rubbing. Franklin, in order to prove that
lightning was a form of electricity, flew a kite during
a thunder-storm and produced sparks from a key
attached to the string! Some good did come from this
dangerous experiment though, as Franklin invented
the lightning conductor.
Alessandro Volta, an Italian aristocrat, invented
the first battery. He found that by placing a series of
glass jars containing salt water, and zinc and copper
electrodes connected in the correct order, he could
get an electric shock by touching the wires. This
was the first wet battery and is indeed the forerunner
of the accumulator, which was developed by the
French physicist Gaston Planche in 1859. This was a
lead-acid battery in which the chemical reaction that
produces electricity could be reversed by feeding
current back in the opposite direction. No battery or
storage cell can supply more than a small amount of
power and inventors soon realized that they needed
a continuous source of current. Michael Faraday,
a Surrey blacksmith’s son and an assistant to Sir
Humphrey Davy, devised the first electrical generator. In 1831 Faraday made a machine in which a
copper disc rotated between the poles of a large
magnet. Copper strips provided contacts with the
rim of the disc and the axle on which it turned; current flowed when the strips were connected.
William Sturgeon of Warrington, Lancashire,
made the first working electric motor in the 1820s.
He also made the first working electromagnets and
used battery-powered electromagnets in a generator
in place of permanent magnets. Several inventors
around 1866, including two English electricians –
Cromwell Varley and Henry Wilde – produced permanent magnets. Anyos Jedlik, a Hungarian physicist, and the American pioneer electrician, Moses
Farmer, also worked in this field. The first really
successful generator was the work of a German,
Ernst Werner Von Siemens. He produced his generator, which he called a dynamo, in 1867. Today, the
term dynamo is applied only to a generator that
provides direct current. Generators, which produce
alternating current, are called alternators.
The development of motors that could operate
from alternating current was the work of an
American engineer, Elihu Thomson. Thomson also
invented the transformer, which changes the voltage
of an electric supply. He demonstrated his invention
in 1879 and, 5 years later, three Hungarians, Otto
Blathy, Max Deri and Karl Zipernowksy, produced
the first commercially practical transformers.
It is not possible to be exact about who conceived particular electrical items in relation to the
motor car. Innovations in all areas were thick and
fast in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
In the 1860s, Ettiene Lenoir developed the first
practical gas engine. This engine used a form of
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
1 Claw-pole alternator
2 DC/Dc-Converter 14V/42V
3 Signal and output distributor
–Decentral fusing
4 Energy management
–Coordination of
power consumers
and drive train
5 Dual-battery electrical
–Reliable starting
Components 14V
Components 42V
Figure 1.1 Future electronic systems (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 1.2 Henry Ford’s first car, the Quadricycle
electric ignition employing a coil developed by
Ruhmkorff in 1851. In 1866, Karl Benz used a type
of magneto that was belt driven. He found this to be
unsuitable though, owing to the varying speed of
his engine. He solved the problem by using two primary cells to provide an ignition current.
In 1889, Georges Bouton invented contact breakers for a coil ignition system, thus giving positively
tuned ignition for the first time. It is arguable that this
is the ancestor of the present day ignition system.
Emile Mors used electric ignition on a low-tension
circuit supplied by accumulators that were recharged
from a belt-driven dynamo. This was the first successful charging system and can be dated to around 1895.
The now formidable Bosch empire was started
in a very small way by Robert Bosch. His most
important area of early development was in conjunction with his foreman, Fredrich Simms, when
they produced the low-tension magneto at the end
of the nineteenth century. Bosch introduced the
high-tension magneto to almost universal acceptance
in 1902. The ‘H’ shaped armature of the very earliest magneto is now used as the Bosch trademark on
all the company’s products.
From this period onwards, the magneto was
developed to a very high standard in Europe, while
in the USA the coil and battery ignition system took
the lead. Charles F. Kettering played a vital role in
this area working for the Daytona electrical company (Delco), when he devised the ignition, starting
and lighting system for the 1912 Cadillac. Kettering
also produced a mercury-type voltage regulator.
The third-brush dynamo, first produced by
Dr Hans Leitner and R.H. Lucas, first appeared in
about 1905. This gave the driver some control over
the charging system. It became known as the constant current charging system. By today’s standards
this was a very large dynamo and could produce only
about 8 A.
Many other techniques were tried over the next
decade or so to solve the problem of controlling output on a constantly varying speed dynamo. Some
novel control methods were used, some with more
success than others. For example, a drive system,
which would slip beyond a certain engine speed,
was used with limited success, while one of my
favourites had a hot wire in the main output line
which, as it became red hot, caused current to
bypass it and flow through a ‘bucking’ coil to reduce
the dynamo field strength. Many variations of the
‘field warp’ technique were used. The control of
battery charging current for all these constant current systems was poor and often relied on the driver
to switch from high to low settings. In fact, one of
the early forms of instrumentation was a dashboard
hydrometer to check the battery state of charge!
The two-brush dynamo and compensated voltage
control unit was used for the first time in the 1930s.
Development of the automobile electrical system
Figure 1.4 Third-brush dynamo
Figure 1.3 Rotating magnet magneto
This gave far superior control over the charging
system and paved the way for the many other electrical systems to come.
In 1936, the much-talked about move to positive
earth took place. Lucas played a major part in this
change. It was done to allow reduced spark plug
firing voltages and hence prolong electrode life.
It was also hoped to reduce corrosion between the
battery terminals and other contact points around
the car.
The 1950s was the era when lighting began to
develop towards today’s complex arrangements.
Flashing indicators were replacing the semaphore
arms and the twin filament bulb allowed more suitable headlights to be made. The quartz halogen
bulb, however, did not appear until the early 1970s.
Great improvements now started to take place
with the fitting of essential items such as heaters,
radios and even cigar lighters! Also in the 1960s and
1970s, many more optional extras became available,
such as windscreen washers and two-speed wipers.
Cadillac introduced full air conditioning and even a
time switch for the headlights.
The negative earth system was re-introduced in
1965 with complete acceptance. This did, however,
cause some teething problems, particularly with the
growing DIY fitment of radios and other accessories.
It was also good, of course, for the established autoelectrical trade!
The 1970s also hailed the era of fuel injection
and electronic ignition. Instrumentation became far
more complex and the dashboard layout was now
an important area of design. Heated rear windows
that worked were fitted as standard to some
vehicles. The alternator, first used in the USA
in the 1960s, became the norm by about 1974 in
The extra power available and the stable supply of
the alternator was just what the electronics industry
was waiting for and, in the 1980s, the electrical system of the vehicle changed beyond all recognition.
The advances in microcomputing and associated
technology have now made control of all vehicle
functions possible by electrical means. That is what
the rest of this book is about, so read on.
1.1.2 A chronological history
The electrical and electronic systems of the motor
vehicle are often the most feared, but at the same
time can be the most fascinating aspects of an
automobile. The complex circuits and systems now
in use have developed in a very interesting way.
For many historical developments it is not possible to be certain exactly who ‘invented’ a particular component, or indeed when, as developments
were taking place in parallel, as well as in series.
It is interesting to speculate on who we could call
the founder of the vehicle electrical system. Michael
Faraday of course deserves much acclaim, but then
of course so does Ettiene Lenoir and so does Robert
Bosch and so does Nikolaus Otto and so does …
Perhaps we should go back even further to the
ancient Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus who,
whilst rubbing amber with fur, discovered static
electricity. The Greek word for amber is ‘elektron’.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 1.5 A complete circuit diagram
c600 BC
Thales of Miletus discovers static electricity by rubbing amber with fur.
William Gilbert showed that many substances contain ‘electricity’ and that, of the two types of
electricity he found different types attract while like types repel.
Otto Von Guerick invented the first electrical device, a rotating ball of sulphur.
Andreas Gordon constructed the first static generator.
Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm!
Cugnot built a steam tractor in France made mostly from wood.
Luigi Galvani started a chain of events resulting in the invention of the battery.
The first battery was invented by Alessandro Volta.
Trevithick built a steam coach.
Electromagnetism was discovered by William Sturgeon.
Sir Humphery Davy discovered that breaking a circuit causes a spark.
Faraday discovered the principles of induction.
Ruhmkorff produced the first induction coil.
The accumulator was developed by the French physicist Gaston Planche.
Lenoir built an internal-combustion gas engine.
Lenoir developed ‘in cylinder’ combustion.
Lenoir produced the first spark-plug.
Lenoir produced a type of trembler coil ignition.
Robert Bosch was born in Albeck near Ulm in Germany.
Otto patented the four-stroke engine.
A break spark system was used in the Seigfried Marcus engine.
Otto improved the gas engine.
Hot-tube ignition was developed by Leo Funk.
Benz fitted his petrol engine to a three-wheeled carriage.
The motor car engine was developed by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz.
Daimler fitted his engine to a four-wheeled carriage to produce a four-wheeled motorcar.
The Bosch low-tension magneto was used for stationary gas engines.
Hertz discovered radio waves.
Professor Ayrton built the first experimental electric car.
E. Martin used a mechanical system to show the word ‘STOP’ on a board at the rear of his car.
Georges Bouton invented contact breakers.
Panhard and Levassor started the present design of cars by putting the engine in the front.
The first successful electric car.
Emile Mors used accumulators that were recharged from a belt-driven dynamo.
Georges Bouton refined the Lenoir trembler coil.
Development of the automobile electrical system
Figure 1.6 Sectional view of the Lucas type 6VRA Magneto
Lanchester introduced epicyclic gearing, which is now used in automatic transmission.
The first radio message was sent by Marconi.
Bosch and Simms developed a low-tension magneto with the ‘H’ shaped armature, used for
motor vehicle ignition.
Jenatzy broke the 100 kph barrier in an electric car.
First speedometer introduced (mechanical).
World speed record 66 mph – in an electric powered vehicle!
The first Mercedes took to the roads.
Lanchester produced a flywheel magneto.
Bosch introduced the high-tension magneto, which was almost universally accepted.
Rigolly broke the 100 mph barrier.
Miller Reese invented the electric horn.
The third-brush dynamo was invented by Dr Hans Leitner and R.H. Lucas.
Rolls-Royce introduced the Silver Ghost.
Ford used an assembly-line production to manufacture the Model T.
Electric lighting appeared, produced by C.A. Vandervell.
The Delco prototype of the electric starter appeared.
Cadillac introduced the electric starter and dynamo lighting.
Bendix invented the method of engaging a starter with the flywheel.
Electric starting and lighting used by Cadillac. This ‘Delco’ electrical system was developed by
Charles F. Kettering.
Ford introduced the moving conveyor belt to the assembly line.
Bosch perfected the sleeve induction magneto.
A buffer spring was added to starters.
Duesenberg began fitting four-wheel hydraulic brakes.
The Japanese made significant improvements to magnet technology.
The first radio set was fitted in a car by the South Wales Wireless Society.
Lancia used a unitary (all-in-one) chassis construction and independent front suspension.
The Austin Seven was produced.
Dr D.E. Watson developed efficient magnets for vehicle use.
Segrave broke the 200 mph barrier in a Sunbeam.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Distributor cap
Rotor arm
Contact breakers
Vacuum advance
HT Leads
Drive gear
Figure 1.7 Distributor with contact breakers
The last Ford model T was produced.
Cadillac introduced the synchromesh gearbox.
The idea for a society of engineers specializing in the auto-electrical trade was born in
Huddersfield, Yorkshire, UK.
The Lucas electric horn was introduced.
Battery coil ignition begins to supersede magneto ignition.
Magnet technologies are further improved.
Smiths introduced the electric fuel gauge.
The Vertex magneto was introduced.
The Society of Automotive Electrical Engineers held its first meeting in the Constitutional Club,
Hammersmith, London, 21 October at 3.30 pm.
Citroën pioneered front-wheel drive in their 7CV model.
The two-brush dynamo and compensated voltage control unit was first fitted.
An electric speedometer was used that consisted of an AC generator and voltmeter.
Positive earth was introduced to prolong spark-plug life and reduce battery corrosion.
Coloured wires were used for the first time.
Germany produced the Volkswagen Beetle.
Automatic advance was fitted to ignition distributors.
Car radios were banned in Britain for security reasons.
Fuse boxes start to be fitted.
Tachograph recorders were first used in Germany.
The DC speedometer was used, as were a synchronous rotor and trip meter.
Radiomobile company formed.
The transistor was invented.
Jaguar launched the XK120 sports car and Michelin introduced a radial-ply tyre.
UK manufacturers start to use 12 V electrical system.
Dunlop announced the disc brake.
Buick and Chrysler introduced power steering.
Development of petrol injection by Bosch.
Rover’s gas-turbine car set a speed record of 243 kph.
Bosch introduced fuel injection for cars.
Flashing indicators were legalized.
Citroën introduced a car with hydro-pneumatic suspension.
Development of the automobile electrical system
Figure 1.8 Thrust SSC
Key starting becomes a standard feature.
Wankel built his first rotary petrol engine.
Asymmetrical headlamps were introduced.
The first integrated circuit was developed.
BMC (now Rover Cars) introduced the Mini.
Alternators started to replace the dynamo.
The electronic flasher unit was developed.
Development work started on electronic control of anti-locking braking system (ABS).
Negative earth system reintroduced.
California brought in legislation regarding air pollution by cars.
In-car record players are not used with great success in Britain due to inferior suspension and
poor roads!
The Bosch Jetronic fuel injection system went into production.
Electronic speedometer introduced.
Gabelich drove a rocket-powered car, ‘Blue Flame’, to a new record speed of 1001.473 kph.
Alternators began to appear in British vehicles as the dynamo began its demise.
Dunlop introduced safety tyres, which seal themselves after a puncture.
Lucas developed head-up instrumentation display.
The first maintenance free breakerless electronic ignition was produced.
Lambda oxygen sensors were produced.
Barrett exceeded the speed of sound in the rocket-engined ‘Budweiser Rocket’ (1190.377 kph).
Bosch started series production of the Motronic fuel injection system.
The first mass-produced car with four-wheel drive, the Audi Quattro, was available.
BMW introduced the on-board computer.
Production of ABS for commercial vehicles started.
Austin Rover introduced the Maestro, the first car with a talking dashboard.
Richard Noble set an official speed record in the jet-engined ‘Thrust 2’ of 1019.4 kph.
The solar-powered ‘Sunraycer’ travelled 3000 km.
California’s emission controls aim for use of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 1998.
The Mitsubishi Gallant was the first mass-produced car with four-wheel steering.
Alternators, approximately the size of early dynamos or even smaller, produced in excess of 100 A.
Fiat of Italy and Peugeot of France launched electric cars.
Fibre-optic systems used in Mercedes vehicles.
The European Parliament voted to adopt stringent control of car emissions.
Gas discharge headlamps were in production.
Japanese companies developed an imaging system that views the road through a camera.
A Japanese electric car reached a speed of 176 kph.
Emission control regulations force even further development of engine management systems.
Head-up vision enhancement systems were developed as part of the Prometheus project.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 1.9 Ford Mustang
Greenpeace designed an environmentally friendly car capable of doing 67–78 miles to the gallon
(100 km per 3–3.5 litres).
The first edition of Automobile Electrical and Electronic Systems was published!
Further legislation on control of emissions.
GM developed a number of its LeSabres for an Automated Highway System.
Thrust SSC broke the sound barrier.
Blue vision headlights started to be used.
Mercedes ‘S’ class had 40 computers and over 100 motors.
Mobile multimedia became an optional extra.
Second edition of Automobile Electrical and Electronic Systems published!
Global positioning systems start to become a popular optional extra.
Full X-by-wire concept cars produced.
Bosch celebrates 50 years of fuel injection.
Ford develop the Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (H2ICE).
Third edition of Automobile Electrical and Electronic Systems published!
And the story continues with you …
1.2 Where next?
1.2.1 Current developments
Most manufacturers are making incremental improvements to existing technology. However, electronic
control continues to be used in more areas of the
vehicle. The main ‘step change’ in the near future
will be the move to 42 V systems, which opens the
door for other developments. The main changes
will be with the introduction of more X-by-wire
systems. Telematics will also develop further.
However, who really knows? Try the next section
for some new ideas.
1.2.2 An eye on the future
Evidently, my new car, which is due to arrive later
today, has a digital camera that will watch my eyes.
Something to do with stopping me from falling
asleep, I think. However, unless it pokes me in the
eye with a sharp stick it has its work cut out!
Anyway, it seems like a pointless system in a car
that drives itself most of the time.
I can’t wait for my new car to arrive.
The thing is, I intend to spend as much time sleeping in my car as possible, well, when travelling long
distances anyway. The whole point of paying the extra
money for the ‘Professional’ instead of the ‘Home’
edition of the on-board software was so I could sleep
or at least work on long journeys. The fully integrated
satellite broadband connection impressed me too.
The global positioning system is supposed to be so
accurate you can even use it for parking in a tight
spot. Not that you need it to, because the auto park
and recharge was good even on my old car. The
data transfer rate, up to or down from the satellite,
is blistering – or so the 3D sales brochure said.
Development of the automobile electrical system
Figure 1.10 Sony concept vehicle interior (Source: Visteon)
This means I will be able to watch the latest HoloVids
when travelling, if I’m not working or sleeping. It will
even be useful for getting data to help with my work
as a writer. Thing is though, the maximum size of
most Macrosoft HoloWord documents is only about
4 Tb. A Terabyte is only a million Megabytes so I
won’t be using even half of the available bandwidth.
I hope my new car arrives soon.
I still like my existing car but it has broken down
on a number of occasions. In my opinion three
breakdowns in two years is not acceptable. And, on
the third occasion, it took the car almost four and a
half minutes to fix itself. I have come to expect a
better level of service than that. I do hope, however,
that the magnetic gas suspension is as good as the
MagnetoElastic system that I have gotten used to.
It took me a long time to decide whether to go
for the hybrid engine or to go fully electric. I
decided in the end that as the range of the batteries
was now over two hundred miles, it would be worth
the chance. After all, the tax breaks for a zero
emission car are considerable.
I will still take my new car down to the test track
because it is so much fun, but this time I have gone
for comfort rather than performance. Still, a 0 to 60
time of six seconds is not bad for a big comfortable,
electric powered family car. The gadget I am going
to enjoy most is the intelligent seat adjustment system. Naturally, the system will remember and
adjust to previous settings when I unlock the car
(and it recognizes me of course). However, the new
system senses tension or changes in your body as
you sit down and makes appropriate adjustments to
the seat. Subtle temperature changes and massage
all take place without you saying anything.
I can’t wait much longer. Why isn’t the car
here yet?
My previous voice control system was good but a
bit slow at times. It had to use its colloquial database
every time I got mad with it and its built-in intelligence was a bit limited. The new system is supposed
to be so smart that it even knows when to argue with
the driver. This will be useful for when I decide to
override the guidance system, as I have done on a
number of occasions and ended up getting lost every
time. Well, not really lost, because when I let the car
take over again we got back on the route within ten
minutes, but you know what I mean.
I’m also looking forward to using the computerenhanced vision system. Not that I will need to see
where I’m going most of the time, but it will be fun
being able to look into other people’s cars when
they think I can’t see. I wonder how well the recording facility works.
Having a multi-flavour drinks dispenser will be
nice but unfortunately it doesn’t fill itself up, so if it
runs out between services I will have to learn how
to fill the water tank. I hope that improves for the
next model.
Servicing the new car is going to be much easier.
Evidently, all you have to do is take the car to the
local service centre (or send it on its own) and they
change the complete powertrain system for a new
one. Apparently it is cheaper to import new fully
integrated powertrain and chassis systems from
overseas than it is for our technicians to repair or
service the old ones! I expect it will take over an
hour for this though, so I will probably send the car
during the night or when I am working at home.
Surely the car should be here by now.
The most radical design aspect of my new car,
if it ever arrives, is the ability to switch off every
single driving aid and do it yourself! I can’t wait to
try this. However, I am led to believe that the insurance cover is void if you use the car on the ‘WiredRoads’ (wi-ro for short). Evidently the chance of
having an accident increases a thousand fold when
people start driving themselves. Still, I’m going to
try it at some point! Problem is over ninety eight percent of the roads are wi-ro now so I will have to take
care. The few that aren’t wi-ro have been taken over
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 1.11 The Mondeo – a classic car (Source: Ford)
by that group of do-gooders, the ‘Friends of the
Classic Car’. You know, those people who still like to
drive things like the ancient Mondeo or Escort. To be
safe I will just use one of the test tracks.
It’s here, my new car it’s here!
It was a bit weird watching it turn up in my garage
with no driver, but everything looks just fine. It was
also a bit sad seeing my old car being towed away by
the Recovery Drone but at least the data transfer to
the new one went off without a problem. You know, I
will miss my old car. Hey, is that an unlisted feature of
my new car? I must check the ReadMe.HoloTxt file.
As I jumped in the car, the seat moved and it felt
like it was adjusting itself to my inner soul – it was
even better than I had hoped – it was just so comfortable. ‘Welcome sir’, said the car, and it made me
jump as it always does the first time! ‘Hello’ I replied
after a moment, ‘oh and please call me Tom’. ‘No
problem’, it answered without any noticeable delay.
‘Would you like to go for a test drive Tom?’ it asked
after a short but carefully calculated delay. I liked its
attitude so I said, ‘Yes, let’s go and see the boys down
at the test track’. ‘Would that be track five as usual
Tom?’ it continued. ‘Yes!’ I answered, a bit sharper
than I had intended to, for this early in our relationship at least. ‘If you prefer, I will deactivate my
intelligence subroutines or adjust them – you don’t
need to get cross with me!’ ‘I’m not cross’, I told it
crossly, and then realized I was arguing with my car!
‘Just take me to track five’, I told it firmly.
On the way it was so smooth and comfortable that
I almost fell asleep. Still, we got there, me and my
new friend the car, in less than half an hour which
was good. This was it then; I uncovered the master
driving aid control switch, keyed in my PIN and told
it to deactivate all assistance systems, engage the
steering stick and then leave it to me.
I like my new car!
I set off round the track, slowly at first because it
felt so strange, but it was just fantastic to be able to
control the car myself. It was even possible to steer
as well as speed up and slow down. Fantastic, yawn,
awesome … However, I still, yawn, stretch, can’t
figure out why the car has cameras watching my
eyes. I mean, yawn, I’ve only been driving for a few
minutes and, yawn, I’m not sleepy at …
Ouch! What was that? It felt like a sharp stick!
1.3 Self-assessment
1.3.1 Questions
1. State who invented the spark plug.
2. What significant event occurred in 1800?
3. Make a simple sketch to show the circuit of a
4. Who did Frederick Simms work for?
5. Explain why positive earth vehicles were
6. Explain why negative earth vehicles were
7. Which car was first fitted with a starter motor?
8. Charles F. Kettering played a vital role in the
early development of the automobile. What
was his main contribution and which company
did he work for at that time?
9. Describe briefly why legislation has a considerable effect on the development of automotive
10. Pick four significant events from the chronology
and describe why they were so important.
1.3.2 Project
Write a short article about driving a car in the year
Electrical and electronic principles
2.1 Safe working practices
2.1.1 Introduction
Safe working practices in relation to electrical and
electronic systems are essential, for your safety as
well as that of others. You only have to follow two
rules to be safe.
Use your common sense – don’t fool about.
If in doubt – seek help.
The following section lists some particular risks
when working with electricity or electrical systems,
together with suggestions for reducing them. This is
known as risk assessment.
2.1.2 Risk assessment and
Table 2.1 lists some identified risks involved with
working on vehicles, in particular the electrical and
electronic systems. The table is by no means exhaustive but serves as a good guide.
2.2 Basic electrical
2.2.1 Introduction
To understand electricity properly we must start by
finding out what it really is. This means we must
think very small (Figure 2.1 shows a representation
of an atom). The molecule is the smallest part of
matter that can be recognized as that particular matter. Sub-division of the molecule results in atoms,
which are the smallest part of matter. An element is
a substance that comprises atoms of one kind only.
The atom consists of a central nucleus made up
of protons and neutrons. Around this nucleus orbit
electrons, like planets around the sun. The neutron is
a very small part of the nucleus. It has equal positive
Table 2.1 Risks and risk reduction
Identified risk
Reducing the risk
Electric shock
Ignition HT is the most likely place to suffer a shock, up to 25 000 V is quite normal. Use insulated tools
if it is necessary to work on HT circuits with the engine running. Note that high voltages are also
present on circuits containing windings, due to back EMF as they are switched off – a few hundred volts
is common. Mains supplied power tools and their leads should be in good condition and using an earth
leakage trip is highly recommended
Sulphuric acid is corrosive so always use good personal protective equipment (PPE). In this case overalls
and, if necessary, rubber gloves.A rubber apron is ideal, as are goggles if working with batteries a lot
Apply brakes and/or chock the wheels when raising a vehicle on a jack or drive-on lift. Only jack under
substantial chassis and suspension structures. Use axle stands in case the jack fails
Do not wear loose clothing, good overalls are ideal. Keep the keys in your possession when working on
an engine to prevent others starting it.Take extra care if working near running drive belts
Suitable extraction must be used if the engine is running indoors. Remember, it is not just the carbon
monoxide (CO) that might make you ill or even kill you, other exhaust components could cause asthma
or even cancer
Only lift what is comfortable for you; ask for help if necessary and/or use lifting equipment.As a general
guide, do not lift on your own if it feels too heavy!
Use a jump lead with an in-line fuse to prevent damage due to a short when testing. Disconnect the
battery (earth lead off first and back on last) if any danger of a short exists.A very high current can flow
from a vehicle battery, it will burn you as well as the vehicle
Do not smoke when working on a vehicle. Fuel leaks must be attended to immediately. Remember the
triangle of fire – Heat/Fuel/Oxygen – don’t let the three sides come together
Use a good barrier cream and/or latex gloves.Wash skin and clothes regularly
Battery acid
Raising or lifting vehicles
Running engines
Exhaust gases
Moving loads
Short circuits
Skin problems
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Wires to complete the circuit
and protons
Figure 2.2 A simple electrical circuit
Figure 2.1 The atom
and negative charges and is therefore neutral and
has no polarity. The proton is another small part of
the nucleus, it is positively charged. The neutron is
neutral and the proton is positively charged, which
means that the nucleus of the atom is positively
charged. The electron is an even smaller part of the
atom, and is negatively charged. It orbits the nucleus
and is held in orbit by the attraction of the positively
charged proton. All electrons are similar no matter
what type of atom they come from.
When atoms are in a balanced state, the number
of electrons orbiting the nucleus equals the number of
protons. The atoms of some materials have electrons
that are easily detached from the parent atom and can
therefore join an adjacent atom. In so doing these
atoms move an electron from the parent atom to
another atom (like polarities repel) and so on through
material. This is a random movement and the
electrons involved are called free electrons
Materials are called conductors if the electrons
can move easily. In some materials it is extremely
difficult to move electrons from their parent atoms.
These materials are called insulators.
An electron flow is termed an electric current.
Figure 2.2 shows a simple electric circuit where the
battery positive terminal is connected, through a
switch and lamp, to the battery negative terminal.
With the switch open the chemical energy of the
battery will remove electrons from the positive terminal to the negative terminal via the battery. This
leaves the positive terminal with fewer electrons
and the negative terminal with a surplus of electrons.
An electrical pressure therefore exists between the
battery terminals.
With the switch closed, the surplus electrons at
the negative terminal will flow through the lamp
back to the electron-deficient positive terminal. The
lamp will light and the chemical energy of the battery will keep the electrons moving in this circuit
from negative to positive. This movement from
negative to positive is called the electron flow and
will continue whilst the battery supplies the
pressure – in other words whilst it remains charged.
It was once thought, however, that current flowed
from positive to negative and this convention is still
followed for most practical purposes. Therefore,
although this current flow is not correct, the most
important point is that we all follow the same
2.2.2 Electron flow and
conventional flow
If an electrical pressure (electromotive force or voltage) is applied to a conductor, a directional movement
of electrons will take place (for example when connecting a battery to a wire). This is because the electrons are attracted to the positive side and repelled
from the negative side.
Certain conditions are necessary to cause an
electron flow:
A pressure source, e.g. from a battery or generator.
A complete conducting path in which the
electrons can move (e.g. wires).
Electron flow is from negative to positive.
Conventional current flow is said to be from
positive to negative.
2.2.3 Effects of current flow
When a current flows in a circuit, it can produce
only three effects:
Chemical effects.
The heating effect is the basis of electrical
components such as lights and heater plugs. The
magnetic effect is the basis of relays and motors
and generators. The chemical effect is the basis for
electroplating and battery charging.
Electrical and electronic principles
in a bulb
Magnetic effect
in a motor
or generator
Chemical effect
in the battery
was maintained constant but the lamp was changed
for one with a higher resistance the current would
decrease. Ohm’s Law describes this relationship.
Ohm’s law states that in a closed circuit ‘current is
proportional to the voltage and inversely proportional
to the resistance’. When 1 volt causes 1 ampere to
flow the power used (P) is 1 watt.
Using symbols this means:
Voltage Current Resistance
(V IR) or (R V/I) or (I V/R)
Figure 2.3 A bulb, motor and battery – heat, magnetic and
chemical effects
Power Voltage Current
(P VI) or (I P/V) or (V P/I)
2.2.5 Describing electrical
Three descriptive terms are useful when discussing
electrical circuits.
Figure 2.4 An electrical circuit demonstrating links between
voltage, current, resistance and power
In the circuit shown in Figure 2.3 the chemical
energy of the battery is first converted to electrical
energy, and then into heat energy in the lamp
The three electrical effects are reversible. Heat
applied to a thermocouple will cause a small electromotive force and therefore a small current to flow.
Practical use of this is mainly in instruments. A coil
of wire rotated in the field of a magnet will produce
an electromotive force and can cause current to flow.
This is the basis of a generator. Chemical action,
such as in a battery, produces an electromotive force,
which can cause current to flow.
2.2.4 Fundamental quantities
In Figure 2.4, the number of electrons through the
lamp every second is described as the rate of flow.
The cause of the electron flow is the electrical pressure. The lamp produces an opposition to the rate of
flow set up by the electrical pressure. Power is the
rate of doing work, or changing energy from one
form to another. These quantities as well as several
others, are given names as shown in Table 2.2.
If the voltage pressure applied to the circuit was
increased but the lamp resistance stayed the same,
then the current would also increase. If the voltage
Open circuit. This means the circuit is broken
therefore no current can flow.
Short circuit. This means that a fault has caused a
wire to touch another conductor and the current
uses this as an easier way to complete the circuit.
High resistance. This means a part of the circuit
has developed a high resistance (such as a dirty
connection), which will reduce the amount of
current that can flow.
2.2.6 Conductors, insulators
and semiconductors
All metals are conductors. Silver, copper and aluminium are among the best and are frequently used.
Liquids that will conduct an electric current, are
called electrolytes. Insulators are generally nonmetallic and include rubber, porcelain, glass, plastics, cotton, silk, wax paper and some liquids. Some
materials can act as either insulators or conductors
depending on conditions. These are called semiconductors and are used to make transistors and diodes.
2.2.7 Factors affecting the
resistance of a conductor
In an insulator, a large voltage applied will produce
a very small electron movement. In a conductor, a
small voltage applied will produce a large electron
flow or current. The amount of resistance offered by
the conductor is determined by a number of factors.
Length – the greater the length of a conductor
the greater is the resistance.
Cross-sectional area (CSA) – the larger the
cross-sectional area the smaller the resistance.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 2.2 Quantities, symbols and units
Unit name Abbreviation
Q It
(A area)
Electrical charge One coulomb is the quantity of electricity
conveyed by a current of I ampere in I second.
Electrical flow
The number of electrons having passed a
or current
fixed point in I second.
A pressure of I volt applied to a circuit will
produce a current flow of I ampere if the circuit
resistance is I ohm.
This is the opposition to current flow in a material
or circuit when a voltage is applied across it.
Ability of a material to carry an electrical
current. One siemens equals I ampere per volt
It was formerly called the mho, or reciprocal ohm.
Current density The current per unit area.This is useful for
calculating the required conductor
cross-sectional areas.
A measure of the ability of a material to
resist the flow of an electric current. It is
numerically equal to the resistance of a sample of
unit length and unit cross-sectional area, and its
unit is the ohm-metre. A good conductor has a low
resistivity (1.7 108 m, copper); an insulator
has a high resistivity (1015 m, polyethane).
The reciprocal of resistivity.
(L length
A area)
Electrical power
When a voltage of I volt causes a current of I
ampere to flow, the power developed is I watt.
Property of a capacitor that determines how
much charge can be stored in it for a given
potential difference between its terminals.
Where a changing current in a circuit builds up
a magnetic field which induces an electromotive
force either in the same circuit and opposing
the current (self-inductance) or in another
circuit (mutual inductance).
P V2/R
C Q/V C A/d
(A plate area, d distance between,
permitivity of
i V/R(I eRt/L)
The material from which the conductor is
made – the resistance offered by a conductor will
vary according to the material from which it is
made. This is known as the resistivity or specific
resistance of the material.
Temperature – most metals increase in resistance as temperature increases.
Figure 2.5 shows a representation of the factors
affecting the resistance of a conductor.
2.2.8 Resistors and circuit
Good conductors are used to carry the current with
minimum voltage loss due to their low resistance.
Resistors are used to control the current flow in a
circuit or to set voltage levels. They are made of
materials that have a high resistance. Resistors
intended to carry low currents are often made of
carbon. Resistors for high currents are usually wire
Resistors are often shown as part of basic electrical circuits to explain the principles involved.
The circuits shown as Figure 2.6 are equivalent. In
other words, the circuit just showing resistors is
used to represent the other circuit.
When resistors are connected so that there is
only one path (Figure 2.7), for the same current to
flow through each bulb they are connected in series
and the following rules apply.
Current is the same in all parts of the circuit.
The applied voltage equals the sum of the volt
drops around the circuit.
Total resistance of the circuit (RT), equals the sum
of the individual resistance values (R1 R2 etc).
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.8 Parallel circuit
parallel and the following rules apply.
Figure 2.5 Factors affecting electrical resistance
The voltage across all components of a parallel
circuit is the same.
The total current equals the sum of the current
flowing in each branch.
The current splits up depending on each component resistance.
The total resistance of the circuit (RT) can be
calculated by
1/RT 1 / R1 1/R2 or
RT ( R1 R2 )/( R1 R2 ).
2.2.9 Magnetism and
Magnetism can be created by a permanent magnet
or by an electromagnet (it is one of the three effects
of electricity remember). The space around a magnet in which the magnetic effect can be detected is
called the magnetic field. The shape of magnetic
fields in diagrams is represented by flux lines or
lines of force.
Some rules about magnetism:
Figure 2.6 An equivalent circuit
Figure 2.7 Series circuit
When resistors or bulbs are connected such that
they provide more than one path (Figure 2.8) for
the current to flow through and have the same voltage across each component they are connected in
Unlike poles attract. Like poles repel.
Lines of force in the same direction repel sideways, in the opposite direction they attract.
Current flowing in a conductor will set up a magnetic field around the conductor. The strength of
the magnetic field is determined by how much
current is flowing.
If a conductor is wound into a coil or solenoid, the
resulting magnetism is the same as a permanent
bar magnet.
Electromagnets are used in motors, relays and
fuel injectors, to name just a few applications. Force
on a current-carrying conductor in a magnetic field
is caused because of two magnetic fields interacting.
This is the basic principle of how a motor works.
Figure 2.9 shows a representation of these magnetic
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.9 Magnetic fields
2.2.10 Electromagnetic
Basic laws:
When a conductor cuts or is cut by magnetism,
a voltage is induced in the conductor.
The direction of the induced voltage depends
upon the direction of the magnetic field and the
direction in which the field moves relative to the
The voltage level is proportional to the rate
at which the conductor cuts or is cut by the
This effect of induction, meaning that voltage is made
in the wire, is the basic principle of how generators
such as the alternator on a car work. A generator is a
machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. Figure 2.10 shows a wire moving in a
magnetic field.
2.2.11 Mutual induction
If two coils (known as the primary and secondary)
are wound on to the same iron core then any change
in magnetism of one coil will induce a voltage in to
the other. This happens when a current to the primary
coil is switched on and off. If the number of turns of
wire on the secondary coil is more than the primary,
Figure 2.10 Induction
a higher voltage can be produced. If the number of
turns of wire on the secondary coil is less than the primary a lower voltage is obtained. This is called ‘transformer action’ and is the principle of the ignition coil.
Figure 2.11 shows the principle of mutual induction.
The value of this ‘mutually induced’ voltage
depends on:
The primary current.
The turns ratio between primary and secondary
The speed at which the magnetism changes.
Electrical and electronic principles
Kirchhoff’s 2nd law:
For any closed loop path around a circuit the sum
of the voltage gains and drops always equals zero.
This is effectively the same as the series circuit
statement that the sum of all the voltage drops will
always equal the supply voltage.
Gustav Robert Kirchhoff was a German physicist; he also discovered caesium and rubidium.
Faraday’s law
Figure 2.11 Mutual induction
2.2.12 Definitions and laws
Ohm’s law
For most conductors, the current which will
flow through them is directly proportional to the
voltage applied to them.
The ratio of voltage to current is referred to as
resistance. If this ratio remains constant over a wide
range of voltages, the material is said to be ‘ohmic’.
Lenz’s law
The emf induced in an electric circuit always acts
in a direction so that the current it creates around
the circuit will oppose the change in magnetic
flux which caused it.
Lenz’s law gives the direction of the induced emf
resulting from electromagnetic induction. The
‘opposing’ emf is often described as a ‘back emf’.
The law is named after the Estonian physicist
Heinrich Lenz.
Kirchhoff ’s laws
Kirchhoff’s 1st law:
It is important to note here that no matter how the
change is produced, the voltage will be generated. In
other words, the change could be produced by changing the magnetic field strength, moving the magnetic
field towards or away from the coil, moving the coil
in or out of the magnetic field, rotating the coil relative to the magnetic field and so on! Faraday’s law
acts as a summary or reminder of the ways a voltage can be generated by a changing magnetic field.
I Current in amps
V Voltage in volts
R Resistance in ohms
Georg Simon Ohm was a German physicist, well
known for his work on electrical currents.
The current flowing into a junction in a circuit
must equal the current flowing out of the junction.
This law is a direct result of the conservation of
charge; no charge can be lost in the junction, so any
charge that flows in must also flow out.
Any change in the magnetic field around a coil
of wire will cause an emf (voltage) to be induced
in the coil.
( BA)
V Voltage generated in volts
N Number of turns on the coil
B Magnetic field strength in webbers per metre
squared (teslas)
A Area of the pole perpendicular to the field in
metres squared
t time in seconds
Michael Faraday was a British physicist and
chemist, well known for his discoveries of electromagnetic induction and of the laws of electrolysis.
Fleming’s rules
In an electrical machine, the First Finger lines up
with the magnetic Field, the seCond finger lines
up with the Current and the thuMb lines up with
the Motion.
Fleming’s rules relate to the direction of the magnetic
field, motion and current in electrical machines. The
left hand is used for motors, and the right hand for
generators (remember gener-righters).
The English physicist John Fleming devised
these rules.
Ampere’s law
For any closed loop path, the sum of the length
elements times the magnetic field in the direction
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
to explain their detailed operation. The intention is
to describe briefly how the circuits work and, more
importantly, how and where they may be utilized in
vehicle applications.
The circuits described are examples of those
used and many pure electronics books are available
for further details. Overall, an understanding of
basic electronic principles will help to show how
electronic control units work, ranging from a simple interior light delay unit, to the most complicated
engine management system.
2.3.2 Components
Figure 2.12 Fleming’s rules
of the elements is equal to the permeability
times the electric current enclosed in the loop.
In other words, the magnetic field around an electric
current is proportional to the electric current which
creates it and the electric field is proportional to the
charge which creates it. The magnetic field strength
around a straight wire can be calculated as follows:
0 I
B Magnetic field strength in webbers per metre
squared (teslas)
0 Permeability of free space (for air this is about
4 107 henrys per metre)
I Current flowing in amps
r radius from the wire
André Marie Ampère was a French scientist, known
for his significant contributions to the study of
It was tempting to conclude this section by stating
some of Murphy’s laws, for example:
If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong …
You will always find something in the last place
you look …
In a traffic jam, the lane on the motorway that
you are not in always goes faster …
… but I decided against it!
2.3 Electronic components
and circuits
2.3.1 Introduction
This section, describing the principles and applications of various electronic circuits, is not intended
The main devices described here are often known as
discrete components. Figure 2.13 shows the symbols
used for constructing the circuits shown later in this
section. A simple and brief description follows for
many of the components shown.
Resistors are probably the most widely used component in electronic circuits. Two factors must be
considered when choosing a suitable resistor, namely
the ohms value and the power rating. Resistors are
used to limit current flow and provide fixed voltage
drops. Most resistors used in electronic circuits
are made from small carbon rods, and the size of
the rod determines the resistance. Carbon resistors
have a negative temperature coefficient (NTC) and
this must be considered for some applications. Thin
film resistors have more stable temperature properties and are constructed by depositing a layer of
carbon onto an insulated former such as glass. The
resistance value can be manufactured very accurately
by spiral grooves cut into the carbon film. For higher
power applications, resistors are usually wire wound.
This can, however, introduce inductance into a circuit. Variable forms of most resistors are available
in either linear or logarithmic forms. The resistance
of a circuit is its opposition to current flow.
A capacitor is a device for storing an electric
charge. In its simple form it consists of two plates
separated by an insulating material. One plate can
have excess electrons compared to the other. On
vehicles, its main uses are for reducing arcing
across contacts and for radio interference suppression circuits as well as in electronic control units.
Capacitors are described as two plates separated by
a dielectric. The area of the plates A, the distance
between them d, and the permitivity, , of the dielectric, determine the value of capacitance. This is
modelled by the equation:
C A/d
Metal foil sheets insulated by a type of paper are
often used to construct capacitors. The sheets are
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.13 Circuit symbols
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
rolled up together inside a tin can. To achieve higher
values of capacitance it is necessary to reduce the
distance between the plates in order to keep the overall size of the device manageable. This is achieved by
immersing one plate in an electrolyte to deposit a
layer of oxide typically 104 mm thick, thus ensuring
a higher capacitance value. The problem, however, is
that this now makes the device polarity conscious
and only able to withstand low voltages. Variable
capacitors are available that are varied by changing
either of the variables given in the previous equation.
The unit of capacitance is the farad (F). A circuit has
a capacitance of one farad (1 F) when the charge
stored is one coulomb and the potential difference
is 1 V. Figure 2.14 shows a capacitor charged up from
a battery.
Diodes are often described as one-way valves
and, for most applications, this is an acceptable
description. A diode is a simple PN junction allowing electron flow from the N-type material (negatively biased) to the P-type material (positively
biased). The materials are usually constructed from
doped silicon. Diodes are not perfect devices and a
voltage of about 0.6 V is required to switch the
diode on in its forward biased direction. Zener
diodes are very similar in operation, with the exception that they are designed to breakdown and conduct in the reverse direction at a pre-determined
voltage. They can be thought of as a type of pressure
relief valve.
Transistors are the devices that have allowed the
development of today’s complex and small electronic systems. They replaced the thermal-type
valves. The transistor is used as either a solid-state
switch or as an amplifier. Transistors are constructed
from the same P- and N-type semiconductor materials as the diodes, and can be either made in NPN or
PNP format. The three terminals are known as the
base, collector and emitter. When the base is supplied
with the correct bias the circuit between the collector
and emitter will conduct. The base current can be of
the order of 200 times less than the emitter current.
The ratio of the current flowing through the base
compared with the current through the emitter (Ie/Ib),
is an indication of the amplification factor of the
device and is often given the symbol .
Another type of transistor is the FET or field
effect transistor. This device has higher input
impedance than the bipolar type described above.
FETs are constructed in their basic form as n-channel
or p-channel devices. The three terminals are known
as the gate, source and drain. The voltage on the
gate terminal controls the conductance of the circuit
between the drain and the source.
Inductors are most often used as part of an oscillator or amplifier circuit. In these applications, it is
essential for the inductor to be stable and to be of reasonable size. The basic construction of an inductor is
a coil of wire wound on a former. It is the magnetic
effect of the changes in current flow that gives this
device the properties of inductance. Inductance is
a difficult property to control, particularly as the
inductance value increases due to magnetic coupling
with other devices. Enclosing the coil in a can will
reduce this, but eddy currents are then induced in the
can and this affects the overall inductance value. Iron
cores are used to increase the inductance value as
this changes the permeability of the core. However,
this also allows for adjustable devices by moving the
position of the core. This only allows the value to
change by a few per cent but is useful for tuning a
circuit. Inductors, particularly of higher values, are
often known as chokes and may be used in DC circuits to smooth the voltage. The value of inductance
is the henry (H). A circuit has an inductance of one
henry (1 H) when a current, which is changing
at one ampere per second, induces an electromotive
force of one volt in it.
2.3.3 Integrated circuits
Figure 2.14 A capacitor charged up
Integrated circuits (ICs) are constructed on a single
slice of silicon often known as a substrate. In an IC,
Some of the components mentioned previously can
be combined to carry out various tasks such as
switching, amplifying and logic functions. In fact,
the components required for these circuits can be
made directly on the slice of silicon. The great
advantage of this is not just the size of the ICs but
the speed at which they can be made to work due to
the short distances between components. Switching
speeds in excess of 1 MHz is typical.
Electrical and electronic principles
There are four main stages in the construction of
an IC. The first of these is oxidization by exposing the
silicon slice to an oxygen stream at a high temperature. The oxide formed is an excellent insulator. The
next process is photo-etching where part of the oxide
is removed. The silicon slice is covered in a material
called a photoresist which, when exposed to light,
becomes hard. It is now possible to imprint the oxidized silicon slice, which is covered with photoresist,
by a pattern from a photographic transparency. The
slice can now be washed in acid to etch back to the
silicon those areas that were not protected by being
exposed to light. The next stage is diffusion, where
the slice is heated in an atmosphere of an impurity
such as boron or phosphorus, which causes the
exposed areas to become p- or n-type silicon. The
final stage is epitaxy, which is the name given to crystal growth. New layers of silicon can be grown and
doped to become n- or p-type as before. It is possible
to form resistors in a similar way and small values of
capacitance can be achieved. It is not possible to form
any useful inductance on a chip. Figure 2.15 shows a
representation of the ‘packages’ that integrated
circuits are supplied in for use in electronic circuits.
The range and types of integrated circuits now
available are so extensive that a chip is available for
almost any application. The integration level of chips
has now reached, and in many cases is exceeding,
that of VLSI (very large scale integration). This
means there can be more than 100 000 active elements on one chip. Development in this area is moving
so fast that often the science of electronics is now
concerned mostly with choosing the correct combination of chips, and discreet components are only used
as final switching or power output stages.
will be inverted compared with the input. This very
simple circuit has many applications when used
more as a switch than an amplifier. For example, a
very small current flowing to the input can be used
to operate, say, a relay winding connected in place
of the resistor.
One of the main problems with this type of transistor amplifier is that the gain of a transistor (
) can
be variable and non-linear. To overcome this, some
type of feedback is used to make a circuit with more
appropriate characteristics. Figure 2.17 shows a
more practical AC amplifier.
Resistors Rb1 and Rb2 set the base voltage of the
transistor and, because the base–emitter voltage is
constant at 0.6 V, this in turn will set the emitter
voltage. The standing current through the collector
Figure 2.16 Simple amplifier circuit
2.3.4 Amplifiers
The simplest form of amplifier involves just one
resistor and one transistor, as shown in Figure 2.16.
A small change of current on the input terminal will
cause a similar change of current through the transistor and an amplified signal will be evident at
the output terminal. Note however that the output
Figure 2.15 Typical integrated circuit package
Figure 2.17 Practical AC amplifier circuit
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.18 DC amplifier, long tail pair
and emitter resistors (Rc and Re) is hence defined
and the small signal changes at the input will be
reflected in an amplified form at the output, albeit
inverted. A reasonable approximation of the voltage
gain of this circuit can be calculated as: Rc/Re
Capacitor C1 is used to prevent any change in
DC bias at the base terminal and C2 is used to
reduce the impedance of the emitter circuit. This
ensures that Re does not affect the output.
For amplification of DC signals, a differential
amplifier is often used. This amplifies the voltage
difference between two input terminals. The circuit
shown in Figure 2.18, known as the long tail pair,
is used almost universally for DC amplifiers.
The transistors are chosen such that their characteristics are very similar. For discreet components,
they are supplied attached to the same heat sink
and, in integrated applications, the method of construction ensures stability. Changes in the input will
affect the base–emitter voltage of each transistor in
the same way, such that the current flowing through
Re will remain constant. Any change in the temperature, for example, will effect both transistors in the
same way and therefore the differential output voltage will remain unchanged. The important property
of the differential amplifier is its ability to amplify
the difference between two signals but not the signals
Figure 2.19 Operational amplifier feedback circuits
Integrated circuit differential amplifiers are very
common, one of the most common being the 741
op-amp. This type of amplifier has a DC gain in the
region of 100 000. Operational amplifiers are used in
many applications and, in particular, can be used as
signal amplifiers. A major role for this device is also
to act as a buffer between a sensor and a load such as
a display. The internal circuit of these types of device
can be very complicated, but external connections
and components can be kept to a minimum. It is not
often that a gain of 100 000 is needed so, with simple
connections of a few resistors, the characteristics of
the op-amp can be changed to suit the application.
Two forms of negative feedback are used to achieve
an accurate and appropriate gain. These are shown in
Figure 2.19 and are often referred to as shunt feedback and proportional feedback operational amplifier
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.20 Frequency response of a 741 amplifier
Figure 2.21 Wheatstone bridge
The gain of a shunt feedback configuration is
The gain with proportional feedback is
R1 R2
An important point to note with this type of
amplifier is that its gain is dependent on frequency.
This, of course, is only relevant when amplifying
AC signals. Figure 2.20 shows the frequency response
of a 741 amplifier. Op-amps are basic building blocks
of many types of circuit, and some of these will be
briefly mentioned later in this section.
2.3.5 Bridge circuits
There are many types of bridge circuits but they are
all based on the principle of the Wheatstone bridge,
which is shown in Figure 2.21. The meter shown is
a very sensitive galvanometer. A simple calculation
will show that the meter will read zero when:
To use a circuit of this type to measure an
unknown resistance very accurately (R1), R3 and R4
are pre-set precision resistors and R2 is a precision
resistance box. The meter reads zero when the reading on the resistance box is equal to the unknown
resistor. This simple principle can also be applied to
AC circuits to determine unknown inductance and
Figure 2.22 Bridge and amplifier circuit
A bridge and amplifier circuit, which may be
typical of a motor vehicle application, is shown in
Figure 2.22. In this circuit R1 has been replaced by a
temperature measurement thermistor. The output of
the bridge is then amplified with a differential operational amplifier using shunt feedback to set the gain.
2.3.6 Schmitt trigger
The Schmitt trigger is used to change variable signals into crisp square-wave type signals for use in
digital or switching circuits. For example, a sine
wave fed into a Schmitt trigger will emerge as a
square wave with the same frequency as the input
signal. Figure 2.23 shows a simple Schmitt trigger
circuit utilizing an operational amplifier.
The output of this circuit will be either saturated
positive or saturated negative due to the high gain of
the amplifier. The trigger points are defined as the
upper and lower trigger points (UTP and LTP)
respectively. The output signal from an inductive
type distributor or a crank position sensor on a motor
vehicle will need to be passed through a Schmitt trigger. This will ensure that either further processing is
easier, or switching is positive. Schmitt triggers can
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.24 Example of a timer circuit
Figure 2.23 Schmitt trigger circuit utilizing an operational
be purchased as integrated circuits in their own right
or as part of other ready-made applications.
2.3.7 Timers
In its simplest form, a timer can consist of two components, a resistor and a capacitor. When the capacitor is connected to a supply via the resistor, it is
accepted that it will become fully charged in 5CR
seconds, where R is the resistor value in ohms and
C is the capacitor value in farads. The time constant
of this circuit is CR, often-denoted .
The voltage across the capacitor (Vc), can be
calculated as follows:
Vc V ( I et / CR )
where V supply voltage; t time in seconds;
C capacitor value in farads; R resistor value in
ohms; e exponential function.
These two components with suitable values can
be made to give almost any time delay, within reason, and to operate or switch off a circuit using a
transistor. Figure 2.24 shows an example of a timer
circuit using this technique.
2.3.8 Filters
A filter that prevents large particles of contaminates
reaching, for example, a fuel injector is an easy concept to grasp. In electronic circuits the basic idea is
just the same except the particle size is the frequency
of a signal. Electronic filters come in two main types.
Figure 2.25 Low pass and high pass filter circuits
A low pass filter, which blocks high frequencies, and
a high pass filter, which blocks low frequencies.
Many variations of these filters are possible to give
particular frequency response characteristics, such as
band pass or notch filters. Here, just the basic design
will be considered. The filters may also be active, in
that the circuit will include amplification, or passive,
when the circuit does not. Figure 2.25 shows the two
main passive filter circuits.
The principle of the filter circuits is based on the
reactance of the capacitors changing with frequency.
In fact, capacitive reactance, Xc decreases with an
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.27 Stepper motor control system
Figure 2.26 Darlington pair
increase in frequency. The roll-off frequency of a
filter can be calculated as shown:
where f frequency at which the circuit response
begins to roll off; R resistor value; C capacitor
It should be noted that the filters are far from perfect (some advanced designs come close though), and
that the roll-off frequency is not a clear-cut ‘off’ but
the point at which the circuit response begins to fall.
2.3.9 Darlington pair
A Darlington pair is a simple combination of two
transistors that will give a high current gain, of typically several thousand. The transistors are usually
mounted on a heat sink and, overall, the device will
have three terminals marked as a single transistor –
base, collector and emitter. The input impedance of
this type of circuit is of the order of 1M , hence it
will not load any previous part of a circuit connected
to its input. Figure 2.26 shows two transistors connected as a Darlington pair.
The Darlington pair configuration is used for
many switching applications. A common use of
a Darlington pair is for the switching of the coil
primary current in the ignition circuit.
2.3.10 Stepper motor driver
A later section gives details of how a stepper motor
works. In this section it is the circuit used to drive the
motor that is considered. For the purpose of this
Figure 2.28 Stepper motor driver circuit (power stage)
explanation, a driver circuit for a four-phase unipolar
motor is described. The function of a stepper motor
driver is to convert the digital and ‘wattless’ (no significant power content) process control signals into
signals to operate the motor coils. The process of
controlling a stepper motor is best described with
reference to a block diagram of the complete control
system, as shown in Figure 2.27.
The process control block shown represents the
signal output from the main part of an engine management ECU (electronic control unit). The signal is
then converted in a simple logic circuit to suitable
pulses for controlling the motor. These pulses will
then drive the motor via a power stage. Figure 2.28
shows a simplified circuit of a power stage designed
to control four motor windings.
2.3.11 Digital to analogue
Conversion from digital signals to an analogue signal is a relatively simple process. When an operational amplifier is configured with shunt feedback
the input and feedback resistors determine the gain.
Gain Rf
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.29 Digital-to-analogue converter
If the digital-to-analogue converted circuit is connected as shown in Figure 2.29 then the ‘weighting’
of each input line can be determined by choosing
suitable resistor values. In the case of the four-bit
digital signal, as shown, the most significant bit will
be amplified with a gain of one. The next bit will be
amplified with a gain of 1/2, the next bit 1/4 and, in
this case, the least significant bit will be amplified
with a gain of 1/8. This circuit is often referred to as
an adder. The output signal produced is therefore a
voltage proportional to the value of the digital input
The main problem with this system is that the
accuracy of the output depends on the tolerance of
the resistors. Other types of digital-to-analogue converter are available, such as the R2R ladder network,
but the principle of operation is similar to the above
2.3.12 Analogue to digital
The purpose of this circuit is to convert an analogue
signal, such as that received from a temperature
thermistor, into a digital signal for use by a computer or a logic system. Most systems work by comparing the output of a digital-to-analogue converter
(DAC) with the input voltage. Figure 2.30 is a ramp
analogue-to-digital converter (ADC). This type is
slower than some others but is simple in operation.
The output of a binary counter is connected to the
input of the DAC, the output of which will be a
ramp. This voltage is compared with the input voltage and the counter is stopped when the two are
equal. The count value is then a digital representation of the input voltage. The operation of the other
Figure 2.30 Ramp analogue-to-digital converter
digital components in this circuit will be explained
in the next section.
ADCs are available in IC form and can work to
very high speeds at typical resolutions of one part
in 4096 (12-bit word). The speed of operation is
critical when converting variable or oscillating
input signals. As a rule, the sampling rate must be
at least twice the frequency of the input signal.
2.4 Digital electronics
2.4.1 Introduction to digital
With some practical problems, it is possible to
express the outcome as a simple yes/no or true/false
answer. Let us take a simple example: if the answer
to either the first or the second question is ‘yes’, then
switch on the brake warning light, if both answers
are ‘no’ then switch it off.
1. Is the handbrake on?
2. Is the level in the brake fluid reservoir low?
In this case, we need the output of an electrical circuit to be ‘on’ when either one or both of the inputs
to the circuit are ‘on’. The inputs will be via simple
switches on the handbrake and in the brake reservoir. The digital device required to carry out the
above task is an OR gate, which will be described in
the next section.
Once a problem can be described in logic
states then a suitable digital or logic circuit can also
Electrical and electronic principles
determine the answer to the problem. Simple circuits
can also be constructed to hold the logic state of
their last input – these are, in effect, simple forms of
‘memory’. By combining vast quantities of these
basic digital building blocks, circuits can be constructed to carry out the most complex tasks in a
fraction of a second. Due to integrated circuit technology, it is now possible to create hundreds of thousands if not millions of these basic circuits on one
chip. This has given rise to the modern electronic
control systems used for vehicle applications as well
as all the countless other uses for a computer.
In electronic circuits, true/false values are
assigned voltage values. In one system, known as
TTL (transistor transistor logic), true or logic ‘1’, is
represented by a voltage of 3.5 V and false or logic
‘0’, by 0 V.
2.4.2 Logic gates
The symbols and truth tables for the basic logic
gates are shown in Figure 2.31. A truth table is used
to describe what combination of inputs will produce a particular output.
The AND gate will only produce an output of ‘1’
if both inputs (or all inputs as it can have more than
two) are also at logic ‘1’. Output is ‘1’ when inputs
A AND B are ‘1’.
The OR gate will produce an output when either
A OR B (OR both), are ‘1’. Again more than two
inputs can be used.
A NOT gate is a very simple device where the
output will always be the opposite logic state from
the input. In this case A is NOT B and, of course, this
can only be a single input and single output device.
The AND and OR gates can each be combined
with the NOT gate to produce the NAND and NOR
gates, respectively. These two gates have been
found to be the most versatile and are used extensively for construction of more complicated logic
circuits. The output of these two is the inverse of the
original AND and OR gates.
The final gate, known as the exclusive OR gate,
or XOR, can only be a two-input device. This gate
will produce an output only when A OR B is at
logic ‘1’ but not when they are both the same.
2.4.3 Combinational logic
Circuits consisting of many logic gates, as described
in the previous section, are called combinational
logic circuits. They have no memory or counter circuits and can be represented by a simple block diagram with N inputs and Z outputs. The first stage in
the design process of creating a combinational logic
Figure 2.31 Logic gates and truth tables
circuit is to define the required relationship between
the inputs and outputs.
Let us consider a situation where we need a circuit to compare two sets of three inputs and, if they
are not the same, to provide a single logic ‘1’ output.
This is oversimplified, but could be used to compare
the actions of a system with twin safety circuits,
such as an ABS electronic control unit. The logic
circuit could be made to operate a warning light if
a discrepancy exists between the two safety circuits. Figure 2.32 shows the block diagram and one
suggestion for how this circuit could be constructed.
Referring to the truth tables for basic logic circuits, the XOR gate seemed the most appropriate to
carry out the comparison: it will only produce a ‘0’
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
output when its inputs are the same. The outputs of
the three XOR gates are then supplied to a three-input
OR gate which, providing all its inputs are ‘0’, will
output ‘0’. If any of its inputs change to ‘1’ the output will change to ‘1’ and the warning light will be
Other combinations of gates can be configured
to achieve any task. A popular use is to construct an
adder circuit to perform addition of two binary
numbers. Subtraction is achieved by converting the
subtraction to addition, (4 3 1 is the same as
4 [3] 1). Adders are also used to multiply and
divide numbers, as this is actually repeated addition
or repeated subtraction.
2.4.4 Sequential logic
The logic circuits discussed above have been simple
combinations of various gates. The output of each
system was only determined by the present inputs.
Circuits that have the ability to memorize previous
inputs or logic states, are known as sequential logic
circuits. In these circuits the sequence of past inputs
determines the current output. Because sequential circuits store information after the inputs
are removed, they are the basic building blocks of
computer memories.
Basic memory circuits are called bistables as they
have two steady states. They are, however, more often
referred to as flip-flops.
There are three main types of flip-flop: an RS
memory, a D-type flip-flop and a JK-type flip-flop.
The RS memory can be constructed by using two
NAND and two NOT gates, as shown in Figure 2.33
next to the actual symbol. If we start with both inputs
at ‘0’ and output X is at ‘1’ then as output X goes to
the input of the other NAND gate its output will be
‘0’. If input A is now changed to ‘1’ output X will
change to ‘0’, which will in turn cause output Y to go
Figure 2.32 Combinational logic to compare inputs
to ‘1’. The outputs have changed over. If A now
reverts to ‘1’ the outputs will remain the same until B
goes to ‘1’, causing the outputs to change over again.
In this way the circuit remembers which input was
last at ‘1’. If it was A then X is ‘0’ and Y is ‘1’, if it
was B then X is ‘1’ and Y is ‘0’. This is the simplest
form of memory circuit. The RS stands for set–reset.
The second type of flip-flop is the D-type. It has two
inputs labelled CK (for clock) and D; the outputs are
labelled Q and Q. These are often called ‘Q’ and ‘not
Q’. The output Q takes on the logic state of D when
the clock pulse is applied. The JK-type flip-flop is a
combination of the previous two flip-flops. It has two
main inputs like the RS type but now labelled J and K
and it is controlled by a clock pulse like the D-type.
The outputs are again ‘Q’ and ‘not Q’. The circuit
remembers the last input to change in the same way
as the RS memory did. The main difference is that
the change-over of the outputs will only occur on
the clock pulse. The outputs will also change over if
both J and K are at logic ‘1’, this was not allowed in
the RS type.
2.4.5 Timers and counters
A device often used as a timer is called a ‘monostable’ as it has only one steady state. Accurate and
easily controllable timer circuits are made using
this device. A capacitor and resistor combination is
used to provide the delay. Figure 2.34 shows a
monostable timer circuit with the resistor and
capacitor attached.
Every time the input goes from 0 to 1 the output Q,
will go from 0 to 1 for t seconds. The other output Q
will do the opposite. Many variations of this type of
timer are available. The time delay ‘t’ is usually 0.7RC.
Counters are constructed from a series of bistable
devices. A binary counter will count clock pulses at
its input. Figure 2.35 shows a four-bit counter constructed from D-type flip-flops. These counters are
called ‘ripple through’ or non-synchronous, because
the change of state ripples through from the least
Figure 2.33 D-type and JK-type flip-flop (bistables). A method
using NAND gates to make an RS type is also shown
Electrical and electronic principles
significant bit and the outputs do not change simultaneously. The type of triggering is important for
the system to work as a counter. In this case, negative edge triggering is used, which means that the
devices change state when the clock pulse changes
from ‘1’ to ‘0’. The counters can be configured to
count up or down.
In low-speed applications, ‘ripple through’ is not a
problem but at higher speeds the delay in changing
from one number to the next may be critical. To
get over this asynchronous problem a synchronous
counter can be constructed from JK-type flip-flops,
together with some simple combinational logic.
Figure 2.36 shows a four-bit synchronous up-counter.
With this arrangement, all outputs change simultaneously because the combinational logic looks
at the preceding stages and sets the JK inputs to a ‘1’
if a toggle is required. Counters are also available
‘ready made’ in a variety of forms including counting
to non-binary bases in the up or down mode.
Eight bits (binary digits) are often referred to as
one byte. Therefore, the register shown has a memory of one byte. When more than one register is used,
an address is required to access or store the data in a
particular register. Figure 2.38 shows a block diagram of a four-byte memory system. Also shown is
an address bus, as each area of this memory is allocated a unique address. A control bus is also needed
as explained below.
In order to store information (write), or to
get information (read), from the system shown,
it is necessary first to select the register containing
the required data. This task is achieved by allocating
an address to each register. The address bus in this
example will only need two lines to select one of
four memory locations using an address decoder.
2.4.6 Memory circuits
Electronic circuits constructed using flip-flops as
described above are one form of memory. If the flipflops are connected as shown in Figure 2.37 they
form a simple eight-bit word memory. This, however, is usually called a register rather than memory.
Figure 2.34 Monostable timer circuit with a resistor and
capacitor attached
Figure 2.35 Four-bit counter constructed from D-type flip-flops
Figure 2.36 Four-bit synchronous up-counter
Figure 2.37 Eight-bit register using flip-flops
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.38 Four-byte memory with address lines and decoders
The addresses will be binary; ‘00’, ‘01’, ‘10’ and
‘11’ such that if ‘11’ is on the address bus the simple
combinational logic (AND gate), will only operate
one register, usually via a pin marked CS or chip
select. Once a register has been selected, a signal
from the control bus will ‘tell’ the register whether
to read from or write to, the data bus. A clock pulse
will ensure all operations are synchronized.
This example may appear to be a complicated
way of accessing just four bytes of data. In fact, it is
the principle of this technique, that is important, as
the same method can be applied to access memory
chips containing vast quantities of data. Note that
with an address bus of two lines, 4 bytes could be
accessed (22 4). If the number of address lines
was increased to eight, then 256 bytes would be
available (28 256). Ten address lines will address
one kilobyte of data and so on.
The memory, which has just been described,
together with the techniques used to access the data
are typical of most computer systems. The type of
memory is known as random access memory
(RAM). Data can be written to and read from this
type of memory but note that the memory is volatile,
in other words it will ‘forget’ all its information when
the power is switched off!
Another type of memory that can be ‘read from’
but not ‘written to’ is known as read only memory
(ROM). This type of memory has data permanently
stored and is not lost when power is switched off.
There are many types of ROM, which hold permanent
data, but one other is worthy of a mention, that is
EPROM. This stands for erasable, programmable,
read only memory. Its data can be changed with special equipment (some are erased with ultraviolet
light), but for all other purposes its memory is permanent. In an engine management electronic control unit
Figure 2.39 A stable circuit using a 555 IC
(ECU), operating data and a controlling program are
stored in ROM, whereas instantaneous data (engine
speed, load, temperature etc.) are stored in RAM.
2.4.7 Clock or astable circuits
Control circuits made of logic gates and flip-flops
usually require an oscillator circuit to act as a clock.
Figure 2.39 shows a very popular device, the
555-timer chip.
The external resistors and capacitor will set the
frequency of the output due to the charge time of
the capacitor. Comparators inside the chip cause the
output to set and reset the memory (a flip-flop) as
the capacitor is charged and discharged alternately
to 1/3 and 2/3 of the supply voltage. The output of
the chip is in the form of a square wave signal. The
chip also has a reset pin to stop or start the output.
2.5 Microprocessor
2.5.1 Introduction
The advent of the microprocessor has made it
possible for tremendous advances in all areas of
Electrical and electronic principles
rate controlled by a system clock, which generates
a square wave signal usually produced by a crystal
oscillator. Modern microprocessor controlled systems can work at clock speeds in excess of 300 MHz.
The microprocessor is the device that controls the
computer via the address, data and control buses.
Many vehicle systems use microcontrollers and
these are discussed later in this section.
2.5.4 Memory
Figure 2.40 Basic microcomputer block diagram
electronic control, not least of these in the motor
vehicle. Designers have found that the control of
vehicle systems – which is now required to meet the
customers’ needs and the demands of regulations –
has made it necessary to use computer control.
Figure 2.40 shows a block diagram of a microcomputer containing the four major parts. These are the
input and output ports, some form of memory and
the CPU or central processing unit (microprocessor).
It is likely that some systems will incorporate more
memory chips and other specialized components.
Three buses carrying data, addresses and control
signals link each of the parts shown. If all the main
elements as introduced above are constructed on
one chip, it is referred to as a microcontroller.
2.5.2 Ports
The input port of a microcomputer system receives
signals from peripherals or external components. In
the case of a personal computer system, a keyboard
is one provider of information to the input port.
A motor vehicle application could be the signal
from a temperature sensor, which has been analogue
to digital converted. These signals must be in digital
form and usually between 0 and 5 V. A computer
system, whether a PC or used on a vehicle, will have
several input ports.
The output port is used to send binary signals to
external peripherals. A personal computer may
require output to a monitor and printer, and a vehicle
computer may, for example, output to a circuit that
will control the switching of the ignition coil.
2.5.3 Central processing unit
The central processing unit or microprocessor is the
heart of any computer system. It is able to carry out
calculations, make decisions and be in control of the
rest of the system. The microprocessor works at a
The way in which memory actually works was
discussed briefly in an earlier section. We will now
look at how it is used in a microprocessor controlled
system. Memory is the part of the system that stores
both the instructions for the microprocessor (the
program) and any data that the microprocessor will
need to execute the instructions.
It is convenient to think of memory as a series
of pigeon-holes, which are each able to store data.
Each of the pigeon-holes must have an address, simply to distinguish them from each other and so that
the microprocessor will ‘know’ where a particular
piece of information is stored. Information stored in
memory, whether it is data or part of the program,
is usually stored sequentially. It is worth noting that
the microprocessor reads the program instructions
from sequential memory addresses and then carries
out the required actions. In modern PC systems,
memories can be of 128 megabytes or more! Vehicle
microprocessor controlled systems do not require as
much memory but mobile multimedia systems will.
2.5.5 Buses
A computer system requires three buses to communicate with or control its operations. The three
buses are the data bus, address bus and the control
bus. Each one of these has a particular function
within the system.
The data bus is used to carry information from
one part of the computer to another. It is known as
a bi-directional bus as information can be carried in
any direction. The data bus is generally 4, 8, 16 or
32 bits wide. It is important to note that only one
piece of information at a time may be on the data
bus. Typically, it is used to carry data from memory
or an input port to the microprocessor, or from the
microprocessor to an output port. The address bus
must first address the data that is accessed.
The address bus starts in the microprocessor and
is a unidirectional bus. Each part of a computer system, whether memory or a port, has a unique address
in binary format. Each of these locations can be
addressed by the microprocessor and the held data
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
placed on the data bus. The address bus, in effect,
tells the computer which part of its system is to be
used at any one moment.
Finally, the control bus, as the name suggests,
allows the microprocessor, in the main, to control the
rest of the system. The control bus may have up to 20
lines but has four main control signals. These are read,
write, input/output request and memory request. The
address bus will indicate which part of the computer
system is to operate at any given time and the control
bus will indicate how that part should operate. For
example, if the microprocessor requires information
from a memory location, the address of the particular
location is placed on the address bus. The control bus
will contain two signals, one memory request and one
read signal. This will cause the contents of the memory at one particular address to be placed on the data
bus. These data may then be used by the microprocessor to carry out another instruction.
2.5.6 Fetch–execute sequence
A microprocessor operates at very high speed by the
system clock. Broadly speaking, the microprocessor
has a simple task. It has to fetch an instruction from
memory, decode the instruction and then carry out or
execute the instruction. This cycle, which is carried
out relentlessly (even if the instruction is to do nothing), is known as the fetch–execute sequence. Earlier
in this section it was mentioned that most instructions are stored in consecutive memory locations
such that the microprocessor, when carrying out the
fetch–execute cycle, is accessing one instruction
after another from sequential memory locations.
The full sequence of events may be very much
as follows.
depending on the particular instruction. The actual
time taken depends on the complexity of the instructions and the speed of the clock frequency to the
2.5.7 A typical microprocessor
Figure 2.41 shows the architecture of a simplified
microprocessor, which contains five registers, a
control unit and the arithmetic logic unit (ALU).
The operation code register (OCR) is used to
hold the op-code of the instruction currently being
executed. The control unit uses the contents of the
OCR to determine the actions required.
The temporary address register (TAR) is used to
hold the operand of the instruction if it is to be
treated as an address. It outputs to the address bus.
The temporary data register (TDR) is used to
hold data, which are to be operated on by the ALU,
its output is therefore to an input of the ALU.
The ALU carries out additions and logic operations on data held in the TDR and the accumulator.
The accumulator (AC) is a register, which is
accessible to the programmer and is used to keep
such data as a running total.
The instruction pointer (IP) outputs to the address
bus so that its contents can be used to locate instructions in the main memory. It is an incremental register, meaning that its contents can be incremented by
one directly by a signal from the control unit.
Execution of instructions in a microprocessor proceeds on a step by step basis, controlled by signals
from the control unit via the internal control bus. The
control unit issues signals as it receives clock pulses.
The microprocessor places the address of the
next memory location on the address bus.
At the same time a memory read signal is placed
on the control bus.
The data from the addressed memory location
are placed on the data bus.
The data from the data bus are temporarily stored
in the microprocessor.
The instruction is decoded in the microprocessor
internal logic circuits.
The ‘execute’ phase is now carried out. This can
be as simple as adding two numbers inside the
microprocessor or it may require data to be output to a port. If the latter is the case, then the
address of the port will be placed on the address
bus and a control bus ‘write’ signal is generated.
The fetch and decode phase will take the same time
for all instructions, but the execute phase will vary
Figure 2.41 Simplified microprocessor with five registers, a
control unit and the ALU or arithmetic logic unit
Electrical and electronic principles
The process of instruction execution is as follows:
Control unit receives the clock pulse.
Control unit sends out control signals.
Action is initiated by the appropriate components.
Control unit receives the clock pulse.
Control unit sends out control signals.
Action is initiated by the appropriate components.
And so on.
512 bytes of RAM, three (16 bit) timers, four
I/O ports and a built in serial interface.
Microcontrollers are available such that a preprogrammed ROM may be included. These are usually made to order and are only supplied to the
original customer. Figure 2.42 shows a simplified
block diagram of the 8051 microcontroller.
A typical sequence of instructions to add a number
to the one already in the accumulator is as follows:
2.5.9 Testing microcontroller
1. IP contents placed on the address bus.
2. Main memory is read and contents placed on
the data bus.
3. Data on the data bus are copied into OCR.
4. IP contents incremented by one.
5. IP contents placed on the address bus.
6. Main memory is read and contents placed on
the data bus.
7. Data on the data bus are copied into TDR.
8. ALU adds TDR and AC and places result on
the data bus.
9. Data on the data bus are copied into AC.
10. IP contents incremented by one.
If a microcontroller system is to be constructed
with the program (set of instructions) permanently
held in ROM, considerable testing of the program is
required. This is because, once the microcontroller
goes into production, tens if not hundreds of thousands of units will be made. A hundred thousand
microcontrollers with a hard-wired bug in the
program would be a very expensive error!
There are two main ways in which software for
a microcontroller can be tested. The first, which is
used in the early stages of program development, is
by a simulator. A simulator is a program that is executed on a general purpose computer and which simulates the instruction set of the microcontroller. This
method does not test the input or output devices.
The most useful aid for testing and debugging is
an in-circuit emulator. The emulator is fitted in the
circuit in place of the microcontroller and is, in
turn, connected to a general purpose computer. The
microcontroller program can then be tested in conjunction with the rest of the hardware with which it
is designed to work. The PC controls the system and
allows different procedures to be tested. Changes to
the program can easily be made at this stage of the
The accumulator now holds the running total.
Steps 1 to 4 are the fetch sequence and steps 5 to 10
the execute sequence. If the full fetch–execute
sequence above was carried out, say, nine times this
would be the equivalent of multiplying the number
in the accumulator by 10! This gives an indication
as to just how basic the level of operation is within
a computer.
Now to take a giant step forwards. It is possible
to see how the microprocessor in an engine management ECU can compare a value held in a RAM location with one held in a ROM location. The result of
this comparison of, say, instantaneous engine speed
in RAM and a pre-programmed figure in ROM,
could be to set the ignition timing to another
pre-programmed figure.
2.5.8 Microcontrollers
As integration technology advanced it became possible to build a complete computer on a single chip.
This is known as a microcontroller. The microcontroller must contain a microprocessor, memory
(RAM and/or ROM), input ports and output ports.
A clock is included in some cases.
A typical family of microcontrollers is the
‘Intel’ 8051 series. These were first introduced in
1980 but are still a popular choice for designers.
A more up-to-date member of this family is the
87C528 microcontroller which has 32K EPROM,
2.5.10 Programming
To produce a program for a computer, whether it
is for a PC or a microcontroller-based system is
generally a six-stage process.
1 Requirement analysis
This seeks to establish whether in fact a computerbased approach is in fact the best option. It is, in
effect, a feasibility study.
2 Task definition
The next step is to produce a concise and unambiguous description of what is to be done. The outcome
of this stage is to produce the functional specifications of the program.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.42 Simplified block diagram of the 8051 microcontroller
3 Program design
The best approach here is to split the overall task
into a number of smaller tasks. Each of which can
be split again and so on if required. Each of the
smaller tasks can then become a module of the
final program. A flow chart like the one shown in
Figure 2.43 is often the result of this stage, as such
charts show the way sub-tasks interrelate.
4 Coding
This is the representation of each program module
in a computer language. The programs are often written in a high-level language such as Turbo C, Pascal
or even Basic. Turbo C and C are popular as
they work well in program modules and produce a
faster working program than many of the other languages. When the source code has been produced
in the high-level language, individual modules are
linked and then compiled into machine language –
in other words a language consisting of just ‘1s’ and
‘0s’ and in the correct order for the microprocessor
to understand.
Figure 2.43 Computer program flowchart
Electrical and electronic principles
5 Validation and debugging
Once the coding is completed it must be tested
extensively. This was touched upon in the previous
section but it is important to note that the program
must be tested under the most extreme conditions.
Overall, the tests must show that, for an extensive
range of inputs, the program must produce the
required outputs. In fact, it must prove that it can do
what it was intended to do! A technique known as
single stepping where the program is run one step at
a time, is a useful aid for debugging.
6 Operation and maintenance
Finally, the program runs and works but, in some
cases, problems may not show up for years and some
maintenance of the program may be required for new
production; the Millennium bug, for example!
The six steps above should not be seen in isolation,
as often the production of a program is iterative and
steps may need to be repeated several times.
Some example programs and source code
examples can be downloaded from my web site (the
URL address is given in the preface).
2.6 Measurement
2.6.1 What is measurement
Measurement is the act of measuring physical quantities to obtain data that are transmitted to recording/
display devices and/or to control devices. The term
‘instrumentation’ is often used in this context to
describe the science and technology of the measurement system.
The first task of any measurement system is to
translate the physical value to be measured, known
as the measurand, into another physical variable,
which can be used to operate the display or control
device. In the motor vehicle system, the majority of
measurands are converted into electrical signals.
The sensors that carry out this conversion are often
called transducers.
2.6.2 A measurement system
A complete measurement system will vary depending on many factors but many vehicle systems will
consist of the following stages.
Physical variable.
Electrical variable.
Signal processing.
Figure 2.44 Measurement system block diagram
5. A/D conversion.
6. Signal processing.
7. Display or use by a control device.
Some systems may not require Steps 5 and 6.
As an example, consider a temperature measurement system with a digital display. This will help to
illustrate the above seven-step process.
Engine water temperature.
Resistance decreases with temperature increase.
A/D conversion.
Conversion to drive a digital display.
Digital read-out as a number or a bar graph.
Figure 2.44 shows a complete measurement
system as a block diagram.
2.6.3 Sources of error in
An important question to ask when designing an
instrumentation or measurement system is:
What effect will the measurement system have
on the variable being measured?
Consider the water temperature measurement example discussed in the previous section. If the transducer is immersed in a liquid, which is at a higher
temperature than the surroundings, then the transducer will conduct away some of the heat and lower
the temperature of the liquid. This effect is likely to
be negligible in this example, but in others, it may
not be so small. However, even in this case it is possible that, due to the fitting of the transducer, the
water temperature surrounding the sensor will be
lower than the rest of the system. This is known as
an invasive measurement. A better example may be
that if a device is fitted into a petrol pipe to measure
flow rate, then it is likely that the device itself will
restrict the flow in some way. Returning to the previous example of the temperature transducer it is
also possible that the very small current passing
through the transducer will have a heating effect.
Errors in a measurement system affect the overall accuracy. Errors are also not just due to invasion
of the system. There are many terms associated
with performance characteristics of transducers and
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
measurement systems. Some of these terms are
considered below.
region. Non-linearity is usually quoted as a percentage over the range in which the device is designed
to work.
A descriptive term meaning how close the measured
value of a quantity is to its actual value. Accuracy
is expressed usually as a maximum error. For
example, if a length of about 30 cm is measured
with an ordinary wooden ruler then the error may
be up to 1 mm too high or too low. This is quoted as
an accuracy of 1mm. This may also be expressed as
a percentage which in this case would be 0.33%. An
electrical meter is often quoted as the maximum
error being a percentage of full-scale deflection. The
maximum error or accuracy is contributed to by a
number of factors explained below.
The ‘fineness’ with which a measurement can be
made. This must be distinguished from accuracy. If
a quality steel ruler were made to a very high standard but only had markings or graduations of one
per centimetre it would have a low resolution even
though the graduations were very accurate.
For a given value of the measurand, the output of
the system depends on whether the measurand has
acquired its value by increasing or decreasing from
its previous value. You can prove this next time you
weigh yourself on some scales. If you step on gently
you will ‘weigh less’ than if you jump on and the
scales overshoot and then settle.
The closeness of agreement of the readings when a
number of consecutive measurements are taken of a
chosen value during full range traverses of the measurand. If a 5 kg set of weighing scales was increased
from zero to 5 kg in 1 kg steps a number of times,
then the spread of readings is the repeatability. It is
often expressed as a percentage of full scale.
Zero error or zero shift
The displacement of a reading from zero when no
reading should be apparent. An analogue electrical
test meter, for example, often has some form of
adjustment to zero the needle.
The response of a transducer is often non-linear (see
the response of a thermistor in the next section).
Where possible, a transducer is used in its linear
Sensitivity or scale factor
A measure of the incremental change in output for
a given change in the input quantity. Sensitivity is
quoted effectively as the slope of a graph in the linear
region. A figure of 0.1 V/° C for example, would indicate that a system would increase its output by 0.1 V
for every 1 ° C increase in temperature of the input.
Response time
The time taken by the output of a system to respond
to a change in the input. A system measuring
engine oil pressure needs a faster response time
than a fuel tank quantity system. Errors in the output will be apparent if the measurement is taken
quicker than the response time.
Looking again at the seven steps involved in a
measurement system will highlight the potential
sources of error.
Invasive measurement error.
Non-linearity of the transducer.
Noise in the transmission path.
Errors in amplifiers and other components.
Quantization errors when digital conversion
takes place.
6. Display driver resolution.
7. Reading error of the final display.
Many good textbooks are available for further
study, devoted solely to the subject of measurement
and instrumentation. This section is intended to provide the reader with a basic grounding in the subject.
2.7 Sensors and actuators
2.7.1 Thermistors
Thermistors are the most common device used for
temperature measurement on a motor vehicle. The
principle of measurement is that a change in temperature will cause a change in resistance of the thermistor, and hence an electrical signal proportional to the
measured can be obtained.
Most thermistors in common use are of the
negative temperature coefficient (NTC) type. The
actual response of the thermistors can vary but typical values for those used in motor vehicles will
vary from several kilohms at 0 ° C to a few hundred
ohms at 100 ° C. The large change in resistance for
a small change in temperature makes the thermistor
Electrical and electronic principles
ideal for most vehicles’ uses. It can also be easily
tested with simple equipment.
Thermistors are constructed of semiconductor
materials such as cobalt or nickel oxides. The change
in resistance with a change in temperature is due to
the electrons being able to break free from the covalent bonds more easily at higher temperatures; this is
shown in Figure 2.45(i). A thermistor temperature
measuring system can be very sensitive due to large
changes in resistance with a relatively small change
in temperature. A simple circuit to provide a varying
voltage signal proportional to temperature is shown
in Figure 2.45(ii). Note the supply must be constant
and the current flowing must not significantly heat
the thermistor. These could both be sources of error.
The temperature of a typical thermistor will increase
by 1 ° C for each 1.3 mW of power dissipated. Figure
2.45(iii) shows the resistance against temperature
curve for a thermistor. This highlights the main problem with a thermistor, its non-linear response. Using
a suitable bridge circuit, it is possible to produce
non-linearity that will partially compensate for
the thermistor’s non-linearity. This is represented by
Figure 2.45(iv). The combination of these two
responses is also shown. The optimum linearity is
achieved when the mid points of the temperature and
the voltage ranges lie on the curve. Figure 2.45(v)
shows a bridge circuit for this purpose. It is possible
to work out suitable values for R1, R2 and R3. This
then gives the more linear output as represented by
Figure 2.45(vi). The voltage signal can now be A/D
converted if necessary, for further use.
The resistance Rt of a thermistor decreases
non-linearly with temperature according to the
Rt Ae(B/T )
where Rt resistance of the thermistor, T absolute
temperature, B characteristic temperature of the
thermistor (typical value 3000 K), A constant of
the thermistor.
For the bridge configuration as shown Vo is
given by:
 R2
R1 
Vo Vs 
R1 R3 
 R2 R1
By choosing suitable resistor values the output of
the bridge will be as shown. This is achieved by substituting the known values of Rt at three temperatures
and deciding that, for example, Vo 0 at 0 ° C,
Vo 0.5 V at 50 ° C and Vo 1 V at 100 ° C.
2.7.2 Thermocouples
If two different metals are joined together at two
junctions, the thermoelectric effect known as the
Seebeck effect takes place. If one junction is at a
higher temperature than the other junction, then this
will be registered on the meter. This is the basis for
the sensor known as the thermocouple. Figure 2.46
Figure 2.45 (i) How a thermistor changes resistance; (ii) circuit
to provide a varying voltage signal proportional to temperature;
(iii) resistance against temperature curve for a thermistor;
(iv) non-linearity to compensate partially for the thermistor’s
non-linearity; (v) bridge circuit to achieve maximum linearity;
(vi) final output signal
Figure 2.46 Thermocouple principle and circuits
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
shows the thermocouple principle and appropriate
circuits. Notice that the thermocouple measures a
difference in temperature that is T1 – T2. To make
the system of any practical benefit then T1 must be
kept at a known temperature. The lower figure shows
a practical circuit in which, if the connections to the
meter are at the same temperature, the two voltages
produced at these junctions will cancel out. Cold
junction compensation circuits can be made to
compensate for changes in temperature of T1. These
often involve the use of a thermistor circuit.
Thermocouples are in general used for measuring
high temperatures. A thermocouple combination
of 70% platinum and 30% rhodium alloy in a junction with 94% platinum and 6% rhodium alloy, is
known as a type B thermocouple and has a useful
range of 0–1500 ° C. Vehicle applications are in areas
such as exhaust gas and turbo charger temperature
2.7.3 Inductive sensors
Inductive-type sensors are used mostly for measuring speed and position of a rotating component. They
work on the very basic principle of electrical induction (a changing magnetic flux will induce an electromotive force in a winding). Figure 2.47 shows the
inductive sensor principle and a typical device used
as a crankshaft speed and position sensor.
The output voltage of most inductive-type sensors approximates to a sine wave. The amplitude of
this signal depends on the rate of change of flux.
This is determined mostly by the original design:
by the number of turns, magnet strength and the
gap between the sensor and the rotating component.
Once in use though, the output voltage increases
with the speed of rotation. In the majority of applications, it is the frequency of the signal that is used.
The most common way of converting the output of
an inductive sensor to a useful signal is to pass it
through a Schmitt trigger circuit. This produces constant amplitude but a variable frequency square wave.
In some cases the output of the sensor is used to
switch an oscillator on and off or quench the oscillations. A circuit for this is shown in Figure 2.48. The
oscillator produces a very high frequency of about
4 MHz and this when switched on and off by the sensor signal and then filtered, produces a square wave.
This system has a good resistance to interference.
2.7.4 Hall effect
The Hall effect was first noted by a Dr E.H. Hall: it
is a simple principle, as shown in Figure 2.49. If a
certain type of crystal is carrying a current in a transverse magnetic field then a voltage will be produced
at right angles to the supply current. The magnitude
of the voltage is proportional to the supply current
and to the magnetic field strength. Figure 2.50 shows
part of a Bosch distributor, the principle of which is
to ‘switch’ the magnetic field on and off using a
chopper plate. The output of this sensor is almost a
square wave with constant amplitude.
Figure 2.48 Inductive sensor and quenched oscillator circuit
Figure 2.47 Inductive sensor
Figure 2.49 Hall effect principle
Electrical and electronic principles
The Hall effect can also be used to detect
current flowing in a cable. The magnetic field produced around the cable is proportional to the current
Hall effect sensors are becoming increasingly
popular. This is partly due to their reliability but
also the fact that they directly produce a constant
amplitude square wave in speed measurement
applications and a varying DC voltage for either
position sensing or current sensing.
2.7.5 Strain gauges
Figure 2.51 shows a simple strain gauge together
with a bridge and amplifier circuit used to convert
its change in resistance into a voltage signal. The
second strain gauge is fitted on the device under test
but in a non-strain position to compensate for temperature changes. Quite simply, when a strain gauge
is stretched its resistance will increase, and when it
is compressed its resistance decreases. Most strain
gauges consist of a thin layer of film that is fixed to
a flexible backing sheet, usually paper. This, in turn,
is bonded to the part where strain is to be measured.
The sensitivity of a strain gauge is defined by its
‘gauge factor’.
K (R/R)/E
where K gauge factor; R original resistance;
R change in resistance; E strain (change in
length/original length, l/l).
Most resistance strain gauges have a resistance
of about 100 and a gauge factor of about 2.
Strain gauges are often used indirectly to measure engine manifold pressure. Figure 2.52 shows an
arrangement of four strain gauges on a diaphragm
forming part of an aneroid chamber used to measure
pressure. When changes in manifold pressure act on
the diaphragm the gauges detect the strain. The output of the circuit is via a differential amplifier as
shown, which must have a very high input resistance
so as not to affect the bridge balance. The actual size
Figure 2.50 Hall effect sensor used in a distributor
Figure 2.51 Strain gauge and a bridge circuit
Figure 2.52 Strain gauge pressure sensor, bridge circuit and
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.53 Variable capacitance sensors: (i) liquid level;
(ii) pressure; (iii) position
of this sensor may be only a few millimetres in diameter. Changes in temperature are compensated for,
as all four gauges would be affected in a similar way,
thus the bridge balance would remain constant.
2.7.6 Variable capacitance
The value of a capacitor is determined by the surface
area of its plates, the distance between the plates
and the nature of the dielectric. Sensors can be constructed to take advantage of these properties. Three
sensors using the variable capacitance technique are
shown in Figure 2.53. These are as follows:
1. Liquid level sensor. The change in liquid level
changes the dielectric value.
2. Pressure sensor. Similar to the strain gauge pressure sensor but this time the distance between
capacitor plates changes.
3. Position sensor. Detects changes in the area of
the plates.
2.7.7 Variable resistance
The two best examples of vehicle applications for
variable resistance sensors are the throttle position
sensor and the flap-type air flow sensor. Whereas variable capacitance sensors are used to measure small
changes, variable resistance sensors generally
measure larger changes in position. This is due to a
Figure 2.54 Throttle potentiometer
lack of sensitivity inherent in the construction of the
resistive track.
The throttle position sensor, as shown in Figure
2.54, is a potentiometer in which, when supplied with
a stable voltage (often 5 V) the voltage from the wiper
contact will be proportional to the throttle position. In
many cases now, the throttle potentiometer is used to
indicate the rate of change of throttle position. This
information is used when implementing acceleration
enrichment or, inversely, over-run fuel cut-off.
The output voltage of a rotary potentiometer can
be calculated:
a 
Vo Vs  i 
 ae 
where Vo voltage out; Vs voltage supply;
a1 angle moved; at total angle possible.
The air flow sensor shown as Figure 2.55 works
on the principle of measuring the force exerted on
the flap by the air passing through it. A calibrated
coil spring exerts a counter force on the flap such
that the movement of the flap is proportional to the
volume of air passing through the sensor. To reduce
the fluctuations caused by individual induction
strokes a compensation flap is connected to the sensor flap. The fluctuations therefore affect both flaps
and are cancelled out. Any damage due to back firing
is also minimized due to this design. The resistive
material used for the track is a ceramic metal mixture, which is burnt into a ceramic plate at a very
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.55 Air flow meter (vane type)
high temperature. The slider potentiometer is calibrated such that the output voltage is proportional to
the quantity of inducted air.
2.7.8 Accelerometer (knock
A piezoelectric accelerometer is a seismic mass
accelerometer using a piezoelectric crystal to convert the force on the mass due to acceleration into
an electrical output signal. The crystal not only acts
as the transducer but as the suspension spring for
the mass. Figure 2.56 shows a typical accelerometer
(or knock sensor) for vehicle use.
The crystal is sandwiched between the body of
the sensor and the seismic mass and is kept under
compression by the bolt. Acceleration forces acting
on the seismic mass cause variations in the amount
of crystal compression and hence generate the piezoelectric voltage. The oscillations of the mass are not
damped except by the stiffness of the crystal. This
means that the sensor will have a very strong resonant frequency but will also be at a very high frequency (in excess of 50 kHz), giving a flat response
curve in its working range up to about 15 kHz.
The natural or resonant frequency of a spring
mass system is given by:
where f resonant frequency; k spring constant
(very high in this case); m mass of the seismic
mass (very low in this case).
Figure 2.56 Piezoelectric accelerometer or knock sensor
When used as an engine knock sensor, the sensor will also detect other engine vibrations. These
are kept to a minimum by only looking for ‘knock’
a few degrees before and after top dead centre
(TDC). Unwanted signals are also filtered out electrically. A charge amplifier is used to detect the signal
from this type of sensor. The sensitivity of a vehicle
knock sensor is about 20 mV/g (g 9.81 m/s).
2.7.9 Linear variable differential
transformer (LVDT)
This sensor is used for measuring displacement in a
straight line (hence linear). Devices are available to
measure distances of less than 0.5 mm and over
0.5 m, either side of a central position. Figure 2.57
shows the principle of the linear variable differential
The device has a primary winding and two secondary windings. The primary winding is supplied
with an AC voltage and AC voltages are induced in
the secondary windings by transformer action. The
secondary windings are connected in series opposition so that the output of the device is the difference
between their outputs. When the ferromagnetic
armature is in the central position the output is zero.
As the armature now moves one way or the other,
the output is increased in one winding and decreased
in the other, producing a voltage which, within the
working range, is proportional to the displacement.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.58 Hot wire mass air flow meter (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 2.57 Principle of the linear variable differential
A phase sensitive detector can be used to convert
the movement into a DC voltage, often 5 V. For a
device moving 12 mm this gives a sensitivity of
0.42 V/mm.
LVDTs are used in some manifold pressure
sensors where a diaphragm transforms changes in
pressure to linear movement.
2.7.10 Hot wire air flow sensor
The distinct advantage of a hot wire air flow sensor
is that it measures air mass flow. The basic principle
is that, as air passes over a hot wire it tries to cool the
wire down. If a circuit is created such as to increase
the current through the wire in order to keep the
temperature constant, then this current will be proportional to the air flow. A resistor is also incorporated to compensate for temperature variations. The
‘hot wire’ is made of platinum, is only a few millimetres long and about 70 m thick. Because of its
small size the time constant of the sensor is very
short – in fact in the order of a few milliseconds.
This is a great advantage as any pulsations of the air
flow will be detected and reacted to in a control unit
accordingly. The output of the circuit involved with
the hot wire sensor is a voltage across a precision
resistor. Figure 2.58 shows a Bosch hot wire air mass
The resistance of the hot wire and the precision
resistor are such that the current to heat the wire
varies between 0.5 A and 1.2 A with different air
mass flow rates. High resistance resistors are used
in the other arm of the bridge and so current flow is
very small. The temperature compensating resistor
Figure 2.59 Hot film air mass flow meter
has a resistance of about 500 which must remain
constant other than by way of temperature change.
A platinum film resistor is used for these reasons.
The compensation resistor can cause the system to
react to temperature changes within about 3 s.
The output of this device can change if the hot
wire becomes dirty. Heating the wire to a very high
temperature for 1 s every time the engine is switched
off prevents this by burning off any contamination.
In some air mass sensors a variable resistor is
provided to set the idle mixture.
2.7.11 Thin film air flow sensor
The thin film air flow sensor is similar to the hot
wire system. Instead of a hot platinum wire a thin
film of nickel is used. The response time of this system is even shorter than the hot wire. Figure 2.59
shows this sensor in more detail.
2.7.12 Vortex flow sensor
Figure 2.60 shows the principle of a vortex flow sensor. It has a bluff body, which partially obstructs the
flow. Vortices form at the down-stream edges of the
bluff body at a frequency that is linearly dependent
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.60 Principle of a vortex flow sensor
on the flow velocity. Detection of the vortices provides an output signal whose frequency is proportional to flow velocity. Detection of the vortices can
be by an ultrasonic transmitter and receiver that will
produce a proportional square wave output. The main
advantage of this device is the lack of any moving
parts, thus eliminating problems with wear.
For a vortex flow sensor to work properly, the
flow must be great enough to be turbulent, but not so
high as to cause bubbles when measuring fluid flow.
As a rough guide, the flow should not exceed 50 m/s.
When used as an engine air flow sensor, this system will produce an output frequency of about 50 Hz
at idle speed and in excess of 1 kHz at full load.
Figure 2.61 Pitot tube and differential pressure sensor for air
flow sensing
2.7.13 Pitot tube
A Pitot tube air flow sensor is a very simple device. It
consists of a small tube open to the air flow such that
the impact of the air will cause an increase in pressure
in the tube compared with the pressure outside the
tube. This same system is applied to aircraft to sense
air speed when in flight. The two tubes are connected
to a differential pressure transducer such as a variable
capacitance device. P1 and P2 are known as the
impact and static pressures, respectively. Figure 2.61
shows a Pitot tube and differential pressure sensor
used for air flow sensing.
2.7.14 Turbine fluid flow sensor
Using a turbine to measure fluid flow is an invasive
form of measurement. The act of placing a device
in the fluid will affect the flow rate. This technique
however is still used as, with careful design,
the invasion can be kept to a minimum. Figure 2.62
shows a typical turbine flow sensor.
The output of the turbine, rotational speed proportional to flow rate, can be converted to an electrical
signal in a number of ways. Often an optical sensor is
used as described under the next heading.
Figure 2.62 Turbine flow sensor
2.7.15 Optical sensors
An optical sensor for rotational position is a relatively simple device. The optical rotation sensor
and circuit shown in Figure 2.63 consist of a phototransistor as a detector and a light emitting diode
light source. If the light is focused to a very narrow
beam then the output of the circuit shown will be a
square wave with frequency proportional to speed.
2.7.16 Oxygen sensors
The vehicle application for an oxygen sensor is to
provide a closed loop feedback system for engine
management control of the air–fuel ratio. The amount
of oxygen sensed in the exhaust is directly related to
the mixture strength, or air–fuel ratio. The ideal
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
air–fuel ratio of 14.7 : 1 by mass is known as a
lambda () value of one. Exhaust gas oxygen (EGO)
sensors are placed in the exhaust pipe near to the
manifold to ensure adequate heating. The sensors
operate reliably at temperatures over 300 ° C. In
some cases, a heating element is incorporated to
ensure this temperature is reached quickly. This type
of sensor is known as a heated exhaust gas oxygen
sensor, or HEGO for short. The heating element
(which consumes about 10 W) does not operate all
the time, which ensures that the sensor does not
exceed 850 ° C – the temperature at which damage
may occur to the sensor. It is for this reason that the
sensors are not often fitted directly in the exhaust
manifold. Figure 2.64 shows an exhaust gas oxygen
The main active component of most types of
oxygen sensors is zirconium dioxide (ZrO2). This
ceramic is housed in gas permeable electrodes of
platinum. A further ceramic coating is applied to the
side of the sensor exposed to the exhaust gas as a protection against residue from the combustion process.
The principle of operation is that, at temperatures in
excess of 300 ° C, the zirconium dioxide will conduct
the oxygen ions. The sensor is designed to be responsive very close to a lambda value of one. As one electrode of the sensor is open to a reference value of
atmospheric air, a greater quantity of oxygen ions
will be present on this side. Due to electrolytic action
these ions permeate the electrode and migrate
through the electrolyte (ZrO2). This builds up a
charge rather like a battery. The size of the charge is
dependent on the oxygen percentage in the exhaust.
A voltage of 400 mV is the normal figure produced
at a lambda value of one.
The closely monitored closed loop feedback of a
system using lambda sensing allows very accurate
control of engine fuelling. Close control of emissions
is therefore possible.
2.7.17 Light sensors
A circuit employing a light sensitive resistor is shown
in Figure 2.65. The circuit can be configured to
switch on or off in response to an increase or decrease
in light. Applications are possible for self-dipping
headlights, a self-dipping interior mirror, or parking
lights that will automatically switch on at dusk.
2.7.18 Thick-film air
temperature sensor
Figure 2.63 Optical sensor
Figure 2.64 Lambda sensor
The advantage which makes a nickel thick-film
thermistor ideal for inlet air temperature sensing is
Electrical and electronic principles
its very short time constant. In other words its resistance varies very quickly with a change in air temperature. Figure 2.66 shows the construction of this
device. The response of a thick film sensor is almost
linear. It has a sensitivity of about 2 ohms/° C and,
as with most metals, it has a positive temperature
coefficient (PTC) characteristic.
2.7.19 Methanol sensor
In the move towards cleaner exhausts, one idea is to
use mixed fuels. Methanol is one potential fuel that
can be mixed with petrol. The problem is that petrol
has a different stoichiometric air requirement to
An engine management system can be set for
either fuel or a mixture of the fuels. However, the
problem with mixing is that the ratio will vary.
A special sensor is needed to determine the proportion of methanol, and once fitted this sensor will
make it possible to operate the vehicle on any
mixture of petrol and methanol.
The methanol sensor (Figure 2.67) is based on the
dielectric principle. The measuring cell is a capacitor
filled with fuel and the methanol content is calculated
from its capacitance. Two further measurements are
taken – the temperature of the fuel and its conductance. These correction factors ensure cross-sensitivity
(a kind of double checking) and the measurement
error is therefore very low. The sensor can be fitted
to the fuel line so the data it provides to the ECU are
current and reliable. The control unit can then adapt
the fuelling strategy to the fuel mix currently in use.
Some further development is taking place but this
sensor looks set to play a major part in allowing the
use of alternative fuels in the near future.
2.7.20 Rain sensor
Rain sensors are used to switch on wipers automatically. Most work on the principle of reflected light.
The device is fitted inside the windscreen and light
from an LED is reflected back from the outer
surface of the glass. The amount of light reflected
changes if the screen is wet, even with a few drops
of rain. Figure 2.68 shows a typical sensor.
Figure 2.65 Light sensitive resistor circuit
Figure 2.67 Methanol sensor
Basic functional principle of the Bosch Rain Sensor
Light sensor,
set far away
Photo diode
light senor
Figure 2.66 Thick-film pressure sensor
Figure 2.68 Rain sensor (Source: Bosch Press)
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
2.7.21 Dynamic vehicle position
These sensors are used for systems such as active
suspension, stability control and general systems
where the movement of the vehicle is involved.
Most involve the basic principle of an accelerometer; that is, a ball hanging on a string or a seismic
mass acting on a sensor.
2.7.22 Sensors: summary
The above brief look at various sensors hardly
scratches the surface of the number of types, and the
range of sensors available for specific tasks. The
subject of instrumentation is now a science in its own
right. The overall intention of this section has been to
highlight some of the problems and solutions to the
measurement of variables associated with vehicle
Sensors used by motor vehicle systems are following a trend towards greater integration of processing
power in the actual sensor. Four techniques are
considered, starting with the conventional system.
Figure 2.69 shows each level of sensor integration
in a block diagram form.
Analogue sensor in which the signal is transmitted
to the ECU via a simple wire circuit. This technique
is very susceptible to interference.
Integration level 1
Analogue signal processing is now added to the
sensor, this improves the resistance to interference.
Integration level 2
At the second level of integration, analogue to-digital
conversion is also included in the sensor. This signal
Figure 2.69 Block diagram of four types of sensors and their
differing aspects
is made bus compatible (CAN for example) and
hence becomes interference proof.
Integration level 3
The final level of integration is to include ‘intelligence’ in the form of a microcomputer as part
of the sensor. The digital output will be interference proof. This level of integration will also allow
built in monitoring and diagnostic ability. These
types of sensor are very expensive at the time
of writing but the price is falling and will continue
to do so as more use is made of the ‘intelligent
2.7.23 Actuators: introduction
There are many ways of providing control over
variables in and around the vehicle. ‘Actuators’ is a
general term used here to describe a control mechanism. When controlled electrically actuators will
work either by the thermal or magnetic effect. In
this section, the term actuator will be used to mean a
device that converts electrical signals into mechanical movement. This section is not written with the
intention of describing all available types of actuator.
Its intention is to describe some of the principles and
techniques used in controlling a wide range of vehicle
2.7.24 Solenoid actuators
The basic operation of solenoid actuators is very
simple. The term ‘solenoid’ means: ‘many coils of
wire wound onto a hollow tube’. However, the term
is often misused, but has become so entrenched that
terms like ‘starter solenoid’ – when really it is
starter relay – are in common use.
A good example of a solenoid actuator is a fuel
injector. Figure 2.70 shows a typical example.
When the windings are energized the armature
is attracted due to magnetism and compresses the
spring. In the case of a fuel injector, the movement
is restricted to about 0.1 mm. The period that an
injector remains open is very small – under various
operating conditions, between 1.5 and 10 ms is typical. The time it takes an injector to open and close
is also critical for accurate fuel metering. Further
details about injection systems are discussed in
Chapters 9 and 10.
The reaction time for a solenoid-operated device,
such as a fuel injector, depends very much on
the inductance of the winding. Figure 2.71 shows a
graph of solenoid-operated actuator variables.
Electrical and electronic principles
A suitable formula to show the relationship
between some of the variables is as follows:
(1 eRt/L)
where i instantaneous current in the winding,
V supply voltage, R total circuit resistance,
L inductance of the injector winding, t time
current has been flowing, e base of natural logs.
The resistance of commonly used injectors is
about 16 . Some systems use ballast resistors in
series with the fuel injectors. This allows lower
inductance and resistance operating windings to be
used, thus speeding up reaction time. Other types of
solenoid actuators, for example door lock actuators,
have less critical reaction times. However, the basic
principle remains the same.
2.7.25 Motorized actuators
Permanent magnet electric motors are used in many
applications and are very versatile. The output of
a motor is, of course, rotation, but this can be used
in many ways. If the motor drives a rotating ‘nut’
through which a plunger is fitted, and on which there
is a screw thread, the rotary action can easily be converted to linear movement. In most vehicle applications the output of the motor has to be geared down,
this is to reduce speed and increase torque. Permanent
magnet motors are almost universally used now in
place of older and less practical motors with field
windings. Some typical examples of where these
motors are used are:
windscreen wipers
windscreen washers
headlight lift
electric windows
electric sun roof
electric aerial operation
seat adjustment
mirror adjustment
headlight washers
headlight wipers
fuel pumps
ventilation fans.
Figure 2.70 Fuel injector (MK 1)
One disadvantage of simple motor actuators is that
no direct feedback of position is possible. This is
not required in many applications; however, in
some cases, such as seat adjustment when a ‘memory’ of the position may be needed, a variable resistor type sensor can be fitted to provide feedback.
A typical motor actuator is shown in Figure 2.72.
A rotary idle actuator is shown in Figure 2.73.
This device is used to control idle speed by controlling air bypass. There are two basic types in common
Figure 2.71 Solenoid-operated actuator variables
Figure 2.72 Seat adjustment motor
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.73 Rotary idle actuator
use. These are single winding types, which have two
terminals, and double winding types, which have
three terminals. Under ECU control, the motor is
caused to open and close a shutter, thus controlling
air bypass. These actuators only rotate about 90 ° to
open and close the valve. As these are permanent
magnet motors, the term ‘single or double windings’
refers to the armature.
The single winding type is fed with a square
wave signal causing it to open against a spring and
then close again, under spring tension. The on/off
ratio or duty cycle of the square wave will determine
the average valve open time and hence idle speed.
With the double winding type the same square
wave signal is sent to one winding but the inverse
signal is sent to the other. As the windings are wound
in opposition to each other if the duty cycle is 50%
then no movement will take place. Altering the ratio
will now cause the shutter to move in one direction
or the other.
2.7.26 Stepper motors
Stepper motors are becoming increasingly popular
as actuators in motor vehicles and in many other
applications. This is mainly because of the ease with
which they can be controlled by electronic systems.
Stepper motors fall into three distinct groups:
1. variable reluctance motors
2. permanent magnet motors
3. hybrid motors.
Figure 2.74 Basic principle of variable reluctance, permanent
magnet and hybrid stepper motors
Figure 2.74 shows the basic principle of variable
reluctance, permanent magnet and hybrid stepper
motors. The operation of each is described briefly
but note that the underlying principle is the same
for each type.
Variable reluctance motors rely on the physical
principle of maximum flux. A number of windings
are set in a circle on a toothed stator. The rotor also
has teeth and is made of a permeable material. Note
in this example that the rotor has two teeth less than
the stator. When current is supplied to a pair of
windings of one phase, the rotor will line up with
its teeth positioned such as to achieve maximum
flux. It is now simply a matter of energizing the
windings in a suitable order to move the rotor. For
example, if phase four is energized, the motor will
‘step’ once in a clockwise direction. If phase two is
energized the step would be anti-clockwise.
These motors do not have a very high operating
torque and have no torque in the non-excited state.
They can, however, operate at relatively high frequencies. The step angles are usually 15 °, 7.5 °, 1.8 °
or 0.45 °.
Permanent magnet stepper motors have a much
higher starting torque and also have a holding
torque when not energized. The rotor is now, in
effect, a permanent magnet. In a variable reluctance
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.76 Four-phase stepper motor and circuit
Figure 2.75 Stepper motor with double stators displaced by
one pole pitch
motor the direction of current in the windings does
not change; however, it is the change in direction
of current that causes the permanent magnet motor
to step. Permanent magnet stepper motors have step
angles of 45 °, 18 °, 15 ° or 7.5 °. Because of their
better torque and holding properties, permanent
magnet motors are becoming increasingly popular.
For this reason, this type of motor will be explained
in greater detail.
The hybrid stepper motor as shown in Figure
2.75 is, as the name suggests, a combination of the
previous two motors. These motors were developed
to try and combine the high speed operation and
good resolution of the variable reluctance type with
the better torque properties of the permanent magnet motor. A pair of toothed wheels is positioned on
either side of the magnet. The teeth on the ‘North’
and ‘South’ wheels are offset such as to take advantage of the variable reluctance principle but without
losing all the torque benefits. Step angles of these
motors are very small: 1.8 °, 0.75 ° or 0.36 °.
All of the above-mentioned types of motor have
been, and are being, used in various vehicle applications. These applications range from idle speed air
bypass and carburettor choke control to speedometer
display drivers.
Let us look now in more detail at the operation
and construction of the permanent magnet stepper
motor. The most basic design for this type of motor
comprises two double stators displaced by one pole
pitch. The rotor is often made of barium-ferrite in the
form of a sintered annular magnet. As the windings
shown in Figure 2.76 are energized first in one direction then the other, the motor will rotate in 90 ° steps.
The step angle is simply 360 ° divided by the number
of stator poles. Half steps can be achieved by switching off a winding before it is reversed. This will cause
the rotor to line up with the remaining stator poles
and implement a half step of 45 °. The direction of
rotation is determined by the order in which the windings are switched on, off or reversed. Figure 2.76
shows a four-phase stepper motor and circuit.
Impulse sequence graphs for two phase stepper
motors are shown in Figure 2.77. The first graph is
for full steps, and the second graph for implementing
half steps.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.77 Impulse sequence graphs for two-phase stepper
motors: the first graph is for half steps, the second for implementing full steps
The main advantage of a stepper motor is that
feedback of position is not required. This is because
the motor can be indexed to a known starting point
and then a calculated number of steps will move the
motor to any suitable position.
The calculations often required for stepper applications are listed below:
z 360/
fz (nz)/60
n (fz 60)/z
w (fz 2)/z
where step angle, n revolutions per minute,
w angular velocity, fz step frequency, z steps
per revolution.
Figure 2.78 Reversing synchronous motor and circuit and its
speed torque characteristic
2.7.28 Thermal actuators
An example of a thermal actuator is the movement of
a traditional-type fuel or temperature gauge needle
(see Chapter 13). A further example is an auxiliary
air device used on many earlier fuel injection systems. The principle of this device is shown in Figure
2.79. When current is supplied to the terminals, a
heating element operates and causes a bimetallic
strip to bend, which closes a simple valve.
The main advantage of this type of actuator,
apart from its simplicity, is that if placed in a suitable position its reaction time will vary with the
temperature of its surroundings. This is ideal for
applications such as fast idle on cold starting control, where once the engine is hot no action is
required from the actuator.
2.7.27 Synchronous motors
Synchronous motors are used when a drive is required
that must be time synchronized. They always rotate at
a constant speed, which is determined by the system frequency and the number of pole pairs in the
n (f 60)/p
where n rpm; f frequency; p number of pole
Figure 2.78 shows a reversing synchronous
motor and its circuit together with the speed torque
characteristic. This shows a constant speed and a
break off at maximum torque. Maximum torque is
determined by supply voltage.
2.8 New developments
Development in electronics, particularly digital
electronics, is so rapid that it is difficult to keep up.
I have tried to provide a basic background in this
chapter, because this is timeless. More systems are
becoming ‘computer’-based, and it is these digital
aspects that are developing. The trend is towards
greater integration and communication between
systems. This allows for built-in fault diagnostics as
well as monitoring of system performance to ensure
compliance with legislation (particularly relating
to emissions). The move towards greater on-board
diagnostics (OBD) will continue.
Electrical and electronic principles
Figure 2.80 Hall effect sensor in SSI package with dressed
cable for ABS wheel-speed applications
Figure 2.81 Oil quality sensor
Figure 2.79 Diagram showing operation of extra air valve (electrical): (i) bypass channel closed; (ii) bypass channel partially open
A number of new sensors are becoming available. Hall effect sensors are being used in place of
inductive sensors for applications such as engine
speed and wheel speed. The two main advantages
are that measurement of lower (or even zero) speed
is possible and the voltage output of the sensors is
independent of speed. Figure 2.80 shows a Hall
effect sensor used to sense wheel speed.
An interesting sensor used to monitor oil quality
is now available. The type shown in Figure 2.81
from the Kavlico Corporation works by monitoring
changes in the dielectric constant of the oil. The
dielectric constant increases as antioxidant additives
in the oil deplete. The value also rapidly increases
if coolant contaminates the oil. The sensor output
increases as the dielectric constant increases.
Knock sensing on petrol/gasoline engine vehicles
has been used since the mid 1980s to improve performance, reduce emissions and improve economy.
These sensors give a good ‘flat’ response over the
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 2.84 Rotary electric exhaust gas recirculation valve
Capacitance Conditioning
Sensing Element
Integrated Package
Figure 2.82 Oil condition sensor
Figure 2.85 Capacitive low g acceleration sensor concept
Figure 2.83 Diesel knock sensor
2–20 kHz range. The diesel knock sensor shown in
Figure 2.83 works between 7 and 20 kHz. With suitable control electronics, the engine can be run near
the detonation border line (DBL). This improves
economy, performance and emissions.
One development in actuator technology is the
rotary electric exhaust gas recirculation (EEGR)
valve for use in diesel engine applications (Lucas
Varity). This device is shown in Figure 2.84. The
main claims for this valve are its self-cleaning action,
accurate gas flow control and its reaction speed.
A low g accelerometer is available from Texas
Instruments. The sensor shown in Figure 2.85 can
be constructed to operate from 0.4 to 10 g. This sensor is used for ride control, anti-lock brakes (ABS)
and safety restraint systems (SRS).
2.9 Diagnostics –
electronics, sensors and
2.9.1 Introduction
Individual electronic components can be tested in a
number of ways but a digital multimeter is normally
Electrical and electronic principles
Table 2.3 Electronic component testing
Test method
Measure the resistance value with an ohmmeter and compare this with the value written or colour coded
on the component.
A capacitor can be difficult to test without specialist equipment but try this: charge the capacitor up to 12 V
and connect it to a digital voltmeter. As most digital meters have an internal resistance of about 10 M
calculate the expected discharge time (T 5CR) and see if the device complies. A capacitor from a contact
breaker ignition system should take about 5 seconds to discharge in this way.
An inductor is a coil of wire so a resistance check is the best method to test for continuity.
Many multimeters have a diode test function. If so, the device should read open circuit in one direction, and
about 0.4–0.6 V in the other direction.This is its switch-on voltage. If no meter is available with this function
then wire the diode to a battery via a small bulb, it should light with the diode one way and not the other.
Most LEDs can be tested by connecting them to a 1.5 V battery. Note the polarity though, the longest leg or
the flat side of the case is negative.
Some multimeters even have transistor testing connections but, if not available, the transistor can be
connected into a simple circuit as in Figure 2.88 and voltage tests carried out as shown.This also illustrates
a method of testing electronic circuits in general. It is fair to point out that, without specific data, it is
difficult for the non-specialist to test unfamiliar circuit boards. It is always worth checking for obvious breaks
and dry joints though.
A logic probe can be used.This is a device with a very high internal resistance so it does not affect the
circuit under test.Two different coloured lights are used, one glows for a ‘logic 1’ and the other for ‘logic 0’.
Specific data are required in most cases but basic tests can be carried out.
Transistor (bipolar)
Digital components
Table 2.4 Testing sensors
Test method
Inductive (reluctance)
A simple resistance test is good.Values vary from about 800 to 1200 .The ‘sine wave’ output can be
viewed on a ‘scope’ or measured with an AC voltmeter.
The square wave output can be seen on a scope or the voltage output measured with a DC voltmeter.
This varies between 0 and 8 V for a Hall sensor used in a distributor depending on whether the chip is
magnetized or not.
Most thermistors have a negative temperature coefficient (NTC).This means the resistance falls as
temperature rises. A resistance check with an ohmmeter should give readings broadly as follows:
0 ° C 4500 , 20 ° C 1200 and 100 ° C 200 .
The main part of this sensor is a variable resistor. If the supply is left connected then check the output
on a DC voltmeter.The voltage should change smoothly from about 0 to the supply voltage (often 5 V).
This sensor includes some electronic circuits to condition the signal from the hot wire.The normal
supply is either 5 or 12 V. The output should change between about 0 and 5 V as the air flow changes.
This sensor is a variable resistor. If the supply is left connected then check the output on a DC
voltmeter. The voltage should change smoothly from about 0 to the supply voltage (often 5 V). If no
supply then check the resistance, again it should change smoothly.
The lambda sensor produces its own voltage, like a battery.This can be measured with the sensor
connected to the system.The voltage output should vary smoothly between 0.2 and 0.8 V as the
mixture is controlled by the ECU.
The normal supply to an externally mounted manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor is 5 V. The
output should change between about 0 and 5 V as the manifold pressure changes – as a rough guide,
2.5 V at idle speed.
Hall effect
Flap air flow
Hot wire air flow
Throttle potentiometer
Oxygen (lambda)
the favourite option. Table 2.3 suggests some methods
of testing components removed from the circuit.
2.9.2 Testing sensors
Testing sensors to diagnose faults is usually a matter of measuring their output signals. In some cases
the sensor will produce this signal on its own (an
inductive sensor for example). In other cases, it will
be necessary to supply the correct voltage to the
device to make it work (a Hall sensor for example).
In this case, it is normal to check that the vehicle
circuit is supplying the voltage before proceeding
to test the sensor. Table 2.4 lists some common sensors together with suggested test methods (correct
voltage supply is assumed).
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
2.9.3 Testing actuators
Testing actuators is simple, as many are operated by
windings. The resistance can be measured with an
ohmmeter. Injectors, for example, often have a
resistance of about 16 . A good tip is that where
an actuator has more than one winding (a stepper
motor for example), the resistance of each should
be about the same. Even if the expected value is not
known, it is likely that if the windings all read the
same then the device is in order.
With some actuators, it is possible to power them
up from the vehicle battery. A fuel injector should
click for example, and a rotary air bypass device
should rotate about half a turn. Be careful with this
method as some actuators could be damaged.
Remember: if in doubt – seek advice!
2.10 New developments in
electronic systems
2.10.1 Lambda sensor – case
The lambda sensor provides lower exhaust emissions
at lower fuel consumption and maximum engine
power. To achieve this the exhaust gas sensor assures
the optimally matched mix of fuel and air: fitted
in the exhaust system right in front of the catalytic
Figure 2.86 Lambda sensor’s performance should be tested
(Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 2.88 Transistor test
control unit
Start of injection
Figure 2.87 Lambda sensor used on a diesel system (Source: Bosch Press)
Electrical and electronic principles
converter, the lambda sensor reads the oxygen content of the exhaust gas flowing by before it reaches
the catalytic converter. The sensor transmits the readings to the control centre of the engine – the engine
management, which correspondingly adjusts the mix
formation. The importance of an intact lambda sensor
becomes evident once it does not function properly. A
car may use up to 15% more fuel in such a case and
emit more pollutants. There is, moreover, the risk of
damaging the catalytic converter. The inventor of the
lambda sensor, Bosch, thus recommends for environmental as well as economic reasons to have the functioning of the lambda sensor regularly checked and, if
necessary, have the sensor replaced.
Despite the extreme loads they are exposed to
older, unheated lambda sensors will generally deliver
correct readings for some 50 000 to 80 000 km.
Heated sensors, as they were supplied by Bosch
as advanced development starting in 1982, have a
serviceable life of some 100 000 to 160 000 km.
Unfavourable operating conditions may, however,
dramatically shorten the service life. Inadequate,
contaminated or even leaded fuel may even cause
destruction of the sensor. A higher amount of oil or
water components, as they may penetrate into the
combustion chamber and thus into the exhaust system due to a defective cylinder head gasket, add to
additional sensor wear.
The lambda sensor was developed by Bosch, who
were the first to go into series production with this
oxygen sensor in 1976 and have manufactured far
more than 300 million lambda sensors since then.
Practically all automobile manufacturers are using
lambda sensors from Bosch as original equipment.
Owing to its installation position in the exhaust
system, the lambda sensor is exposed to extreme
thermal, mechanical and chemical stresses thus
suffering from a certain amount of wear. Worn out
lambda sensors may increase exhaust emissions
and negatively affect engine output.
2.10.2 Lambda sensor for diesel
engines – new development
Bosch is now also applying the lambda sensor in
the closed loop control concept for diesel engines.
The new system allows for a previously unreached
fine tuning of injection and engine – thus additionally reducing fuel consumption and pollutant
emission of diesel engines.
The difference between the previous concept and
the new system is that the lambda-based control by
Bosch now optimizes the exhaust gas quality via
exhaust gas recirculation, charge-air pressure and
start of injection. These parameters decisively
influence the emission of diesel engines. A broadband lambda sensor with a wide working range
measures the oxygen content in the exhaust gas and
renders important information on the combustion
processes in the engine, which can be utilized for
the engine management.
Compared to the standard diesel engine management, the new Bosch system permits a stricter
adherence to low emission values. Engines are thus
better protected against defects, since harmful combustion in cars running in overrun may be detected
and corrected. In engines running in full-load, the
system offers a more effective smoke suppression
than previously. The lambda sensor also monitors
the NOx accumulator catalytic converters of future
emission purification systems – it supplies data for
the management of the catalytic converter which
has to be cleaned at regular intervals in order to
preserve its storage capability.
2.11 Self-assessment
2.11.1 Questions
1. Describe briefly the difference between ‘electron flow’ and ‘conventional flow’.
2. Sketch the symbols for 10 basic electronic
3. Explain what is meant by the ‘frequency
response’ of an operational amplifier.
4. Draw the circuit to show how a resistor and
capacitor can be connected to work as a timer.
Include values and calculate the time constant
for your circuit.
5. State four sources of error in a measurement
6. Describe how a knock sensor operates to
produce a signal.
7. Make a sketch to show how a rotary idle speed
actuator works and describe how it can vary
idle speed when only able to take up a closed or
open position.
8. Draw a graph showing the output signal of a
Hall sensor used in an ignition distributor.
9. Describe the operation of a permanent magnet
stepper motor and state three merits of this
10. Outline the six-stage process generally required
to produce a program for a computer.
2.11.2 Project
Discuss the developments of sensors and actuators.
Consider the reasons for these developments and
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
use examples. Why is the integration of electronics
within sensors an issue? Produce a specification
sheet for an anti-lock brake system wheel speed
sensor, detailing what it must be able to do.
The SI unit of electrical resistance is the:
1. volt
2. ohm
3. ampere
4. watt
2.11.3 Multiple choice questions
Ohm’s law states: ‘The current passing through
a wire at constant temperature is proportional to
the …’:
1. power supplied
2. length of the circuit
3. resistance of the circuit
4. potential difference between its ends
The type of charge possessed by an electron is:
1. negative
2. positive
3. molecular
4. gravitational
The base–emitter voltage of an NPN transistor
when fully switched on is:
1. 0.3 V
2. 0.6 V
3. 1.2 V
4. 2.4 V
Inductive sensors usually produce a:
1. square wave
2. saw tooth wave
3. sine wave
4. triangle
The SI unit for power is the:
1. joule
2. watt
3. Newton
4. horsepower
An electrical device, which restricts the flow of
electrical current, is called:
1. an insulator
2. a conductor
3. an electrode
4. an earth connection
When comparing the current passed through a high
resistance and the current passed through a low
resistance, the current through a high resistance
will be:
1. lower
2. higher
3. same
4. pulsing
A component, which makes use of the magnetic
effect of an electric current in a vehicle electrical
system is:
1. an ignition warning light
2. an alternator rotor
3. a fuel tank unit
4. an oil pressure gauge
A Darlington pair of transistors is used to switch
1. current
2. voltage
3. resistance
4. interest
Tools and test equipment
3.1 Basic equipment
3.1.1 Introduction
Diagnostic techniques are very much linked to the
use of test equipment. In other words you must be
able to interpret the results of tests. In most cases
this involves comparing the result of a test to the
reading given in a data book or other source of
information. By way of an introduction, Table 3.1
lists some of the basic words and descriptions
relating to tools and equipment. Figure 3.1 shows
a selection of basic tools.
3.1.2 Basic hand tools
You cannot learn to use tools from a book, it is
clearly a very practical skill. However, you can follow the recommendations made here and, of course,
by the manufacturers. Even the range of basic hand
tools is now quite daunting and very expensive.
One thing to highlight, as an example, is the number
of different types of screwdriver ends, as shown in
Figure 3.2. These are worthy of mention because
often using the wrong driver and damaging the
screw head causes a lot of trouble. And of course, as
well as all these different types they are all available
in many different sizes!
It is worth repeating the general advice and
instructions for the use of hand tools.
Only use a tool for its intended purpose.
Always use the correct size tool for the job you
are doing.
Pull a wrench rather than push it whenever
Do not use a file or similar, without a handle.
Keep all tools clean and replace them in a suitable box or cabinet.
Do not use a screwdriver as a pry bar.
Always follow manufacturers’ recommendations
(you cannot remember everything!).
Look after your tools and they will look after you.
Table 3.1 Tools and test equipment
Hand tools
Special tools
Test equipment
Dedicated test equipment
Serial port
Code reader or scanner
Combined diagnostic and
information system
Spanners and hammers and screwdrivers and all the other basic bits!
A collective term for items not held as part of a normal tool kit. Or items required for just one
specific job.
In general, this means measuring equipment. Most tests involve measuring something and
comparing the result of that measurement with data.The devices can range from a simple ruler
to an engine analyser.
Some equipment will only test one specific type of system.The large manufacturers supply
equipment dedicated to their vehicles. For example, a diagnostic device which plugs in to a
certain type of fuel injection ECU.
Careful and exact, free from mistakes or errors and adhering closely to a standard.
Checking the accuracy of a measuring instrument.
A connection to an electronic control unit, a diagnostic tester or computer for example.‘Serial’
means the information is passed in a ‘digital’ string, like pushing black and white balls through a
pipe in a certain order.
This device reads the ‘black and white balls’ mentioned above or the on–off electrical signals,
and converts them into a language we can understand.
Usually now PC-based, these systems can be used to carry out tests on vehicle systems and
they also contain an electronic workshop manual.Test sequences guided by the computer
can also be carried out.
The main part of the ‘scope’ is the display, which is like a TV or computer screen. A ‘scope’ is a
voltmeter but instead of readings in numbers it shows the voltage levels by a trace or mark on
the screen.The marks on the screen can move and change very fast allowing one to see the
way voltages change.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 3.1 A selection of basic tools
Figure 3.2 Many types of ‘driver’ shapes are now in use
3.1.3 Accuracy of test equipment
Accuracy can mean a number of slightly different
Careful and exact.
Free from mistakes or errors; precise.
Adhering closely to a standard.
Consider measuring a length of wire with a steel
rule. How accurately could you measure it? To the
nearest 0.5 mm? This raises a number of issues:
first, you could make an error reading the ruler.
Secondly, why do we need to know the length of
a bit of wire to the nearest 0.5 mm? Thirdly, the
ruler may have stretched or expanded, and so does
not give the correct reading.
The first and second of these issues can be dispensed with by knowing how to read the test equipment correctly and also knowing the appropriate
level of accuracy required. A micrometer for a plug
gap? A ruler for valve clearances? I think you get
the idea. The accuracy of the equipment itself is
another issue.
Accuracy is a term meaning how close the measured value of something is to its actual value. For
example, if a length of about 30 cm is measured
with an ordinary wooden ruler, then the error may
be up to 1 mm too high or too low. This is quoted as
an accuracy of 1 mm. This may also be given as
a percentage, which in this case would be 0.33%.
The resolution, or in other words the ‘fineness’,
with which a measurement can be made, is related
to accuracy. If a steel ruler was made to a very high
standard but only had markings of one graduation
per centimetre it would have a very low resolution
even though the graduations were very accurate.
Tools and test equipment
Table 3.2 Ensuring a measurement is accurate
Decide on the level of accuracy required.
Choose the correct instrument for the job.
Ensure the instrument has been looked after and calibrated
when necessary.
Do we need to know that the battery voltage is 12.6 V or 12.635 V?
A micrometer to measure the thickness of a shim.
Most instruments will go out of adjustment after a time.You should
arrange for adjustment at regular intervals. Most tool suppliers will
offer the service or, in some cases, you can compare older
equipment to new stock.
Is the piston diameter 70.75 mm or 170.75 mm?
Study the instructions for the instrument in use and take the
reading with care. Ask yourself if the reading is about what
you expected.
Make a note if you are taking several readings.
In other words the equipment is accurate but your
reading will not be.
To ensure instruments are, and remain, accurate
there are just two simple guidelines.
Look after the equipment; a micrometer thrown
on the floor will not be accurate.
Ensure instruments are calibrated regularly –
this means being checked against known good
Table 3.2 (see above) is a summary of the steps to
ensure a measurement is accurate.
3.2 Multimeters
Don’t take a chance, write it down!
Table 3.3 The range and accuracy for various functions
DC Voltage
DC Current
AC Voltage
AC Current
Duty cycle
High current
500 V
10 A
0–10 M
500 V
10 A
3,4,5,6,8 cylinders
10,000 rpm
% on/off
over 100 kHz
900 ° C
1000 A (DC)
0.3% 3 ° C
Depends on
10.0% of standard
3 bar
3.2.1 Basic test meters
An essential tool for working on vehicle electrical
and electronic systems is a good digital multimeter.
Digital meters are most suitable for accuracy of
reading as well as their available facilities. The list
of functions given in Table 3.3, which is broadly in
order, starting from essential to desirable, should be
A way of determining the quality of a meter as
well as by the facilities provided, is to consider the
loading effect of the meter,
protection circuits.
The loading effect is a consideration for any form
of measurement. The question to ask is: ‘Does the
instrument change the conditions, so making the
reading incorrect?’ With a multimeter this relates to
the internal resistance of the meter. It is recommended that the internal resistance of a meter
should be a minimum of 10 M. This not only
ensures greater accuracy but also prevents the
meter damaging sensitive circuits.
Figure 3.3 Two equal resistors connected in series across a
12 V supply with a meter for test purposes
Consider Figure 3.3, which shows two equal
resistors connected in series across a 12 V supply. It
is clear that the voltage across each resistor should
be 6 V. However, the internal resistance of the meter
will affect the circuit conditions and change the
voltage reading. If the resistor values were 100 k
the effect of meter internal resistance would be as
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 3.5 Crankshaft/Camshaft sensor test
Figure 3.4 Digital voltmeter
Meter resistance 1M
Parallel combined value of 1 M and 100 k 91 k.
The voltage drop in the circuit across this
would be:
91/(100 91) 12 5.71 V
This is an error of about 5%.
Meter resistance 10 M
Parallel combined value of 10 M and 100 k 99 K.
The voltage drop in the circuit across this
would be:
99/(100 99) 12 5.97 V
This is an error of about 0.5%.
Note that this ‘invasive measurement’ error is in
addition to the basic accuracy of the meter.
Protection circuits are worth a mention as many
motor vehicle voltage readings are prone to high
voltage transient spikes, which can damage low
quality equipment. A fused current range is also to
be recommended. Figure 3.4 shows a basic block
diagram of a digital voltmeter. Note how this closely
represents any digital instrumentation system.
Figure 3.6 Lambda sensor test
3.2.2 How to use a multimeter
A crankshaft or camshaft (phase) sensor can be
tested in a number of ways. Resistance (inductive
type), AC output voltage or the signal frequency
can be measured. The method shown here is a
measurement of frequency, about 34.7 Hz at the
cam or phase sensor (Figure 3.5).
To test an oxygen sensor (lambda sensor) set
the meter to DC volts and note the maximum and
minimum figures. Some meters will record this
automatically. A reading that varies between about
0.2 V and 0.8 V usually indicates correct operation.
Note that some sensors have a heater element,
which is supplied with 12 V (Figure 3.6).
Measuring temperature is easy if a simple probe
is used. This should be touched to a metal component
near where the measurement is required – the head
nest to the temperature sensor, for example. The
engine shown here had only just been started
(Figure 3.7).
Injectors can be tested by measuring resistance
(often about 16 ) or by checking the duty cycle as
Tools and test equipment
Figure 3.7 Temperature measurement
Figure 3.9 Voltage test
Figure 3.10 Current test
Figure 3.8 Injector test
a percentage. The injector here was tested at idle
speed and had a duty cycle of just 0.7% – i.e. the
reverse of the reading shown (Figure 3.8).
Voltage tests can be carried out at any point in a
circuit. The supply voltage to a component should
not normally be less than 95% of the battery voltage.
A simple battery voltage test is shown here (engine
running), showing the charging voltage at idle
speed (Figure 3.9).
To measure current the circuit must either be
broken and remade with the meter or an ‘inductive’
clamp used. In this case a clamp is used showing
the current flowing into the battery from the alternator. Note that the meter for these tests is often set
to mV and that the sensitivity varies. In this case the
actual current was 1.76 A not 17.6 A! (Figure 3.10).
Testing RPM involves either connecting to the
coil negative terminal or using a clamp on a plug
lead. In this case the test is being carried out on a
distributorless ignition system, which because of
the lost spark and no distributor means the reading
should be doubled (Figure 3.11).
Figure 3.11 RPM test on a DIS engine
3.3 Specialist equipment
3.3.1 Oscilloscopes
Two types of oscilloscope are available, these are
either analogue or digital. Figure 3.12 shows the
basic operation of an analogue oscilloscope. Heating
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 3.12 Principle of analogue oscilloscope
a wire creates a source of electrons, which are then
accelerated by suitable voltages and focused into a
beam. This beam is directed towards a fluorescent
screen where it causes light to be given off. This is
the basic cathode ray tube. The plates shown in
Figure 3.12 are known as X and Y plates as they
make the electron beam draw a ‘graph’ of a voltage
signal. The X plates are supplied with a saw-tooth
signal, which causes the beam to move across the
screen from left to right and then to ‘fly back’ and
start again. The beam moves because the electron
beam is attracted towards whichever plate has a positive potential. The Y plates can now be used to show
voltage variations of the signal under test. The frequency of the saw-tooth signal, known as the time
base, can be adjusted either automatically as is the
case with many analysers, or manually on a standalone oscilloscope. The signal from the item under
test can either be amplified or attenuated (reduced),
much like changing the scale on a voltmeter. The
trigger, in other words when the trace across the
screen starts, can be caused internally or externally.
In the case of the engine analyser, triggering is often
external – each time an individual spark fires or each
time number one spark plug fires.
A digital oscilloscope has much the same end
result as the analogue type but the signal can be
thought of as being plotted rather than drawn on the
screen. The test signal is A/D converted and the time
base is a simple timer or counter circuit. Because
the signal is plotted digitally on a screen from data
in memory, the picture can be saved, frozen or even
printed. The speed of data conversion and the sampling rate as well as the resolution of the screen are
very important to ensure accurate results. This technique is becoming the norm, as including scales
and notes or superimposing two or more traces for
comparison can enhance the display.
A very useful piece of equipment becoming very
popular is the ‘Scopemeter’ (Figure 3.13). This is a
hand-held digital oscilloscope, that allows data to be
Figure 3.13 Bosch ‘scopemeter’
stored and transferred to a PC for further investigation. The Scopemeter can be used for a large number
of vehicle tests. The waveforms used as examples in
this chapter were ‘captured’ using a Scopemeter.
This type of test equipment is highly recommended.
3.3.2 Pressure testing
Measuring the fuel pressure in a fuel injection
engine is of great value when fault-finding. Many
types of pressure gauge are available and often
come as part of a kit consisting of various adapters
and connections. The principle of the gauges is that
they contain a very small tube wound in a spiral. As
fuel under pressure is forced into a spiral tube, the
tube unwinds causing the needle to move over a
graduated scale. Figure 3.14 shows a selection of
pressure testing equipment.
3.3.3 Engine analysers
Some form of engine analyser has become an
almost essential tool for fault-finding in modern
vehicle engine systems. The latest machines are
now generally based around a personal computer.
This allows more facilities, which can be added to
by simply changing the software.
Tools and test equipment
Figure 3.14 Pressure testing equipment
Whilst engine analysers are designed to work
specifically with the motor vehicle, it is worth
remembering that the machine consists basically of
three parts.
Gas analyser.
This is not intended to imply that other tests available,
such as cylinder balance, are less valid, but to show
that the analyser is not magic, it is just able to present results of electrical tests in a convenient way to
allow diagnosis of faults. The key component of any
engine analyser is the oscilloscope facility, which
allows the user to ‘see’ the signal under test.
The following is a description of the facilities
available on a typical engine analyser. It is a new
concept in garage equipment design, based on a
personal computer and specially engineered for
workshop use, enabling a flexibility of use far
exceeding the ability of the machines previously
Software is used to give the machine its ‘personality’ as an engine analyser, system tester, wheel
aligner (or any of the other uses made of personal
computers). Either an infrared handset or a standard ‘qwerty’ keyboard controls the machine. The
information is displayed on a super VGA monitor
giving high resolution colour graphics. Output can
be sent to a standard printer when a hard copy is
required for the customer.
Many external measurement modules and software application programmes are available. The
modules are connected to the host computer by
high speed RS422 or RS232 serial communication
links. Application software and DOS are loaded onto
a hard disk. Vehicle specific data can also be stored
on disk to allow fast easy access to information but
also to allow a guided test procedure.
The modern trend with engine analysers seems
to be to allow both guided test procedures with
pass/fail recommendations for the less skilled technician, and freedom to test any electrical device
using the facilities available in any reasonable way.
This is more appropriate for the highly skilled technician. Some of the routines available on modern
engine analysers are listed below.
A full prompted sequence that assesses each component in turn with results and diagnosis displayed
at the end of each component test. Stored data allow
pass/fail diagnosis by automatically comparing
results of tests with data on the disk. Printouts can
be taken to show work completed.
Symptom analysis
This allows direct access to specific tests relating to
reported driveability problems.
A comprehensive range of digitized waveforms can
be displayed with colour highlights. The display can
be frozen or recalled to look for intermittent faults.
A standard laboratory scope mode is available to
allow examination of EFI or ABS traces for example.
Printouts can be made from any display. An interesting feature is ‘transient capture’, which ensures
even the fastest spikes and intermittent signals are
captured and displayed for detailed examination.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 3.4 Connections
Purpose or example of use
Battery positive
Battery negative
Coil positive
Coil negative (adapters are available for DIS)
Coil HT lead clamp (adapters are available for DIS)
Number one cylinder plug lead clamp
Battery cable amp clamp
Oil temperature probe (dip stick hole)
Vacuum connection
Battery and charging voltages
A common earth connection
To check supply voltage to coil
To look at dwell, rev/min and primary waveforms
Secondary waveforms
Timing light and sequence of waveforms
Charging and starting current
Oil temperature
Engine load
Selecting specific components from a menu can
enable simple quick adjustment to be made. Live
readings are displayed appropriate to the selection.
MOT (annual) emissions test
Full MOT procedure tests are integrated and displayed on the screen with pass/fail diagnosis to the
department of transport specifications, for both gas
analysis and diesel smoke (if appropriate options
are fitted). The test results include engine rpm and
oil temperature as well as the gas readings. These
can all be printed for garage or customer use.
The connections to the vehicle for standard use
are much the same for most equipment manufacturers. These are listed in Table 3.4.
Figure 3.15 shows a ‘Sun’ digital oscilloscope
engine analyser. This test equipment has many
features as listed previously, and others such as the
High technology test screens. Vacuum waveform, cylinder time balance bar graph, power
balance waveform and dual trace laboratory
scope waveform.
Scanner interface. This allows the technician to
observe all related information at the same time.
Expanded memory. This feature allows many
screens to be saved at once, then recalled at a
later time for evaluation and reference.
The tests are user controlled whereas some machines
have pre-programmed sequences. Some of the
screens available are given in Table 3.5.
3.3.4 Exhaust gas measurement
It has now become standard to measure four of the
main exhaust gases, namely:
carbon monoxide (CO),
carbon dioxide (CO2),
hydrocarbons (HC),
oxygen (O2).
Figure 3.15 Engine analyser
The emission test module is often self contained
with its own display but can be linked to the main
analyser display. Often, the lambda value and the
air–fuel ratio are displayed in addition to the four
gases. The Greek symbol lambda () is used to represent the ideal air–fuel ratio (AFR) of 14.7 : 1 by
mass. In other words, just the right amount of air to
burn up all the fuel. Typical gas, lambda and AFR
readings are given in Table 3.6 for a closed loop
lambda control system, before (or without a catalytic connecter) and after the catalytic converter.
These are for a modern engine in excellent condition
(and are examples only – always check current data).
The composition of exhaust gas is now a critical
measurement and hence a certain degree of accuracy
is required. To this end the infrared measurement
technique has become the most suitable for CO,
Tools and test equipment
Table 3.5 Screens on a digital oscilloscope
Cylinder test
Primary waveform
Primary parade waveform
Dwell bar graph
Duty cycle/dwell bar graph
Duty cycle/voltage bar graph
Secondary waveform
Secondary parade waveform
kV histogram
kV bar graph
Burn time bar graph
Voltage waveform
Lab scope waveform
Fuel injector waveform
Alternator waveform
Vacuum waveform
Power balance waveform
Cylinder time balance bar graph
Cylinder shorting even/odd bar graph
Cranking amps bar graph
Table 3.6 Gas, lambda and AFR readings
Before catalyst
After catalyst
Measuring cell
will be absorbed before it reaches the receiver
chamber. This varies the heating effect on the CO
specific gas and hence the measured flow between
chambers 1 and 2 will change. The flow meter will
produce a change in its AC signal, which is converted, and then output to a suitable display. A similar technique is used for the measurement of CO2
and HC. At present it is not possible to measure
nitrogen oxides (NOx) without the most sophisticated laboratory equipment. Research is being carried out in this area.
Good four-gas emission analysers often have the
following features:
Flow sensor
Figure 3.16 Carbon monoxide measurement technique
CO2 and HC. Each individual gas absorbs infrared
radiation at a specific rate. Oxygen is measured by
electro-chemical means in much the same way as
the on-vehicle lambda sensor.
CO is measured as shown in Figure 3.16. The
emitter is heated to about 700° C which, by using a
suitable reflector, produces a beam of infrared light.
This beam is passed via a chopper disc, through a
measuring cell to a receiver chamber. This sealed
chamber contains a gas with a defined content of
CO (in this case). This gas absorbs some of the CO
specific radiation and its temperature increases.
This causes expansion and therefore a gas flow from
chamber 1 to chamber 2. This flow is detected by a
flow sensor, which produces an AC output signal.
This is converted and calibrated to a zero CO reading.
The AC signal is produced due to the action of the
chopper disk. If the chopper disc was not used then
the flow from chamber 1 to chamber 2 would only
take place when the machine was switched on or off.
If the gas to be measured is now pumped through
the measuring cell, some of the infrared radiation
A stand-alone unit is not dependent on other
Graphical screens simultaneously display up to
four values as graphs, and the display order is
user selectable. Select from HC, CO, CO2, O2
and rev/min for graphical display.
The user can create personalized letterheads for
screen printouts.
The non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) method of
detection (each individual gas absorbs infrared
light at a specific rate) is used.
Display screens may be frozen or stored in memory for future retrieval.
Recalibrate at the touch of a button (if the calibration gas and a regulator are used).
Display exhaust gas concentrations in real time
numerics or create live exhaust gas data graphs
in selectable ranges.
Calculate and display lambda () (the ideal
air–fuel ratio is about 14.7 : 1).
Display engine rev/min in numeric or graphical
form and display oil temperature along with current time and date.
Display engine diagnostic data from a scanner.
Operate from mains supply or a 12 V battery.
Accurate measurement of exhaust gas is not only
required for MOT tests but is essential to ensure an
engine is correctly tuned. Table 3.6 lists typical values measured from a typical exhaust. Note the toxic
emissions are small, but nonetheless dangerous.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
3.3.5 Serial port
communications – the scanner
Serial communication is an area that is continuing
to grow. A special interface is required to read data.
This standard is designed to work with a single or
two-wire port, which connects vehicle electronic
systems to a diagnostic plug. Many functions are
then possible when a scanner is connected.
Possible functions include the following.
Identification of ECU and the system to ensure
that the test data are appropriate to the system
currently under investigation.
Read-out of current live values from sensors so
that spurious figures can be easily recognized.
Information – such as engine speed, temperature
air flow and so on – can be displayed and checked
against test data.
System function simulation allows actuators to
be tested by moving them and watching for a
suitable response.
Programming of system changes. Basic idle CO
or changes in basic timing can be programmed
into the system.
Figure 3.17 OBD II scanner
At present, several standards exist, which means
several different types of serial readers are needed,
or at best several different adapters and program
modules. A new standard, called On-Board Diagnostics II (OBD II), has been developed by the
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). In the USA,
all new vehicles must conform to this standard.
This means that just one scan tool will work with all
new vehicles. A similar standard, known as EOBD,
has also recently been adopted in Europe.
A company called GenRad produces scanners to
meet these standards. Figure 3.17 shows an example.
This scanner allows the technician to perform all the
necessary operations, such as fault code reading, via
a single common connector. The portable hand-held
tool has a large graphics display allowing clear
instructions and data. Context-sensitive help is available to eliminate the need to refer back to manuals
to look up fault code definitions. It has a memory, so
data can be reused even after disconnecting the tool
from the power supply. This scanner will even connect to the Controller Area Network (CAN) systems.
3.4 Dedicated equipment
3.4.1 Introduction
As the electronic complexity of the modern vehicle
continues to increase, developments in suitable test
Harness plug
Test equipment
Figure 3.18 One type of dedicated test equipment where a
special plug and socket is used to ‘break in’ to the ECU wiring
equipment must follow. The term ‘dedicated’
implies test equipment used for only one specific
system. Figure 3.18 is a representation of one type
of dedicated test equipment. A special plug and
socket is used to ‘break in’ to the ECU wiring, whilst
in many cases still allowing the vehicle system to
function normally.
Readings can be taken between various points and
compared with set values, thus allowing diagnosis.
Tools and test equipment
Figure 3.19 Many electronic systems now have ECUs containing self-diagnosis circuits
Ford have used a system such as this for many years,
known simply as a breakout box. A multimeter takes
the readings between predetermined test points on
the box which are connected to the ECU wiring.
A further development of this system is a digitally controlled tester that will run very quickly
through a series of tests and display the results.
These can be compared with stored data allowing a
pass/fail output.
Many electronic systems now have ECUs that
contain self-diagnosis circuits. This is represented
in Figure 3.19. Activating the blink code output can
access the information held in the ECU memory.
This is done in some cases by connecting two wires
and then switching on the ignition. A further refinement is to read the information via a serial link,
which requires suitable test equipment.
3.4.2 Serial port communications
A special interface of the type that is stipulated by
ISO 9141 is required to read data. This standard is
designed to work with a single- or two-wire port
allowing many vehicle electronic systems to be
connected to a central diagnostic plug. The
sequence of events to extract data from the ECU is
as follows.
Test unit transmits a code word.
ECU responds by transmitting a baud rate recognition word.
Test unit adopts the appropriate setting.
ECU transmits fault codes.
The test unit converts these to suitable output
text. Further functions are possible, including the
Identification of the ECU and system to ensure
that the test data are appropriate to the system
currently under investigation.
Figure 3.20 Lucas Laser 2000 Tester
Read out of current live values from sensors.
Spurious figures can be easily recognized.
Information such as engine speed, temperature,
air flow and so on, can be displayed and checked
against test data.
System function stimulation to allow actuators
to be tested by moving them and watching for a
suitable response.
Programming of system changes such as basic
idle CO or changes in basic timing can be programmed into the system.
3.4.3 Laser 2000 electronic
systems tester
The Lucas Laser 2000 tester (Figure 3.20) is
designed to find faults on vehicles with electronic
systems. These may include fuelling, anti-lock
braking traction control etc. Fault finding on such
systems can be difficult and slow due to the complexity of the electronics.
Some ECUs have on-board diagnostics (OBD),
which means that the ECU monitors its inputs and
outputs and, if any are incorrect, stores a fault code.
A warning lamp will also be illuminated to alert the
driver. These codes can be read out and a test procedure followed.
More advanced ECUs have a data link (serial
communications as described above), so fault codes
can be displayed using a tester, as a number or with
a text description. Other information, such as operating values, can also be passed to the tester. Commands can also be sent from the tester to the ECU,
for example to operate a solenoid.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Depending upon the diagnostic features of the
ECU, the Laser 2000 system can provide all these
options. Furthermore, data may be logged whilst
driving the vehicle, fault codes can be erased and
the results of up to four tests may be stored within
the Laser 2000 system. The output may be printed
if required.
The Laser 2000 system is configured for different systems by a hardware module, a software
module, a master cable and an adapter cable. The
hardware module is to allow future upgrades, one
module covers most current systems. The software
contains the test routines for a system or range of
systems. Adapter cables are required to connect to
each vehicle diagnostic connector. The Laser 2000
tester is designed to be user friendly – it is menu
driven by function keys relating to the menu on the
Figure 3.21 Snapshot of the Laser 2000 Screen
Figure 3.22 Motronic M5 with OBD II
One of the most interesting features, besides
those mentioned above, is the Laser 2000’s snapshot mode. In this mode, as well as displaying live
data, the tester can record values over a period. This
is very useful for identifying intermittent faults as
the recorded data can be replayed slowly, the results
being displayed in numerical as well as graphical
format. Figure 3.21 shows a typical snapshot screen
on the Laser 2000 system. Gradual changes are to
be expected but sudden changes in, say, air flow
could indicate a fault in the air flow sensor or
wiring. Snapshot data may also be printed in tabular form via the RS232 interface.
3.5 On-board diagnostics
Figure 3.22 shows the Bosch Motronic M5 with
the On-Board Diagnostics II (OBD II) system.
On-board diagnostics are becoming essential for the
longer term operation of a system, such as producing a clean exhaust. In the USA, a very comprehensive diagnosis of all the components in the system
that affect the exhaust is now required. It can be
expected that, in due course, a similar requirement
will be made within the EC. Any fault detected must
be indicated to the driver by a warning light.
Digital electronics allow both sensors and actuators to be monitored. This is done by allocating
values to all operating states of the sensors and
Tools and test equipment
actuators. If a deviation from these figures is detected,
this is stored in the memory and can be output in
the workshop to assist with fault-finding.
Monitoring of the ignition system is very important as misfiring not only produces more emissions
of hydrocarbons, but the unburnt fuel enters the catalytic converter and burns there. This can cause
higher than normal temperatures and may damage
the catalytic converter. An accurate crankshaft
speed sensor is used to monitor ignition and combustion in the cylinders. Misfiring alters the torque
of the crankshaft for an instant, which causes irregular rotation. This allows a misfire to be recognized
A number of further sensors are required for the
OBD II functions. Another lambda sensor, after the
catalytic converter, monitors its operation. An intake
pressure sensor and a valve are needed to control
the activated charcoal filter to reduce and monitor
evaporative emissions from the fuel tank. A differential pressure sensor also monitors the fuel tank
permeability. As well as the driver’s fault lamp, a
considerable increase in the electronics is required
in the control unit in order to operate this system.
A better built-in monitoring system, it is thought,
will have a greater effect in reducing vehicle emissions than tighter annual testing.
The diagnostic socket used by systems conforming to OBD II standards should have the following
pin configuration:
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Bus Line, SAE J1850.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Chassis ground.
Signal ground.
CAN high (J–2284).
K Line, ISO 9141.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Bus – Line, SAE J1850.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
CAN low (J–2284).
L line, ISO 9141.
Vehicle battery positive.
With future standards and goals set it should be beneficial for vehicle manufacturers to begin implementation of at least the common connector in the
near future. Many diagnostic system manufacturers
would welcome this move. If lack of standardization
continues it will become counter-productive for all
3.6 Case studies
3.6.1 Networking
The next development in diagnosis and testing is
likely to be increased networking of vehicles, via
adapters, to computers locally, and then via modems
and the telephone lines. It is already quite common
practice in the computer industry, with suitable
hardware and software, to link remotely one computer to another to carry out diagnostics and, in
some cases repairs. This technique can be extended
to the computerized systems on modern vehicles.
Access to the latest data and test procedures is
available at the ‘touch of a screen’ or the ‘click of a
mouse’. Figure 3.23 shows a representation of this
technique. The latest systems even involve a handheld video camera.
3.6.2 Compact discs
The incredible storage capacity of compact discs is
the reason why they are used more and more as the
medium for information storage. When used in conjunction with test equipment as described earlier,
the operator will be able to work through the most
complex of faults, with interactive help from the
3.6.3 Integrated diagnostic and
measurement systems
The information in the following sections is from a
company known as GenRad. Other companies produce systems and some vehicle manufacturers have
developed similar equipment. GenRad is a leader in
this area, hence I have chosen this company’s products to illustrate the current state of diagnostic and
similar systems.
Figure 3.23 Remote diagnosis
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
General specification
LCD Graphics 320 240 pixels
Analogue, 256 256 resolution
1, 2 or 4 Mbyte RAM options
Internal 1.8 Ah NiCd
rechargeable battery or vehicle
battery. Base station with
automatic 3 hour fast charge
to internal battery.
Battery life
Typically 60 minutes with
display and stimulus active
(4 V into 1000 ).
Approx. weight
2.5 kg
Approx. size
230 mm 310 mm 70 mm
Operating temperature range 0 ° C to 50 ° C
Storage temperature range
20 ° C to 60 ° C
Ingress protection
Power sources
Figure 3.24 GenRad diagnostic system
3.6.4 GenRad Diagnostic
System (GDS)
This system as shown in Figure 3.24 is a fully featured measurement system, integrated with guided
diagnostics for fast and accurate fault diagnosis on
complex electrical and electronic systems. Handheld and portable, the unit is much more than a
fault code reader. Capable of capturing intermittent
faults as well as multiple and interrelated faults, the
diagnostic system, known as the GDS, can save
significant amounts of service time.
The system is highly user friendly; communication with the technician takes place via an easy-toread liquid crystal display (LCD) with a rugged
touch-screen. The display has also been designed
for enhanced visibility in a variety of lighting conditions. The GDS is ergonomically designed and
features an impact resistant case with integral carrying handle for easy portability. It also features a
stand to ease positioning and colour coded connector inserts for probe identification.
The GDS has 1 Mbyte of SRAM as standard
with optional extra memory giving a total capacity
of up to 4 Mbytes for extended diagnostic routines.
The GDS’s versatility means that the unit also
forms the basis of a comprehensive engine monitoring and analysis system, including ignition,
cranking, charging and fuel injection diagnostics
by the addition of software and transducers.
An optional extra to the GDS is a spread spectrum
wireless link, allowing communication between more
than one unit and other PC systems. Measurement
parameters and data can be communicated, allowing
remote analysis by an operator where access is
limited. Applications can also be loaded to the GDS
via an RF wireless link, precluding the need for an
operator to return to a base station to download
Dual channel AC and DC auto-ranging bipolar
voltage measurement.
Dual channel sampling oscilloscope.
Single channel positive and negative peak voltage detect.
Auto-ranging resistance measurement.
Dual channel timing (period, pulse width, duty
cycle and frequency).
Triggered voltage measurement.
Waveform generator/sensor stimulation/resistance
ISO 9141
J1850 VPW
J1850 PWM
Automatic breakout box option.
Base Station with CD-ROM drive, unit docking,
charge, date download, RS232 or radio modem
3.6.5 Multi Protocol
Adapter (MPA)
GenRad’s Multi Protocol Adapter (MPA), shown in
Figure 3.25, provides an interface between the serial
communications on a vehicle and the host diagnostic unit. The unit provides a communications path
between the vehicle and the host unit across the
Tools and test equipment
3.6.6 The Electronic Service Bay
Figure 3.25 Multi protocol adapter
selected serial protocol. The host diagnostic unit is
also able to download executable code or applications to the MPA, allowing the host computer to be
disconnected or freed up to perform other tasks.
This increases the diagnostic unit’s flexibility and
The stand-alone ‘flight recorder’ capability of
the MPA is instrumental in the detection of specific
real time events, such as intermittent faults, which
are notoriously difficult to trace. This is invaluable
for a technician in improving accuracy and efficiency. The MPA also provides a vehicle flash programming output, which may be used to provide
vehicle ECU programming ‘in-situ’ via the vehicle
diagnostic connector.
The MPA can be customized to meet specific
requirements, for example, to allow a vehicle manufacturer to meet environmental protection legislation.
Also available as an option to the MPA is a
Controller Area Network (CAN) active cable that
provides a trouble-free connection directly onto the
vehicle’s CAN bus. Using an active CAN cable, the
technician is able to connect off-board test and diagnostic equipment with long cables to the vehicle’s
CAN bus via the OBD II (J1962) connector.
General specification
Host computer interface
Vehicle serial communications
Vehicle FLASH programming
Auxiliary and ignition relay
RAM (non-volatile to
24 hours)
Analogue measurements
Power switching to hose
Vehicle connection
Host connection
RS485/RS232 (opto-isolated)
ISO 9141 – 2, J1850, CAN
12 V to 19 V @ 100 mA
2 2 amp open drain outputs
128 kbytes to 4 Mbytes
512 kbytes (in-circuit
10 channels, 8 bits
Vbatt @ 2 amp (non-isolated
but switchable under from the
host computer)
Rugged captive J1962 cable
(2 metres)
6 m cable, connector to suit
host type
The Electronic Service Bay (ESB) is an open system
providing electronic information exchange and
guided diagnostics for the service technician, serving
all aspects of the dealership service operations. With
increasingly sophisticated vehicles being brought to
market and with the huge variety of vehicle variants
throughout the world, the service technician is often
faced with a vast amount of information from which
specific details need to be retrieved.
In addition, vehicle manufacturers, as information providers, are subject to pressures to disseminate more and more data throughout their networks,
including external directives such as new legislation. In short, there has been an explosion of information in the Service Bay – and at a time when
quality of service has itself become a major differentiator. For a correct and timely repair the service
technician must be able to access accurate information that is up-to-date and vehicle specific.
To address this, GenRad’s Electronic Service Bay
brings relevant information from several sources
together either to run on a standard PC or to run on
a GDS3000. Using a GDS3000 as the hardware
platform gives the added and powerful advantage of
bringing all the sourced information together on
one single portable unit for the service technician.
It is a rugged unit, making it ideal for workshop or
roadside use. Information is presented in a consistent, convenient way and it is designed to be userfriendly, so that computing expertise is not essential
for the operator.
The information available in the Electronic
Service Bay is also valuable to other areas of the
Dealership – especially the parts counter. Components of GenRad’s Electronic Service Bay can also be
used on a standard office computer – so the information is available to anyone who may need it. The
information stored in the ESB is displayed in Data
Viewers. The following Data Viewers are included.
Service manuals
Information, which is currently delivered in paper
manuals, is now presented as an electronic book.
Electronic books are much more flexible than their
paper equivalents – and can easily be read in random order (rather than sequentially). The ability to
navigate freely around a book is very appropriate to
a reference manual.
Diagnostic sequences
A large proportion of existing service manuals is
devoted to fault-finding sequences. In the Electronic
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Service Bay these sequences are presented as stepby-step instructions – hence eliminating the need
for large sections of existing manuals. These automated sequences are able to take measurements
and read values from the vehicle without the need
for the technician to use a variety of special tools.
In addition, Automatic Diagnostics are often able
to use techniques that would be difficult for a service technician even if he or she had the special tools.
As an example, the diagnostic sequence may include
oscilloscope functionality with automatic interpretation of the results.
Parts catalogues
Apart from ordering parts, assembly and compatibility information can also be made available to the
service technician by displaying parts catalogues
on the same screen as other information.
Service bulletins
Even with electronic publishing and delivery there
are always last minute changes caused by unexpected vehicle and component problems. If a technician is to make effective use of Service Bulletins,
it is important that they are presented at the right
time. For this reason Service Bulletins are connected with other elements of the Electronic Service Bay so that they appear alongside the other
Although the Electronic Service Bay contains
all these separate items, it is much more than ‘putting them all on one computer’. The real need is
to make all this information available at the right
time. To make this work, the Electronic Service Bay
observes the following principles.
All the Data Viewers work in the same way. This
means standard buttons and navigation mechanisms, so once one viewer has been mastered,
the others are immediately familiar.
There is never any need to enter the same information twice. Once the system knows about a
vehicle, then all the Data Viewers can use this
The Data Viewers are simple to operate. They
require only a touch-screen for all operations.
Keyboards are avoided.
GenRad’s ESB runs on a desktop or portable
PC with Windows 95 or Windows NT (minimum
specifications 486 DX2 66 MHz, 16 MB RAM
VGA display) or with the GDS3000 which allows
integration of analogue measurement and vehicle
3.7 Diagnostic procedures
3.7.1 Introduction
Finding the problem when complex automotive
systems go wrong – is easy. Well, it is easy if you
have the necessary knowledge. This knowledge is
in two parts:
1. an understanding of the system in which the
problem exists,
2. the ability to apply a logical diagnostic routine.
It is also important to be clear about two
Symptom(s) – what the user of the system
(vehicle or whatever) notices,
Fault – the error in the system that causes
the symptom(s).
The knowledge requirement and use of diagnostic skills can be illustrated with a very simple
example in the next section.
3.7.2 The ‘theory’ of diagnostics
One theory of diagnostics can be illustrated by the
following example.
After connecting a hosepipe to the tap and turning on the tap, no water comes out of the end. Your
knowledge of this system tells you that water should
come out providing the tap is on, because the pressure from a tap pushes water through the pipe, and
so on. This is where diagnostic skills become essential. The following stages are now required.
1. Confirm that no water is coming out by looking
down the end of the pipe!
2. Does water come out of the other taps, or did it
come out of this tap before you connected the
3. Consider what this information tells you, for
example, the hose must be blocked or kinked.
4. Walk the length of the pipe looking for a kink.
5. Straighten out the hose.
6. Check that water now comes out and that no other
problems have been created.
The procedure just followed made the hose work
but it is also guaranteed to find a fault in any system.
It is easy to see how it works in connection with a
hosepipe, but I’m sure anybody could have found
that fault! The skill is to be able to apply the same
logical routine to more complex situations. The routine can be summarized by the following six steps.
1. Verify the fault.
2. Collect further information.
Tools and test equipment
Analyse the evidence.
Carry out further tests to locate the fault.
Fix the fault.
Check this and other associated systems for correct operation.
Steps 3 and 4 will form a loop until the fault is
located. Remember that with a logical process you
will not only ensure you do find the fault, you will
also save time and effort.
3.7.3 Waveforms
In this section I will first explain the principle of
using an oscilloscope for displaying waveforms and
then examine a selection of actual waveforms. You
will find that both the words ‘waveform’ and ‘patterns’ are used in books and workshop manuals –
they mean the same thing.
When you look at a waveform on a screen you
must remember that the height of the scale represents voltage and the width represents time. Both of
these axes can have their scales changed. They are
called axes because the ‘scope’ is drawing a graph
of the voltage at the test points over a period of time.
Figure 3.26 How to ‘read’ an
oscilloscope trace (a random signal
is shown)
Figure 3.27 Inductive pulse generator output
The time scale can vary from a few s to several
seconds. The voltage scale can vary from a few mV
to several kV. For most test measurements only two
connections are needed, just like a voltmeter. The
time scale will operate at intervals pre-set by the user.
It is also possible to connect a ‘trigger’ wire so that,
for example, the time scale starts moving across the
screen each time the ignition coil fires. This keeps
the display in time with the speed of the engine.
When you use a full engine analyser, all the necessary
connections are made as listed in a previous section.
Figure 3.26 shows an example waveform.
For each of the following waveforms I have
noted what is being measured, the time and voltage
settings, and the main points to examine for correct
operation. All the waveforms shown are from a correctly operating vehicle. The skill you will learn by
practice is to note when your own measurements
vary from those shown here.
Inductive pulse generator output (Figure 3.27).
Hall effect pulse generator output (Figure 3.28).
Primary circuit pattern (Figure 3.29).
Secondary circuit pattern – one cylinder
(Figure 3.30).
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 3.28 Hall effect pulse
generator output
Figure 3.29 Primary circuit
Figure 3.30 Secondary circuit
pattern – one cylinder
Secondary circuit pattern – four cylinders called
parade (Figure 3.31).
Alternator ripple voltage (Figure 3.32).
Injector waveform (Figure 3.33).
Injector waveform with current limiting
(Figure 3.34).
Air flow meter output (Figure 3.35).
Lambda sensor voltage (Figure 3.36).
Full load switch operation (Figure 3.37).
ABS wheel speed sensor output signal
(Figure 3.38).
Vehicle speed sensor (Figure 3.39).
Tools and test equipment
Figure 3.31 Secondary circuit
pattern – four cylinders
Figure 3.32 Alternator ripple
Figure 3.33 Injector waveform
Figure 3.34 Injector waveform
with current limiting
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 3.35 Air flow meter output
Figure 3.36 Lambda sensor
Figure 3.37 Full load switch
Figure 3.38 ABS wheel speed
sensor output signal
Tools and test equipment
Figure 3.39 Vehicle speed sensor
demanding repair work efficiently, to a high standard and at a competitive price on a wide range of
vehicle makes and models. It is for them that Bosch
has developed the latest range of KTS control unit
diagnostic testers. Used in conjunction with the
comprehensive Esitronic workshop software, the
testers offer the best possible basis for the efficient
diagnosis and repair of electrical and electronic
components in modern vehicles. The testers are
available in different versions, suited to the individual requirements of the particular workshop:
Figure 3.40 Diagnostic system (Source: Bosch Press)
3.8 New developments in
test equipment
3.8.1 Bosch diagnostic system –
case study
Modern vehicles are being fitted with more and
more electronics. This complicates diagnosis and
repair, especially as the individual systems are often
interlinked. The work of service and repair workshops is being fundamentally changed. Automotive
engineers have to continually update their knowledge
of vehicle electronics. But this is no longer sufficient
on its own. The ever-growing number of electrical and electronic vehicle components is no longer
manageable without modern diagnostic technology –
such as the latest range of KTS control unit diagnostic testers from Bosch. In addition, more and
more of the previously purely mechanical interventions on vehicles now require the use of electronic
control units – such as the oil change, for example
(Figure 3.40).
Vehicle workshops operate in a very competitive
environment and have to be able to carry out
The portable KTS 650 with built-in computer
and touch-screen can be used anywhere. It has a
20 GB hard drive, a touch-screen and a DVD
drive. When being used away from the workshop, the power supply of the KTS 650 comes
from the vehicle battery or from rechargeable
batteries with one to two hours’ service life. For
use in the workshop there is a tough wheeled
trolley with a built-in charger unit. As well as
having all the necessary adapter cables the trolley
can also carry an inkjet printer and an external
keyboard, which can be connected to the KTS
650 via the usual PC interfaces.
The KTS 520 is designed as a module for operation in conjunction with a laptop or for upgrading a stationary PC-supported tester, such as
Bosch’s ESA Emissions System Analysis or
similar equipment from other manufacturers
possessing a standard interface. The workshop
software is stored on the hard disk of the workshop tester.
The KTS 550 is also intended as an upgrade module or for use with a laptop. In addition, and in
common with the KTS 650 it has a twin-channel
oscilloscope and a twin-channel multimeter
(Figure 3.41).
The KTS 520 and 550 are examples of the modular design and construction of the whole Bosch range
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 3.41 Adapter and cable kit (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 3.42 Diagnostic tester in use for bleeding a brake
system (Source: Bosch Press)
of diagnostic testers: they can interact with a variety
of systems and can be expanded into a complete test
bed. In every case it is always the Esitronic software
package which provides the link between the various
systems. It also accounts for the in-depth diagnostic
capacity of the KTS diagnostic testers. With the new
Common Rail diesel systems, for example, even
special functions such as quantitative comparison
and compression testing can be carried out. This
allows for reliable diagnosis of the faulty part and
avoids unnecessary dismantling and re-assembly, or
the removal and replacement of non-faulty parts.
Modern diagnostic equipment is also indispensable when workshops have to deal with braking
systems with electronic control systems such as
ABS, ASR and ESP. Nowadays the diagnostic tester
is even needed for bleeding a brake system of air
(Figure 3.42).
In addition, KTS and Esitronic allow independent workshops to reset the service interval warning,
for example after an oil change or a routine service,
or perhaps find the correct default position for the
headlamps after one or both of these have been
Figure 3.43 Taking a readout from the control unit memory
(Source: Bosch Press)
The three KTS versions are equipped for all current diagnostic protocols. As well as ISO norms for
European vehicles and SAE norms for American
and Japanese vehicles, the KTS testers can also deal
with CAN norms for checking modern CAN bus
systems, which are coming into use more and more
frequently in new vehicles. The testers are connected directly to the diagnostics socket via a serial
diagnostics interface by means of an adapter cable
(Figure 3.43).
The system automatically detects the control unit
and reads out the actual values, the error memory
and other controller-specific data. Thanks to the
built-in multiplexer, it is even easier for the user to
diagnose the various systems in the vehicle. The
multiplexer determines the connection in the diagnostics socket so that communication is established
correctly with the selected control unit.
3.8.2 On-board diagnostics
using a PC
Until recently a diagnostic procedure, which required
access to stored fault codes and other data was only
possible with the use of dedicated equipment or relatively expensive code readers or scanners. However,
with the proliferation of cars with EOBD/OBD-2
(European/On-Board Diagnostics, version 2) it is
possible to extract information from ECUs using a
simple interface lead and a standard computer running appropriate software.
Since 1 January 2001, all cars sold in Europe
must have on-board diagnostic systems. European
Directive 98/69/EC mandated that engine emissions must be monitored. The cars must also be fitted with a standard diagnostic socket. The EOBD
system is the same, or very similar, to the OBD-2
Tools and test equipment
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Figure 3.44 Diagnostic link connector (DLC)
system used in the USA. A ‘check engine’ warning
light on the dashboard is used to make the driver
aware of any problems. This provides no information to the driver or technician – other than that a
fault has been detected (Figure 3.44).
There are three basic OBD-2/EOBD protocols
in use, each with minor variations. As a rule of
thumb most European and Asian cars use ISO 9141
circuitry as do Chrysler. GM cars and light trucks
use SAE J1850 VPW (Variable Pulse Width
Modulation), and Fords use SAE J1850 PWM (Pulse
Width Modulation) communication patterns. It is
possible to tell which protocol is used on a specific
car by examining the connector socket:
If the connector has a pin in the number 7 position and no pin at number 2 or 10, then the car
uses the ISO 9141 protocol (as shown)
If no pin is present in the number 7 position, the
car uses the SAE protocol
If there are pins in positions 7 and 2 and/or number 10, the car may use the ISO protocol.
While there are three OBD-II electrical connection
protocols, the command set is fixed by the SAE
J1979 standard.
A range of low-cost tools is now available to read
error codes. These tools can also be used to view
live readings from sensors. The error codes can be
cleared and the warning light reset. OBD systems
monitor and store information from sensors throughout the car. Sensor readings that are outside a preprogrammed range cause a Diagnostic Trouble Code
(DTC) to be generated.
Reading an EOBD/OBD2 DTC
The first character of the code relates to the system
of the vehicle that generated the code:
P Powertrain
B Body
C Chassis
U Network
The next character can be either 0 or 1:
0 Standard (SAE) OBD code
1 Manufacturer’s own code
Figure 3.45 Interface equipment (Source: www.andywhittaker.
The next character identifies the specific part of
the system concerned. For the Powertrain systems
these are:
1 Fuel and air metering
2 Fuel and air metering, specifically injector
3 Ignition system and misfire detection
4 Auxiliary emission controls
5 Vehicle speed control and idle control
6 Computer output circuit
7 Transmission related faults
8 Transmission related faults
The last two numbers identify the specific fault as
seen by the on-board systems.
For example, the code P0115 would indicate an
‘Engine Coolant Temperature Circuit Malfunction’.
A full list of codes can be downloaded from
Equipment Available
The only equipment needed is a simple interface
cable that connects the diagnostic socket to a serial
port on the computer. This usually contains a custombuilt circuit that uses surface mount semiconductors
that are designed for interfacing an automotive ECU
to a PC. An extension lead can be used to allow connection to a PC that is bench mounted. A good design
feature to look out for is that the earth or ground pins
in the DLC plug are longer than the others. If so, they
will always connect first and protect sensitive components from voltage spikes (Figure 3.45).
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
5. Describe briefly four advantages for the technician, of a standardized diagnostic plug.
6. State why a ‘code reader’ or ‘scanner’ is an
important piece of test equipment.
7. Explain what is meant by an ‘integrated diagnostic and measurement system’.
8. Using the six-stage diagnostic procedure discussed in this chapter, write out an example
relating to testing a charging system.
9. Describe the meaning of accuracy in relation to
test equipment.
10. List the main test connections required for an
engine analyser and state the purpose of each.
Figure 3.46 Screen shot of the diagnostic software (Source:
A number of computer programs are available
that will ‘translate’ the DLC signals into a readable
format. One particularly good and reasonably priced
program is ‘Vehicle Explorer’ created by Alex C.
Peper. As well as displaying DTCs this program
allows monitoring of sensor signals in both numerical and graphical formats. Data can be recorded,
during a road test for example, and then played
back for analysis back in the workshop (Figure 3.46).
Unfortunately, even though a common standard has
been developed some manufacturers have interpreted it in different ways. However, it is now possible to access detailed information from many
vehicle systems that until recently was only available to the main dealers.
Out of interest (and because I wanted one!)
when I was writing this section (October 2003),
I bought an interface and cable for about £40/$60
(I could have bought the parts for even less). Together
with the software, I now have a powerful diagnostic
tool – at a very reasonable price.
3.9 Self-assessment
3.9.1 Questions
1. State five essential characteristics of an electrical test multimeter.
2. Describe why the internal resistance of a voltmeter should be as high as possible.
3. Make two clearly labelled sketches to show the
waveforms on an oscilloscope when testing the
output from an ignition Hall effect sensor at
low speed and high speed.
4. Explain what is meant by a ‘serial port’.
3.9.2 Assignment
Consider the advantages and disadvantages of an
‘electronic service bay’. Discuss the implications
for the customer and for the repairer. Examine how
the service and repair environment has changed
over the last 20 years and comment on what may be
the situation in the next 20.
3.9.3 Multiple choice questions
An ohmmeter can be used to measure:
1. plug lead resistance
2. switch supply voltage
3. switch output current
4. all of the above
Technician A says to check a switch measure the voltage at the input supply and the output. Technician B
says to check a twin filament bulb use an ohmmeter
to measure the resistance of the filaments. Who is
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
When looking at a waveform on an oscilloscope
screen, the vertical scale represents:
1. voltage
2. time
3. current
4. resistance
When measuring voltage, the term mV means:
1. megavolts
2. millivolts
3. microvolts
4. manyvolts
A good multimeter, when set to read voltage, will
have an internal resistance that is:
1. very low
2. low
Tools and test equipment
3. high
4. very high
A four-gas analyser will measure:
1. carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons,
2. methanol, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen
3. carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, polycarbons,
4. methanol, nitrogen oxide, polycarbons, oxygen
Diagnostic procedures should always be:
1. logical
2. lunatic
3. laughable
4. laudable
The output of most lambda sensors is a voltage that
varies between:
1. 0.1 and 0.2 V
2. 0.2 and 0.8 V
3. 0.8 and 2.0 V
4. 2.0 and 12 V
The CAN high and CAN low signals are connected
to diagnostic socket pins:
1. 7 and 15
2. 4 and 16
3. 2 and 10
4. 6 and 14
Digital scopes are usually preferred over analogue
types because they can:
1. store readings
2. display quickly
3. increase reliability
4. reduce loading
Electrical systems and circuits
4.1 The systems approach
4.1.1 What is a system?
System is a word used to describe a collection of
related components, which interact as a whole. A
motorway system, the education system or computer
systems, are three varied examples. A large system
is often made up of many smaller systems, which in
turn can each be made up of smaller systems and so
on. Figure 4.1 shows how this can be represented in
a visual form.
One further definition of a system: ‘A group of
devices serving a common purpose’.
Using the systems approach helps to split
extremely complex technical entities into more manageable parts. It is important to note however, that the
links between the smaller parts and the boundaries
around them are also very important. System boundaries will also overlap in many cases.
The modern motor vehicle is a very complex system and, in itself, forms just a small part of a larger
transport system. It is the ability for the motor
vehicle to be split into systems on many levels that
aids both in its design and construction. In particular, the systems approach helps to understand how
something works and, furthermore, how to go about
repairing it when it doesn’t!
Links between sub-systems
4.1.2 Vehicle systems
Splitting the vehicle into systems is not an easy task
because it can be done in many different ways. From
the viewpoint of this book a split between mechanical
systems and electrical systems would seem a good
start. This division though, can cause as many problems as it solves. For example, in which half do we
put anti-lock brakes, mechanical or electrical? The
answer is of course both! However, even with this
problem it still makes it easier to be able to consider
just one area of the vehicle and not have to try to comprehend the whole. Most of the chapters in this book
are major sub-systems of the vehicle and, indeed,
the sub-headings are further divisions. Figure 4.2
shows a simplified vehicle system block diagram.
Once a complex set of interacting parts, such as
a motor vehicle, has been systemized, the function
or performance of each part can be examined in more
detail. Functional analysis determines what each part
of the system should do and, in turn, can determine
how each part actually works. It is again important
to stress that the links and interactions between various sub-systems are a very important consideration.
An example of this would be how the power requirements of the vehicle lighting system will have an
effect on the charging system operation.
To analyse a system further, whatever way it has
been subdivided from the whole, consideration
should be given to the inputs and the outputs of the
Many of the complex electronic systems on a
vehicle lend themselves to this form of analysis.
Considering the electronic control unit (ECU) of
System boundary
Sub, sub-system
Figure 4.1 A system can be made up of smaller systems
Figure 4.2 Simplified vehicle system block diagram
Electrical systems and circuits 83
the system as the control element, and looking at its
inputs and outputs, is the recommended approach.
4.1.3 Open loop systems
An open loop system is designed to give the required
output whenever a given input is applied. A good
example of an open loop vehicle system would be the
headlights. With the given input of the switch being
operated, the output required is that the headlights
will be illuminated. This can be taken further by
saying that an input is also required from the battery
and a further input of, say, the dip switch. The feature
that determines that a system is open loop, is that no
feedback is required for the system to operate. Figure
4.3 shows this example in block diagram form.
4.1.4 Closed loop systems
A closed loop system is identified by a feedback
loop. It can be described as a system where there is
a possibility of applying corrective measures if the
output is not quite what is desired. A good example
of this in a vehicle is an automatic temperature control system. The interior temperature of the vehicle
is determined by the output from the heater, which
is switched on or off in response to a signal from a
temperature sensor inside the cabin. The feedback
loop is due to the fact that the output from the system, i.e., temperature, is also an input to the system.
This is represented in Figure 4.4.
The feedback loop in any closed loop system can
be in many forms. The driver of a car with a conventional heating system can form a feedback loop
by turning the heater down when he or she is too
hot and turning it back up when cold. The feedback
to a voltage regulator in an alternator is an electrical
signal using a simple wire.
4.1.5 Summary
Many complex vehicle systems are represented in
this book as block diagrams. In this way several
inputs can be shown supplying information to an
ECU which, in turn, controls the system outputs.
Figure 4.5 shows the cabin temperature control system using a block diagram.
4.2 Electrical wiring,
terminals and switching
4.2.1 Cables
Cables used for motor vehicle applications are
almost always copper strands insulated with PVC.
Copper, beside its very low resistivity of about
1.7 108 m, has ideal properties such as ductility and malleability. This makes it the natural choice
for most electrical conductors PVC as the insulation
is again ideal, as it not only has very high resistance,
the order of 1015 m, but is also very resistant to
petrol, oil, water and other contaminants.
The choice of cable size depends on the current
drawn by the consumer. The larger the cable used
then the smaller the volt drop in the circuit, but the
cable will be heavier. This means a trade-off must
be sought between the allowable volt drop and maximum cable size. Table 4.1 lists some typical maximum volt drops in a circuit.
In general, the supply to a component must not
be less than 90% of the system supply. If a vehicle
is using a 24 V supply, the figures in Table 4.1
should be doubled.
Volt drop in a cable can be calculated as follows:
Calculate the current I P/Vs
Volt drop Vd Il/A
where: I current in amps, P power rating of
component in watts, Vs system supply in volts,
Vd volt drop in volts, resistivity of copper
in m, l length of the cable in m, A crosssectional area in m2.
Figure 4.3 Open loop system
Figure 4.4 Closed loop system
Figure 4.5 Closed loop heating system
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 4.1 Typical maximum volt drops
Circuit (12 V)
Cable drop (V)
Maximum drop (V)
incl. connections
Lighting circuit
Lighting circuit
Charging circuit
Starter circuit
Starter solenoid
Other circuits
15 W
15 W
Maximum at 20 ° C
Table 4.2 Cables and their applications
Cable strand
diameter (mm)
Cross-sectional area
Continuous current
rating (A)
Example applications
Sidelights etc
Clock, radio
Headlights, HRW
A transposition of this formula will allow the required
cable cross-section to be calculated
A Il/Vd
where I maximum current in amps, and Vd maximum allowable volt drop in volts.
Cable is available in stock sizes and Table 4.2
lists some typical sizes and uses. The current rating
is assuming that the cable length is not excessive and
that operating temperature is within normal limits.
Cables normally consist of multiple strands to provide greater flexibility.
4.2.2 Colour codes and terminal
As seems to be the case for any standardization, a
number of colour code and terminal designation
systems are in operation. For reference purposes I
will just make mention of three. First, the British
Standard system (BS AU 7a: 1983). This system
uses 12 colours to determine the main purpose of
the cable and tracer colours to further define its use.
The main colour uses and some further examples
are given in Table 4.3.
A European system used by a number of manufacturers is based broadly on Table 4.4. Please note
Main supply
Charging wires
Starter supply
that there is no correlation between the ‘Euro’ system and the British standard colour codes. In particular, note the use of the colour brown in each
system. After some practice with the use of colour
code systems the job of the technician is made a lot
easier when fault-finding an electrical circuit.
A system now in use almost universally is the terminal designation system in accordance with DIN
72 552. This system is to enable easy and correct
connections to be made on the vehicle, particularly
in after-sales repairs. It is important, however, to note
that the designations are not to identify individual
wires but are to define the terminals of a device.
Listed in Table 4.5 are some of the most popular
Ford Motor Company now uses a circuit numbering and wire identification system. This is in use
worldwide and is known as Function, SystemConnection (FSC). The system was developed
to assist in vehicle development and production
processes. However, it is also very useful to help the
technician with fault-finding. Many of the function
codes are based on the DIN system. Note that earth
wires are now black!
The system works as follows (see Tables 4.6
and 4.7):
31S-AC3A || 1.5 BK/RD
Electrical systems and circuits 85
Table 4.3 British Standard colour codes for cables
Table 4.5
Symbol Destination/use
Light Green
Main battery feed
Headlight switch to dip switch
Headlight main beam
Headlight dip beam
Sidelight main feed
Left-hand sidelights and number plate
Right-hand sidelights
Constant fused supply
Ignition controlled fused supply
Left-hand side indicators
Right-hand side indicators
Ignition to ballast resistor
Coil negative
Overdrive and fuel injection
All earth connections
Electric windows
Wiper circuits (fused)
Ballast resistor wire
Stop lights
Rear fog light
Popular terminal designation numbers
Ignition coil negative
Ignition coil high tension
Switched positive (ignition switch output)
Input from battery positive
Earth connection
Input to flasher unit
Output from flasher unit
Starter control (solenoid terminal)
Wiper motor input
Stop lamps
Fog lamps
Main beam
Dip beam
Left-hand sidelights
Right-hand sidelights
Charge warning light
Relay winding out
Relay winding input
Relay contact input (change over relay)
Relay contact output (break)
Relay contact output (make)
Left-hand side indicators
Right-hand side indicators
Indicator warning light (vehicle)
Table 4.4 European colour codes for cables
Light Green
Main battery feed
Headlight switch to dip
Headlight main beam
Headlight dip beam
Sidelight main feed
Left-hand sidelights
Right-hand sidelights
Fuel injection
Ignition controlled supply
Indicator switch
Left-hand side indicators
Right-hand side indicators
Coil negative
Earth connections
Ballast resistor wire
Stop lights
Rear fog light
31 ground/earth
S additionally switched circuit
AC headlamp levelling
3 switch connection
A branch
1.5 1.5 mm2
BK Black (determined by function 31)
RD Red stripe
As a final point to this section, it must be noted
that the colour codes and terminal designations
given are for illustration only. Further reference
should be made for specific details to manufacturer’s information.
4.2.3 Harness design
The vehicle wiring harness has developed over the
years from a loom containing just a few wires, to
the looms used at present on top range vehicles
containing well over 1000 separate wires. Modern
vehicles tend to have wiring harnesses constructed
in a number of ways. The most popular is still for
the bundle of cables to be spirally wrapped in nonadhesive PVC tape. The tape is non-adhesive so as
to allow the bundle of wires to retain some flexibility, as shown in Figure 4.6.
Another technique often used is to place the cables
side by side and plastic weld them to a backing strip
as shown in Figure 4.7. This method allows the
loom to be run in narrow areas, for example behind
the trim on the inner sill or under carpets.
A third way of grouping cables, as shown in
Figure 4.8 is to place them inside PVC tubes. This
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 4.6 New Ford colour codes table
Table 4.7 System codes table
Letter Main system
Distribution systems
Actuated systems
Basic systems
Control systems
Gauge systems
Heated systems
Lighting systems
Miscellaneous systems
Powertrain control systems
Indicator systems
(‘indications’ not turn signals)
Temporary for future features
Figure 4.6 PVC wound harness
Figure 4.7 Cables side by side and plastic welded to a backing
DE earth
AK wiper/washer
BA charging
BB starting
CE power steering
GA level/pressure/
HC heated seats
LE headlights
MA air bags
PA engine control
WC bulb failure
XS too much!
Figure 4.8 PVC tube and tape harness
Electrical systems and circuits 87
‘H’ type
Main run of harness
‘E’ type
Figure 4.10 Typical wiring harness layout
Figure 4.9 ‘H’ and ‘E’ wiring layouts
has the advantage of being harder wearing and, if
suitable sealing is arranged, can also be waterproof.
When deciding on the layout of a wiring loom
within the vehicle, many issues must be considered.
Some of these are as follows.
1. Cable runs must be as short as possible.
2. The loom must be protected against physical
3. The number of connections should be kept to a
4. Modular design may be appropriate.
5. Accident damage areas to be considered.
6. Production line techniques should be considered.
7. Access must be possible to main components
and sub-assemblies for repair purposes.
From the above list – which is by no means definitive – it can be seen that, as with most design problems, some of the main issues for consideration are
at odds with each other. The more connections
involved in a wiring loom, then the more areas for
potential faults to develop. However, having a large
multiplug assembly, which connects the entire engine
wiring to the rest of the loom, can have considerable advantages. During production, the engine and
all its ancillaries can be fitted as a complete unit if
supplied ready wired, and in the after-sales repair
market, engine replacement and repairs are easier
to carry out.
Because wiring looms are now so large, it is
often necessary to split them into more manageable
sub-assemblies. This will involve more connection
points. The main advantage of this is that individual
sections of the loom can be replaced if damaged.
Keeping cable runs as short as possible will not
only reduce volt drop problems but will allow
thinner wire to be used, thus reducing the weight of
the harness, which can now be quite considerable.
The overall layout of a loom on a vehicle will
broadly follow one of two patterns; that is, an
‘E’ shape or an ‘H’ shape (Figure 4.9). The ‘H’ is
the more common layout. It is becoming the norm
to have one or two main junction points as part of
the vehicle wiring with these points often being
part of the fuse box and relay plate.
Figure 4.10 shows a more realistic representation
of the harness layout. This figure also serves to show
the level of complexity and number of connection
points involved. It is the aim of multiplexed systems
(discussed later) to reduce these problems and provide extra ‘communication’ and diagnostic facilities.
4.2.4 Printed circuits
The printed circuit is used almost universally on the
rear of the instrument pack and other similar places.
This allows these components to be supplied as
complete units and also reduces the amount and
complexity of the wiring in what are usually cramped
The printed circuits are constructed using a thin
copper layer that is bonded to a plastic sheet – on
both sides in some cases. The required circuit is
then printed on to the copper using a material similar to wax. The unwanted copper can then be etched
away with an acid wash. A further layer of thin plastic sheet can insulate the copper strips if required.
Figure 4.11 shows a picture of a typical printed
circuit from an instrument panel and gives some
indication as to how many wires would be required
to do the same job. Connection to the main harness
is by one or more multiplugs.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 4.11 Four-gauge instrument pack
Table 4.8 Blade fuses
Figure 4.12 Different types of fuse
Continuous current (A)
Blade type
Ceramic type
4.2.5 Fuses and circuit breakers
Some form of circuit protection is required to protect the electrical wiring of a vehicle and also to
protect the electrical and electronic components. It is
now common practice to protect almost all electrical circuits with a fuse. The simple definition of
a fuse is that it is a deliberate weak link in the circuit. If an overload of current occurs then the fuse
will melt and disconnect the circuit before any serious damage is caused. Automobile fuses are available in three types, glass cartridge, ceramic and
blade type. The blade type is the most popular
choice owing to its simple construction and reliability against premature failure due to vibration.
Figure 4.12 shows different types of fuse.
Fuses are rated with a continuous and peak current value. The continuous value is the current that
the fuse will carry without risk of failure, whereas
the peak value is the current that the fuse will carry
for a short time without failing. The peak value of a
fuse is usually double the continuous value. Using a
lighting circuit as an example, when the lights are
first switched on a very high surge of current will
flow due to the low (cold) resistance of the bulb filaments. When the filament resistance increases with
temperature, the current will reduce, thus illustrating
the need for a fuse to be able to carry a higher current for a short time.
To calculate the required value for a fuse, the
maximum possible continuous current should be
worked out. It is then usual to choose the next
highest rated fuse available. Blade fuses are available
in a number of continuous rated values as listed
in Table 4.8 together with their colour code.
The chosen value of a fuse as calculated above
must protect the consumer as well as the wiring. A
good example of this is a fuse in a wiper motor circuit. If a value were used that is much too high, it
Electrical systems and circuits 89
Figure 4.13 ‘Round’ crimp terminals
would probably still protect against a severe short
circuit. However, if the wiper blades froze to the
screen, a large value fuse would not necessarily
protect the motor from overload.
It is now common practice to use fusible links in
the main output feeds from the battery as protection
against major short circuits in the event of an accident or error in wiring connections. These links are
simply heavy duty fuses and are rated in values
such as 50, 100 or 150 A.
Occasionally, circuit breakers are used in place
of fuses, this being more common on heavy
vehicles. A circuit breaker has the same rating and
function as a fuse but with the advantage that it can
be reset. The disadvantage is the much higher cost.
Circuit breakers use a bimetallic strip which, when
subjected to excessive current, will bend and open a
set of contacts. A latch mechanism prevents the contacts from closing again until a reset button is pressed.
4.2.6 Terminations
Many types of terminals are available and have
developed from early bullet-type connectors into
the high quality waterproof systems now in use. A
popular choice for many years was the spade terminal. This is still a standard choice for connection
to relays for example, but is now losing ground to
the smaller blade or round terminals as shown in
Figure 4.13. Circular multipin connectors are used in
many cases, the pins varying in size from 1 mm to
5 mm. With any type of multipin connector, provision
must always be made to prevent incorrect connection.
Protection against corrosion of the actual connector is provided in a number of ways. Earlier
methods included applying suitable grease to the
pins to repel water. It is now more usual to use rubber seals to protect the terminals, although a small
amount of contact lubricant can still be used.
Many multiway connectors employ some kind
of latch to prevent individual pins working loose, and
also the complete plug and socket assembly is often
latched. Figure 4.14 shows several types of connector.
For high quality electrical connections, the contact
resistance of a terminal must be kept to a minimum.
Figure 4.14 Terminals and connector blocks
Female push-on
Male push-on
Female fully
Flat blade
Hook blade
Cranked blade
Figure 4.15 Crimp terminals for repair work
This is achieved by ensuring a tight join with a
large surface area in contact, and by using a precious metal coating often containing silver. It is
worth noting that many connections are only
designed to be removed a limited number of times
before deterioration in effectiveness. This is to
reduce the cost of manufacture but can cause problems on older vehicles.
Many forms of terminal are available for aftersales repair (Figure 4.15), some with more success
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
than others. A good example is sealed terminals,
which in some cases are specified by the manufacturers for repair purposes. These are pre-insulated
polyamide terminations that provide a tough, environment resistant connection for most wire sizes used
on motor vehicles. They simultaneously insulate,
seal and protect the joint from abrasion and mechanical abuse. The stripped wire is inserted into the
metallic barrel and crimped in the usual way. The
tubing is then heated and adhesive flows under
pressure from the tubing, filling any voids and providing an excellent seal with the cable. The seal
prevents the ingress of water and other fluids, preventing electrolytic action. The connection is also
resistant to temperature changes.
4.2.7 Switches
Developments in ergonomics and styling have made
the simple switch into quite a complex issue. The
method of operation of the switch must meet various criteria. The grouping of switches to minimize
driver fatigue and distraction, access to a switch in an
emergency and hazards from switch projections
under impact conditions are just some of the problems
facing the designer. It has now become the norm for
the main function switches to be operated by levers
mounted on the steering column. These functions
usually include; lights, dip, flash, horn, washers and
wipers. Other control switches are mounted within
easy reach of the driver on or near the instrument
fascia panel. As well as all the design constraints
already mentioned, the reliability of the switch is
important. Studies have shown that, for example, a
headlamp dip switch may be operated in the region
of 22 000 times during 80 000 km (50 000) miles
of vehicle use (about 4 years). This places great
mechanical and electrical stress on the switch.
A simple definition of a switch is ‘a device for
breaking and making the conducting path for the
current in a circuit’. This means that the switch can
be considered in two parts; the contacts, which perform the electrical connection, and the mechanical
arrangement, which moves the contacts. There are
many forms of operating mechanisms, all of which
make and break the contacts. Figure 4.16 shows
just one common method of sliding contacts.
The characteristics the contacts require are simple:
Resistance to mechanical and electrical wear.
Low contact resistance.
No build up of surface films.
Low cost.
Materials often used for switch contacts include
copper, phosphor bronze, brass, beryllium copper
Spring loaded
Figure 4.16 Switch with sliding contacts
and in some cases silver or silver alloys. Gold is
used for contacts in very special applications. The
current that a switch will have to carry is the major
consideration as arc erosion of the contacts is the
largest problem. Silver is one of the best materials
for switch contacts and one way of getting around
the obvious problem of cost is to have only the contact tips made from silver, by resistance welding the
silver to, for example, brass connections. It is common practice now to use switches to operate a relay
that in turn will operate the main part of the circuit.
This allows far greater freedom in the design of the
switch due to very low current, but it may be necessary to suppress the inductive arc caused by the relay
winding. It must also not be forgotten that the relay
is also a switch, but as relays are not constrained
by design issues the very fast and positive switching action allows higher currents to be controlled.
The electrical life of a switch is dependent on
its frequency of operation, the on–off ratio of operation, the nature of the load, arc suppression and
other circuit details, the amount of actuator travel
used, ambient temperature and humidity and vibration levels, to name just a few factors.
The range of size and types of switches used on
the motor vehicle is vast, from the contacts in the
starter solenoid, to the contacts in a sunroof micro
switch. Figure 4.17 shows just one type of motor
vehicle switch together with its specifications.
Some of the terms used to describe switch operation are listed below.
Free position Position of the actuator when no
force is applied.
Pretravel Movement of the actuator between the
free and operating position.
Operating position Position the actuator takes
when contact changeover takes place.
Electrical systems and circuits 91
Figure 4.17 Single-pole triple-throw rocker switch
Release position Actuator position when the
mechanism resets.
Overtravel Movement of the actuator beyond
the operating position.
Total travel Sum of pretravel and overtravel.
Actuating force Force required to move the
actuator from the free to the operating position.
Release force Force required to allow the mechanism to reset.
The number of contacts, the number of poles and
the type of throw are the further points to be considered in this section. Specific vehicle current consumers require specific switching actions. Figure
4.18 shows the circuit symbols for a selection of
switches and switching actions. Relays are also
available with contacts and switching action similar
to those shown.
So far, all the switches mentioned have been
manually operated. Switches are also available,
however, that can operate due to temperature, pressure and inertia, to name just three. These three
examples are shown in Figure 4.19. The temperature switch shown is typical of those used to operate
radiator cooling fans and it operates by a bimetal
strip which bends due to temperature and causes a
set of contacts to close. The pressure switch shown
could be used to monitor over-pressure in an air
conditioning system and simply operates by pressure
on a diaphragm which, at a pre-determined pressure, will overcome spring tension and close (or
open) a set of contacts. Finally, the inertia switch is
often used to switch off the supply to a fuel injection pump in the event of an impact to the vehicle.
4.3 Multiplexed wiring
4.3.1 Limits of the conventional
wiring system
The complexity of modern wiring systems has been
increasing steadily over the last 25 years or so and,
in recent years, has increased dramatically. It has
now reached a point where the size and weight of
the wiring harness is a major problem. The number
of separate wires required on a top-of-the-range
vehicle can be in the region of 1500! The wiring
loom required to control all functions in or from the
driver’s door can require up to 50 wires, the systems
in the dashboard area alone can use over 100 wires
and connections. This is clearly becoming a problem as, apart from the obvious issues of size and
weight, the number of connections and the number
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 4.18 Circuit symbols for a selection of switches and
switching actions
of wires increase the possibility of faults developing. It has been estimated that the complexity of the
vehicle wiring system doubles every 10 years.
The number of systems controlled by electronics
is continually increasing. A number of these systems are already in common use and the others are
becoming more widely adopted. Some examples of
these systems are listed below:
Engine management.
Anti-lock brakes.
Traction control.
Variable valve timing.
Transmission control.
Active suspension.
All the systems listed above work in their own right
but are also linked to each other. Many of the sensors that provide inputs to one electronic control
unit are common to all or some of the others. One
solution to this is to use one computer to control all
systems. This, however, would be very expensive to
produce in small numbers. A second solution is to
Figure 4.19 Temperature, pressure and inertia switches
use a common data bus. This would allow communication between modules and would make the
information from the various vehicle sensors available to all sensors.
Taking this idea a stage further, if data could be
transmitted along one wire and made available to
all parts of the vehicle, then the vehicle wiring
could be reduced to just three wires. These wires
would be a mains supply, an earth connection and a
signal wire. The idea of using just one line for many
signals is not new and has been in use in areas such
as telecommunications for many years. Various
signals can be ‘multiplexed’ on to one wire in two
main ways – frequency division and time division
multiplexing. Frequency division is similar to the
way radio signals are transmitted. It is oversimplifying a complex subject, but a form of time division
multiplexing is generally used for transmission of
digital signals.
A ring main or multiplexed wiring system is represented in Figure 4.20. This shows that the data bus
and the power supply cables must ‘visit’ all areas of
Electrical systems and circuits 93
The circuit to meet these criteria is known as the
bus interface and will often take the form of a single
integrated circuit. This IC will, in some cases, have
extra circuitry in the form of memory for example.
It may, however, be appropriate for this chip to be as
cheap as possible due to the large numbers required
on a vehicle. As is general with any protocol system,
it is hoped that one only will be used. This, however, is not always the case.
4.3.3 Bosch CAN (Controller
Area Networks)
Figure 4.20 Multiplexed ‘ring main’ wiring system
the vehicle electrical system. To illustrate the operation of this system, consider the events involved in
switching the sidelights on and off. First, in response
to the driver pressing the light switch, a unique signal is placed on the data bus. This signal is only recognized by special receivers built as part of each
light unit assembly, and these in turn will make a
connection between the power ring main and the
lights. The events are similar to turn off the lights,
except that the code placed on the data bus will be
different and will be recognized only by the appropriate receivers as an off code.
4.3.2 Multiplex data bus
In order to transmit different data on one line, a
number of criteria must be carefully defined and
agreed. This is known as the communications protocol. Some of the variables that must be defined are
as follows:
Method of addressing.
Transmission sequence.
Control signals.
Error detection.
Error treatment.
Speed or rate of transmission.
The physical layer must also be defined and agreed.
This includes the following:
Transmission medium, e.g. copper wire, fibre
optics etc.
Type of transmission coding, e.g. analogue or
Type of signals, e.g. voltage, current or frequency etc.
Bosch has developed the protocol known as ‘CAN’
or Controller Area Network. This system is claimed
to meet practically all requirements with a very
small chip surface (easy to manufacture, therefore
cheaper). CAN is suitable for transmitting data in the
area of drive line components, chassis components
and mobile communications. It is a compact system,
which will make it practical for use in many areas.
Two variations on the physical layer are available
that suit different transmission rates. One is for data
transmission of between 100 K and 1 M baud (bits
per second), to be used for rapid control devices.
The other will transmit between 10 K and 100 K baud
as a low-speed bus for simple switching and control
CAN modules are manufactured by a number
of semiconductor firms such as Intel and Motorola.
A range of modules is available in either VollCAN for fast buses and basic-CAN for lower data
rates. These are available in a stand-alone format or
integrated into various microprocessors. All modules have the same CAN protocol. It is expected
that this protocol will become standardized by the
International Standards Organization (ISO).
Many sensors and actuators are not yet ‘busable’ and, although prototype vehicles have been
produced, the conventional wiring cannot completely be replaced. The electronic interface units
must be placed near, or ideally integrated into, sensors and actuators. Particularly in the case of engine
type sensors and actuators due to heat and vibration, this will require further development to ensure
reliability and low price. Figure 4.21 shows the CAN
bus system on a vehicle.
Significant use is now made of the data bus to
allow ECUs to communicate. Figure 4.22 shows an
example from a Volvo.
4.3.4 CAN signal format
The CAN message signal consists of a sequence of
binary digits (bits). A voltage (or light in fibre optics)
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
being present indicates the value ‘1’ while none
present indicates ‘0’. The actual message can vary
between 44 and 108 bits in length. This is made up
of a start bit, name, control bits, the data itself, a
cyclic redundancy check (CRC) for error detection,
a confirmation signal and finally a number of stop
bits (Figure 4.23).
The name portion of the signal identifies the
message destination and also its priority. As the
transmitter puts a message on the bus it also reads
the name back from the bus. If the name is not the
same as the one it sent then another transmitter
must be in operation that has a higher priority. If
this is the case it will stop transmission of its own
message. This is very important in the case of motor
vehicle data transmission.
Errors in a message are recognized by the cyclic
redundancy check. This is achieved by assembling all
Bus 1
Bus 1 Drive train bus
e.g. Motronic
Transmission control
Bus 2
Bus 2 Multimedia bus
e.g. Main display unit
Bus 3
Bus 3 Body bus
e.g. Parkpilot
Body computer
Door control units
Figure 4.21 CAN (Controller Area Network) instrument
cluster (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 4.22 ECUs can communicate
the numbers in a message into a complex algorithm
and this number is also sent. The receiver uses the
same algorithm and checks that the two numbers
tally. If an error is recognized the message on the
bus is destroyed. This is recognized by the transmitter, which then sends the message again. This technique, when combined with additional tests, makes
it possible for no faulty messages to be transmitted
without being discovered.
The fact that each station in effect monitors its
own output, interrupts disturbed transmissions and
acknowledges correct transmissions, means that
faulty stations can be recognized and uncoupled
(electronically) from the bus. This will prevent other
transmissions being disturbed incorrectly.
All messages are sent to all units and each unit
makes the decision whether the message should be
acted upon or not. This means that further systems
can be added to the bus at any time and can make
use of data on the bus without affecting any of the
other systems.
Interference protection is required in some cases.
Bus lines, which consist of copper wires, act as
transmitting and receiving antennae in a vehicle.
Suitable protective circuits can be used at lower frequencies and the bus can therefore be designed in
Figure 4.23 A CAN ‘word’ is made up of a start bit, name,
control bits, the data itself, a cyclic redundancy check (CRC) for
error detection, a confirmation signal and stop bits
Electrical systems and circuits 95
the form of an unscreened two-wire line. These
measures can only be used to a limited extent and
screening is recommended. The use of optical fibres
would completely solve the radiated interference
problem. However, the coupling of transmitters and
receivers as well as connections and junctions has,
up until now, either not been reliable enough or
too expensive. These problems are currently being
examined and it is expected that the problem will
be solved in the near future. Figure 4.24 shows a
method of bus connection for a wire data bus.
4.3.5 Local intelligence
A decision has to be made on a vehicle as to where
the ‘intelligence’ will be located. The first solution
is to use a local module, which will drive the whole
of a particular sub-system. It is connected by means
of conventional wires. This solves the problem of
the number of wires running from the vehicle body
to the door but still involves a lot of wiring and connectors in the door. This can reduce reliability.
A second solution is to use intelligent actuators.
This system involves the control electronics or
intelligence being integrated into the actuators. In
other words, the operating element accommodates
the electronic functions that are necessary to code
instructions and relay them. The actuators with
their built-in control electronics perform the operating functions, such as adjusting the position of
the mirror or opening and closing the windows.
The intelligence integrated into all the basic
components in the form of a microprocessor
with a basic CAN interface enables detailed selfdiagnosis. A complete check at the end of the
assembly line on the vehicle manufacturer’s premises and rapid fault diagnosis in the workshop are
both possible thanks to this intelligence. Figure
4.25 represents the two methods.
Much development is taking place on intelligent
actuators and sensors, as this method appears
to be the best choice for the future. Figure 4.26
Figure 4.24 Data bus connections
shows a representation of a complete multiplexed
4.3.6 Fibre optics for multiplex
‘Fibre optics’ is the technique of using thin glass or
plastic fibres that transmit light throughout their
length by internal reflections. The advantage of
fibre optics for use as a databus is their resistance to
interference from electromagnetic radiation (EMR)
or interference. It is also possible to send a considerable amount of data at very high speed. This is
why fibre-optic technology is in common use for
telecommunication systems.
Disadvantages, however, are found in the connection of fibre optics, and furthermore, encoders
and decoders to ‘put’ signals onto the databus are
more complex than when a normal wire is used.
Figure 4.25 A complete check at the end of the assembly line
on the vehicle manufacturer’s premises and rapid fault diagnosis
in the workshop are both possible thanks to local intelligence
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 4.26 Complete multiplexed sub-system
Figure 4.27 shows some current techniques for connecting fibre-optic cables.
4.3.7 The need for multiplexing
As an example of how the need for multiplexed systems is increasing, look at Figure 4.28. This figure
shows the block diagram for an intelligent lighting
system, but note how many sensor inputs are required.
Much of this data would already be available on a
This issue is one of the main reasons for the
development of multiplexed systems.
4.3.8 Summary of CAN
CAN is a shared broadcast bus that runs at speeds
up to 1 Mbit/s. It is based around sending messages
(or frames), which are of variable length, between
0 and 8 bytes. Each frame has an identifier, which
must be unique (i.e. two nodes on the same bus
must not send frames with the same identifier). The
interface between the CAN bus and the CPU is
usually called the CAN controller.
The CAN protocol comes in two versions: CAN
1.0 and CAN 2.0. CAN 2.0 is backwards compatible with CAN 1.0, and most new controllers are
CAN 2.0. There are two parts to the CAN 2.0 standard: part A and part B. With CAN 1.0 and CAN
2.0A, identifiers must be 11-bits long. With CAN
2.0B identifiers can be 11-bits (a ‘standard’identifier)
or 29-bits (an ‘extended’ identifier). To comply with
CAN 2.0 a controller must be either 2.0 part B passive, or 2.0 part B active. If it is passive, then it must
Figure 4.27 Fibre-optic connectors
ignore extended frames (CAN 1.0 controllers will
generate error frames when they see frames with
29-bit identifiers). If it is active then it must allow
extended frames to be received and transmitted.
Electrical systems and circuits 97
Figure 4.28 Block diagram of control system for low beam lamps
Figure 4.29 The vehicle dual data bus system
There are some compatibility rules for sending and
receiving the two types of frame.
The architecture of controllers is not covered by
the CAN standard, so there is a variation in how
they are used. There are, though, two general
approaches: BasicCAN and FullCAN (not to be
confused with CAN 1.0 and 2.0, or standard
identifiers and extended identifiers); they differ
in the buffering of messages.
In a BasicCAN controller the architecture is
similar to a UART, except that complete frames
are sent instead of characters: there is (typically)
a single transmit buffer, and a double-buffered
receive buffer. The CPU puts a frame in the transmit buffer, and takes an interrupt when the frame
is sent; the CPU receives a frame in the receive
buffer, takes an interrupt and empties the buffer
(before a subsequent frame is received). The CPU
must manage the transmission and reception, and
handle the storage of the frames.
In a FullCAN controller the frames are stored in
the controller. A limited number of frames can
be dealt with (typically 16); because there can be
many more frames on the network, each buffer is
tagged with the identifier of the frame mapped
to the buffer. The CPU can update a frame in the
buffer and mark it for transmission; buffers can
be examined to see if a frame with a matching
identifier has been received. Figure 4.29 represents the dual data bus system where a highspeed data bus is used for key engine and chassis
systems, and a low-speed bus for other systems.
4.4 Circuit diagrams and
4.4.1 Symbols
The selection of symbols given in Chapter 3, is
intended as a guide to some of those in use. Some
manufacturers use their own variation but a standard is developing. The idea of a symbol is to represent a component in a very simple but easily
recognizable form. The symbol for a motor or for a
small electronic unit deliberately leaves out internal
circuitry in order to concentrate on the interconnections between the various devices.
Examples of how these symbols are used are
given in the next three sections, which show three
distinct types of wiring diagram. Due to the complexity of modern wiring systems it is now common
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
practice to show just part of the whole system on
one sheet. For example, lights on one page, auxiliary circuits on the next, and so on.
4.4.2 Conventional circuit
The conventional type of diagram shows the electrical
connections of a circuit but makes no attempt to show
the various parts in any particular order or position.
Figure 4.30 shows an example of this type of diagram.
4.4.3 Layout or wiring diagrams
A layout circuit diagram makes an attempt to show
the main electrical components in a position similar
to those on the actual vehicle. Owing to the complex
circuits and the number of individual wires, some
manufacturers now use two diagrams – one to show
electrical connections and the other to show the
actual layout of the wiring harness and components.
Citroën, amongst others, has started to use this system. An example of this is reproduced in Figure 4.31.
4.4.4 Terminal diagrams
A terminal diagram shows only the connections of
the devices and not any of the wiring. The terminal
of each device, which can be represented pictorially, is marked with a code. This code indicates the
device terminal designation, the destination device
code and its terminal designation and, in some
cases, the wire colour code. Figure 4.32 shows
an example of this technique.
4.4.5 Current flow diagrams
Current flow diagrams are now very popular.
The idea is that the page is laid out such as to show
current flow from the top to the bottom. These diagrams often have two supply lines at the top of the
page marked 30 (main battery positive supply) and
15 (ignition controlled supply). At the bottom of the
page is a line marked 31 (earth or chassis connection).
Figure 4.33 is a representation of this technique.
4.5 Case study
alongside engines, transmissions and chassis performance. To give an idea of what has happened to
the electrical system in cars over the years, the first
Volvo back in 1927 had four fuses, protecting a mere
30 m of electrical cable.
Seventy years later, the Volvo of 1997 had 54 fuses
for 1200 m of cables and a host of functions that were
totally unknown in 1927. For example, the total computer power in the car is more than 6 Mb. By tradition,
each function had its own system and each system
had one supplier. The capacity of the electrical system was measured in terms of the sum of the number
of components. However, this could not continue
because the need for a radical change was pressing.
A new system that could handle everything was
needed. All the components had to be able to communicate and ‘understand’ one another’s language as
well as being integrated in one system. The Volvo S80
not only has a new electrical system – many cars
have advanced electrical systems – but it uses the
multiplex system for communications.
The electrical system is designed as a communication network of 18 computers with central control units and no fewer than 24 modules for most
electrical functions. These modules function like
computers and control the electrical functions in
the car whenever necessary. Figure 4.22 earlier in
this chapter shows the links between these systems.
Multiplex technology involves only two cables.
One of them is able to carry all the signals in the
system at the same time. The other is the electrical
cable, which carries the necessary power. These
cables run around the entire car and are known as
the databus. The information travels in digital packages. All the small network modules are able to recognize ‘their’ signal for action and do as they are told.
When the signal ‘open left front window’ arrives,
for example, only one module (in the front door)
reacts to it, receives it and transmits an ‘order’ to
the electric motor to lower the window. Signals are
able continuously to alert and activate the different
modules as a result of the capacity of the system,
which also operates at two speeds depending on the
function. The engine and transmission management
uses a high-speed databus, whereas all the other
functions use a slightly slower data bus.
The benefits of the multiplex system are
4.5.1 The smart electrical
system of the future – Volvo S80
Although a car is not primarily experienced through
its electrical system, the revolutionary new electrical
system in the Volvo S80 has a natural position
fewer cables and connections in the car;
improved reliability;
communication between all the components;
software adaptations;
easier and improved opportunities for the retroinstallation of electrical functions.
Electrical systems and circuits 99
Figure 4.30 Conventional circuit diagram
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 4.31 Layout diagram
The system also has the benefit of self-diagnosis
for all functions, including engine management,
making the OBD (on-board diagnostics) unit even
more important than before. Diagnosis is easier, as
is servicing. Any information about a fault or malfunction is passed on to the driver by indicator
lamps and a message display in the instrument cluster. All the cables in the system are fitted in wellprotected cable ducts. The multiplex system in each
car is programmed according to model specifications and fitted options.
Electromagnetic emissions from a device or system that interfere with the normal operation of
another device or system.
4.6.2 Examples of EMC problems
4.6 Electromagnetic
compatibility (EMC)
4.6.1 Definitions
EMC – Electromagnetic compatibility
The ability of a device or system to function
without error in its intended electromagnetic
EMI – Electromagnetic interference
A computer interferes with FM radio reception.
A car radio buzzes when you drive under a
power line.
A car misfires when you drive under a power line.
A helicopter goes out of control when it flies too
close to a radio tower.
CB radio conversations are picked up on the
The screen on a video display jitters when fluorescent lights are on.
The clock resets every time the air conditioner
kicks in.
A laptop computer interferes with an aircraft’s
rudder control!
The airport radar interferes with a laptop computer display.
A heart pacemaker picks up cellular telephone
Electrical systems and circuits 101
Figure 4.32 Terminal diagram
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 4.33 Current flow diagram
Electrical systems and circuits 103
4.6.3 Elements of EMC problems
There are three essential elements to any EMC
1. Source of an electromagnetic phenomenon.
2. Receptor (or victim) that cannot function properly due to the electromagnetic phenomenon.
3. Path between them that allows the source to
interfere with the receptor.
Each of these three elements must be present,
although they may not be readily identified in every
situation. Identifying at least two of these elements
and eliminating (or attenuating) one of them generally solves electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)
For example, suppose it was determined that
radiated emissions from a mobile telephone were
inducing currents on a cable that was connected to
an ECU controlling anti-lock brakes. If this
adversely affected the operation of the circuit a possible coupling path could be identified.
Shielding, filtering, or re-routing of the cable
may be the answer. If necessary, filtering or
redesigning the circuit would be further possible
methods of attenuating the coupling path to the
point where the problem is non-existent.
Potential sources of electromagnetic compatibility problems include radio transmitters, power
lines, electronic circuits, lightning, lamp dimmers, electric motors, arc welders, solar flares and
just about anything that utilizes or creates electromagnetic energy. On a vehicle, the alternator and ignition system are the worst offenders.
Potential receptors include radio receivers, electronic circuits, appliances, people, and just about
anything that utilizes or can detect electromagnetic
Methods of coupling electromagnetic energy
from a source to a receptor fall into one of the following categories:
Conducted (electric current).
Inductively coupled (magnetic field).
Capacitively coupled (electric field).
Radiated (electromagnetic field).
Coupling paths often utilize a complex combination of these methods making the path difficult to
identify even when the source and receptor are
known. There may be multiple coupling paths and
steps taken to attenuate one path may enhance
another. EMC therefore is a serious issue for the
vehicle designer.
4.7 New developments in
systems and circuits
4.7.1 Bluetooth and the
Bluetooth1 is a standard used to connect all types of
appropriately designed devices in a ‘wire free’ network. Harald Bluetooth was king of Denmark in the
late tenth century. He united Denmark and part of
Norway into a single kingdom then introduced
Christianity into Denmark. His name is used for
the standard to indicate how important companies
from countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Finland
and Norway are to the communications industry.
Bluetooth is a standard that works at two levels.
Bluetooth is a radio frequency standard so it provides agreement at the physical level. At the ‘nonphysical’ level products also agree on when bits are
sent, how many will be sent at a time and how error
checking is implemented. The Bluetooth system
operates in the 2.4 GHz Industrial-Scientific-Medical
(ISM) band with a range that varies from 10 m to
100 m. It can support up to eight devices in a piconet
(a very small network of two or more Bluetooth
units). It has built-in security and a particularly useful
feature is that it uses non line-of-sight transmission,
which works through walls and briefcases, for example. Bluetooth enabled devices include: printers,
mobile phones, hands-free headsets, LCD projectors,
modems, wireless LAN devices, laptops/notebooks,
desktop PCs, PDAs and of course, automobiles
(Figure 4.34).
In general, but particularly in the emerging automotive applications, Bluetooth devices need to avoid
creating interference. This is achieved by sending
out very weak signals of only 1 mW. Powerful mobile/
cell phones transmit a signal in the region of 3 W.
The downside of this low power output is that the
range of a Bluetooth device is limited to about
10 metres. However, for many applications the
reduction in interference is the most important
requirement and the standard is designed for communication between devices in close proximity.
To decrease the effect of external interference,
and to prevent Bluetooth devices interfering with
one another, a technique called spread-spectrum
frequency hopping is used. Seventy-nine randomly
chosen frequencies within a designated range are
used and the devices ‘hop’ from one to another
The BLUETOOTH™ trademarks are owned by
Telefonaktiebolaget L M Ericsson, Sweden.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 4.34 Representation of a Bluetooth network – a piconet
1600 times a second. Interference on any particular
frequency will therefore last for a very short time.
Visteon Bluetooth technology
Visteon, a leading automotive electronics technology
company, (Visteon, 2002)2 produces an in-vehicle
system that combines voice-activated controls with an
interface module. This permits hands-free operation
of mobile/cell phones, as well as wireless file access
for personal digital assistants (PDAs) and laptops.
The system is activated with Visteon’s patented
Voice Technology system, which recognizes six
languages (US and UK English, German, French,
Italian, Spanish and Japanese) as well as regional
accents. It makes a wireless connection to a chipset
and associated software embedded in the vehicle’s
radio. Enabling the wireless connection is a 150 80 28 mm module that contains a microprocessor for voice recognition and Bluetooth software
(Figure 4.35).
To initiate pairing, for example the car radio to
a mobile/cell phone, the user presses a Bluetooth
pairing button. A four-digit PIN number is then
entered using the existing radio buttons. Pressing
the Bluetooth pairing button again confirms the
action and completes it. This ‘pairing’ operation is
necessary for each Bluetooth device used in the
vehicle but it only needs to be carried out once for
each item. The Bluetooth Interface Module offers
support of high-speed vehicle networks, active
echo cancellation and noise reduction.
The combination of wireless technology and
voice recognition allows drivers totally hands-free
control over a variety of devices within the vehicle.
Visteon, 2002. Accessed September 2003.
Figure 4.35 Visteon’s Bluetooth Interface Module (Source:
Consumers will be able to use mobile phones,
PDAs and laptops without the need for wires, docking stations or additional instrument panel controls.
Visteon’s system supports high-speed in-vehicle
networks, active echo cancellation and noise reduction. The possibilities are endless; it will become
possible to transfer files from an MP3 player to the
car or even for the car to network with the fuel station pump and debit your account! For diagnostics
the car will be able to interface wirelessly with a
laptop running diagnostic software.
Visteon is a key player in the Bluetooth Automotive Expert Group (AEG), an organization sponsored by the Bluetooth SIG to develop the ‘Car
Profile’. This will enable Bluetooth equipped devices
to interact seamlessly within the components of a
vehicle (Figure 4.36).
As systems develop, it will become possible for
the car’s Bluetooth node to connect with the user’s
Electrical systems and circuits 105
Figure 4.36 Visteon Bluetooth systems (Source:Visteon)
wireless devices as the user approaches the vehicle.
This will allow it to identify the user, unlock the
doors and adjust the seat and climate control, rear
view mirrors and radio settings. With the integration of Visteon Voice Technology™, Bluetooth will
assist in eliminating driver distraction by allowing
hands-free and eyes-free use of personal devices in
the vehicle.
Chrysler UConnect
At the time of writing (autumn 2003), Chrysler is just
starting to offer its customers a Bluetooth enabled
automotive application. Each customer will have
just one communication device (mobile/cell phone)
with one number. Customers will be able to use their
existing network or carrier to sign up (currently
with AT&T), for enhanced services such as stock
quotes, sports and the latest news.
The UConnect system will however, allow up to
five different phones to be connected; ideal for
family use for example. Voice commands will also
be available to access 32 contacts with up to 128
phone numbers.
The main components of the system are:
Control pad.
Control module.
Wiring harness.
The control module contains the Bluetooth chipset
and the voice recognition software. The control pad,
which consists of just a few simple buttons is fitted in
easy reach of the driver above the centre console. The
microphone is made as part of the rear view mirror.
Because of the Bluetooth features, a mobile phone
can be placed anywhere in the vehicle. Once it has
been ‘paired’ with the car it will connect automatically if required. Reducing the need for the driver to
dial numbers and to allow easy hands-free operation is a significant safety contribution.
Microsoft Windows Automotive
A recent survey in the USA sponsored by Microsoft
showed that three out of five consumers want handsfree communication, real-time traffic updates, and
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 4.37 CAN diagnostic connection cable replaced by Bluetooth (Source: KVASER)
turn-by-turn directions in their vehicle. The survey
showed that some 85% of mobile/cell phone owners use their phone and 50% of PDA owners use
their PDAs while in the car.
Microsoft has announced the availability of an
operating system for cars called Windows Automotive 4.2. This embedded system is intended to
enable car manufacturers to build devices that fit
various models. This product is Microsoft’s first
automotive-specific platform to support voice/dataenabled Bluetooth and the Microsoft .NET compact framework.
These new features will allow car manufacturers
and OEMs to provide systems for hands-free communication, web access, diagnostics, wireless synchronization and seamless functionality with all
enabled mobile devices. Internet Explorer 6.0 for
Windows CE will be used for web browsing.
Hands-free communication is via a Speech Application Programming Interface (SAPI). The platform
provides support for a range of features including
the latest wireless technologies such as Bluetooth
and (wireless) Wi-Fi networking.
of an assembly line diagnostic link (ALDL), as well
as the on-board diagnostic (OBD) connection. The
experience of this stage in the development, however,
will be very useful (Lars-Berno Fredriksson, 2002)3
(Figure 4.37).
The system shown here simply picks up CAN
messages, wraps them up in Bluetooth packages and
transmits to the receiver. They are then unwrapped
and presented to the computer as CAN messages
Bluetooth in Automotive
A technique, which uses the existing power lines to
distribute communication data has been developed
by Valeo. This method uses conventional supply wires
instead of adding dedicated wires. This approach to
data transmission eliminates the need for separate
communication wires to handle electrical and electronic functions.
The system, referred to as ‘power line communication’, requires only two wires to provide power
and data functions. ‘Traditional’ multiplexing needs
at least four wires – two for data and two for power
supply. This method therefore results in a reduction
It is now common practice to connect a car’s diagnostic socket via an interface device and serial or
USB cable to a PC or laptop. When Bluetooth is fully
enabled in vehicles it will allow this connection to be
made wirelessly. There are, however, some issues to
be overcome to allow this. In particular a standard
specification is needed, but this is progressing. A
simple application already available is to use a
Bluetooth link in place of the diagnostic cable. This
still requires a physical connection to be made to the
car and, whilst removing the need for a cable connection, does not achieve much else. Once Bluetooth is
fully integrated it will allow easy interfacing in place
Bluetooth in the automobile is here and it is here to
stay. The possibilities are endless and if used correctly will be advantageous for manufacturers and
consumers alike. The convergence of different technologies seems inevitable and the Bluetooth enabled
vehicle clearly encourages this. Communications and
voice activation systems are already in use; diagnostic systems are coming soon!
4.7.2 Beyond multiplexing
Lars-Berno Fredriksson, 2002. Bluetooth in Automotive
Diagnostics, KVARSA AB, Sweden.
Electrical systems and circuits 107
in weight as well as the number of connections and
Power line communication drivers handle the
data by picking up a unique signal superimposed on
the power line. The communication drivers can be
mounted inside electronic control units (ECUs) or
packaged into smart connectors. Research has
shown that the system can handle critical by-wire
functions such as those required for steer-by-wire
and brake-by-wire. Because the number of wires is
reduced this could allow redundancy to be incorporated into critical systems without an increase in the
number of wires currently used. The technology is
compatible with 14 or 42 V systems and is expected
to be in use by 2006.
4.7.3 Controller Area Networks
(CAN) update
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defined
three categories of in-vehicle networks. These categories are based on speed and functions:
Class A Multiplexing:
● Low Speed (10 kbit/s) for convenience features, for example, entertainment, audio, trip
computer, etc.
Most Class A functions require inexpensive, lowspeed communication and often use generic UARTs
(Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitters).
These functions, however, are proprietary and have
not been standardized.
Class B Multiplexing:
● Medium Speed (10–125 kbit/s) for general information transfer, for example, instruments, vehicle speed, emissions data, etc.
The SAE adopted J1850 as the standard protocol for
Class B networks. J1850 has been a recommended
practice for several years and has gained wide
acceptance. It is put into operation in many production vehicles for data sharing and diagnostic purposes. The SAE J1850 standard was a joint effort
among the ‘Big Three’ (Ford, GM and Chrysler).
The resulting standard has two basic versions:
1. 10.4 kbit/s VPW (Variable Pulse Width) – which
uses a single bus wire
2. 41.6 kbit/s PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) –
which uses a two-wire differential bus.
Emissions legislation was a driving force for the
standardization of J1850. This was because some
US legislation (CARB) required the implementation of diagnostic tools for emission-related systems. OBD-II specifies that stored fault codes must
Table 4.9 ISO 11898 (CAN High Speed) standard
Recessive state
nominal max
CAN-High 2.0 V 2.5 V
CAN-Low 2.0 V 2.5 V
3.0 V
3.0 V
Dominant state
2.75 V 3.5 V
0.5 V 1.5 V
4.5 V
2.25 V
be accessible via a diagnostic socket using a standard protocol. OBD-II specifies J1850 and the
European standard, ISO 9141–2.
Class C Multiplexing:
● High Speed (125 kbit/s to 1 Mbit/s or greater)
for real-time control, for example, powertrain
control, vehicle dynamics, steer-by-wire, etc.
The principal Class C protocol is CAN 2.0. This
protocol can operate at up to 1 Mbit/s and was
developed by Robert Bosch GmbH in the early
1980s. The early implementation of CAN version
1.2 (now known as CAN 2.0 A) only allowed for an
11-bit message identifier, thus limiting the number
of distinct messages to 2032. The latest version,
CAN 2.0B, supports both the standard 11-bit and
enhanced 29-bit identifier. This allows millions of
distinct messages to be produced.
The high speed CAN (Class C) network can be
considered like driving to work at 100 km/h,
whereas it would be just 2 km/h for the Class B protocol. The travel time is so much less for Class C
networks that you would be better off walking!
However, this travel time, which is known as
latency, is critical for real-time and safety control
systems. This is because any delays in communication could be dangerous.
The Bosch CAN specification does not prescribe physical layer specifications. This resulted in
two major physical layer designs. Both communicate using a differential voltage on a pair of wires
and are often referred to as a high-speed and a lowspeed physical layer. The low-speed architecture
can change to a single-wire operating method (referenced to earth/ground) when one of the two wires
is faulty because of a short or open circuit. Because
of the nature of the circuitry required to perform
this function, this architecture is very expensive to
implement at bus speeds above 125 kbit/s. This is
why 125 kbit/s is the division between high-speed
and low-speed CAN.
The two wires operate in differential mode, in
other words they carry inverted voltages (to reduce
interference). The levels depend on which standard is
being used. The voltage on the two wires, known as
CAN-High and CAN-Low is listed in Table 4.9.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 4.10 ISO 11519 (CAN Low Speed) standard
Recessive state
Dominant state
nominal max
CAN-High 1.6 V 1.75 V
CAN-Low 3.1 V 3.25 V
1.9 V
3.4 V
nominal max
3.85 V 4.0 V
1.0 V
5.0 V
1.15 V
Table 4.11 CAN bus cable length
4.8 Self-assessment
Bus length (m)
Maximum bit rate
4.8.1 Questions
1 Mbit/s
500 kbit/s
250 kbit/s
125 kbit/s
1. Make a list of 10 desirable properties of a
wiring terminal/connection.
2. Explain why EMC is such an important issue
for automotive electronic system designers.
3. Describe why it is an advantage to consider
vehicle systems as consisting of inputs, control
and outputs.
4. Calculate the ideal copper cable size required
for a fuel pump circuit. The pump draws 8 A
from a 12 V battery. The maximum allowable
volt drop is 0.5 V.
5. Explain what ‘contact resistance’ of a switch
6. State why a fuse has a continuous and a peak
7. Describe the operation of a vehicle using the
CAN system.
8. Explain the term ‘error checking’ in relation to
a multiplexed wiring system.
9. State four types of wiring diagrams and list two
advantages and two disadvantages for each.
10. Describe briefly the way in which a wiring colour
code or a wiring numbering system can assist
the technician when diagnosing electrical faults.
For the recessive state the nominal voltage for
the two wires is the same to decrease the power
drawn from the nodes (Table 4.10).
The voltage level on the CAN bus is recessive
when the bus is idle.
The maximum bus length for a CAN network
depends on the bit rate used. This is because the
wave front of the bit signal must have time to travel
to the most remote node and back again – before
the bit is sampled. The following table lists some
different bus lengths and the associated maximum
bit rates. This is not an issue on a car but it could be
on a large goods vehicle (Table 4.11).
According to ISO 11898 the impedance of the
cable must be 120 12 . It can be a twisted pair,
which is shielded or unshielded. Work is ongoing
on the single-wire standard (SAE J2411).
Benefits of in-vehicle networking can be summarized as follows:
offer the functionality currently only available on
high priced cars. It is also likely that Class A (very
low speed) functions will move to the standard networks like J1850 and CAN. In this way they will
benefit from the availability of shared data and
A smaller number of wires is required for each
function. This reduces the size and cost of the
wiring harness as well as its weight. Reliability,
serviceability and installation issues are improved.
General sensor data, such as vehicle speed, engine
temperature and air temperature can be shared.
This eliminates the need for redundant sensors.
Functions can be added through software changes
unlike existing systems, which require an additional module or input/output pins for each function added.
New features can be enabled by networking, for
example, each driver’s preference for ride firmness, seat position, steering assist effort, mirror
position and radio station presets can be stored
in a memory profile.
As the networking capability becomes common
on lower priced cars, manufacturers will be able to
4.8.2 Project
Prepare two papers, the first outlining the benefits
of using standard wiring looms and associated techniques and the second outlining the benefits of
using a multiplexed system. After completion of the
two papers make a judgement on which technique
is preferable for future use.
Make sure you support your judgement with
4.8.3 Multiple choice questions
The output of a closed loop system has:
1. no effect on the input
2. a direct effect on the input
3. input characteristics
4. output tendencies
Electrical systems and circuits 109
A cable described as 14/0.3 will carry up to:
1. 3.75 A
2. 5.75 A
3. 8.75 A
4. 11.75 A
A typical colour of a wire that is a main supply,
according to the European code is:
1. red
2. brown
3. black
4. white
When discussing the amount of resistance offered
by a conductor, Technician A says the greater the
length of the conductor the smaller the resistance.
Technician B says the greater the cross-sectional
area of the conductor the greater the resistance.
Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
A relay can be thought of as a:
1. remote controlled switch
2. magnetic resistor
3. non-magnetic capacitor
4. heating device
A latching device may be used on an electrical connector in order to:
1. increase resistance
2. reduce resistance
3. improve security
4. prevent security
Technician A says the choice of cable size depends
on the voltage it will have to carry. Technician B
says as a rule of thumb, one strand of 0.3 mm diameter wire will carry 0.5 A safely. Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
A dirty electrical connection is likely to cause a:
1. high resistance
2. low resistance
3. short circuit
4. open circuit
A multiplex wiring system will probably use:
1. three main wires
2. coaxial type wires
3. inductive type relays
4. changeover switches
Controller area network protocols can be described as:
1. input or output types
2. high or low speed
3. reliable or limited
4. modern or old
5.1 Vehicle batteries
2. The expected use of the battery for running
accessories when the engine is not running.
5.1.1 Requirements of the
vehicle battery
The first of these two criteria is usually the deciding
factor. Figure 5.1 shows a graph comparing the
power required by the starter and the power available from the battery, plotted against temperature.
The point at which the lines cross is the cold start
limit of the system (see also the chapter on starting
systems). European standards generally use the figure of 18 ° C as the cold start limit and a battery to
meet this requirement is selected.
Research has shown that under ‘normal’ cold
operating conditions in the UK, most vehicle batteries are on average only 80% charged. Many manufacturers choose a battery for a vehicle that will
supply the required cold cranking current when in
the 80% charged condition at 7 ° C.
The vehicle battery is used as a source of energy in
the vehicle when the engine, and hence the alternator,
is not running. The battery has a number of requirements, which are listed below broadly in order of
To provide power storage and be able to supply
it quickly enough to operate the vehicle starter
To allow the use of parking lights for a reasonable
To allow operation of accessories when the engine
is not running.
To act as a swamp to damp out fluctuations of
system voltage.
To allow dynamic memory and alarm systems
to remain active when the vehicle is left for a
period of time.
The first two of the above list are arguably the most
important and form a major part of the criteria used
to determine the most suitable battery for a given
application. The lead-acid battery, in various similar
forms, has to date proved to be the most suitable
choice for vehicle use. This is particularly so when
the cost of the battery is taken into account.
The final requirement of the vehicle battery is
that it must be able to carry out all the above listed
functions over a wide temperature range. This can
be in the region of 30 to 70 ° C. This is intended
to cover very cold starting conditions as well as
potentially high under-bonnet temperatures.
5.1.3 Positioning the vehicle
Several basic points should be considered when
choosing the location for the vehicle battery:
Weight distribution of vehicle components.
Proximity to the starter to reduce cable length.
5.1.2 Choosing the correct
The correct battery depends, in the main, on just
two conditions.
1. The ability to power the starter to enable minimum
starting speed under very cold conditions.
Figure 5.1 Comparison of the power required by the starter and
the power available from the battery plotted against temperature
Batteries 111
Protection against contamination.
Ambient temperature.
Vibration protection.
As usual, these issues will vary with the type of
vehicle, intended use, average operating temperature
and so on. Extreme temperature conditions may
require either a battery heater or a cooling fan. The
potential build-up of gases from the battery may
also be a consideration.
5.2 Lead-acid batteries
5.2.1 Construction
Even after well over 100 years of development and
much promising research into other techniques of
energy storage, the lead-acid battery is still the best
choice for motor vehicle use. This is particularly so
when cost and energy density are taken into account.
Incremental changes over the years have made
the sealed and maintenance-free battery now in common use very reliable and long lasting. This may
not always appear to be the case to some end-users,
but note that quality is often related to the price the
customer pays. Many bottom-of-the-range cheap
batteries, with a 12 month guarantee, will last for
13 months!
The basic construction of a nominal 12 V leadacid battery consists of six cells connected in
series. Each cell, producing about 2 V, is housed in
an individual compartment within a polypropylene,
Figure 5.2 Lead-acid battery
or similar, case. Figure 5.2 shows a cut-away battery
showing the main component parts. The active material is held in grids or baskets to form the positive
and negative plates. Separators made from a microporous plastic insulate these plates from each other.
The grids, connecting strips and the battery posts
are made from a lead alloy. For many years this was
lead antimony (PbSb) but this has now been largely
replaced by lead calcium (PbCa). The newer materials cause less gassing of the electrolyte when the
battery is fully charged. This has been one of the
main reasons why sealed batteries became feasible,
as water loss is considerably reduced.
However, even modern batteries described as
sealed do still have a small vent to stop the pressure
build-up due to the very small amount of gassing.
A further requirement of sealed batteries is accurate
control of charging voltage.
5.2.2 Battery rating
In simple terms, the characteristics or rating of a
particular battery are determined by how much
current it can produce and how long it can sustain
this current.
The rate at which a battery can produce current
is determined by the speed of the chemical reaction.
This in turn is determined by a number of factors:
Surface area of the plates.
Electrolyte strength.
Current demanded.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
The actual current supplied therefore determines
the overall capacity of a battery. The rating of a battery has to specify the current output and the time.
Ampere hour capacity
A battery for normal light vehicle use may be rated
as follows: 44 Ah, 60 RC and 170 A CCA (BS).
A ‘heavy duty’ battery will have the same Ah rating
as its ‘standard duty’ counterpart, but it will have
a higher CCA and RC.
This is now seldom used but describes how much
current the battery is able to supply for either 10 or
20 hours. The 20-hour figure is the most common.
For example, a battery quoted as being 44 Ah
(ampere-hour) will be able, if fully charged, to supply 2.2 A for 20 hours before being completely
discharged (cell voltage above 1.75 V).
Cold cranking current indicates the maximum
battery current at 18 ° C (0 ° F) for a set time
(standards vary).
5.3 Maintenance and
Reserve capacity
A system used now on all new batteries is reserve
capacity. This is quoted as a time in minutes for
which the battery will supply 25 A at 25 ° C to a
final voltage of 1.75 V per cell. This is used to give
an indication of how long the battery could run
the car if the charging system was not working.
Typically, a 44 Ah battery will have a reserve
capacity of about 60 minutes.
Cold cranking amps
Batteries are given a rating to indicate performance
at high current output and at low temperature. A
typical value of 170 A means that the battery will
supply this current for one minute at a temperature
of 18 ° C, at which point the cell voltage will fall
to 1.4 V (BS – British Standards).
Note that the overall output of a battery is much
greater when spread over a longer time. As mentioned above, this is because the chemical reaction
can only work at a certain speed. Figure 5.3 shows the
above three discharge characteristics and how they
can be compared.
The cold cranking amps (CCA) capacity rating
methods do vary to some extent; British standards,
DIN standards and SAE standards are the three
main examples.
Time (seconds)
5.3.1 Maintenance
By far the majority of batteries now available are
classed as ‘maintenance free’. This implies that
little attention is required during the life of the battery. Earlier batteries and some heavier types do,
however, still require the electrolyte level to be
checked and topped up periodically. Battery posts
are still a little prone to corrosion and hence the usual
service of cleaning with hot water if appropriate and
the application of petroleum jelly or proprietary terminal grease is still recommended. Ensuring that the
battery case and, in particular, the top remains clean,
will help to reduce the rate of self-discharge.
The state of charge of a battery is still very
important and, in general, it is not advisable to allow
the state of charge to fall below 70% for long
periods as the sulphate on the plates can harden, making recharging difficult. If a battery is to be stored
for a long period (more than a few weeks), then it
must be recharged every so often to prevent it from
becoming sulphated. Recommendations vary but a
recharge every six weeks is a reasonable suggestion.
5.3.2 Charging the lead-acid
The recharging recommendations of battery manufacturers vary slightly. The following methods,
In summary, the capacity of a battery is the amount
of electrical energy that can be obtained from it. It
is usually given in ampere-hours (Ah), reserve
capacity (RC) and cold cranking amps (CCA).
A 40 Ah battery means it should give 2 A for
20 hours.
The reserve capacity indicates the time in minutes
for which the battery will supply 25 A at 25 ° C.
Figure 5.3 Battery discharge characteristics compared
Batteries 113
however, are reasonably compatible and should not
cause any problems. The recharging process must
‘put back’ the same ampere-hour capacity as was
used on discharge plus a bit more to allow for losses.
It is therefore clear that the main question about
charging is not how much, but at what rate.
The old recommendation was that the battery
should be charged at a tenth of its ampere-hour capacity for about 10 hours or less. This is assuming that
the ampere-hour capacity is quoted at the 20 hour
rate, as a tenth of this figure will make allowance
for the charge factor. This figure is still valid, but as
ampere-hour capacity is not always used nowadays,
a different method of deciding the rate is necessary.
One way is to set a rate at 1/16 of the reserve capacity, again for up to 10 hours. The final suggestion
is to set a charge rate at 1/40 of the cold start
performance figure, also for up to 10 hours. Clearly,
if a battery is already half charged, half the time is
required to recharge to full capacity.
The above suggested charge rates are to be recommended as the best way to prolong battery life.
They do all, however, imply a constant current charging source. A constant voltage charging system is
often the best way to charge a battery. This implies
that the charger, an alternator on a car for example,
is held at a constant level and the state of charge in
the battery will determine how much current will
flow. This is often the fastest way to recharge a flat
battery. The two ways of charging are represented
in Figure 5.4. This shows the relationship between
charging voltage and the charging current. If a constant voltage of less than 14.4 V is used then it is not
possible to cause excessive gassing and this method
is particularly appropriate for sealed batteries.
Boost charging is a popular technique often
applied in many workshops. It is not recommended
as the best method but, if correctly administered
and not repeated too often, is suitable for most batteries. The key to fast or boost charging is that the
battery temperature should not exceed 43 ° C. With
sealed batteries it is particularly important not to let
the battery create excessive gas in order to prevent the
build-up of pressure. A rate of about five times
the ‘normal’ charge setting will bring the battery to
78–80% of its full capacity within approximately
one hour. Table 5.1 summarizes the charging techniques for a lead-acid battery. Figure 5.5 shows a
typical battery charger.
5.4 Diagnosing lead-acid
battery faults
5.4.1 Servicing batteries
In use, a battery requires very little attention other
than the following when necessary:
Figure 5.4 Two ways of charging a battery showing the
relationship between charging voltage and charging current
Clean corrosion from terminals using hot water.
Terminals should be smeared with petroleum
jelly or Vaseline, not ordinary grease.
Table 5.1 Charging techniques for a lead-acid battery
Charging method
Constant voltage
Constant current
Will recharge any battery in 7 hours or less without any risk of overcharging (14.4 V maximum).
Ideal charge rate can be estimated as: 1/10 of Ah capacity, 1/16 of reserve capacity or
1/40 of cold start current (charge time of 10–12 hours or pro rata original state).
At no more than five times the ideal rate, a battery can be brought up to about 70% of charge
in about one hour.
Boost charging
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
5.4.2 Battery faults
Any electrical device can suffer from two main faults;
these are either open circuit or short circuit. A battery is no exception but can also suffer from other
problems, such as low charge or low capacity. Often
a problem – apparently with the vehicle battery –
can be traced to another part of the vehicle such as
the charging system. Table 5.2 lists all of the common problems encountered with lead-acid batteries,
together with typical causes.
Repairing modern batteries is not possible. Most
of the problems listed will require the battery to be
replaced. In the case of sulphation it is sometimes
possible to bring the battery back to life with a very
long low current charge. A fortieth of the amperehour capacity or about a 1/200 of the cold start performance, for about 50 hours, is an appropriate rate.
5.4.3 Testing batteries
Figure 5.5 Battery charger
Table 5.2 Common problems with lead-acid batteries and
their likely causes
Symptom or fault
Likely causes
Low state of charge
Charging system fault
Unwanted drain on battery
Electrolyte diluted
Incorrect battery for application
Low state of charge
Corroded terminals
Impurities in the electrolyte
Old age – active material fallen
from the plates
Positioned too near exhaust
Damaged plates and insulators
Build-up of active material in
sediment trap
Broken connecting strap
Excessive sulphation
Very low electrolyte
Excessive temperature
Battery has too low a capacity
Vibration excessive
Contaminated electrolyte
Long periods of not being used
Low capacity
Excessive gassing
and temperature
Short circuit cell
Open circuit cell
Service life shorter
than expected
For testing the state of charge of a non-sealed type
of battery, a hydrometer can be used, as shown in
Figure 5.6. The hydrometer comprises a syringe
that draws electrolyte from a cell, and a float that will
float at a particular depth in the electrolyte according to its density. The density or specific gravity is
then read from the graduated scale on the float.
A fully charged cell should show 1.280, 1.200 when
half charged and 1.130 if discharged.
Most vehicles are now fitted with maintenancefree batteries and a hydrometer cannot be used to
find the state of charge. This can only be determined
from the voltage of the battery, as given in Table
5.3. An accurate voltmeter is required for this test.
A heavy-duty (HD) discharge tester as shown in
Figure 5.7 is an instrument consisting of a low-value
resistor and a voltmeter connected to a pair of heavy
test prods. The test prods are firmly pressed on to
the battery terminals. The voltmeter reads the voltage
of the battery on heavy discharge of 200–300 A.
Assuming a battery to be in a fully charged condition, a serviceable battery should read about 10 V
for a period of about 10 s. A sharply falling battery
voltage to below 3 V indicates an unserviceable cell.
Note also if any cells are gassing, as this indicates
a short circuit. A zero or extremely low reading can
indicate an open circuit cell. When using the HD
tester, the following precautions must be observed:
Battery tops should be clean and dry.
If not sealed, cells should be topped up with
distilled water 3 mm above the plates.
The battery should be securely clamped in
Blow gently across the top of the battery to
remove flammable gases.
The test prods must be positively and firmly
pressed into the lead terminals of the battery to
minimize sparking.
It should not be used while a battery is on charge.
Batteries 115
Figure 5.6 Hydrometer test of a battery
Figure 5.7 Heavy duty discharge test
Table 5.3 State of charge of a battery
Battery volts at 20 ° C
State of charge
Discharged (20% or less)
Half charged (50%)
Charged (100%)
5.4.4 Safety
The following points must be observed when
working with batteries:
Good ventilation.
Protective clothing.
Supply of water available (running water
First aid equipment available, including eye-wash.
No smoking or naked lights permitted.
5.5 Advanced battery
5.5.1 Electrochemistry
Electrochemistry is a very complex and wide-ranging
science. This section is intended only to scratch the
surface by introducing important terms and concepts. These will be helpful with the understanding
of vehicle battery operation.
The branch of electrochemistry of interest here
is the study of galvanic cells and electrolysis. When
an electric current is passed through an electrolyte
it causes certain chemical reactions and a migration
of material. Some chemical reactions, when carried
out under certain conditions will produce electrical
energy at the expense of the free energy in the system.
The reactions of most interest are those that are
reversible, in other words they can convert electrical
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
energy into chemical energy and vice versa. Some
of the terms associated with electrochemistry can
be confusing. The following is a selection of terms
and names with a brief explanation of each.
Anion: The negative charged ion that travels to
the positive terminal during electrolysis.
Anode: Positive electrode of a cell.
Catalyst: A substance that significantly increases
the speed of a chemical reaction without appearing to take part in it.
Cation: The positively charged ion that travels
to the negative terminal during electrolysis.
Cathode: The negative electrode of a cell.
Diffusion: The self-induced mixing of liquids or
Dissociation: The molecules or atoms in a solution decomposing into positive and negative
ions. For example, sulphuric acid (H2SO4) dissociates into H, H (two positive ions or
cations, which are attracted to the cathode),
and SO4 (negative ions or anions, which are
attracted to the anode).
Electrode: Plates of a battery or an electrolysis
bath suspended in the electrolyte.
Electrolysis: Conduction of electricity between
two electrodes immersed in a solution containing
ions (electrolyte), which causes chemical changes
at the electrodes.
Electrolyte: An ion-conducting liquid covering
both electrodes.
Ion: A positively or negatively charged atomic
or molecular particle.
Secondary galvanic cell: A cell containing
electrodes and an electrolyte, which will convert
electrical energy into chemical energy when being
charged, and the reverse during discharge.
5.5.2 Electrolytic conduction
Electricity flows through conductors in one of two
ways. The first is by electron movement, as is the case
with most metals. The other type of flow is by ionic
movement, which may be charged atoms or molecules. For electricity to flow through an electrolyte,
ion flow is required.
To explain electrolytic conduction, which is current flow through a liquid, sulphuric acid (H2SO4)
is the best electrolyte example to choose. When in
an aqueous solution (mixed with water), sulphuric
acid dissociates into H, H and SO4, which
are positive and negative ions. The positive charges
are attracted to the negative electrode and the negative
charges are attracted to the positive electrode. This
movement is known as ion flow or ion drift.
5.5.3 Ohm’s Law and
electrolytic resistance
The resistance of any substance depends on the
following variables:
Nature of the material.
Cross-sectional area.
This is true for an electrolyte as well as solid conductors. Length and cross-sectional area have
straightforward effects on the resistance of a sample,
be it a solid or a liquid. Unlike most metals however,
which have a positive temperature coefficient, electrolytes are generally the opposite and have a negative
temperature coefficient.
The nature of the material or its conductance (the
reciprocal of resistance) is again different between
solids and liquids. Different substances have different values of resistivity, but with electrolytes the
concentration is also important.
5.5.4 Electrochemical action of
the lead-acid battery
A fully charged lead-acid battery consists of lead
peroxide (PbO2) as the positive plates, spongy lead
(Pb) as the negative plates and diluted sulphuric
acid (H2SO4) (H2O). The dilution of the electrolyte is at a relative density of 1.28. The lead is
known as the active material and, in its two forms,
has different valencies. This means a different number of electrons exists in the outer shell of the pure
lead than when present as a compound with oxygen.
The lead peroxide has, in fact, a valency of iv
(four electrons missing).
As discussed earlier in this chapter, when sulphuric acid is in an aqueous solution (mixed with
water), it dissociates into charged ions H, H
and SO4. From the ‘outside’, the polarity of the
electrolyte appears to be neutral as these charges
cancel out. The splitting of the electrolyte into these
parts is the reason that a charging or discharging
current can flow through the liquid.
The voltage of a cell is created due to the ions
(charged particles) being forced into the solution
from the electrodes by the solution pressure. Lead
will give up two positively charged atoms, which
have given up two electrons, into the liquid. As a
result of giving up two positively charged particles,
the electrode will now have an excess of electrons
and hence will take on a negative polarity with
respect to the electrolyte. If a further electrode is
immersed into the electrolyte, different potentials
Batteries 117
will develop at the two electrodes and therefore a
potential difference will exist between the two. A
lead-acid battery has a nominal potential difference
of 2 V. The electrical pressure now present between
the plates results in equilibrium within the electrolyte. This is because the negative charges on one
plate exert an attraction on the positive ions that
have entered the solution. This attraction has the
same magnitude as the solution pressure and hence
equilibrium is maintained.
When an external circuit is connected to the cell,
the solution pressure and attraction force are disrupted. This allows additional charged particles to
be passed into and through the electrolyte. This will
only happen, however, if the external voltage pressure is greater than the electrical tension within the
cell. In simple terms this is known as the charging
When a lead-acid cell is undergoing charging or
discharging, certain chemical changes take place.
These can be considered as two reactions, one at the
positive plate and one at the negative plate. The
electrode reaction at the positive plate is a combination of equations (a) and (b).
(a) PbO2 4H 2e → Pb 2H 2O
The lead peroxide combines with the dissociated
hydrogen and tends to become lead and water.
(b) Pb SO
→ PbSO 4
The lead now tends to combine with the sulphate
from the electrolyte to become lead sulphate. This
gives the overall reaction at the positive pole as:
(c) (a b) PbO2 4H SO
4 2e
PbSO 4 2H 2O
There is a production of water (a) and a deposition
of lead sulphate (b) together with a consumption of
sulphuric acid.
The electrode reaction at the negative plate is:
(d) Pb → Pb 2e
The neutral lead loses two negative electrons to the
solution, and becomes positively charged.
(e) Pb SO
→ PbSO 4
This then tends to attract the negatively charged
sulphate from the solution and the pole becomes
lead sulphate. The overall reaction at the negative
pole is therefore:
(f) (d e) Pb SO
→ PbSO 4 2e
This reaction leads to a consumption of sulphuric
acid and the production of water as the battery is
The reverse of the above process is when the battery is being charged. The process is the reverse of
that described above. The reactions involved in the
charging process are listed below.
The charging reaction at the negative electrode:
(g) PbSO 4 2e 2H → Pb H 2SO 4
The electrons from the external circuit (2e) combine with the hydrogen ions in the solution (2H)
and then the sulphate to form sulphuric acid as
the plate tends to become lead. The reaction at the
positive pole is:
(h) PbSO 4 2e 2H 2O → PbO2
H 2SO 4 2H
The electrons given off to the external circuit (2e),
release hydrogen ions into the solution (2H). This
allows the positive plate to tend towards lead peroxide, and the concentration of sulphuric acid in the
electrolyte to increase.
The net two-way chemical reaction is the sum of
the above electrode processes:
(i) (c f or g h)
PbO2 2H 2SO 4 Pb ↔ 2PbSO 4
2H 2O
This two-way or reversible chemical reaction
(charged on the left and discharged on the right),
describes the full process of the charge and discharge cycle of the lead-acid cell.
The other reaction of interest in a battery is that
of gassing after it has reached the fully charged
condition. This occurs because once the plates of
the battery have become ‘pure’ lead and lead peroxide, the external electrical supply will cause the
water in the electrolyte to decompose. This gassing
voltage for a lead-acid battery is about 2.4 V. This
gassing causes hydrogen and oxygen to be given off
resulting in loss of water (H2O), and an equally
undesirable increase in electrolyte acid density.
The reaction, as before, can be considered for
each pole of the battery in turn.
At the positive plate:
( j) 2H 2O 4e → O2 4H
At the negative plate:
(k) 4H 4e → 2H 2
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 5.4 Factors affecting the voltage of a battery
Acid density
Cell voltage
Battery voltage
% charge
The sum of these two equations gives the overall
result of the reaction;
(l) (j k) 2H 2 O → O2 2H 2
It is acceptable for gassing to occur for a short time
to ensure all the lead sulphate has been converted to
either lead or lead peroxide. It is the material of the
grids inside a battery that contribute to the gassing.
With sealed batteries this is a greater problem but
has been overcome to a large extent by using leadcalcium for the grid material in place of the more
traditional lead-antimony.
The voltage of a cell and hence the whole battery
is largely determined by the concentration of the
acid in the electrolyte. The temperature also has a
marked effect. This figure can be calculated from
the mean electrical tension of the plates and the
concentration of ions in solution. Table 5.4 lists the
results of these calculations at 27 ° C. As a rule of
thumb, the cell voltage is about 0.84 plus the value
of the relative density.
It is accepted that the terminal voltage of a leadacid cell must not be allowed to fall below 1.8 V as,
apart from the electrolyte tending to become very
close to pure water, the lead sulphate crystals grow
markedly making it very difficult to recharge the
5.5.5 Characteristics
The following headings are the characteristics of a
battery that determine its operation and condition.
Internal resistance
Any source of electrical energy can be represented
by the diagram shown in Figure 5.8. This shows a
perfect voltage source in series with a resistor. This
is used to represent the reason why the terminal voltage of a battery drops when a load is placed across
it. As an open circuit, no current flows through the
internal resistance and hence no voltage is dropped.
When a current is drawn from the source a voltage
drop across the internal resistance will occur. The
actual value can be calculated as follows.
Figure 5.8 Equivalent circuit of an electrical supply showing a
perfect voltage source in series with a resistor
Connect a voltmeter across the battery and note
the open circuit voltage, for example 12.7 V. Connect
an external load to the battery, and measure the
current, say 50 A. Note again the on-load terminal
voltage of the battery, for example 12.2 V.
A calculation will determine the internal
Ri (U V)/I
where U open circuit voltage, V on-load voltage, I current, Ri internal resistance.
For this example the result of the calculation
is 0.01 .
Temperature and state of charge affect the internal
resistance of a battery. The internal resistance can
also be used as an indicator of battery condition –
the lower the figure, the better the condition.
The efficiency of a battery can be calculated in two
ways, either as the ampere-hour efficiency or the
power efficiency.
Ah efficiency Ah discharging
Ah charging 100%
At the 20 hour rate this can be as much as 90%.
This is often quoted as the reciprocal of the efficiency figure; in this example about 1.1, which is
known as the charge factor.
Energy efficiency Pd td
Pc tc
where Pd discharge power, td discharge time,
Pc charging power, tc charging time.
A typical result of this calculation is about 75%.
This figure is lower than the Ah efficiency as it
takes into account the higher voltage required to
force the charge into the battery.
Batteries 119
All batteries suffer from self-discharge, which
means that even without an external circuit the state
of charge is reduced. The rate of discharge is of the
order of 0.2–1% of the Ah capacity per day. This
increases with temperature and the age of the battery.
It is caused by two factors. First, the chemical process
inside the battery changes due to the material of the
grids forming short circuit voltaic couples between
the antimony and the active material. Using calcium
as the mechanical improver for the lead grids reduces
this. Impurities in the electrolyte, in particular trace
metals such as iron, can also add to self-discharge.
Second, a leakage current across the top of the
battery, particularly if it is in a poor state of cleanliness, also contributes to the self-discharge. The fumes
from the acid together with particles of dirt can form
a conducting film. This problem is much reduced
with sealed batteries.
5.6 Developments in
electrical storage
5.6.1 Lead-acid battery
Lead-acid batteries have not changed much from
the very early designs (invented by Gaston Plante in
1859). Incremental changes and, in particular, the
development of accurate charging system control
has allowed the use of sealed and maintenance-free
batteries. Figure 5.9 shows a typical modern battery.
The other main developments have been to design
batteries for particular purposes. This is particularly
appropriate for uses such as supplementary batteries
in a caravan or as power supplies for lawn mowers
and other traction uses. These batteries are designed
to allow deep discharge and, in the case of caravan
batteries, may also have vent tubes fitted to allow
gases to be vented outside. Some batteries are
designed to withstand severe vibration for use on
plant-type vehicles.
The processes in lead-acid batteries are very
similar, even with variations in design. However, batteries using a gel in place of liquid electrolyte are
worth a mention. These batteries have many advantages in that they do not leak and are more resistant
to poor handling.
The one main problem with using a gel electrolyte is that the speed of the chemical reaction is
reduced. Whilst this is not a problem for some types
of supply, the current required by a vehicle starter
is very high for a short duration. The cold cranking
Figure 5.9 Modern vehicle battery
amps (CCA) capacity of this type of battery is
therefore often lower than the equivalent-sized
conventional battery.
The solid-gel type electrolyte used in some
types of these batteries is thixotropic. This means
that, due to a high viscosity, the gel will remain
immobile even if the battery is inverted. A further
advantage of a solid gel electrolyte is that a network
of porous paths is formed through the electrolyte.
If the battery is overcharged, the oxygen emitted at
the positive plate will travel to the negative plate,
where it combines with the lead and sulphuric acid
to form lead sulphate and water:
O2 2Pb 2PbO
This reforming of the water means the battery is
truly maintenance free. The recharging procedure is
very similar to the more conventional batteries.
To date, gel-type batteries have not proved successful for normal motor vehicle use, but are an
appropriate choice for specialist performance
vehicles that are started from an external power
source. Ordinary vehicle batteries using a gel electrolyte appeared on the market some years ago
accompanied by great claims of reliability and long
life. However, these batteries did not become very
popular. This could have been because the cranking
current output was not high enough due to the speed
of the chemical reaction.
An interesting development in ‘normal’ leadacid batteries is the use of lead-antimony (PbSb) for
the positive plate grids and lead-calcium (PbCa) for
the negative plate grids. This results in a significant
reduction in water loss and an increase in service
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
life. The plates are sealed in microporous pockettype separators, on each side of which are glassfibre reinforcing mats. The pocket separators
collect all the sludge and hence help to keep the
electrolyte in good condition.
5.6.2 Alkaline batteries
Lead-acid batteries traditionally required a considerable amount of servicing to keep them in good
condition, although this is not now the case with the
advent of sealed and maintenance-free batteries.
However, when a battery is required to withstand a
high rate of charge and discharge on a regular basis,
or is left in a state of disuse for long periods, the
lead-acid cell is not ideal. Alkaline cells on the
other hand require minimum maintenance and are
far better able to withstand electrical abuse such as
heavy discharge and over-charging.
The disadvantages of alkaline batteries are that
they are more bulky, have lower energy efficiency
and are more expensive than a lead-acid equivalent.
When the lifetime of the battery and servicing
requirements are considered, the extra initial cost is
worth it for some applications. Bus and coach companies and some large goods-vehicle operators have
used alkaline batteries.
Alkaline batteries used for vehicle applications
are generally the nickel-cadmium type, as the other
main variety (nickel-iron) is less suited to vehicle use.
The main components of the nickel-cadmium – or
Nicad – cell for vehicle use are as follows:
positive plate – nickel hydrate (NiOOH);
negative plate – cadmium (Cd);
electrolyte – potassium hydroxide (KOH) and
water (H2O).
The process of charging involves the oxygen moving from the negative plate to the positive plate, and
the reverse when discharging. When fully charged,
the negative plate becomes pure cadmium and the
positive plate becomes nickel hydrate. A chemical
equation to represent this reaction is given next but
note that this is simplifying a more complex reaction.
2NiOOH Cd 2H 2O KOH ↔
2Ni(OH)2 CdO2 KOH
The 2H2O is actually given off as hydrogen (H) and
oxygen (O2) as gassing takes place all the time during
charge. It is this use of water by the cells that indicates they are operating, as will have been noted
from the equation. The electrolyte does not change
during the reaction. This means that a relative density reading will not indicate the state of charge.
These batteries do not suffer from over-charging
Figure 5.10 Simplified representation of a Nicad alkaline
battery cell
because once the cadmium oxide has changed to
cadmium, no further reaction can take place.
The cell voltage of a fully charged cell is 1.4 V
but this falls rapidly to 1.3 V as soon as discharge
starts. The cell is discharged at a cell voltage of
1.1 V. Figure 5.10 shows a simplified representation
of a Nicad battery cell.
Ni-MH or nickel-metal-hydride batteries show
some promise for electric vehicle use.
5.6.3 The ZEBRA battery
The Zero Emissions Battery Research Activity
(ZEBRA) has adopted a sodium-nickel-chloride
battery for use in its electric vehicle programme.
This battery functions on an electrochemical principle. The base materials are nickel and sodium
chloride. When the battery is charged, nickel chloride
is produced on one side of a ceramic electrolyte and
sodium is produced on the other. Under discharge,
the electrodes change back to the base materials.
Each cell of the battery has a voltage of 2.58 V.
The battery operates at an internal temperature
of 270–350 ° C, requiring a heat-insulated enclosure. The whole unit is ‘vaccum packed’ to ensure
that the outer surface never exceeds 30 ° C. The
ZEBRA battery has an energy density of 90 Wh/kg,
which is more than twice that of a lead-acid type.
When in use on the electric vehicle (EV), the
battery pack consists of 448 individual cells rated at
289 V. The energy density is 81 Wh/kg; it has a
mass of 370 kg (over 1/4 of the total vehicle mass)
and measures 993 793 280 mm3. The battery
pack can be recharged in just one hour using an
Batteries 121
external power source. It is currently in use/
development on the Mercedes A-class vehicle.
5.6.4 Ultra-capacitors
Ultra-capacitors are very high capacity but (relatively) low size capacitors. This is achieved by
employing several distinct electrode materials prepared using special processes. Some state-of-theart ultra-capacitors are based on high surface area,
ruthenium dioxide (RuO2) and carbon electrodes.
Ruthenium is extremely expensive and available
only in very limited amounts.
Electrochemical capacitors are used for highpower applications such as cellular electronics, power
conditioning, industrial lasers, medical equipment,
and power electronics in conventional, electric and
hybrid vehicles. In conventional vehicles, ultracapacitors could be used to reduce the need for
large alternators for meeting intermittent high peak
power demands related to power steering and braking. Ultra-capacitors recover braking energy dissipated as heat and can be used to reduce losses in
electric power steering.
One system in use on a hybrid bus uses 30 ultracapacitors to store 1600 kJ of electrical energy (20
farads at 400 V). The capacitor bank has a mass of
950 kg. Use of this technology allows recovery of
energy, such as when braking, that would otherwise
have been lost. The capacitors can be charged in a
very short space of time. The energy in the capacitors can also be used very quickly, such as for rapid
5.6.5 Fuel cells
The energy of oxidation of conventional fuels, which
is usually manifested as heat, may be converted
directly into electricity in a fuel cell. All oxidations
involve a transfer of electrons between the fuel and
oxidant, and this is employed in a fuel cell to convert the energy directly into electricity. All battery
cells involve an oxide reduction at the positive pole
and an oxidation at the negative during some part of
their chemical process. To achieve the separation of
these reactions in a fuel cell, an anode, a cathode
and electrolyte are required. The electrolyte is fed
directly with the fuel.
It has been found that a fuel of hydrogen when
combined with oxygen proves to be a most efficient
design. Fuel cells are very reliable and silent in
operation, but at present are very expensive to construct. Figure 5.11 shows a simplified representation of a fuel cell.
Figure 5.11 Representation of a fuel cell
Operation of one type of fuel cell is such that as
hydrogen is passed over an electrode (the anode) of
porous nickel, which is coated with a catalyst, the
hydrogen diffuses into the electrolyte. This causes
electrons to be stripped off the hydrogen atoms.
These electrons then pass through the external circuit. Negatively charged hydrogen anions (OH)
are formed at the electrode over which oxygen is
passed such that it also diffuses into the solution.
These anions move through the electrolyte to the
anode. The electrolyte, which is used, is a solution
of potassium hydroxide (KOH). Water is formed as
the by-product of a reaction involving the hydrogen
ions, electrons and oxygen atoms. If the heat generated by the fuel cell is used, an efficiency of over
80% is possible, together with a very good energy
density figure. A single fuel cell unit is often referred
to as a ‘stack’.
The working temperature of these cells varies
but about 200 ° C is typical. High pressure is also
used and this can be of the order of 30 bar. It is the
pressures and storage of hydrogen that are the main
problems to be overcome before the fuel cell will
be a realistic alternative to other forms of storage
for the mass market. The next section, however,
explains one way around the ‘hydrogen’ problem.
Fuel cells in use on ‘urban transport’ vehicles
typically use 20 10 kW stacks (200 kW) operating
at 650 V.
5.6.6 Fuel cell developments
Some vehicle manufacturers have moved fuel cell
technology nearer to production reality with an
on-board system for generating hydrogen from
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 5.12 Mercedes-Benz A-class
Figure 5.13 NECAR – Fuel cells in a Mercedes A-class
methanol. Daimler-Benz, now working with the
Canadian company Ballard Power Systems, claimed
the system as a ‘world first’. The research vehicle is
called NECAR (New Electric Car). It is based on
the Mercedes-Benz’s ‘A-class’ model (Figure 5.12).
In the system, a reformer converts the methanol into
hydrogen by water vapour reformation. The hydrogen gas is then supplied to fuel cells to react with
atmospheric oxygen, which in turn produces electric
The great attraction of methanol is that it can
easily fit into the existing gasoline/diesel infrastructure of filling stations and does not need highly specialized equipment or handling. It is easy to store
on-board the vehicle, unlike hydrogen which needs
heavy and costly tanks. At the time of writing the
NECAR (Figure 5.13) has a range of about 400 km
on a 40 litre methanol tank. Consideration is also
being given to multifuel hydrogen sourcing.
The methanol reformer technology used has
benefited from developments that have allowed the
system to become smaller and more efficient compared with earlier efforts. The result is a 470 mm
high unit located in the rear of the A-class, in which
the reformer directly injects hydrogen into the fuel
cells. Hydrogen production occurs at a temperature
of some 280 ° C. Methanol and water vaporize to
yield hydrogen (H), carbon dioxide (CO2), and carbon monoxide (CO). After catalytic oxidation of
the CO, the hydrogen gas is fed to the negative pole
of the fuel cell where a special plastic foil, coated
with a platinum catalyst and sandwiched between
two electrodes, is located. The conversion of the
hydrogen into positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons begins with the arrival of
oxygen at the positive pole. The foil is only permeable to protons; therefore, a voltage builds up across
the fuel cell.
5.6.7 Sodium sulphur battery
Much research is underway to improve on current
battery technology in order to provide a greater
energy density for electric vehicles. (Electric traction will be discussed further in a later chapter.) A
potential major step forwards however is the sodium
sulphur battery, which has now reached production
stage. Table 5.5 compares the potential energy density of several types of battery. Wh/kg means watt
hours per kilogram or the power it will supply, for
how long per kilogram.
Sodium-sulphur batteries have recently reached
the production stage and, in common with the other
types listed, have much potential; however, all types
have specific drawbacks. For example, storing and
carrying hydrogen is one problem of fuel cells.
Batteries 123
Table 5.5 The potential energy density of several battery
Battery type
Cell voltage
Energy density
H2/O2 Fuel cell
The sodium-sulphur or NaS battery consists of a
cathode of liquid sodium into which is placed a current collector. This is a solid electrode of -alumina.
A metal can that is in contact with the anode (a sulphur electrode) surrounds the whole assembly. The
major problem with this system is that the running
temperature needs to be 300–350 ° C. A heater rated
at a few hundred watts forms part of the charging circuit. This maintains the battery temperature when the
vehicle is not running. Battery temperature is maintained when in use due to I2 R losses in the battery.
Each cell of this battery is very small, using only
about 15 g of sodium. This is a safety feature because,
if the cell is damaged, the sulphur on the outside
will cause the potentially dangerous sodium to be
converted into polysulphides – which are comparatively harmless. Small cells also have the advantage
that they can be distributed around the car. The
capacity of each cell is about 10 Ah. These cells fail
in an open circuit condition and hence this must be
taken into account, as the whole string of cells used
to create the required voltage would be rendered
inoperative. The output voltage of each cell is about
2 V. Figure 5.14 shows a representation of a
sodium-sulphur battery cell.
A problem still to be overcome is the casing
material, which is prone to fail due to the very corrosive nature of the sodium. At present, an expensive
chromized coating is used.
This type of battery, supplying an electric motor,
is becoming a competitor to the internal combustion engine. The whole service and charging infrastructure needs to develop but looks promising. It is
estimated that the cost of running an electric vehicle
will be as little as 15% of the petrol version, which
leaves room to absorb the extra cost of production.
5.6.8 The Swing battery
Some potential developments in battery technology
are major steps in the right direction but many new
methods involve high temperatures. One major aim
Figure 5.14 Sodium sulphur battery
Figure 5.15 Chemical process of the ‘Swing’ battery (3.5 V/cell
at room temperature)
of battery research is to develop a high performance
battery, that works at a normal operating temperature.
One new idea is called the ‘Swing battery’. Figure
5.15 shows the chemical process of this battery.
The Swing concept batteries use lithium ions.
These batteries have a carbon anode and a cathode
made of transition metal oxides. Lithium ions are in
constant movement between these very thin electrodes in a non-aqueous electrolyte. The next step
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
planned by the company is to use a solid polymer
electrolyte, based on polyethylene oxide instead of
the liquid electrolyte.
The Swing process takes place at normal temperatures and gives a very high average cell voltage
of 3.5 V, compared with cell voltages of approximately 1.2 V for nickel-cadmium and about 2.1 V
for lead-acid or sodium-sulphur batteries. Tests simulating conditions in electric vehicles have demonstrated specific energies of about 100 Wh/kg and
200 Wh/l.
The complexity of the electrical storage system
increases with higher operating temperatures, an
increased number of cells and with the presence of
agitated or recycled electrolytes. To ensure reliable
and safe operation, higher and higher demands will
be made on the battery management system. This
will clearly introduce more cost to the vehicle system as a whole. Consideration must be given not
only to specific energy storage but also to system
complexity and safety. Figure 5.16 is a comparison
of batteries considering energy density and safety
The high temperature systems have, however,
proved their viability for use in vehicles. They have
already passed a series of abuse tests and other systems are in preparation. A sodium-sulphur battery
when fully charged, which is rated at 20 kWh, contains about 10 kg of liquid sodium. Given 100 000
vehicles, 1000 tonnes of liquid sodium will be in
use. These quantities have to be encapsulated in two
hermetically sealed containers. The Swing concept
is still new but offers a potentially safe system for
use in the future.
5.7 New developments in
5.7.1 Bosch silver battery –
case study
Bosch has launched a new range of batteries for
commercial vehicles with innovative silver technology for extreme conditions of use. The new
‘Tecmaxx’ heavy vehicle battery features exceptionally high reserves of power at very high or low temperatures. In addition, the use of silver-plating means
that the Tecmaxx is completely maintenance-free.
The innovative safety design of the new truck
battery means that it can even be placed internally
in the vehicle body. The newly designed top with
Security stoppers means that no acid can escape
even if the vehicle is subjected to extreme vibration
or shaking. The battery can even be tipped on its
side by up to 90 ° without danger. A safety feature
incorporated into the top of the battery prevents
battery gas from being ignited by sparks or flames.
Figure 5.17 Light vehicle battery showing the charge indicator
(Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 5.16 Comparison of battery technologies
Figure 5.18 Bosch commercial vehicle battery (Source: Bosch
Batteries 125
Any gases forming within the battery – resulting
from overloading or overcharging, for example – are
removed via the main extractor system. The charge
level of the battery can be seen at a glance from its
Power Control System charge indicator (Figure 5.17).
The silver-plating and the optimized cold start
properties mean that the two Tecmaxx models can
be used to replace a range of batteries of varying
capacities. The Tecmaxx batteries are available with
ratings of 140 and 170 amps/hour (Figure 5.18).
It is interesting to note that two thirds of all assistance to cars provided in winter time are caused by
start-up problems – frequently due to weak batteries!
5.7.2 Fuel cells – Dana
With the potential to one day replace internal combustion engines, fuel cells continue to make headlines. Fuel cell development is perhaps the most
hotly pursued technology in the transportation
industry today, as developers spend massive sums
annually in pursuit of a viable alternative (or supplement) to the internal combustion engine. Over
the past several years Dana engineers have turned
their manufacturing and technical expertise toward
this potential solution to lessen the reliance on traditional energy sources. Throughout history energy
sources have evolved from solids, such as wood and
coal, to liquid petroleum. In the years ahead, many
believe that gaseous products will increasingly
become the world’s predominant energy source.
In most basic terms, the fuel cell is an electrochemical device in which the energy of a chemical
Figure 5.19 Fuel cell vehicle (Source: Dana)
reaction is converted directly into electricity, heat,
and water. This process improves on the poor efficiency of traditional thermo-mechanical transformation of the energy carrier (Figure 5.19).
Hydrogen is a prime example of a renewable,
gaseous fuel that can be used to generate such a
reaction – and ultimately energy. And it does so without emitting harsh pollutants into the environment.
A typical hydrogen-powered fuel cell model
consists of hydrogen flowing into the anode side of
the fuel cell, where a platinum catalyst splits hydrogen molecules into electrons and positively charged
hydrogen ions through an electrochemical process.
The electrons travel around the proton exchange
membrane (PEM) generating electricity. At the
same time positive hydrogen ions continue to diffuse through the fuel cell via the PEM. Next, the
electrons and positive hydrogen ions combine with
oxygen on the cathode side, producing water and
heat. Foregoing the traditional combustion process
that internal combustion engines use to power automobiles, the electricity is stored in a battery or goes
directly to electric traction motors, which in turn
drive the wheels (Figure 5.20).
One of the obstacles to fuel cell systems is that
an infrastructure does not currently exist to manufacture or deliver sufficient quantities of hydrogen.
As a result, the specific type of fuel that will be
used in the fuel cell remains a major unsolved
issue. Gasoline and methanol are the energy carriers with the greatest opportunity to power fuel cells
in the short term. However, each fuel type still faces
its own challenges.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Fuel cells extract hydrogen ions
from natural gas or propane and
combine them with oxygen to
generate power
Electricity is generated
via an electrochemical
process vs traditional
(from air)
Proton Electrolyte
The output from the
process includes electricity,
water and heat
Figure 5.20 How fuel cells work (Source: Dana)
Technology is being developed for composite
bipolar plates moulded to net shape, manifolds and
integrated seals. Engineers are developing metal
bipolar plates with special coatings, high-temperature
flow field channels, high-temperature seals and heat
shields. They are also developing thermal management solutions for fuel processors, water condensers, pre-heaters and complete cooling modules
with integral fans and motors. Work is ongoing to
develop solutions for conveying hydrogen, carbonbased fluids, de-ionized water and air to various
parts of the system. Dana’s filtration group is also
developing filters and filter housings for the air
inlet of the fuel cell system.
Although the degree and timing of its impact is
the subject of much discussion, it is accepted that
hydrogen is the fuel of the future. It is also accepted
that fuel cells will eventually make a significant
impact on the automotive industry.
Cars and trucks with auxiliary fuel cells to power
air conditioning and other electronics are expected
to be on the road by 2006. Many automakers will
have limited production of cars with fuel cell
engines on the road for evaluation by 2004 or 2005.
Based on the success of these efforts and additional
advancements, the potential exists for 1% of all
new vehicles to incorporate fuel cells by 2010.1
accessed 29/10/03
Honda’s fuel cell stack
In late 2003 Honda announced a breakthrough in the
development of its fuel cell stack. This makes it more
efficient than those previously used. The features of
Honda’s new PEM (Proton Electrolyte Membrane)
stack are as follows:
50% decrease in parts costs – because half as
many parts are used.
10% increase in efficiency – increased driving
range and fuel economy.
Stamped metal separator instead of a carbon
In-house developed electrolyte membrane.
Operating temperatures between 20 ° C (4 ° F)
and 95 ° C (203 ° F) – below zero temperature
has always been a key technical issue for
automotive use.
Honda’s announcement is significant. However, the
results were achieved in the research laboratory –
not on a car! Nonetheless, this is still a strong indication that fuel cell technology will only get better.
Many other major companies, such as GM, Ballard
and Toyota will now be under further pressure to
find advanced materials to increase the overall
performance levels of the fuel cell system.2
Atakan Ozbek, Director of Energy Research, ABIresearch
Batteries 127
5.8 Self-assessment
3. sulphuric acid and distilled water
4. electrolyte at the correct relative density
5.8.1 Questions
The electrolyte for a fully charged lead-acid battery
has a relative density of approximately:
1. 1.000
2. 1.100
3. 1.280
4. 1.500
1. Describe what a ‘lead-acid’ battery means.
2. State the three ways in which a battery is generally rated.
3. Make a clearly labelled sketch to show how a
12 V battery is constructed.
4. Explain why a battery is rated or described in
different ways.
5. List six considerations when deciding where a
vehicle battery should be positioned.
6. Describe how to measure the internal resistance of a battery.
7. Make a table showing three ways of testing the
state of charge of a lead-acid battery together
with the results.
8. Describe the two methods of recharging a
9. State how the ideal charge rate for a lead-acid
battery can be determined.
10. Explain why the ‘energy density’ of a battery is
5.8.2 Assignment
Carry out research into the history of the vehicle
battery and makes notes of significant events. Read
further about ‘new’ types of battery and suggest some
of their advantages and disadvantages. What are the
main limiting factors to battery improvements? Why
is the infrastructure for battery ‘service and repair’
important for the adoption of new technologies?
5.8.3 Multiple choice questions
A 12 volt lead-acid battery has:
1. cells connected in parallel, plates connected in
2. cells connected in series, plates connected in
3. cells connected in series, plates connected in series
4. cells connected in parallel, plates connected in
The gases given off by a lead-acid battery nearing
the end of its charge are:
1. oxygen and nitrogen
2. oxygen and hydrogen
3. helium and hydrogen
4. nitrogen and hydrogen
A lead-acid battery should be topped up with:
1. sulphuric acid
2. distilled water
The duration of a high rate discharge test should not
exceed about:
1. 10 seconds
2. 30 seconds
3. 50 seconds
4. 70 seconds
When a battery is disconnected, the earth lead
should always be disconnected first because:
1. the circuit would still be a closed circuit
2. the mechanic could receive a shock
3. it reduces the chance of a short circuit
4. the battery will discharge quicker
Connecting and disconnecting the battery leads
with electrical systems switched on may cause:
1. a reduced risk of arcing
2. damage to electronic components
3. discharging the battery
4. low resistance connections
When using a high rate discharge test on a
40 amp/hour capacity battery the current should be
set to about:
1. 1 amp
2. 4 amps
3. 40 amps
4. 120 amps
An ideal charge rate for a battery is:
1. 1/10th of the reserve capacity
2. 1/10th of the amp/hour capacity
3. 1/40th of the reserve capacity
4. 1/40th of the charger capacity
When discussing the reasons why a change from
12 V to 42 V batteries is likely in the future, Technician A says this will produce an increase in power
for an increased range of accessories. Technician B
says this will provide an increase in power but also
an increase in maintenance. Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
Charging systems
6.1 Requirements of the
charging system
6.1.1 Introduction
The ‘current’ demands made by modern vehicles
are considerable. The charging system must be able
to meet these demands under all operating conditions
and still ‘fast charge’ the battery.
The main component of the charging system is
the alternator and on most modern vehicles – with
the exception of its associated wiring – this is the
only component in the charging system. Figure 6.1
shows an alternator in common use. The alternator
generates AC but must produce DC at its output terminal as only DC can be used to charge the battery
and run electronic circuits. The output of the alternator must be a constant voltage regardless of engine
speed and current load.
To summarize, the charging system must meet
the following criteria (when the engine is running).
Supply the current demands made by all loads.
Supply whatever charge current the battery
Figure 6.1 Alternator
Operate at idle speed.
Supply constant voltage under all conditions.
Have an efficient power-to-weight ratio.
Be reliable, quiet, and have resistance to
Require low maintenance.
Provide an indication of correct operation.
6.1.2 Vehicle electrical loads
The loads placed on an alternator can be considered
as falling under three separate headings: continuous,
prolonged and intermittent. The charging system of a
modern vehicle has to cope with high demands under
many varied conditions. To give some indication as to
the output that may be required, consider the power
used by each individual component and add this total
to the power required to charge the battery. Table 6.1
lists the typical power requirements of various vehicle systems. The current draw (to the nearest 0.5 A) at
14 and 28 V (nominal; alternator output voltages for
12 and 24 V systems) is also given for comparison.
Figure 6.2 shows how the demands on the alternator have increased over the years, together with a
prediction of the future.
Not shown in Table 6.1 are consumers, such as
electrically pre-heated catalytic converters, electrical
power assisted steering and heated windscreens, to
list just three. Changes will therefore continue to
take place in the vehicle electrical system and the
charging system will have to keep up!
Figure 6.2 How the demands on the alternator have changed
Charging systems
The intermittent loads are used infrequently and
power consumers such as heated rear windows and
seat heaters are generally fitted with a timer relay.
The factor of 0.1 is therefore applied to the total
intermittent power requirement, for the purpose of
further calculations. This assumes the vehicle will
be used under normal driving conditions.
The consumer demand on the alternator is the
sum of the constant loads, the prolonged loads and
the intermittent loads (with the factor applied). In
this example:
180 260 170 610 W (43 A at 14 V)
Table 6.1 Typical power requirements of some common
vehicle electrical components
Continuous loads
Fuel injection
Fuel pump
Power (W)
Current at 14 V
28 V
Prolonged loads
Power (W)
Current at 14 V
28 V
Side and tail lights
Number plate lights
Headlights main beam
Headlights dip beam
Dashboard lights
Total (Av. main & dip)
Intermittent loads
Power (W)
Current at 14 V
28 V
Brake lights
Front wipers
Rear wipers
Electric windows
Radiator cooling fan
Heater blower motor
Heated rear window
Interior lights
Rear fog lights
Reverse lights
Auxiliary lamps
Cigarette lighter
Headlight wash wipe
Seat movement
Seat heater
Sun-roof motor
Electric mirrors
1.7 kW
The average consumption of the intermittent loads is
estimated using a factor of 0.1 (0.1 1.7 kW 170 W).
The demands placed on the charging system therefore
are extensive. This load is in addition to the current
required to recharge the battery. Further sections in
this chapter discuss how these demands are met.
6.2 Charging system
6.2.1 Basic principles
Figure 6.3 shows a representation of the vehicle
charging system as three blocks, the alternator, battery and vehicle loads. When the alternator voltage
is less than the battery (engine slow or not running
for example), the direction of current flow is from
the battery to the vehicle loads. The alternator
diodes prevent current flowing into the alternator.
When the alternator output is greater than the battery voltage, current will flow from the alternator to
the vehicle loads and the battery.
From this simple example it is clear that the alternator output voltage must be greater than the battery
voltage at all times when the engine is running. The
actual voltage used is critical and depends on a number of factors.
6.2.2 Charging voltages
The main consideration for the charging voltage is
the battery terminal voltage when fully charged. If the
charging system voltage is set to this value then
there can be no risk of overcharging the battery. This
is known as the constant voltage charging technique.
The chapter on batteries discusses this issue in greater
detail. The figure of 14.2 0.2 V is the accepted
charging voltage for a 12 V system. Commercial
vehicles generally employ two batteries in series at
Figure 6.3 Vehicle charging system
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
a nominal voltage of 24 V, the accepted charge voltage would therefore be doubled. These voltages are
used as the standard input for all vehicle loads. For
the purpose of clarity the text will just consider a
12 V system.
The other areas for consideration when determining the charging voltage are any expected voltage
drops in the charging circuit wiring and the operating
temperature of the system and battery. The voltage
drops must be kept to a minimum, but it is important
to note that the terminal voltage of the alternator may
be slightly above that supplied to the battery.
claw will be alternately north and south. It is common
practice, due to reasons of efficiency, to use claw
pole rotors with 12 or 16 poles.
The stationary loops of wire are known as the stator and consist of three separate phases, each with a
number of windings. The windings are mechanically
spaced on a laminated core (to reduce eddy currents),
and must be matched to the number of poles on the
rotor. Figure 6.6 shows a typical example.
The three-phase windings of the stator can be
connected in two ways, known as star or delta
windings – as shown in Figure 6.7. The current and
6.3 Alternators and
charging circuits
6.3.1 Generation of electricity
Figure 6.4 shows the basic principle of a three-phase
alternator together with a representation of its output.
Electromagnetic induction is caused by a rotating
magnet inside a stationary loop or loops of wire. In
a practical alternator, the rotating magnet is an electromagnet that is supplied via two slip rings.
Figure 6.5 shows the most common design, which
is known as a claw pole rotor. Each end of the rotor
will become a north or a south pole and hence each
Figure 6.6 Stator
Figure 6.4 Principle of a three-phase alternator
Figure 6.5 Rotor
Figure 6.7 Delta and star stator windings
Charging systems
voltage output characteristics are different for starand delta-wound stators.
Star connection can be thought of as a type of
series connection of the phases and, to this end, the
output voltage across any two phases will be the
vector sum of the phase voltages. Current output will
be the same as the phase current. Star-wound stators
therefore produce a higher voltage, whereas deltawound stators produce a higher current.
The voltage and current in three-phase stators
can be calculated as follows.
Star-wound stators can be thought of as a type of
series circuit.
V Vp 3
I Ip
A delta connection can similarly be thought of as a
type of parallel circuit. This means that the output
voltage is the same as the phase voltage but the output current is the vector sum of the phase currents.
V Vp
I Ip 3
where V output voltage; Vp phase voltage;
I output current; and Ip phase current.
Most vehicle alternators use the star windings
but some heavy-duty machines have taken advantage
of the higher current output of the delta windings.
The majority of modern alternators using star windings incorporate an eight-diode rectifier so as to
maximize output. This is discussed in a later section.
The frequency of an alternator output can be
calculated. This is particularly important if an AC
tapping from the stator is used to run a vehicle
f pn
where f frequency in Hz; n alternator speed in
rev/min; and p number of pole pairs (a 12 claw
rotor has 6 pole pairs).
An alternator when the engine is at idle, will
have a speed of about 2000 rev/min, which, with
a 12 claw rotor will produce a frequency of
6 2000/60 200 Hz.
A terminal provided on many alternators for this
output is often marked W. The output is half-wave
rectified and is used, in particular, on diesel engines
to drive a rev-counter. It is also used on some petrol
engine applications to drive an electric choke.
6.3.2 Rectification of AC to DC
In order for the output of the alternator to charge
the battery and run other vehicle components it
must be converted from alternating current (AC) to
direct current (DC). The component most suitable
for this task is the silicon diode. If single-phase AC
is passed through a diode, its output is half-wave
rectified as shown in Figure 6.8. In this example,
the diode will only allow the positive half cycles to
be conducted towards the positive of the battery.
The negative cycles are blocked.
Figure 6.9 shows a four-diode bridge rectifier to
full-wave rectify single phase AC. A diode is often
considered to be a one-way valve for electricity.
While this is a good analogy it is important to remember that while a good quality diode will block reverse
flow up to a pressure of about 400 V, it will still
require a small voltage pressure of about 0.6 V to
conduct in the forward direction.
In order to full-wave rectify the output of a threephase machine, six diodes are required. These are
connected in the form of a bridge, as shown in
Figure 6.10. The ‘bridge’ consists of three positive
diodes and three negative diodes. The output produced by this configuration is shown compared with
the three-phase signals.
A further three positive diodes are often included
in a rectifier pack. These are usually smaller than the
main diodes and are only used to supply a small current back to the field windings in the rotor. The extra
diodes are known as the auxiliary, field or excitation
Figure 6.8 Half-wave rectification
Figure 6.9 Full-wave bridge rectifier (single phase)
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
diodes. Figure 6.11 shows the layout of a nine-diode
Owing to the considerable currents flowing
through the main diodes, some form of heat sink is
required to prevent thermal damage. In some cases
diodes are connected in parallel to carry higher currents without damage. Diodes in the rectifier pack
also serve to prevent reverse current flow from the
battery to the alternator. This also allows alternators
to be run in parallel without balancing, as equalizing
current cannot flow from one to the other. Figure 6.12
shows examples of some common rectifier packs.
When a star-wound stator is used, the addition of
the voltages at the neutral point of the star is, in theory, 0 V. In practice, however, due to slight inaccuracies in the construction of the stator and rotor, a
potential develops at this point. This potential (voltage) is known as the third harmonic and is shown
in Figure 6.13. Its frequency is three times the
fundamental frequency of the phase windings. By
employing two extra diodes, one positive and one
negative connected to the star point, the energy can
be collected. This can increase the power output of
an alternator by up to 15%.
Figure 6.14 shows the full circuit of an alternator
using an eight-diode main rectifier and three field
diodes. The voltage regulator, which forms the starting point for the next section, is also shown in this
diagram. The warning light in an alternator circuit,
in addition to its function of warning of charging
faults, also acts to supply the initial excitation to the
field windings. An alternator will not always selfexcite as the residual magnetism in the fields is
not usually enough to produce a voltage that will
Figure 6.10 Three-phase bridge rectifier
Figure 6.12 Rectifier packs in common use
Figure 6.11 Nine-diode rectifier
Figure 6.13 The third harmonic
Charging systems
Figure 6.14 Complete internal alternator circuit
overcome the 0.6 or 0.7 V needed to forward bias
the rectifier diodes. A typical wattage for the warning
light bulb is 2 W. Many manufacturers also connect a
resistor in parallel with the bulb to assist in excitation
and allow operation if the bulb blows. The charge
warning light bulb is extinguished when the alternator produces an output from the field diodes as this
causes both sides of the bulb to take on the same
voltage (a potential difference across the bulb of 0 V).
6.3.3 Regulation of output
To prevent the vehicle battery from being overcharged the regulated system voltage should be kept
below the gassing voltage of the lead-acid battery.
A figure of 14.2 0.2 V is used for all 12 V charging
systems. Accurate voltage control is vital with the
ever-increasing use of electronic systems. It has also
enabled the wider use of sealed batteries, as the
possibility of over-charging is minimal. Figure 6.15
shows two common voltage regulators. Voltage regulation is a difficult task on a vehicle alternator
because of the constantly changing engine speed and
loads on the alternator. The output of an alternator
without regulation would rise linearly in proportion
with engine speed. Alternator output is also proportional to magnetic field strength and this, in turn, is
proportional to the field current. It is the task of the
regulator to control this field current in response to
Hybrid type
Figure 6.15 Voltage regulators
alternator output voltage. Figure 6.16 shows a flow
chart which represents the action of the regulator,
showing how the field current is switched off as output voltage increases and then back on again as output voltage falls. The abrupt switching of the field
current does not cause abrupt changes in output voltage due to the very high inductance of the field (rotor)
windings. In addition, the whole switching process
only takes a few milliseconds. Many regulators also
incorporate some temperature compensation to allow
a higher charge rate in colder conditions and to
reduce the rate in hot conditions.
When working with regulator circuits, care must
be taken to note ‘where’ the field circuit is interrupted. For example, some alternator circuits supply a
constant feed to the field windings from the excitation diodes and the regulator switches the earth side.
In other systems, one side of the field windings is
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 6.18 Mechanical regulator principle
Figure 6.16 Action of the voltage regulator
Figure 6.17 How the voltage regulator is incorporated in the
field circuit
constantly earthed and the regulator switches the
supply side. Figure 6.17 shows these two methods.
Alternators do not require any extra form of current regulation. This is because if the output voltage
is regulated the voltage supplied to the field windings
cannot exceed the pre-set level. This in turn will only
allow a certain current to flow due to the resistance
of the windings and hence a limit is set for the field
strength. This will then limit the maximum current
the alternator can produce.
Regulators can be mechanical or electronic, and
the latter are now almost universal on modern cars.
The mechanical type uses a winding connected
across the output of the alternator. The magnetism
produced in this winding is proportional to the output
voltage. A set of normally closed contacts is attached
to an armature, which is held in position by a spring.
The supply to the field windings is via these contacts.
When the output voltage rises beyond a pre-set level,
say 14 V, the magnetism in the regulator winding
will overcome spring tension and open the contacts.
This switches off the field current and causes the
alternator output to fall. As the output falls below a
pre-set level, the spring will close the regulator contacts again and so the process continues. Figure 6.18
shows a simplified circuit of a mechanical regulator.
This principle has not changed from the very early
voltage control of dynamo output.
The problem with mechanical regulators is the
wear on the contacts and other moving parts. This
has been overcome with the use of electronic regulators which, due to more accurate tolerances and much
faster switching, are far superior, producing a more
stable output. Due to the compactness and vibration
resistance of electronic regulators they are now fitted
almost universally on the alternator, reducing the
number of connecting cables required.
The key to electronic voltage regulation is the
Zener diode. As discussed in Chapter 3, this diode
can be constructed to break down and conduct in
the reverse direction at a precise level. This is used
as the sensing element in an electronic regulator.
Figure 6.19 shows a simplified electronic voltage
This regulator operates as follows. When the alternator first increases in speed the output will be below
the pre-set level. Under these circumstances transistor T2 will be switched on by a feed to its base via
resistor R3. This allows full field current to flow,
thus increasing voltage output. When the pre-set
voltage is reached, the Zener diode will conduct.
Resistors R1 and R2 are a simple series circuit to
set the voltage appropriate to the value of the diode
when the supply is, say, 14.2 V. Once ZD conducts,
transistor T1 will switch on and pull the base of
T2 down to ground. This switches T2 off and so the
field current is interrupted, causing output voltage
Charging systems
Figure 6.19 Electronic voltage regulator
Figure 6.20 Hybrid IC regulator circuit
to fall. This will cause ZD to stop conducting, T1
will switch off, allowing T2 to switch back on and
so the cycle will continue. The conventional diode,
D1, absorbs the back EMF from the field windings
and so prevents damage to the other components.
Electronic regulators can be made to sense either
the battery voltage, the machine voltage (alternator),
or a combination of the two. Most systems in use at
present tend to be machine sensed as this offers some
protection against over-voltage in the event of the
alternator being driven with the battery disconnected.
Figure 6.20 shows the circuit of a hybrid integrated circuit (IC) voltage regulator. The hybrid system involves the connection of discrete components
on a ceramic plate using film techniques. The main
part of the regulator is an integrated circuit containing
the sensing elements and temperature compensation
components. The IC controls an output stage such
as a Darlington pair. This technique produces a very
compact device and, because of the low number of
components and connections, is very reliable.
Figure 6.21 How the regulator response changes with
Figure 6.21 is a graph showing how the IC regulator response changes with temperature. This change
is important to ensure correct charging under ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ conditions. When a battery is cold,
the electrolyte resistance increases. This means a
higher voltage is necessary to cause the correct
recharging current.
Over-voltage protection is required in some applications in order to prevent damage to electronic components. When an alternator is connected to a vehicle
battery system, the voltage, even in the event of
regulator failure, will not often exceed about 20 V
due to the low resistance and swamping effect of
the battery. If an alternator is run with the battery
disconnected (which is not recommended), a heavy
duty Zener diode connected across the output of
the WL/field diodes will offer some protection as,
if the system voltage exceeds its breakdown figure,
it will conduct and cause the system voltage to be
kept within reasonable limits.
6.3.4 Charging circuits
For many applications, the charging circuit is one
of the simplest on the vehicle. The main output is
connected to the battery via a suitably sized cable
(or in some cases two cables to increase reliability
and flexibility), and the warning light is connected
to an ignition supply on one side and to the alternator
terminal at the other. A wire may also be connected
to the phase terminal if it is utilized. Figure 6.22
shows two typical wiring circuits. Note that the output of the alternator is often connected to the starter
main supply simply for convenience of wiring. If
the wires are kept as short as possible this will reduce
voltage drop in the circuit. The voltage drop across
the main supply wire when the alternator is producing
full output current, should be less than 0.5 V.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Some systems have an extra wire from the alternator to ‘sense’ battery voltage directly. An ignition
feed may also be found and this is often used to
ensure instant excitement of the field windings. A
number of vehicles link a wire from the engine management ECU to the alternator. This is used to send
a signal to increase engine idle speed if the battery
is low on charge.
6.4 Case studies
6.4.1 An alternator in
common use
Figure 6.23 shows the Lucas model A127 alternator
used in large numbers by several vehicle manufacturers. The basic data relating to this machine are listed
12 V negative earth.
Regulated voltage 14.0–14.4 V.
Machine sensed.
Maximum output when hot, 65 A (earth-return).
Maximum speed 16 500 rev/min.
Temperature range 40 to 105 ° C.
European plug and stud termination (7 mm).
This alternator has a frame diameter of 127 mm, a
15 mm drive shaft and weighs about 4 kg. It is a starwound machine.
6.4.2 Bosch compact alternator
Figure 6.22 Example charging circuits
Figure 6.23 Lucas A127 alternator
The Bosch compact alternator is becoming very
popular with a number of European manufacturers
Charging systems
and others. Figure 6.24 shows a cut-away picture of
this machine. The key points are as follows:
20–70% more power than conventional units.
15–35% better power-to-weight ratio.
Maximum speed up to 20 000 rev/min.
Twin interior cooling fans.
Precision construction for reduced noise.
Versions available: 70, 90 and up to 170 A.
The compact alternator follows the well-known claw
pole design. Particular enhancements have been made
to the magnetic circuit of the rotor and stator. This
was achieved by means of modern ‘field calculation’
programmes. The optimization reduces the iron losses
and hence increases efficiency.
A new monolithic circuit regulator is used that
reduces the voltage drop across the main power transistor from 1.2 V to 0.6 V. This allows a greater field
current to flow, which again will improve efficiency.
The top speed of an alternator is critical as it determines the pulley ratio between the engine and alternator. The main components affected by increased
speed are the ball bearings and the slip rings. The
bearings have been replaced with a type that uses a
plastic cage instead of the conventional metal type.
Higher melting point grease is also used. The slip
rings are now mounted outside the two bearings and
therefore the diameter is not restricted by the shaft
size. Smaller diameter slip rings give a much lower
peripheral velocity, and thus greater shaft speed can
be tolerated.
Increased output results in increased temperature
so a better cooling system was needed. The machine
uses twin internal asymmetric fans, which pull air
through central slots front and rear, and push it out
radially through the drive and slip ring end brackets
over the stator winding heads.
High vibration is a problem with alternators as
with all engine mounted components. Cars with fourvalve engines can produce very high levels of vibration. The alternator is designed to withstand up to
80 g. New designs are thus required for the mounting
6.4.3 Japanese alternator
Figure 6.24 Bosch compact alternator
Figure 6.25 Japanese alternator circuit
Figure 6.25 shows the internal and external circuit
of a typical alternator used on a number of Japanese vehicles. It is an eight-diode machine and
uses an integrated circuit regulator. Four electrical
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
connections are made to the alternator; the main
output wire (B), an ignition feed (IG), a battery sensing wire (S) and the warning light (L).
Figure 6.26 shows all the main components of
the alternator. Internal cooling fans are used to draw
air through the slots in the end brackets. The diameter
of the slip rings is only about 14 mm. This keeps the
surface speed (m/s) to a minimum, allowing greater
rotor speeds (rev/min).
The IC regulator ensures consistent output voltage
with built-in temperature compensation. The ignitioncontrolled feed is used to ensure that the machine
charges fully at low engine speed. Because of this
ignition voltage supply to the fields, the cut-in speed
is low.
6.4.4 LI-X series of alternators
from Bosch
There is still plenty of room for improvements in
belt-driven alternators for motor vehicles. A combination of longtime experience, modern development
methods and innovative production processes has
enabled development engineers at Bosch to achieve
dramatic gains in alternator performance compared to
conventional models – a 35% increase in power density to 1.43 watt per cubic centimetre, a rise in maximum operating temperature from 105 ° C to 120 ° C,
and an increase in the maximum degree of efficiency
to 76% (VDA average 72%). The developers also
succeeded in lowering operating noise by a clearly
perceptible 5 dB(A). The result is the new Bosch LI-X
range of alternators. (Figure 6.27)
Figure 6.27 LI-X alternator (Source: Bosch Press)
The improved performance parameters offer automobile manufacturers a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 0.2 litre per hundred kilometres, a
saving in space of up to 400 cubic centimetres, and
finally an increase in power output of as much as
1 kilowatt. The improvements are largely due to the
so-called ‘Flat Pack’ technique, which achieves a
very high density of the copper wires in the stator
Bosch supply its 14 V LI-X alternators in three different sizes: ‘Compact’, ‘Medium’ and ‘High Line’,
with outputs ranging from 1.9 to 3.8 kilowatts. The
model range is designed to be extremely flexible and
the power outputs can easily be adjusted for use in
both diesel and gasoline engines. Bosch is also planning a 42 volt version with a peak power output of
4 kilowatts.
The alternator regulator is multifunctional and
can be operated through a variety of interfaces (for
Figure 6.26 Alternator components
Charging systems
smart charging, etc.), such as BSS, LIN or RVC, in
line with the manufacturer’s preference.
6.5 Diagnosing charging
system faults
6.5.1 Introduction
As with all systems, the six stages of fault-finding
should be followed.
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evaluate the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all systems.
The procedure outlined in the next section is related
primarily to stage 4 of the process. Table 6.2 lists
some common symptoms of a charging system malfunction together with suggestions for the possible
6.5.2 Testing procedure
4. Maximum output current (discharge battery
slightly by leaving lights on for a few minutes,
leave lights on and start engine) – ammeter should
read within about 10% of rated maximum output.
5. Regulated voltage (ammeter reading 10 A or
less) – 14.2 0.2 V.
6. Circuit volt drop – 0.5 V maximum.
If the alternator is found to be defective then a quality
replacement unit is the normal recommendation.
Figure 6.29 explains the procedure used by Bosch
to ensure quality exchange units. Repairs are possible
but only if the general state of the alternator is good.
6.6 Advanced charging
system technology
6.6.1 Charging system –
problems and solutions
The charging system of a vehicle has to cope under
many varied conditions. An earlier section gave some
indication as to the power output that may be required.
Looking at two of the operating conditions that may
After connecting a voltmeter across the battery and an
ammeter in series with the alternator output wire(s),
as shown in Figure 6.28, the process of checking
the charging system operation is as follows.
1. Hand and eye checks (drive belt and other obvious
faults) – belt at correct tension, all connections
clean and tight.
2. Check battery (see Chapter 5) – must be 70%
3. Measure supply voltages to alternator – battery
Figure 6.28 Alternator testing
Table 6.2 Common symptoms and faults of a charging system malfunction
Possible fault
Battery loses charge
Charge warning light stays on when
engine is running
Charge warning light does not come
on at any time
Defective battery.
Slipping alternator drive belt.
Battery terminals loose or corroded.
Alternator internal fault (diode open circuit, brushes worn or regulator fault etc.).
Open circuit in alternator wiring, either main supply, ignition or sensing wires if fitted.
Short circuit component causing battery drain even when all switches are off.
High resistance in the main charging circuit.
Slipping or broken alternator drive belt.
Alternator internal fault (diode open circuit, brushes worn or regulator fault etc.).
Loose or broken wiring/connections.
Alternator internal fault (brushes worn open circuit or regulator fault etc.).
Blown warning light bulb.
Open circuit in warning light circuit.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 6.29 Alternator overhaul procedure (Bosch)
Figure 6.30 Graphical representation comparing various charging techniques when applied to a vehicle used for winter commuting
be encountered makes the task of producing the
required output even more difficult.
The first scenario is the traffic jam, on a cold
night, in the rain! This can involve long periods when
the engine is just idling, but use of nearly all electrical
devices is still required. The second scenario is that
the car has been parked in the open on a frosty night.
The engine is started, seat heaters, heated rear window and blower fan are switched on whilst a few
minutes are spent scraping the screen and windows.
All the lights and wipers are now switched on and a
journey of half an hour through busy traffic follows.
The seat heaters and heated rear window can generally be assumed to switch off automatically after
about 15 minutes.
Tests and simulations have been carried out using
the above examples as well as many others. At the end
of the first scenario the battery state of charge will be
about 35% less than its original level; in the second
case the state of charge will be about 10% less. These
situations are worst case scenarios, but nonetheless
possible. If the situations were repeated without other
journeys in between, then the battery would soon be
incapable of starting the engine. Combining this with
the ever-increasing power demands on the vehicle
alternator makes this problem difficult to solve. It is
also becoming even more important to ensure the
battery remains fully charged, as ECUs with volatile
memories and alarm systems make a small but
significant drain on the battery when the vehicle is
A number of solutions are available to try and
ensure the battery will remain in a state near to full
charge at all times. A larger capacity battery could be
used to ‘swamp’ variations in electrical use and operating conditions. Some limit, however, has to be set
Charging systems
due to the physical size of the battery. Five options for
changes to the power supply system are represented
graphically in Figure 6.30 and are listed below.
Fitting a more powerful alternator.
Power management system.
Two-stage alternator drive mechanism or
increased alternator speed.
Increased engine idle speed.
Dual voltage systems.
The five possible options listed above have some
things in their favour and some against, not least of
which are the technical and economic factors. For the
manufacturers, I would predict that a combination of a
more powerful alternator, which can be run at a higher
speed, together with a higher or dual voltage system,
would be the way forward. This is likely to be the most
cost effective and technically feasible solution. Each
of the suggestions is now discussed in more detail.
The easiest solution to the demand for more power
is a larger alternator, and this is, in reality, the only
method available as an after-market improvement.
It must be remembered, however, that power supplied
by an alternator is not ‘free’. For each watt of electrical power produced by the alternator, between 1.5
and 2 W are taken from the engine due to the inefficiency of the energy conversion process. An increase
in alternator capacity will also have implications relating to the size of the drive belt, associated pulleys
and tensioners.
An intelligent power management system, however, may become more financially attractive as electronic components continue to become cheaper. This
technique works by switching off headlights and fog
lights when the vehicle is not moving. The cost of
this system may be less than increasing the size of
the alternator. Figure 6.31 shows the operating principle of this system. A speed sensor signal is used
via an electronic processing circuit to trigger a
number of relays. The relays can be used to interrupt the chosen lighting circuits. An override switch
is provided, for use in exceptional conditions.
A two-speed drive technique which uses a ratio
of 5 : 1 for engine speeds under 1200 rev/min and
usually about 2.5 : 1 at higher speeds shows some
promise but adds more complications to the drive
system. Due to improvements in design, however,
modern alternators are now being produced that are
capable of running at speeds up to 20 000 rev/min.
If the maximum engine speed is considered to be
about 6000 rev/min, a pulley ratio of about 3.3 : 1
can be used. This will allow the alternator to run as
fast as 2300 rev/min, even with a low engine idle
speed of 700 rev/min. The two-speed drive is only
at the prototype stage at present.
Figure 6.31 Operating principles of a power management
Figure 6.32 Alternator wiring to allow engine management
system to sense current demand and control engine idle speed
to prevent stalling
Increased idle speed may not be practical in
view of the potential increase in fuel consumption
and emissions. It is nonetheless an option, but may
be more suitable for diesel-engined vehicles. Some
existing engine management systems, however, are
provided with a signal from the alternator when
power demand is high. The engine management system can then increase engine idle speed both to prevent stalling and ensure a better alternator output.
Figure 6.32 shows the wiring associated with this
Much research is being carried out on dual voltage
electrical systems. It has long been known that a
24 V system is better for larger vehicles. This, in the
main, is due to the longer lengths of wire used.
Double the voltage and the same power can be transmitted at half the current (watts volts amps).
This causes less volt drop due to the higher resistance
in longer lengths of cable. Wiring harnesses used
on passenger cars are becoming increasingly heavy
and unmanageable. If a higher supply voltage was
used, the cross-section of individual cables could be
halved with little or no effect. Because heavy vehicle
electrics have been 24 V for a long time, most components (bulbs etc.) are already available if a change
in strategy by the vehicle manufacturers takes place.
Under discussion is a 12, 0, 12 V technique
using three bus bars or rails. High power loads can
be connected between 12 and 12 (24 V), and
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 6.33 Dual rail power supply technique
Figure 6.34 Typical alternator characteristic curve
loads which must be supplied by 12 V can be balanced between the 12, 0 and 0, 12 voltage supply
rails. A representation of this is shown in Figure 6.33.
Note, however, that running some bulbs (such as for
high power headlights) can be a problem because
the filament has to be very thin. Some commercial
(24 V) vehicles actually use a 12 V supply to the
headlights for this reason.
6.6.2 Charge balance calculation
The charge balance or energy balance of a charging
system is used to ensure that the alternator can cope
with all the demands placed on it and still charge
the battery. The following steps help to indicate the
size of alternator required or to check if the one fitted
to a vehicle is suitable.
As a worked example, the figures from Table 6.1
will be used. The calculations relate to a passenger
car with a 12 V electrical system. A number of steps
are involved.
1. Add the power used by all the continuous and
prolonged loads.
2. Total continuous and prolonged power (P1) 440 W.
3. Calculate the current at 14 V (I W/V ) 31.5 A.
4. Determine the intermittent power (factored by
0.1) (P2) 170 W.
5. Total power (P1 P2) 610 W.
6. Total current 610/14 44 A.
Electrical component manufacturers provide tables
to recommend the required alternator, calculated
from the total power demand and the battery size.
However, as a guide for 12 V passenger cars, the
rated output should be about 1.5 times the total current demand (in this example 44 1.5 66 A).
Manufacturers produce machines of standard sizes,
which in this case would probably mean an alternator rated at 70 A. In the case of vehicles with larger
batteries and starters, such as for diesel-powered
engines and commercial vehicles, a larger output
alternator may be required.
The final check is to ensure that the alternator
output at idle is large enough to supply all continuous
and prolonged loads (P1) and still charge the battery. Again the factor of 1.5 can be applied. In this
example the alternator should be able to supply
(31.5 1.5) 47 A, at engine idle. On normal systems this relates to an alternator speed of about
2000 rev/min (or less). This can be checked against
the characteristic curve of the alternator.
6.6.3 Alternator characteristics
Alternator manufacturers supply ‘characteristic
curves’ for their alternators. These show the properties of the alternator under different conditions.
The curves are plotted as output current (at stabilized voltage), against alternator rev/min and input
power against input rev/min. Figure 6.34 shows a
typical alternator characteristic curve.
It is common to mark the following points on the
Cut in speed.
Idle speed range.
Speed at which 2/3 of rated output is reached.
Rated output speed.
Maximum speed.
Idle current output range.
Current 2/3 of rated output.
Rated output.
Maximum output.
The graphs are plotted under specific conditions such
as regulated output voltage and constant temperature
(27 ° C is often used). The graph is often used when
working out what size alternator will be required for
a specific application.
Charging systems
Figure 6.35 Extract from information supplied by Lucas Automotive Ltd. relating to the Plus Pac alternator
The power curve is used to calculate the type of
drive belt needed to transmit the power or torque to
the alternator. As an aside, the power curve and the
current curve can be used together to calculate the
efficiency of the alternator. At any particular speed
when producing maximum output for that speed, the
efficiency of any machine is calculated from:
Efficiency Power out/Power in
In this case, the efficiency at 8000 rev/min is
from information regarding the mounting and drive
belt fitting for a typical alternator.
The drive ratio between the crank pulley and alternator pulley is very important. A typical ratio is about
2.5 : 1. In simple terms, the alternator should be driven
as fast as possible at idle speed, but must not exceed
the maximum rated speed of the alternator at maximum engine speed. The ideal ratio can therefore be
calculated as follows:
Maximum ratio 5 max alternator speed/
max engine speed.
(Power out 14 V 70 A 980 W
980 W/2300 W 0.43 or about 43%
For example:
Efficiency at 2/3 rated output
(Power out 14 V 47 A 653 W)
653/1100 0.59 or about 59%
These figures help to illustrate how much power is
lost in the generation process. The inefficiency is
mainly due to iron losses, copper losses, windage
(air friction) and mechanical friction. The energy is
lost as heat.
15 000 rev/min / 6000 rev/min 2.5 : 1.
During the design stage the alternator will often have
to be placed in a position determined by the space
available in the engine compartment. However, where
possible the following points should be considered:
6.6.4 Mechanical and external
Most light vehicle alternators are mounted in similar
ways. This usually involves a pivoted mounting on
the side of the engine with an adjuster on the top or
bottom to set drive belt tension. It is now common
practice to use ‘multi-V’ belts driving directly from
the engine crankshaft pulley. This type of belt will
transmit greater torque and can be worked on smaller
diameter pulleys or with tighter corners than the
more traditional ‘V’ belt. Figure 6.35 is an extract
Adequate cooling.
Suitable protection from contamination.
Access for adjustment and servicing.
Minimal vibration if possible.
Recommended belt tension.
6.7 New developments in
charging systems
6.7.1 General developments
Alternators are being produced capable of ever
greater outputs in order to supply the constantly
increasing demands placed on them by manufacturers. The main problem to solve is that of producing
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
high output at lower engine speeds. A solution to
this is a variable drive ratio, but this is fraught with
mechanical problems. The current solution is tending
towards alternators capable of much higher maximum speeds, which allows a greater drive ratio and
hence greater speed at lower engine rev/min.
The main design of alternators does not appear
to be changing radically; however, the incremental
improvements have allowed far more efficient
machines to be produced.
speed and electrical load – but this is changing
(Figure 6.36).
Basic operating principles
A generator, or alternator, is a machine that converts
mechanical energy from the engine into electrical
energy. The basic principle of an alternator is a magnet (the rotor) rotating inside stationary loops of wire
(the stator). Electromagnetic induction caused by
6.7.2 Water-cooled alternators
Valeo have an interesting technique involving running the engine coolant through the alternator. A
120–190 A output range is available. Compared with
conventional air-cooled alternators the performance
of these new machines has been enhanced more
particularly in the following areas:
Improved efficiency (10–25%).
Increased output at engine idle speed.
Noise reduction (10–12 dB due to fan elimination).
Resistance to corrosion (machine is enclosed).
Resistance to high ambient temperature
(130 ° C).
Additional heating elements can be integrated into
the alternator to form a system that donates an additional 2–3 kW to the coolant, enabling faster engine
warm up after a cold start. This contributes to reduced
pollution and increased driver comfort.
Valeo have also developed an alternator with a
‘self-start’ regulator. This can be thought of as an
independent power centre because the warning light
and other wires (not the main feed!) can be eliminated. This saves manufacturing costs and also
ensures that output is maintained at idle speed.
Figure 6.36 Alternator on a vehicle (Source: DigitalUP)
6.7.3 Smart charging
The ‘current’ demands made by modern vehicles on
the charging system are considerable – and increasing. The charging system must be able to meet these
demands under all operating conditions and still fast
charge the battery.
The main component of the charging system is
the alternator and on most modern vehicles, with
the exception of its associated wiring, it is the only
component in the charging system. The alternator
generates AC but must produce DC at its output
terminal, as only DC can be used to charge the battery
and run electronic circuits.
Traditionally the output of the alternator was
regulated to a constant voltage regardless of engine
Figure 6.37 Alternator and stator construction (Source: Bosch
Charging systems
dense winding of the copper wire in the stator
grooves. To do so, the wires are first wound onto a flat
stator core, which is easier to access, after which it is
then bent into the usual rounded form (Figure 6.37).
As another response to the constantly growing
demands vehicle electrical systems place on their
power supply, Bosch has developed the liquid-cooled
alternator. It works extremely quietly due to the
absence of a fan and its complete encapsulation;
moreover, its lower operating temperature leads to
a longer service life. This machine even has the
advantage of reducing engine warm up times as initially it passes heat to the coolant (Figure 6.38).
the rotating magnet produces an electromotive force
in the stator windings.
In order for the output of the alternator to charge
the battery and run other vehicle components, it must
be converted from alternating current to direct current. The component most suitable for this task is the
silicon diode. In order to full-wave rectify the output of a three-phase machine six diodes are needed.
These are connected in the form of a bridge in a rectifier pack. Many rectifiers now include two extra
diodes that pick up extra power from a centre connection to the stator.
A regulator, which controls rotor magnetic field
strength, is used to control the output voltage of
an alternator as engine speed and current demand
Manufacturers strive to produce ever more efficient machines. A modern alternator’s high performance and efficiency are achieved primarily by a very
Closed loop regulation of
output voltage
To prevent the vehicle battery from being overcharged the regulated system voltage should be kept
below the gassing voltage of the lead-acid battery.
A figure of 14.2 0.2 V was traditionally used for
all 12 V (nominal) charging systems. Accurate voltage control is vital with the ever-increasing use of
electronic systems. It has also enabled the widespread use of sealed batteries, as the possibility of
overcharging is minimal.
Traditionally the regulator base plate or heat sink
temperature was used as a reference to estimate battery temperature. This is because the ideal maximum
charge rate for a battery varies with its temperature.
Further, if the regulator senses a significant change in
voltage, a function is employed to quickly recover this
to the normal set regulation point. In normal regulators this function is integrated into the regulator itself.
This method of closed loop control (regulator
senses the output voltage and increases rotor field
strength if the output is low, or decreases it if the output is too high) has worked well – up until now!
(Figure 6.39).
Figure 6.38 Water-cooled alternator (Source: Bosch Press)
Battery sense
Ignition switch
Electrical loads
Voltage regulator
Figure 6.39 Modern closed loop alternator and regulator circuit
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Open loop control
Some manufacturers are now bringing together alternator output control, electrical power distribution and
mechanical power distribution. This is known as intelligent or smart charging.1
The principle of open loop control charging is
that the alternator regulator and the powertrain control module (PCM) communicate. In simple terms
the alternator can talk to the PCM and the PCM can
talk to the alternator (Figure 6.40). This allows new
features to be developed that benefit the battery and
offer other improvements such as:
Reduced charge times.
Better idle stability.
Improved engine performance.
Increased alternator reliability.
Pulse width
Decreased on/off ratio
Better control of electrical load.
Improved diagnostic functions.
Communication between regulator and PCM is by
signals that are pulse width modulated (PCM). This
signal is used in both directions. It is a constant
frequency square wave with a variable on/off ratio
or duty cycle.
The PCM determines the set voltage point (regulated voltage) and transmits this to the regulator using
a specific duty cycle signal. The regulator responds
by transmitting back the field transistor duty cycle
(T2 in Figure 6.39, for example). In this way a variety
of features can be implemented.
Battery lifetime
Increased on/off ratio
Figure 6.40 Two signals with different pulse width modulation (PCM)
Closed loop regulators estimate the battery temperature based on their own temperature. This does not
always result in an accurate figure and hence battery
charge rates may not be ideal. With an open loop
‘smart charge’ system the PCM can calculate a more
accurate figure for battery temperature because it has
sensors measuring, for example, coolant temperature,
intake air temperature and ambient air temperature.
This means a more appropriate charge rate can be set
(Figure 6.41).
Battery recharge times are not only reduced but
a significant increase in battery lifetime can be
achieved because of this accurate control.
LIN communication
Stator – phase
Rotor – field
F battery
Pulse width
warning light
Other sensors
vehicle and engine
speed, etc.)
Power distribution
Figure 6.41 Block diagram showing ‘smart charge’ system
John Reneham et al, International Rectifier Automotive
Systems, Pub., AutoTechnology 6/2002
Charging systems
Engine performance
The powertrain control modules (PCMs) usually control engine idle speed in two ways. The main method
is throttle control, using either a stepper motor or an
air bypass valve. This is a good method but can be
relatively slow to react. Changes in ignition timing
are also used and this results in a good level of control. However, there may be emission implications.
One of the main causes of idle instability is the
torque load that the alternator places on the engine.
Because a PCM control system is ‘aware’ of the alternator load, it calculates the corresponding torque
load and sets the idle speed accordingly. Overall the
idle can be set at a lower value thus reducing fuel
consumption and emissions. Equally, when required,
the PCM can increase idle speed to increase alternator output and prevent battery drain. This would be
likely to occur after a cold start, in the dark, when the
screen is frosted over. In these conditions it is likely
that, because the driver would switch on lights, interior heaters and screen heaters, there would be an
increased electrical load. In addition to the normal
electrical load (fuel, ignition, etc.), the battery would
also create a high demand after a cold start. The PCM
can ensure that it sets an idle speed which results in
sufficient alternator output to prevent battery drain.
A dynamic adjustment to the set voltage point is
also possible. This may be used during starting to
reduce load on the battery. It can also be used during
transient engine loads or, in other words, during acceleration. An alternator producing 70 A at 14 V is putting out about 1 kW of power (P VI). Taking into
account the mechanical to electrical energy conversion efficiency of the alternator, the result is a significant torque load on the engine. If the set point
(regulated voltage) is reduced during hard acceleration, the 0 to 60 time can be increased by as much
as 0.4 s (Figure 6.42).
Fault conditions
As well as communicating the load status of the
alternator to the PCM, the regulator can also provide
diagnostic information. In general the following
fault situations can be communicated:
No communication between regulator and PCM.
No alternator output due to mechanical fault (drive
belt for example).
Loss of electrical connection to the alternator.
System over or under voltage due to short or open
circuit field driver.
Failure of rotor or stator windings.
Failure of a diode.
The PCM can initiate appropriate action in response
to these failure conditions, for example, to allow failsafe operation or at least illuminate the warning light!
Suitable test equipment can be used to aid diagnostic work.
Network protocols – CAN and LIN
The PWM communication system is proving to be
very effective. However, a second system is already
establishing itself as an industry standard. The system
is known as local interconnect network (LIN). This
is a protocol that allows communication between
intelligent actuators and sensors. It is, in effect, a cut
down version of the controller area network (CAN)
protocol and is used where large bandwidth is not
necessary. LIN enabled regulators are not yet in production but the protocol is starting to be used for
body systems such as door locks and seat movement.
Figure 6.42 Cutaway view of a modern alternator (Source:
Bosch Press)
Smart or intelligent charging systems are here now,
and are here to stay. The ability of the alternator
regulator and engine control systems to communicate
means new possibilities, increased efficiency and
improved performance.
New diagnostic equipment may be necessary but
new diagnostic techniques certainly are required.
However, remember that PWM signals can be examined on a scope or even a duty cycle meter. And, if the
voltage you measure across the battery is less than
13 V, it is probably not recharging – unless of course
you are measuring it during a 0 to 60 acceleration test!
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
6.8 Self-assessment
6.8.1 Questions
1. State the ideal charging voltage for a 12 V (nominal) battery.
2. Describe the operation of an alternator with reference to a rotating ‘permanent magnet’.
3. Make a clearly labelled sketch to show a typical
external alternator circuit.
4. Explain how and why the output voltage of an
alternator is regulated.
5. Describe the differences between a star-wound
and a delta-wound stator.
6. Explain why connecting two extra diodes to the
centre of a star-wound stator can increase the
output of an alternator.
7. Draw a typical characteristic curve for an alternator. Label each part with an explanation of its
8. Describe briefly how a rectifier works.
9. Explain the difference between a battery-sensed
and a machine-sensed alternator.
10. List five charging system faults and the associated symptoms.
6.8.2 Assignment
Investigate and test the operation of a charging system on a vehicle. Produce a report in the standard
format (as set out in Advanced Automotive Fault
Diagnosis, Tom Denton (2000), Arnold).
Make recommendations on how the system could
be improved.
6.8.3 Multiple choice questions
The purpose of a rectifier in an alternator is to:
1. change AC to DC voltage
2. control alternator output current
3. change DC to AC voltage
4. control alternator output voltage
‘Star’ and ‘Delta’ are types of:
1. rotor winding
2. stator winding
3. field winding
4. regulator winding
Technician A says an alternator rotor uses semi
conductor components to rectify the direct current
to alternating current. Technician B says a stator
winding for a light vehicle alternator will usually
be connected in a ‘star’ formation. Who is right?
A only
B only
Both A and B
Neither A nor B
The three auxiliary diodes in a nine-diode alternator provide direct current for the:
1. vehicle auxiliary circuits
2. initial excitation of the rotor
3. rotor field during charging
4. warning light simulator
The purpose of the regulator in the charging system
of a vehicle is to control:
1. engine speed
2. fuel consumption
3. generator input
4. generator output
The function of the zener diode in the electronic
control unit of an alternator is to act as a:
1. current amplifier
2. voltage amplifier
3. voltage switch
4. current switch
The charging voltage of an engine running at
approximately 3000 rev/min should be:
1. 12.6 volts
2. 14.2 volts
3. 3 volts above battery voltage
4. the same as battery voltage
Rotor windings are connected and supplied by:
1. soldered connections
2. crimped connections
3. adhesive bonding
4. brushes and slip rings
An alternator has been dismantled and the rotor
slip rings are blackened with carbon deposits.
Technician A says clean them with a soft cloth and
alcohol. Technician B says the rotor must be
replaced. Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
When fitting a new rectifier pack it is usual to:
1. remove the stator winding
2. replace the regulator
3. connect the battery lead
4. unsolder the connections
Starting systems
7.1 Requirements of the
starting system
7.1.1 Engine starting
Typical starting limit temperatures are 18 ° C
to 25 ° C for passenger cars and 15 ° C to 20 ° C
for trucks and buses. Figures from starter manufacturers are normally quoted at both 20 ° C and 20 ° C.
An internal combustion engine requires the following criteria in order to start and continue
Combustible mixture.
Compression stroke.
A form of ignition.
The minimum starting speed (about 100 rev/min).
In order to produce the first three of these, the minimum starting speed must be achieved. This is
where the electric starter comes in. The ability to
reach this minimum speed is again dependent on a
number of factors.
Rated voltage of the starting system.
Lowest possible temperature at which it must
still be possible to start the engine. This is known
as the starting limit temperature.
Engine cranking resistance. In other words the
torque required to crank the engine at its starting
limit temperature (including the initial stalled
Battery characteristics.
Voltage drop between the battery and the starter.
Starter-to-ring gear ratio.
Characteristics of the starter.
Minimum cranking speed of the engine at the
starting limit temperature.
It is not possible to view the starter as an isolated
component within the vehicle electrical system, as
Figure 7.1 shows. The battery in particular is of prime
Another particularly important consideration in
relation to engine starting requirements is the starting
limit temperature. Figure 7.2 shows how, as temperature decreases, starter torque also decreases and the
torque required to crank the engine to its minimum
speed increases.
Figure 7.1 Starting system as part of the complete electrical
Figure 7.2 Starter torque and engine cranking torque
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
7.1.2 Starting system design
The starting system of any vehicle must meet a
number of criteria in excess of the eight listed
Long service life and maintenance free.
Continuous readiness to operate.
Robust, such as to withstand starting forces,
vibration, corrosion and temperature cycles.
Lowest possible size and weight.
Figure 7.3 shows the starting system general layout.
It is important to determine the minimum cranking
speed for the particular engine. This varies considerably with the design and type of engine. Some
typical values are given in Table 7.1 for a temperature of 20 ° C.
The rated voltage of the system for passenger
cars is, almost without exception, 12 V. Trucks and
buses are generally 24 V as this allows the use of
half the current that would be required with a 12 V
system to produce the same power. It will also considerably reduce the voltage drop in the wiring, as
the length of wires used on commercial vehicles is
often greater than passenger cars.
The rated output of a starter motor can be
determined on a test bench. A battery of maximum
capacity for the starter, which has a 20% drop in
capacity at 20 ° C, is connected to the starter by a
cable with a resistance of 1 m. These criteria will
ensure the starter is able to operate even under the
most adverse conditions. The actual output of the
starter can now be measured under typical operating conditions. The rated power of the motor corresponds to the power drawn from the battery less
copper losses (due to the resistance of the circuit),
iron losses (due to eddy currents being induced in
the iron parts of the motor) and friction losses.
Figure 7.4 shows an equivalent circuit for a
starter and battery. This indicates how the starter
output is very much determined by line resistance
and battery internal resistance. The lower the total
resistance, the higher the output from the starter.
There are two other considerations when designing a starting system. The location of the starter on
the engine is usually pre-determined, but the position of the battery must be considered. Other constraints may determine this, but if the battery is closer
to the starter the cables will be shorter. A longer run
will mean cables with a greater cross-section are
needed to ensure a low resistance. Depending on the
intended use of the vehicle, special sealing arrangements on the starter may be necessary to prevent
the ingress of contaminants. Starters are available
designed with this in mind. This may be appropriate
for off-road vehicles.
7.1.3 Choosing a starter motor
As a guide, the starter motor must meet all the criteria
previously discussed. Referring back to Figure 7.2
(the data showing engine cranking torque compared
with minimum cranking speed) will determine the
torque required from the starter.
Manufacturers of starter motors provide data in
the form of characteristic curves. These are discussed
in more detail in the next section. The data will
Figure 7.3 Starter system general layout
Table 7.1 Typical minimum cranking speeds
Minimum cranking
speed (rev/min)
Reciprocating spark ignition
Rotary spark ignition
Diesel with glow plugs
Diesel without glow plugs
Figure 7.4 Equivalent circuit for a starter system
Starting systems
show the torque, speed, power and current consumption of the starter at 20 ° C and 20 ° C. The
power rating of the motor is quoted as the maximum
output at 20 ° C using the recommended battery.
Figure 7.5 shows how the required power output
of the starter relates to the engine size.
As a very general guide the stalled (locked) starter
torque required per litre of engine capacity at the
starting limit temperature is as shown in Table 7.2.
A greater torque is required for engines with a
lower number of cylinders due to the greater piston
displacement per cylinder. This will determine the
peak torque values. The other main factor is compression ratio.
To illustrate the link between torque and power,
we can assume that, under the worst conditions
(20 ° C), a four-cylinder 2-litre engine requires
480 Nm to overcome static friction and 160 Nm to
maintain the minimum cranking speed of 100 rev/
min. With a starter pinion-to-ring gear ratio of 10 : 1,
the motor must therefore, be able to produce a maximum stalled torque of 48 Nm and a driving torque
of 16 Nm. This is working on the assumption that
stalled torque is generally three to four times the
cranking torque.
Torque is converted to power as follows:
where P power, T torque and angular
2 n
where n rev/min.
In this example, the power developed at
1000 rev/min with a torque of 16 Nm (at the starter)
is about 1680 W. Referring back to Figure 7.5, the
ideal choice would appear to be the starter marked (e).
The recommended battery would be 55 Ah and
255 A cold start performance.
7.2 Starter motors and
7.2.1 Starting system circuits
In comparison with most other circuits on the modern
vehicle, the starter circuit is very simple. The problem to be overcome, however, is that of volt drop in
the main supply wires. The starter is usually operated
by a spring-loaded key switch, and the same switch
also controls the ignition and accessories. The supply
from the key switch, via a relay in many cases,
causes the starter solenoid to operate, and this in
turn, by a set of contacts, controls the heavy current.
In some cases an extra terminal on the starter solenoid provides an output when cranking, which is
usually used to bypass a dropping resistor on the
ignition or fuel pump circuits. The basic circuit for
the starting system is shown in Figure 7.6.
Figure 7.5 Power output of the starter compared with
engine size
Table 7.2 Torque required for various engine sizes
Engine cylinders
Torque per litre [Nm]
Figure 7.6 Basic starting circuit
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
The problem of volt drop in the main supply circuit is due to the high current required by the starter,
particularly under adverse starting conditions such
as very low temperatures.
A typical cranking current for a light vehicle
engine is of the order of 150 A, but this may peak in
excess of 500 A to provide the initial stalled torque.
It is generally accepted that a maximum volt drop
of only 0.5 V should be allowed between the battery
and the starter when operating. An Ohm’s law calculation indicates that the maximum allowed circuit
resistance is 2.5 m when using a 12 V supply. This
is a worst case situation and lower resistance values
are used in most applications. The choice of suitable conductors is therefore very important.
7.2.2 Principle of operation
The simple definition of any motor is a machine to
convert electrical energy into mechanical energy.
The starter motor is no exception. When current
flows through a conductor placed in a magnetic
field, a force is created acting on the conductor
relative to the field. The magnitude of this force is
proportional to the field strength, the length of the
conductor in the field and the current flowing in the
In any DC motor, the single conductor is of no
practical use and so the conductor is shaped into a
loop or many loops to form the armature. A manysegment commutator allows contact via brushes to
the supply current.
The force on the conductor is created due to
the interaction of the main magnetic field and the
field created around the conductor. In a light vehicle starter motor, the main field was traditionally
created by heavy duty series windings wound
around soft iron pole shoes. Due to improvements
in magnet technology, permanent magnet fields
allowing a smaller and lighter construction are
replacing wire-wound fields. The strength of the
magnetic field created around the conductors in the
armature is determined by the value of the current
flowing. The principle of a DC motor is shown in
Figure 7.7.
Most starter designs use a four-pole four-brush
system. Using four field poles concentrates the
magnetic field in four areas as shown in Figure 7.8.
The magnetism is created in one of three ways, permanent magnets, series field windings or series–
parallel field windings.
Figure 7.9 shows the circuits of the two methods
where field windings are used. The series–parallel
fields can be constructed with a lower resistance,
thereby increasing the current and hence torque of
Figure 7.8 Four-pole magnetic field
Figure 7.7 Interaction of two magnetic fields results in rotation when a
commutator is used to reverse the
supply each half turn
Starting systems
the motor. Four brushes are used to carry the heavy
current. The brushes are made of a mixture of copper and carbon, as is the case for most motor or generator brushes. Starter brushes have a higher copper
content to minimize electrical losses. Figure 7.10
shows some typical field coils with brushes
attached. The field windings on the right are known
as wave wound.
The armature consists of a segmented copper
commutator and heavy duty copper windings. The
windings on a motor armature can, broadly speaking,
be wound in two ways. These are known as lap
winding and wave winding. Figure 7.11 shows the
difference between these two methods. Starter
motors tend to use wave winding as this technique
gives the most appropriate torque and speed characteristic for a four-pole system.
A starter must also have some method of
engaging with, and release from, the vehicle’s flywheel ring gear. In the case of light vehicle starters,
this is achieved either by an inertia-type engagement or a pre-engagement method. These are both
discussed further in subsequent sections.
Figure 7.9 Starter internal circuits
Figure 7.11 Typical lap and wave wound armature circuits
7.2.3 DC motor characteristics
It is possible to design a motor with characteristics
that are most suitable for a particular task. For
a comparison between the main types of DC motor,
the speed–torque characteristics are shown in
Figure 7.10 Typical field coils and brushes
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 7.14 Series wound motor
Figure 7.12 Speed and torque characteristics of DC motors
Figure 7.15 Compound wound motor
Figure 7.13 Shunt wound motor (parallel wound)
Figure 7.12. The four main types of motor are
referred to as shunt wound, series wound, compound wound and permanent magnet excitation.
In shunt wound motors, the field winding is
connected in parallel with the armature as shown in
Figure 7.13. Due to the constant excitation of the
fields, the speed of this motor remains constant,
virtually independent of torque.
Series wound motors have the field and armature connected in series. Because of this method of
connection, the armature current passes through the
fields making it necessary for the field windings to
consist usually of only a few turns of heavy wire.
When this motor starts under load the high initial
current, due to low resistance and no back EMF,
generates a very strong magnetic field and therefore high initial torque. This characteristic makes the
series wound motor ideal as a starter motor.
Figure 7.14 shows the circuit of a series wound motor.
The compound wound motor, as shown in
Figure 7.15, is a combination of shunt and series
wound motors. Depending on how the field windings are connected, the characteristics can vary.
The usual variation is where the shunt winding is
connected, which is either across the armature or
across the armature and series winding. Large starter
motors are often compound wound and can be operated in two stages. The first stage involves the shunt
winding being connected in series with the armature.
This unusual connection allows for low meshing
torque due to the resistance of the shunt winding.
When the pinion of the starter is fully in mesh with
the ring gear, a set of contacts causes the main supply
to be passed through the series winding and armature
giving full torque. The shunt winding will now be
connected in parallel and will act in such a way as to
limit the maximum speed of the motor.
Permanent magnet motors are smaller and simpler compared with the other three discussed. Field
excitation, as the name suggests, is by permanent
magnet. This excitation will remain constant under
all operating conditions. Figure 7.16 shows the
accepted representation for this type of motor.
The characteristics of this type of motor are
broadly similar to the shunt wound motors. However,
when one of these types is used as a starter motor,
the drop in battery voltage tends to cause the motor
to behave in a similar way to a series wound machine.
In some cases though, the higher speed and lower
torque characteristic are enhanced by using an intermediate transmission gearbox inside the starter motor.
Starting systems
Figure 7.16 Permanent magnet motor
Figure 7.18 Inertia type starter
Figure 7.17 Starter motor characteristic curves
gear only during the starting phase. If the connection remained permanent, the excessive speed at
which the starter would be driven by the engine
would destroy the motor almost immediately.
The inertia type of starter motor has been the
technique used for over 80 years, but is now becoming redundant. The starter shown in Figure 7.18 is
the Lucas M35J type. It is a four-pole, four-brush
machine and was used on small to medium-sized
petrol engined vehicles. It is capable of producing
9.6 Nm with a current draw of 350 A. The M35J
uses a face-type commutator and axially aligned
brush gear. The fields are wave wound and are
earthed to the starter yoke.
The starter engages with the flywheel ring gear
by means of a small pinion. The toothed pinion and
a sleeve splined on to the armature shaft are
threaded such that when the starter is operated, via
a remote relay, the armature will cause the sleeve to
rotate inside the pinion. The pinion remains still
due to its inertia and, because of the screwed sleeve
rotating inside it, the pinion is moved to mesh with
the ring gear.
When the engine fires and runs under its own
power, the pinion is driven faster than the armature
shaft. This causes the pinion to be screwed back along
the sleeve and out of engagement with the flywheel.
The main spring acts as a buffer when the pinion first
takes up the driving torque and also acts as a buffer
when the engine throws the pinion back out of mesh.
One of the main problems with this type of starter
was the aggressive nature of the engagement. This
tended to cause the pinion and ring gear to wear
prematurely. In some applications the pinion tended
to fall out of mesh when cranking due to the engine
almost, but not quite, running. The pinion was also
prone to seizure often due to contamination by dust
from the clutch. This was often compounded by
application of oil to the pinion mechanism, which
tended to attract even more dust and thus prevent
Information on particular starters is provided in
the form of characteristic curves. Figure 7.17 shows
the details for a typical light vehicle starter motor.
This graph shows how the speed of the motor
varies with load. Owing to the very high speeds
developed under no load conditions, it is possible to
damage this type of motor. Running off load due to
the high centrifugal forces on the armature may cause
the windings to be destroyed. Note that the maximum power of this motor is developed at midrange speed but maximum torque is at zero speed.
7.3 Types of starter motor
7.3.1 Inertia starters
In all standard motor vehicle applications it is
necessary to connect the starter to the engine ring
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 7.19 Pre-engaged starter
The pre-engaged starter motor has largely overcome these problems.
7.3.2 Pre-engaged starters
Pre-engaged starters are fitted to the majority of
vehicles in use today. They provide a positive
engagement with the ring gear, as full power is not
applied until the pinion is fully in mesh. They prevent premature ejection as the pinion is held into
mesh by the action of a solenoid. A one-way clutch
is incorporated into the pinion to prevent the starter
motor being driven by the engine. One example of
a pre-engaged starter in common use is shown in
Figure 7.19, the Bosch EF starter.
Figure 7.20 shows the circuit associated with
operating this type of pre-engaged starter. The basic
operation of the pre-engaged starter is as follows.
When the key switch is operated, a supply is made
to terminal 50 on the solenoid. This causes two
windings to be energized, the hold-on winding and
the pull-in winding. Note that the pull-in winding is
of very low resistance and hence a high current
flows. This winding is connected in series with the
motor circuit and the current flowing will allow
the motor to rotate slowly to facilitate engagement.
At the same time, the magnetism created in the
solenoid attracts the plunger and, via an operating
lever, pushes the pinion into mesh with the flywheel
ring gear. When the pinion is fully in mesh the
plunger, at the end of its travel, causes a heavy-duty
set of copper contacts to close. These contacts now
supply full battery power to the main circuit of the
starter motor. When the main contacts are closed,
the pull-in winding is effectively switched off due
to equal voltage supply on both ends. The hold-on
Figure 7.20 Starter circuit
winding holds the plunger in position as long as the
solenoid is supplied from the key switch.
When the engine starts and the key is released,
the main supply is removed and the plunger and
pinion return to their rest positions under spring
tension. A lost motion spring located on the plunger
ensures that the main contacts open before the pinion is retracted from mesh.
During engagement, if the teeth of the pinion hit
the teeth of the flywheel (tooth to tooth abutment),
the main contacts are allowed to close due to the
engagement spring being compressed. This allows
the motor to rotate under power and the pinion will
slip into mesh.
Figure 7.21 shows a sectioned view of a one-way
clutch assembly. The torque developed by the starter
is passed through the clutch to the ring gear. The
purpose of this free-wheeling device is to prevent
Starting systems
Figure 7.21 One-way roller clutch
drive pinion
the starter being driven at an excessively high speed
if the pinion is held in mesh after the engine has
started. The clutch consists of a driving and driven
member with several rollers between the two. The
rollers are spring loaded and either wedge-lock the
two members together by being compressed against
the springs, or free-wheel in the opposite direction.
Many variations of the pre-engaged starter are in
common use, but all work on similar lines to the
above description. The wound field type of motor
has now largely been replaced by the permanent
magnet version.
7.3.3 Permanent magnet
Permanent magnet starters began to appear on production vehicles in the late 1980s. The two main
advantages of these motors, compared with conventional types, are less weight and smaller size. This
makes the permanent magnet starter a popular choice
by vehicle manufacturers as, due to the lower lines
of today’s cars, less space is now available for engine
electrical systems. The reduction in weight provides
a contribution towards reducing fuel consumption.
The standard permanent magnet starters currently available are suitable for use on spark ignition engines up to about 2 litre capacity. They are
rated in the region of 1 kW. A typical example is the
Lucas Model M78R/M80R shown in Figure 7.22.
The principle of operation is similar in most
respects to the conventional pre-engaged starter
motor. The main difference being the replacement
of field windings and pole shoes with high quality
permanent magnets. The reduction in weight is in
the region of 15% and the diameter of the yoke can
be reduced by a similar factor.
Permanent magnets provide constant excitation
and it would be reasonable to expect the speed and
torque characteristic to be constant.
However, due to the fall in battery voltage under
load and the low resistance of the armature windings,
the characteristic is comparable to series wound
motors. In some cases, flux concentrating pieces or
interpoles are used between the main magnets. Due
to the warping effect of the magnetic field, this
tends to make the characteristic curve very similar
to that of the series motor.
Development by some manufacturers has also
taken place in the construction of the brushes.
A copper and graphite mix is used but the brushes
are made in two parts allowing a higher copper content in the power zone and a higher graphite content
in the commutation zone. This results in increased
service life and a reduction in voltage drop, giving
improved starter power. Figure 7.23 shows a modern permanent magnet (PM) starter.
For applications with a higher power requirement, permanent magnet motors with intermediate
transmission have been developed. These allow the
armature to rotate at a higher and more efficient
speed whilst still providing the torque, due to the
gear reduction. Permanent magnet starters with
intermediate transmission are available with power
outputs of about 1.7 kW and are suitable for spark
ignition engines up to about 3 litres, or compression
ignition engines up to about 1.6 litres. This form of
permanent magnet motor can give a weight saving
of up to 40%. The principle of operation is again
similar to the conventional pre-engaged starter. The
intermediate transmission, as shown in Figure 7.24,
is of the epicyclic type.
The sun gear is on the armature shaft and the
planet carrier drives the pinion. The ring gear or
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
annulus remains stationary and also acts as an intermediate bearing. This arrangement of gears gives a
reduction ratio of about 5 : 1. This can be calculated
by the formula:
Ratio =
where A number of teeth on the annulus, and
S number of teeth on the sun gear.
The annulus gear in some types is constructed
from a high grade polyamide compound with mineral additives to improve strength and wear resistance. The sun and planet gears are conventional
steel. This combination of materials gives a quieter
Figure 7.22 Lucas M78R/M80R starter
Figure 7.23 Modern permanent magnet starter (Source:
Bosch Press)
Figure 7.24 Starter motor intermediate transmission
Starting systems
and more efficient operation. Figure 7.25 shows a
PM starter with intermediate transmission, together
with its circuit and operating mechanism.
Figure 7.25 Pre-engaged starter and details (Bosch)
Figure 7.26 Delco-Remy 42-MT starter
7.3.4 Heavy vehicle starters
The subject area of this book is primarily the electrical equipment on cars. This short section is
included for interest, hence further reference should
be made to other sources for greater detail about
heavy vehicle starters.
The types of starter that are available for heavy
duty applications are as many and varied as the
applications they serve. In general, higher voltages
are used, which may be up to 110 V in specialist
cases, and two starters may even be running in parallel for very high power and torque requirements.
Large road vehicles are normally 24 V and
employ a wide range of starters. In some cases the
design is simply a large and heavy duty version of
the pre-engaged type discussed earlier. The DelcoRemy 42-MT starter shown in Figure 7.26 is a good
example of this type. This starter may also be fitted
with a thermal cut-out to prevent overheating damage due to excessive cranking. Rated at 8.5 kW,
it is capable of producing over 80 Nm torque at
1000 rev/min.
Other methods of engaging the pinion include
sliding the whole armature or pushing the pinion
with a rod through a hollow armature. This type
uses a solenoid to push the pinion into mesh via a
rod through the centre of the armature.
Sliding-armature-type starters work by positioning the field windings forwards from the main
armature body, such that the armature is attracted
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
forwards when power is applied. A trip lever mechanism will then only allow full power when the
armature has caused the pinion to mesh.
7.3.5 Integrated starters
A device called a ‘dynastart’ was used on a number
of vehicles from the 1930s through to the 1960s.
This device was a combination of the starter and a
dynamo. The device, directly mounted on the crankshaft, was a compromise and hence not very efficient.
The method is now known as an Integrated
Starter Alternator Damper (ISAD). It consists of an
electric motor, which functions as a control element
between the engine and the transmission, and can
also be used to start the engine and deliver electrical power to the batteries and the rest of the
vehicle systems. The electric motor replaces the
mass of the flywheel.
The motor transfers the drive from the engine
and is also able to act as a damper/vibration absorber
unit. The damping effect is achieved by a rotation
capacitor. A change in relative speed between the
rotor and the engine due to the vibration, causes
one pole of the capacitor to be charged. The effect
of this is to take the energy from the vibration.
Using ISAD to start the engine is virtually
noiseless, and cranking speeds of 700 rev/min are
possible. Even at 25 ° C it is still possible to crank
at about 400 rev/min. A good feature of this is that a
stop/start function is possible as an economy and
emissions improvement technique. Because of the
high speed cranking, the engine will fire up in about
0.1–0.5 seconds.
The motor can also be used to aid with acceleration of the vehicle. This feature could be used to
allow a smaller engine to be used or to enhance the
performance of a standard engine.
When used in alternator mode, the ISAD can
produce up to 2 kW at idle speed. It can supply power
at different voltages as both AC and DC. Through
the application of intelligent control electronics, the
ISAD can be up to 80% efficient.
Citroën have used the ISAD system in a Xsara
model prototype. The car can produce 150 Nm for
up to 30 seconds, which is significantly more than
the 135 Nm peak torque of the 1580 cc, 65 kW fuel
injected version. Citroën call the system ‘Dynalto’.
A 220 V outlet is even provided inside the car to
power domestic electrical appliances!
7.3.6 Electronic starter control
‘Valeo’ have developed an electronic switch that
can be fitted to its entire range of starters. Starter
Figure 7.27 Integrated starter alternator damper (Source:
Bosch Press)
control will be supported by an ECU. The electronic
starter incorporates a static relay on a circuit board
integrated into the solenoid switch. This will prevent cranking when the engine is running.
‘Smart’ features can be added to improve comfort, safety and service life.
Starter torque can be evaluated in real time to
tell the precise instant of engine start. The starter
can be simultaneously shut off to reduce wear
and noise generated by the free-wheel phase.
Thermal protection of the starter components
allows optimization of the components to save
weight and to give short circuit protection.
Electrical protection also reduces damage from
misuse or system failure.
Modulating the solenoid current allows redesign
of the mechanical parts allowing a softer operation and weight reduction.
It will even be possible to retrofit this system to
existing systems.
7.3.7 Starter installation
Starters are generally mounted in a horizontal position next to the engine crankcase with the drive
pinion in a position for meshing with the flywheel
or drive plate ring gear.
The starter can be secured in two ways: either by
flange or cradle mounting. Flange mounting is the
most popular technique used on small and mediumsized vehicles and, in some cases, it will incorporate
a further support bracket at the rear of the starter
to reduce the effect of vibration. Larger vehicle
Starting systems
reliable and longer lasting. It is interesting to note
that, assuming average mileage, the modern starter
is used about 2000 times a year in city traffic! This
level of reliability has been achieved by many years
of research and development.
7.4 Case studies
7.4.1 Ford
Figure 7.28 Flange mounting is used for most light vehicle
starter motors
starters are often cradle mounted but again also use
the flange mounting method, usually fixed with at
least three large bolts. In both cases the starters
must have some kind of pilot, often a ring machined
on the drive end bracket, to ensure correct positioning with respect to the ring gear. This will ensure
correct gear backlash and a suitable out of mesh
clearance. Figure 7.28 shows the flange mountings
method used for most light vehicle starter motors.
Clearly the main load on the vehicle battery is the
starter and this is reflected in the size of supply cable
required. Any cable carrying a current will experience power loss known as I2R loss. In order to reduce
this power loss, the current or the resistance must be
reduced. In the case of the starter the high current is
the only way of delivering the high torque. This is the
reason for using heavy conductors to the starter to
ensure low resistance, thus reducing the volt drop and
power loss. The maximum allowed volt drop is 0.5 V
on a 12 V system and 1 V on a 24 V system. The short
circuit (initial) current for a typical car starter is
500 A and for very heavy applications can be 3000 A.
Control of the starter system is normally by a
spring-loaded key switch. This switch will control
the current to the starter solenoid, in many cases via
a relay. On vehicles with automatic transmission,
an inhibitor switch to prevent the engine being
started in gear will also interrupt this circuit.
Diesel engined vehicles may have a connection
between the starter circuit and a circuit to control
the glow plugs. This may also incorporate a timer
relay. On some vehicles the glow plugs are activated
by a switch position just before the start position.
7.3.8 Summary
The overall principle of starting a vehicle engine
with an electric motor has changed little in over 80
years. Of course, the motors have become far more
The circuit shown in Figure 7.29 is from a vehicle
fitted with manual or automatic transmission. The
inhibitor circuits will only allow the starter to operate when the automatic transmission is in ‘park’ or
‘neutral’. Similarly for the manual version, the starter
will only operate if the clutch pedal is depressed.
The starter relay coil is supplied with the positive connection by the key switch. The earth path is
connected through the appropriate inhibitor switch.
To prevent starter operation when the engine is running the power control module (EEC V) controls
the final earth path of the relay.
A resistor fitted across the relay coil reduces
back EMF. The starter in current use is a standard
pre-engaged, permanent magnet motor.
7.4.2 Toyota
The starter shown in Figure 7.30 has been in use for
several years but is included because of its unusual
design. The drive pinion incorporates the normal
clutch assembly but is offset from the armature.
Drive to the pinion is via a gear set with a ratio of
about 3 : 1. The idle gear means the pinion rotates in
the same direction as the armature.
Ball bearings are used on each end of the armature and pinion. The idler gear incorporates a roller
bearing. The solenoid acts on the spring and steel
ball to move the pinion into mesh. The electrical
operation of the machine is standard. It has four
brushes and four field poles.
7.4.3 Ford integrated startergenerator (ISG)
Ford has produced a new integrated starter-generator
and 42-volt electric system that will be used by an
Explorer over the next few years. The vehicle will
achieve breakthrough levels of fuel economy and
offer more high-tech comfort and convenience features. It will use the new higher voltage electrical
system that enables several fuel saving functions,
including the ability to shut off the engine when the
vehicle is stopped and to start it instantly on demand.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 7.29 Starter circuit as used by Ford
The integrated starter-generator, as its name
implies, replaces both the conventional starter and
alternator in a single electric device. A vehicle
equipped with the ISG system could be considered
a mild hybrid because it is capable of most of the
functions of a hybrid electric vehicle.
There are three functions common to both a full
hybrid electric vehicle and ISG, or mild hybrid, and
a fourth function unique to a full HEV:
Start/Stop: When the engine is not needed, such
as at a stoplight, it automatically turns off. It
restarts smoothly and instantly when any demand
for power is detected. This ‘stop/start’ function
provides fuel savings and reduced emissions.
Regenerative Braking: This feature collects
energy created from braking and uses it to
recharge the vehicle’s batteries. This allows items
such as the headlights, stereo and climate control
system to continue to operate when the engine
shuts off. By greatly reducing the amount of
electric power that must be generated by the
engine, regenerative braking significantly reduces
fuel consumption.
Starting systems
Figure 7.30 Toyota starter motor components
Figure 7.31 Engine fitted with an integrated starter generator
(Source: Ford)
Electrical Assist: Internal combustion engines
on both types of systems receive assistance from
an electric motor, but in vastly different ways.
The electrical assist ISG system helps the engine
at start-up and during hard acceleration, providing
short bursts of added power. Because the ISG
system uses a 42-volt battery and the hybrid
electric vehicle uses a 300-volt battery with a
much larger energy capacity, the HEV electrical
assist is capable of providing much more power,
more frequently and for a longer duration.
Electric Drive: Only full hybrids have the ability
to drive in electric-only mode. In the Escape HEV,
this means the SUV’s electric motor can drive the
vehicle at low speeds (under 30 mph (km)) while
the engine is off. The capacity for electric-only
drive clearly separates a full hybrid electric vehicle
from a mild hybrid vehicle using an ISG system.
In addition to the 42-volt battery and integrated starter
generator the system is comprised of three major
components: a slightly modified V-6 engine, new auto
matic transmission and an inverter/motor controller.
When restarting, DC power from the battery is
processed by the inverter/motor controller and supplied as adjustable frequency AC power to the ISG.
The frequency of the AC power is controlled to
bring the engine up to idle speed in a small fraction
of a second.
Regenerative braking captures energy normally
lost as heat energy during braking. The ISG absorbs
power during vehicle deceleration, converts it to DC
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Escape HEV
12-Volt Battery
ISG 42-Volt SUV
Full Hybrid
Mild Hybrid
Integrated Starter
Generator (ISG)
Battery Pack
Battery Pack
Figure 7.32 Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) compared to an ISG
(Source: Ford)
Figure 7.33 42 V Integrated starter generator (ISG) (Source: Ford)
10 kW Electric Machine
(Mounted to Crank)
42V Battery Pack
12-V Battery
(Inverter Motor Controller)
Figure 7.34 42 V ISG installation in the SUV (Source: Ford)
power and recharges the battery. Electro-hydraulic
brakes replace the vacuum booster and microprocessors control the operation of front and rear
brakes to maintain vehicle stability while braking.
The vehicle’s mechanical brakes are coordinated
with the ISG, so the difference between mechanical
and regenerative brakes is transparent to the driver.
The ISG also provides added power and performance. The ISG delivers battery power to the wheels
to assist the engine during vehicle launch. The ISG
is also referred to as an integrated starter alternator
damper (ISAD) (Ford Motor Company, 2001).1
Ford Press, 2001. Ford Explorer to Feature Hybrid Electric
Technology, Ford Motor Company.
Starting systems
Table 7.3 Common symptoms of a charging system malfunction and possible faults
Possible fault
Engine does not rotate when trying to start
Starter noisy
Starter turns engine slowly
Battery connection loose or corroded.
Battery discharged or faulty.
Broken, loose or disconnected wiring in the starter or circuit.
Defective starter switch or automatic gearbox inhibitor switch.
Starter pinion or flywheel ring gear loose.
Earth strap broken, loose or corroded.
Starter pinion or flywheel ring gear loose.
Starter mounting bolts loose.
Starter worn (bearings etc.).
Discharged battery (starter may jump in and out).
Discharged battery (slow rotation).
Battery terminals loose or corroded.
Earth strap or starter supply loose or disconnected.
High resistance in supply or earth circuit.
Internal starter fault.
7.5 Diagnosing starting
system faults
7.5.1 Introduction
As with all systems, the six stages of fault-finding
should be followed.
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evaluate the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all systems.
The procedure outlined in the next section is related
primarily to stage 4 of the process. Table 7.3 lists
some common symptoms of a charging system
malfunction together with suggestions for the possible fault.
7.5.2 Circuit testing procedure
The process of checking a 12 V starting system
operation is as follows (tests 3 to 8 are all carried
out while trying to crank the engine).
Battery (at least 70%).
Hand and eye checks.
Battery volts (minimum 10 V).
Solenoid lead (same as battery).
Starter voltage (no more than 0.5 V less than
6. Insulated line volt drop (maximum 0.25 V).
7. Solenoid contacts volt drop (almost 0 V).
8. Earth line volt drop (maximum 0.25 V).
The idea of these tests is to see if the circuit is supplying all the available voltage to the starter. If it is,
then the starter is at fault, if not then the circuit is
at fault.
If the starter is found to be defective then a
replacement unit is the normal recommendation.
Figure 7.35 explains the procedure used by Bosch to
ensure quality exchange units. Repairs are possible
but only if the general state of the motor is good.
7.6 Advanced starting
system technology
7.6.1 Speed, torque and power
To understand the forces acting on a starter motor
let us first consider a single conducting wire in a
magnetic field. The force on a single conductor in a
magnetic field can be calculated by the formula:
where F force in N, l length of conductor in
the field in m, B magnetic field strength in Wb/m2,
I current flowing in the conductor in amps.
Fleming’s left-hand rule will serve to give the
direction of the force (the conductor is at 90 ° to the
This formula may be further developed to calculate the stalled torque of a motor with a number of
armature windings as follows:
where T torque in Nm, r armature radius in m,
and Z number of active armature conductors.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 7.35 Quality starter overhaul procedure
This will only produce a result for stalled or lock
torque because, when a motor is running, a back
EMF is produced in the armature windings. This
opposes the applied voltage and hence reduces the
current flowing in the armature winding. In the
case of a series wound starter motor, this will also
reduce the field strength B. The armature current in
a motor is given by the equation:
where I armature current in amps, V applied
voltage in volts, R resistance of the armature in
ohms, e total back EMF in volts.
From the above it should be noted that, at the
instant of applying a voltage to the terminals of a
motor, the armature current will be at a maximum
since the back EMF is zero. As soon as the speed
increases so will the back EMF and hence the
armature current will decrease. This is why a starter
motor produces ‘maximum torque at zero rev/min’.
For any DC machine the back EMF is given by:
2 pnZ
where e back EMF in volts, p number of pairs
of poles, flux per pole in webers, n speed in
revs/second, Z number of armature conductors,
c 2p for lap-wound and 2 for a wave-wound
The formula can be re-written for calculating
motor speed:
2 pZ
If the constants are removed from this formula it
clearly shows the relationship between field flux,
speed and back EMF,
To consider the magnetic flux () it is necessary to
differentiate between permanent magnet starters
and those using excitation via windings. Permanent
magnetism remains reasonably constant. The construction and design of the magnet determine its
strength. Flux density can be calculated as follows:
(units: T (tesla) or Wb/m 2)
where A area of the pole perpendicular to the flux.
Pole shoes with windings are more complicated
as the flux density depends on the material of the
pole shoe as well as the coil and the current flowing.
Starting systems
The magneto-motive force (MMF) of a coil is
determined thus:
MMF NI Ampere turns
where N the number of turns on the coil and
I the current flowing in the coil.
Magnetic field strength H requires the active
length of the coil to be included:
where l active length of the coil, H magnetic
field strength.
In order to convert this to flux density B, the permeability of the pole shoe must be included:
Figure 7.36 Belt-driven starter-generator concept (Source:
B H0r
where 0 permeability of free space (4 107
Henry/metre), and r relative permeability of
the core to free space.
To calculate power consumed is a simple task
using the formula:
where P power in watts, T torque in Nm, and
angular velocity in rad/s.
Here is a simple example of the use of this
formula. An engine requires a minimum cranking
speed of 100 rev/min and the required torque to
achieve this is 9.6 Nm.
At a 10 : 1 ring gear to pinion ratio this will
require a 1000 rev/min starter speed (n). To convert
this to rad/s:
2 n
This works out to 105 rad/s.
9.6 105 1000 W or 1 kW
7.6.2 Efficiency
Efficiency Power out/Power in (
The efficiency of most starter motors is of the
order of 60%.
1 kW/60% 1.67 kW (the required input power)
The main losses, which cause this, are iron losses,
copper losses and mechanical losses. Iron losses
are due to hysteresis loss caused by changes in
magnetic flux, and also due to induced eddy currents
in the iron parts of the motor. Copper losses are
caused by the resistance of the windings; sometimes
called I2R losses. Mechanical losses include friction and windage (air) losses.
Using the previous example of a 1 kW starter it
can be seen that, at an efficiency of 60%, this motor
will require a supply of about 1.7 kW.
From a nominal 12 V supply and allowing for
battery volt drop, a current of the order of 170 A
will be required to achieve the necessary power.
7.7 New developments in
starting systems
7.7.1 Belt-driven
Gates, well known as manufacturers of drive belts,
are working on a starter-generator concept that is
belt driven. This work has been carried out in conjunction with Visteon. It is known as the Visteon/
Gates E-M DRIVE System. It is an electromechanical system made up of a high efficiency
induction motor, long-life belt-drive system and
sophisticated electronic controls. The belt-driven
starter-generator replaces the current alternator and
has a similar space requirement.
One of the key components of this system, in
addition to the starter-generator is a hydraulic tensioner. This must be able to prevent significant
movement during starting but also control system
dynamics during acceleration and deceleration of
the engine. A dual pulley tensioner concept is shown
The combination of Visteon’s motor design and
Gates’ belt technology has led to the development
of a highly robust and economical power management system. The starter-generator is driven by a
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Adhesion Gum
Tensile Cord
High Load Rib
Figure 7.37 Micro-V belt in cross-section (Source: Gates)
multi-vee belt, which has been specially designed
for the extra load.
The system allows implementation of intelligent
fuel saving and emission reduction strategies. The
main features are as follows:
42 V and 14 V capability with mechanical or
electrically controlled tensioners.
High load Micro-V® belt.
Generating capability of 6 kW at 42 V and a
brushless design for 10-year life.
The main benefits of this particular starting and
generation method are as follows:
Regenerative braking and electric torque assist.
Power for increased feature content and silent
cranking at a lower system cost than in-line
starter-alternator systems.
Can be added to existing engine/transmission
designs with minimal changes.
Allows implementation of fuel-saving strategies
and emission reduction through hybrid electric
strategies, increased cranking speed and start–
stop systems.
Results of the current study show that the belt-drive
system is capable of starting the engine with a 14 V
starter-generator with a torque of 40 Nm. New
machines working at 42 V and torque in the region
of 70 Nm are under development. These will be
used for larger petrol engines and the higher compression diesel engines (Dr-Ing. Manfred Arnold
and Dipl.-Ing. Mohamad El-Mahmoud, 2003).2
The starter-generator concept is not new but until
recently it could not meet the requirements of modern
vehicles. These requirements relate to the starting
torque and the power generation capabilities. The
biggest advantage of the system under development
is that it can be fitted to existing engine designs
with only limited modifications. It may, therefore,
become a ‘stepping stone technology’ that allows
Figure 7.38 Starter-generator (Source: Gates)
manufacturers to offer new features without the
expense of development and extensive redesigning.
7.8 Self-assessment
7.8.1 Questions
1. State four advantages of a pre-engaged starter
when compared with an inertia type.
2. Describe the operation of the pull-in and holdon windings in a pre-engaged starter solenoid.
3. Make a clearly labelled sketch of the engagement mechanism of a pre-engaged starter.
4. Explain what is meant by ‘voltage drop’ in a
starter circuit and why it should be kept to a
5. Describe the engagement and disengagement
of an inertia starter.
6. State two advantages and two disadvantages of
a permanent magnet starter.
7. Calculate the gear ratio of an epicyclic gear set
as used in a starter. The annulus has 40 teeth
and the sun gear has 16 teeth.
8. Describe the operation of a roller-type one-way
9. Make a sketch to show the speed torque characteristics of a series, shunt and compound
10. Describe the difference between a lap- and a
wave-wound armature.
Dr.-Ing. Manfred Arnold and Dipl.-Ing. Mohamad
El-Mahmoud, 2003. A belt-driven starter-generator concept
for a 4-cylinder gasoline engine, AutoTechnology, 3.
Starting systems
7.8.2 Assignment
A starter motor has to convert a very large amount
of energy in a very short time. Motors rated at several kW are in common use. The overall efficiency
of the motor is low. For example, at cranking speed:
Input power to a motor (W VI)
(about 2000 W)
Output power from the motor can be calculated:
2 nT
(about 1100 W)
where V 10 V (terminal voltage), I 200 A
(current), n 1500 rev/min, T 7 Nm (torque),
therefore, efficiency (Pout/Pin) 1100/2000 55%.
A large saving in battery power would be possible if this efficiency were increased. Discuss how
to improve the efficiency of the starting system.
Would it be cost effective?
7.8.3 Multiple choice questions
The purpose of the pull-in winding in the operating
solenoid of a pre-engaged starter motor is to:
1. hold the pinion in mesh
2. pull the pinion out of mesh
3. hold the pinion out of mesh
4. pull the pinion into mesh
Technician A says a spring is used to hold a preengaged starter pinion in mesh when cranking the
engine. Technician B says a holding coil holds the
pinion in the engaged position during starting. Who
is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
A one-way clutch in a pre-engaged starter motor:
1. prevents the engine driving the motor
2. prevents the motor driving the engine
3. stops the motor when the engine starts
4. starts the motor to turn the engine
Technician A says permanent magnet starter motors
are suitable for large diesel engines because of their
low speed and high torque. Technician B says
permanent magnet starter motors are suitable for
small petrol engines because of their high speed
and low torque. Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
The effect of a planetary gear set fitted between the
motor and drive pinion
1. modifies the speed characteristics only
2. modifies the torque characteristics only
3. modifies the speed and torque characteristics
4. has no effect on the speed or torque characteristics
A voltmeter is connected between the main starter
terminal and earth. On cranking the engine the
reading should be:
1. no more than 0.5 V below battery voltage
2. approximately 0.5 V above battery voltage
3. the same as battery voltage
4. more than battery voltage
A voltmeter connected between the starter motor
body and the battery earth terminal should have a
reading during engine cranking of:
1. more than 0.5 volts
2. not more than 0.5 volts
3. more than 12.6 volts
4. not more than 12.6 volts
When fitting a phosphor bronze bush to a starter
motor it is necessary to:
1. lubricate the bearing with oil before fitting
2. lubricate the bearing with grease before fitting
3. ream it to size before fitting
4. ream it to size after fitting
The condition of starter solenoid contacts can be
determined by operating the starter switch with:
1. a voltmeter connected across the solenoid contacts
2. an ammeter connected across the solenoid
3. a voltmeter connected in series with the feed wire
4. an ammeter connected in series with the feed wire
Solenoid windings may be checked for resistance
with a:
1. resistance tester
2. ohmmeter
3. voltmeter
4. ammeter
Ignition systems
8.1 Ignition fundamentals
8.1.1 Functional requirements
The fundamental purpose of the ignition system is
to supply a spark inside the cylinder, near the end
of the compression stroke, to ignite the compressed
charge of air–fuel vapour.
For a spark to jump across an air gap of 0.6 mm
under normal atmospheric conditions (1 bar), a voltage of 2–3 kV is required. For a spark to jump across
a similar gap in an engine cylinder, having a compression ratio of 8 : 1, approximately 8 kV is required.
For higher compression ratios and weaker mixtures,
a voltage up to 20 kV may be necessary. The ignition
system has to transform the normal battery voltage
of 12 V to approximately 8–20 kV and, in addition,
has to deliver this high voltage to the right cylinder,
at the right time. Some ignition systems will supply
up to 40 kV to the spark plugs.
Conventional ignition is the forerunner of the
more advanced systems controlled by electronics. It
is worth mentioning at this stage that the fundamental operation of most ignition systems is very
similar. One winding of a coil is switched on and off
causing a high voltage to be induced in a second
winding. A coil-ignition system is composed of
various components and sub-assemblies, the actual
design and construction of which depend mainly on
the engine with which the system is to be used.
When considering the design of an ignition system many factors must be taken into account, the
most important of these being:
Combustion chamber design.
Air–fuel ratio.
Engine speed range.
Engine load.
Engine combustion temperature.
Intended use.
Emission regulations.
8.1.2 Types of ignition system
The basic choice for types of ignition system can be
classified as shown in Table 8.1.
8.1.3 Generation of high tension
If two coils (known as the primary and secondary)
are wound on to the same iron core then any change
in magnetism of one coil will induce a voltage into
the other. This happens when a current is switched
on and off to the primary coil. If the number of
turns of wire on the secondary coil is more than the
primary, a higher voltage can be produced. This is
called transformer action and is the principle of the
ignition coil.
The value of this ‘mutually induced’ voltage
depends upon:
The primary current.
The turns ratio between the primary and secondary coils.
The speed at which the magnetism changes.
Figure 8.1 shows a typical ignition coil in section.
The two windings are wound on a laminated iron
core to concentrate the magnetism. Some coils are
oil filled to assist with cooling.
8.1.4 Advance angle (timing)
For optimum efficiency the ignition advance angle
should be such as to cause the maximum combustion pressure to occur about 10 ° after top dead centre
(TDC). The ideal ignition timing is dependent on
Table 8.1 Types of ignition system
Voltage source
Ignition systems
two main factors, engine speed and engine load. An
increase in engine speed requires the ignition timing to be advanced. The cylinder charge, of air–fuel
mixture, requires a certain time to burn (normally
about 2 ms). At higher engine speeds the time taken
for the piston to travel the same distance reduces.
Advancing the time of the spark ensures full burning is achieved.
A change in timing due to engine load is also
required as the weaker mixture used on low load
conditions burns at a slower rate. In this situation,
further ignition advance is necessary. Greater load
on the engine requires a richer mixture, which burns
more rapidly. In this case some retardation of timing
is necessary. Overall, under any condition of engine
speed and load an ideal advance angle is required to
ensure maximum pressure is achieved in the cylinder just after top dead centre. The ideal advance
angle may be further refined by engine temperature
and any risk of detonation.
Spark advance is achieved in a number of ways.
The simplest of these being the mechanical system
comprising a centrifugal advance mechanism and a
vacuum (load sensitive) control unit. Manifold vacuum is almost inversely proportional to the engine
load. I prefer to consider manifold pressure, albeit
less than atmospheric pressure, as the manifold
absolute pressure (MAP) is proportional to engine
load. Digital ignition systems may adjust the timing
in relation to the temperature as well as speed and
load. The values of all ignition timing functions are
combined either mechanically or electronically in
order to determine the ideal ignition point.
The energy storage takes place in the ignition
coil. The energy is stored in the form of a magnetic
field. To ensure the coil is charged before the ignition point a dwell period is required. Ignition timing is at the end of the dwell period.
8.1.5 Fuel consumption and
exhaust emissions
The ignition timing has a significant effect on fuel
consumption, torque, drivability and exhaust emissions. The three most important pollutants are hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen
oxides (NOx).
The HC emissions increase as timing is advanced.
NOx emissions also increase with advanced timing
due to the higher combustion temperature. CO
changes very little with timing and is mostly
dependent on the air–fuel ratio.
As is the case with most alterations of this type, a
change in timing to improve exhaust emissions will
increase fuel consumption. With the leaner mixtures
now prevalent, a larger advance is required to compensate for the slower burning rate. This will provide lower consumption and high torque but the
mixture must be controlled accurately to provide the
best compromise with regard to the emission problem. Figure 8.2 shows the effect of timing changes
on emissions, performance and consumption.
8.1.6 Conventional ignition
Spark plug
Seals electrodes for the spark to jump across in the
cylinder. Must withstand very high voltages, pressures and temperatures.
Figure 8.1 Typical ignition coil
Figure 8.2 Effect of changes in ignition timing at a fixed engine
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.3 Conventional and electronic ignition components
Ignition coil
Stores energy in the form of magnetism and delivers
it to the distributor via the HT lead. Consists of
primary and secondary windings.
Ignition switch
Provides driver control of the ignition system and is
usually also used to cause the starter to crank.
primary current and hence a more rapid collapse of
coil magnetism, which produces a higher voltage
HT Distributor
Directs the spark from the coil to each cylinder in a
pre-set sequence.
Ballast resistor
Centrifugal advance
Shorted out during the starting phase to cause a
more powerful spark. Also contributes towards
improving the spark at higher speeds.
Changes the ignition timing with engine speed. As
speed increases the timing is advanced.
Contact breakers (breaker points)
Switches the primary ignition circuit on and off to
charge and discharge the coil.
Capacitor (condenser)
Suppresses most of the arcing as the contact breakers open. This allows for a more rapid break of
Vacuum advance
Changes timing depending on engine load. On conventional systems the vacuum advance is most
important during cruise conditions.
Figure 8.3 shows some conventional and electronic ignition components.
The circuit of a contact breaker ignition system
is shown in Figure 8.4.
Ignition systems
Figure 8.4 Contact breaker ignition system
8.1.7 Plug leads (HT)
HT, or high tension (which is just an old fashioned
way of saying high voltage) components and systems, must meet or exceed stringent ignition product requirements, such as:
Insulation to withstand 40 000 V systems.
Temperatures from 40 ° C to 260 ° C (40 ° F
to 500 ° F).
Radio frequency interference suppression.
160 000 km (100 000 mile) product life.
Resistance to ozone, corona, and fluids.
10-year durability.
Delphi produces a variety of cable types that meet
the increased energy needs of leaner-burning engines
without emitting electromagnetic interference (EMI).
The cable products offer metallic and non-metallic
cores, including composite, high-temperature
resistive and wire-wound inductive cores. Conductor construction includes copper, stainless steel,
Delcore, CHT, and wire-wound. Jacketing materials include organic and inorganic compounds, such
as CPE, EPDM and silicone. Figure 8.5 shows the
construction of these leads. Table 8.2 summarizes
some of the materials used for different temperature ranges.
8.1.8 Ignition coil cores
Most ignition coil cores are made of laminated iron.
The iron is ideal as it is easily magnetized and
demagnetized. The laminations reduce eddy currents,
Figure 8.5 Ignition plug leads
which cause inefficiency due to the heating effect
(iron losses). If thinner laminations or sheets are used,
then the better the performance.
Powder metal is now possible for use as coil
cores. This reduces eddy currents to a minimum but
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 8.2 Materials used for various ignition components for different temperatures
Ignition component
Boot material
Operating temperature (continuous)
110 ° C
175 ° C
232 ° C
Zinc plated
EPDM or silicone
Delcore copper or stainless steel
Phosphor bronze or stainless steel
Delcore or CHT
Stainless steel
High-temperature silicone
CHT or wire-wound core
Figure 8.6 Electronic ignition system
the density of the magnetism is decreased. Overall,
however, this produces a more efficient and higher
output ignition coil. Developments are continuing
and the flux density problem is about to be solved,
giving rise to even more efficient components.
8.2 Electronic ignition
8.2.1 Introduction
Electronic ignition is now fitted to almost all spark
ignition vehicles. This is because the conventional
mechanical system has some major disadvantages.
Mechanical problems with the contact breakers,
not the least of which is the limited lifetime.
Current flow in the primary circuit is limited to
about 4 A or damage will occur to the contacts –
or at least the lifetime will be seriously reduced.
Legislation requires stringent emission limits,
which means the ignition timing must stay in
tune for a long period of time.
Weaker mixtures require more energy from the
spark to ensure successful ignition, even at very
high engine speed.
These problems can be overcome by using a power
transistor to carry out the switching function and a
pulse generator to provide the timing signal. Very
early forms of electronic ignition used the existing
contact breakers as the signal provider. This was a
step in the right direction but did not overcome all
the mechanical limitations, such as contact bounce
and timing slip. Most (all?) systems nowadays are
constant energy, ensuring high performance ignition even at high engine speed. Figure 8.6 shows
the circuit of a standard electronic ignition system.
8.2.2 Constant dwell systems
The term ‘dwell’ when applied to ignition is a
measure of the time during which the ignition coil
is charging, in other words when the primary current is flowing. The dwell in conventional systems was
simply the time during which the contact breakers
Ignition systems
speeds, the time available to charge the coil could
only produce a lower power spark. Note that as engine
speed increases, the dwell angle or dwell percentage
remains the same but the actual time is reduced.
8.2.3 Constant energy systems
Figure 8.7 OPUS ignition system
were closed. This is now often expressed as a percentage of one charge–discharge cycle. Constant dwell
electronic ignition systems have now been replaced
almost without exception by constant energy systems
discussed in the next section.
An old but good example of a constant dwell
system is the Lucas OPUS (oscillating pick-up system) ignition. Figure 8.7 shows the pulse generator
assembly with a built-in amplifier. The timing rotor
is in the form of a plastic drum with a ferrite rod
for each cylinder embedded around its edge. This
rotor is mounted on the shaft of the distributor. The
pick-up is mounted on the base plate and comprises
an ‘E’-shaped ferrite core with primary and secondary windings enclosed in a plastic case. Three
wires are connected from the pick-up to the amplifier
The amplifier module contains an oscillator
used to energize the primary pick-up winding, a
smoothing circuit and the power switching stage.
The mode of operation of this system is that the
oscillator supplies a 470 kHz AC signal to the pick-up
primary winding. When none of the ferrite rods
are in proximity to the pick-up the power transistor
allows primary ignition to flow. As the distributor
rotates and a ferrite rod passes the pick-up, the
magnetic linkage allows an output from the pick-up
secondary winding. Via the smoothing stage and
the power stage of the module, the ignition coil will
now switch off, producing the spark.
Whilst this was a very good system in its time,
constant dwell still meant that at very high engine
In order for a constant energy electronic ignition
system to operate, the dwell must increase with
engine speed. This will only be of benefit, however,
if the ignition coil can be charged up to its full
capacity, in a very short time (the time available for
maximum dwell at the highest expected engine
speed). To this end, constant energy coils are very
low resistance and low inductance. Typical resistance
values are less than 1 (often 0.5 ). Constant
energy means that, within limits, the energy available to the spark plug remains constant under all
operating conditions.
An energy value of about 0.3 mJ is all that is
required to ignite a static stoichiometric mixture. In
the case of lean or rich mixtures together with high
turbulence, energy values in the region of 3–4 mJ are
necessary. This has made constant energy ignition
essential on all of today’s vehicles in order to meet
the expected emission and performance criteria.
Figure 8.8 is a block diagram of a closed loop constant energy ignition system. The earlier open loop
systems are the same but without the current detection feedback section.
Due to the high energy nature of constant energy
ignition coils, the coil cannot be allowed to remain
switched on for more than a certain time. This is not
a problem when the engine is running, as the variable dwell or current limiting circuit prevents the
coil overheating. Some form of protection must be
provided for, however, when the ignition is switched
on but the engine is not running. This is known as
the ‘stationary engine primary current cut off’.
8.2.4 Hall effect pulse generator
The operating principle of the Hall effect is discussed in Chapter 2. The Hall effect distributor has
become very popular with many manufacturers.
Figure 8.9 shows a typical distributor with a Hall
effect sensor.
As the central shaft of the distributor rotates, the
vanes attached under the rotor arm alternately
cover and uncover the Hall chip. The number of
vanes corresponds to the number of cylinders. In
constant dwell systems the dwell is determined by
the width of the vanes. The vanes cause the Hall
chip to be alternately in and out of a magnetic field.
The result of this is that the device will produce
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.8 Constant energy ignition
Figure 8.9 Ignition distributor with Hall generator
effect pulse generator can easily be tested with a
DC voltmeter or a logic probe. Note that tests must
not be carried out using an ohmmeter as the voltage
from the meter can damage the Hall chip.
Figure 8.10 A Hall effect sensor output will switch between
0 V and about 7 V
almost a square wave output, which can then easily
be used to switch further electronic circuits. The
three terminals on the distributor are marked ‘,
0, ’, the terminals and , are for a voltage supply and terminal ‘0’ is the output signal. Typically,
the output from a Hall effect sensor will switch
between 0 V and about 7 V as shown in Figure 8.10.
The supply voltage is taken from the ignition ECU
and, on some systems, is stabilized at about 10 V to
prevent changes to the output of the sensor when
the engine is being cranked.
Hall effect distributors are very common due to
the accurate signal produced and long term reliability. They are suitable for use on both constant dwell
and constant energy systems. Operation of a Hall
8.2.5 Inductive pulse generator
Inductive pulse generators use the basic principle
of induction to produce a signal typical of the one
shown in Figure 8.11. Many forms exist but all are
based around a coil of wire and a permanent magnet.
The example distributor shown in Figure 8.12
has the coil of wire wound on the pick-up and, as
the reluctor rotates, the magnetic flux varies due
to the peaks on the reluctor. The number of peaks, or
teeth, on the reluctor corresponds to the number of
engine cylinders. The gap between the reluctor and
pick-up can be important and manufacturers have
recommended settings.
8.2.6 Other pulse generators
Early systems were known as transistor assisted
contacts (TAC) where the contact breakers were
Ignition systems
Figure 8.11 Inductive pulse generators use the basic principle
of induction to produce a signal
used as the trigger. The only other technique, which
has been used on a reasonable scale, is the optical
pulse generator. This involved a focused beam of
light from a light emitting diode (LED) and a phototransistor. The beam of light is interrupted by a
rotating vane, which provides a switching output in
the form of a square wave. The most popular use for
this system is in the after-market as a replacement
for conventional contact breakers. Figure 8.13 shows
the basic principle of an optical pulse generator;
note how the beam is focused to ensure accurate
8.2.7 Dwell angle control
(open loop)
Figure 8.14 shows a circuit diagram of a transistorized ignition module. For the purposes of explaining how this system works, the pulse generator is
the inductive type. To understand how the dwell
is controlled, an explanation of the whole circuit is
The first part of the circuit is a voltage stabilizer
to prevent damage to any components and to allow
known voltages for charging and discharging the
capacitors. This circuit consists of ZD1 and R1.
The alternating voltage coming from the
inductive-type pulse generator must be reshaped
into square-wave type pulses in order to have the correct effect in the trigger box. The reshaping is done
by an electronic threshold switch known as a
Schmitt trigger. This circuit is termed a pulse shaping circuit because of its function in the trigger box.
The pulse shaping circuit starts with D4, a silicon
diode which, due to its polarity, will only allow the
Figure 8.12 Inductive pulse generator in a distributor
negative pulses of the alternating control voltage to
reach the base of transistor T1. The induction-type
pulse generator is loaded only in the negative phase
of the alternating control voltage because of the
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
output of energy. In the positive phase, on the other
hand, the pulse generator is not loaded. The negative voltage amplitude is therefore smaller than the
positive amplitude.
As soon as the alternating control voltage,
approaching from negative values, exceeds a threshold at the pulse shaping circuit input, transistor T1
switches off and prevents current passing. The output of the pulse-shaping circuit is currentless for a
time (anti-dwell?). This switching state is maintained
until the alternating control voltage, now approaching from positive values, drops below the threshold
voltage. Transistor T1 now switches off. The base of
T2 becomes positive via R5 and T2 is on. This alternation – T1 on/T2 off or T1 off/T2 on – is typical of
the Schmitt trigger and the circuit repeats this
action continuously. Two series-connected diodes,
D2 and D3, are provided for temperature compensation. The diode D1 is for reverse polarity protection.
Figure 8.13 Basic principle of an optical pulse generator
Figure 8.14 Circuit diagram of Bosch transistorized ignition module
The energy stored in the ignition coil can be put
to optimum use with the help of the dwell section in
the trigger box. The result is that sufficient high voltage is available for the spark at the spark plug under
any operating condition of the engine. The dwell
control specifies the start of the dwell period. The
beginning of the dwell period (when T3 switches on),
is also the beginning of a rectangular current pulse
that is used to trigger the transistor T4, which is the
driver stage. This in turn switches on the output stage.
A timing circuit using RC elements is used to provide a variable dwell. This circuit alternately charges
and discharges capacitors by way of resistors. This is
an open loop dwell control circuit because the combination of the resistors and capacitors provides a
fixed time relationship as a function of engine speed.
The capacitor C5 and the resistors R9 and R11
form the RC circuit. When transistor T2 is switched
off, the capacitor C5 will charge via R9 and the base
emitter of T3. At low engine speed the capacitor will
have time to charge to almost 12 V. During this time
T3 is switched on and, via T4, T5 and T6, so is the
ignition coil. At the point of ignition T2 switches on
and capacitor C5 can now discharge via R11 and T2. T3
remains switched off all the time C5 is discharging.
It is this discharge time (which is dependent on how
much C5 had been charged), that delays the start of
the next dwell period. Capacitor C5 finally begins
to be charged, via R11 and T2, in the opposite direction and, when it reaches about 12 V, T3 will switch
back on. T3 remains on until T2 switches off again.
As the engine speed increases, the charge time available for capacitor C5 decreases. This means it will
only reach a lower voltage and hence will discharge
Ignition systems
more quickly. This results in T3 switching on earlier
and hence a longer dwell period is the result.
The current from this driver transistor drives
the power output stage (a Darlington pair). In this
Darlington circuit the current flowing into the base
of transistor T5 is amplified to a considerably higher
current, which is fed into the base of the transistor
T6. The high primary current can then flow through
the ignition coil via transistor T6. The primary current is switched on the collector side of this transistor. The Darlington circuit functions as one transistor
and is often described as the power stage.
Components not specifically mentioned in this
explanation are for protection against back EMF
(ZD4, D6) from the ignition coil and to prevent the
dwell becoming too small (ZD2 and C4). A trigger
box for Hall effect pulse generators functions in a
similar manner to the above description. The hybrid
ignition trigger boxes are considerably smaller than
those utilizing discrete components. Figure 8.15 is
a picture of a typical complete unit.
The primary current is allowed to build up to its
pre-set maximum as soon as possible and then be
held at this value. The value of this current is calculated and then pre-set during construction of the
amplifier module. This technique, when combined
with dwell angle control, is known as closed loop
control as the actual value of the primary current is
fed back to the control stages.
A very low resistance, high power precision resistor is used in this circuit. The resistor is connected in
series with the power transistor and the ignition coil.
A voltage sensing circuit connected across this resistor will be activated at a pre-set voltage (which is
proportional to the current), and will cause the output stage to hold the current at a constant value.
Figure 8.16 shows a block diagram of a closed loop
dwell control system.
Stationary current cut-off is for when the ignition
is on but the engine is not running. This is achieved
in many cases by a simple timer circuit, which will
cut the output stage after about one second.
8.2.8 Current limiting and
closed loop dwell
8.2.9 Capacitor discharge
Primary current limiting ensures no damage can be
caused to the system by excessive primary current,
but also forms a part of a constant energy system.
Capacitor discharge ignition (CDI) has been in use
for many years on some models of the Porsche 911
and some Ferrari models.
Figure 8.17 shows a block diagram of the CDI
system. The CDI works by first stepping up the battery voltage to about 400 V (DC), using an oscillator and a transformer, followed by a rectifier. This
high voltage is used to charge a capacitor. At the
point of ignition the capacitor is discharged through
the primary winding of a coil, often by use of a
thyristor. This rapid discharge through the coil primary will produce a very high voltage output from
the secondary winding. This voltage has a very fast
Figure 8.15 Transistorized ignition module
Figure 8.16 Closed loop dwell control system
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.17 CDI system
rise time compared with a more conventional system. Typically, the rise time for CDI is 3–10 kV/s
as compared with the pure inductive system, which
is 300–500 V/s. This very fast rise time and high
voltage will ensure that even a carbon- or oil-fouled
plug will be fired. The disadvantage, however, is that
the spark duration is short, which can cause problems particularly during starting. This is often overcome by providing the facility for multi-sparking.
However, when used in conjunction with direct ignition (one coil for each plug) the spark duration is
8.3 Programmed ignition
8.3.1 Overview
‘Programmed ignition’ is the term used by some
manufacturers, while others call it ‘electronic spark
advance’ (ESA). Constant energy electronic ignition
was a major step forwards and is still used on countless applications. However, its limitations lay in still
having to rely upon mechanical components for
speed and load advance characteristics. In many
cases these did not match ideally the requirements
of the engine.
Programmed ignition systems have a major difference compared with earlier systems, in that they
operate digitally. Information about the operating
requirements of a particular engine is programmed
into the memory inside the electronic control unit.
The data for storage in ROM are obtained from rigorous testing on an engine dynamometer and from
further development work on the vehicle under various operating conditions.
Programmed ignition has several advantages.
The ignition timing can be accurately matched
to the individual application under a range of
operating conditions.
Other control inputs can be utilized such as
coolant temperature and ambient air temperature.
Starting is improved and fuel consumption is
reduced, as are emissions, and idle control is
Other inputs can be taken into account such as
engine knock.
The number of wearing components in the ignition system is considerably reduced.
Programmed ignition, or ESA, can be a separate
system or be included as part of the fuel control
8.3.2 Sensors and input
Figure 8.18 shows the layout of the Rover programmed ignition system. In order for the ECU to
calculate suitable timing and dwell outputs, certain
input information is required.
Engine speed and position –
crankshaft sensor
This sensor is a reluctance sensor positioned as
shown in Figure 8.19. The device consists of a permanent magnet, a winding and a soft iron core. It is
mounted in proximity to a reluctor disc. The disc
has 34 teeth, spaced at 10 ° intervals around the
periphery of the disc. It has two teeth missing, 180 °
apart, at a known position before TDC (BTDC).
Many manufacturers use this technique with minor
differences. As a tooth from the reluctor disc passes
the core of the sensor, the reluctance of the magnetic circuit is changed. This induces a voltage in
the winding, the frequency of the waveform being
proportional to the engine speed. The missing tooth
causes a ‘missed’ output wave and hence the engine
position can be determined.
Engine load – manifold absolute
pressure sensor
Engine load is proportional to manifold pressure in
that high load conditions produce high pressure and
lower load conditions – such as cruise – produce
lower pressure. Load sensors are therefore pressure
transducers. They are either mounted in the ECU or
as a separate unit, and are connected to the inlet
manifold with a pipe. The pipe often incorporates a
Ignition systems
Figure 8.18 Programmed ignition system
sensor is used for the operation of the temperature
gauge and to provide information to the fuel control
system. A separate memory map is used to correct
the basic timing settings. Timing may be retarded
when the engine is cold to assist in more rapid
warm up.
Detonation – knock sensor
Figure 8.19 Position of a programmed ignition crankshaft
restriction to damp out fluctuations and a vapour
trap to prevent petrol fumes reaching the sensor.
Engine temperature – coolant
Coolant temperature measurement is carried out by
a simple thermistor, and in many cases the same
Combustion knock can cause serious damage to an
engine if sustained for long periods. This knock, or
detonation, is caused by over-advanced ignition
timing. At variance with this is that an engine will,
in general, run at its most efficient when the timing
is advanced as far as possible. To achieve this, the
data stored in the basic timing map will be as close
to the knock limit of the engine as possible (see
Figure 8.20). The knock sensor provides a margin
for error. The sensor itself is an accelerometer often
of the piezoelectric type. It is fitted in the engine
block between cylinders two and three on in-line
four-cylinder engines. Vee engines require two sensors, one on each side. The ECU responds to signals from the knock sensor in the engine’s knock
window for each cylinder – this is often just a few
degrees each side of TDC. This prevents clatter
from the valve mechanism being interpreted as
knock. The signal from the sensor is also filtered in
the ECU to remove unwanted noise. If detonation is
detected, the ignition timing is retarded on the
fourth ignition pulse after detection (four-cylinder
engine) in steps until knock is no longer detected.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
The steps vary between manufacturers, but about
2 ° is typical. The timing is then advanced slowly in
steps of, say 1 °, over a number of engine revolutions, until the advance required by memory is
restored. This fine control allows the engine to be
run very close to the knock limit without risk of
engine damage.
Battery voltage
Correction to dwell settings is required if the battery voltage falls, as a lower voltage supply to the
coil will require a slightly larger dwell figure. This
information is often stored in the form of a dwell
correction map.
Figure 8.20 Ideal timing angle for an engine
8.3.3 Electronic control unit
As the sophistication of systems has increased,
the information held in the memory chips of the
ECU has also increased. The earlier versions of the
programmed ignition system produced by Rover
achieved accuracy in ignition timing of 1.8 °
whereas a conventional distributor is 8 °. The information, which is derived from dynamometer tests
as well as running tests in the vehicle, is stored in
ROM. The basic timing map consists of the correct
ignition advance for 16 engine speeds and 16 engine
load conditions. This is shown in Figure 8.21 using
a cartographic representation.
A separate three-dimensional map is used that
has eight speed and eight temperature sites. This is
used to add corrections for engine coolant temperature to the basic timing settings. This improves drivability and can be used to decrease the warm-up
time of the engine. The data are also subjected to an
additional load correction below 70 ° C. Figure 8.22
shows a flow chart representing the logical selection of the optimum ignition setting. Note that the
ECU will also make corrections to the dwell angle,
both as a function of engine speed to provide constant energy output and corrections due to changes in
battery voltage. A lower battery voltage will require
a slightly longer dwell and a higher voltage a slightly
shorter dwell.
Typical of most ‘computer’ systems, a block diagram as shown in Figure 8.23 can represent the programmed ignition ECU. Input signals are processed
and the data provided are stored in RAM. The
Figure 8.21 Cartographic map representing how ignition timing is stored in the ECU
Ignition systems
program and pre-set data are held in ROM. In these
systems a microcontroller is used to carry out the
fetch execute sequences demanded by the program.
Information, which is collected from the sensors, is
converted to a digital representation in an A/D circuit. Rover, in common with many other manufacturers, use an on-board pressure sensor consisting
of an aneroid chamber and strain gauges to indicate
engine load.
A flow chart used to represent the program held
in ROM, inside the ECU, is shown in Figure 8.22. A
Windows 95/98/2000 shareware program that simulates the ignition system (as well as many other
systems) is available for downloading from my web
site (details in Preface).
with most electronic ignitions, consists of a heavyduty transistor that forms part of, or is driven by, a
Darlington pair. This is simply to allow the high
ignition primary current to be controlled. The switch
Ignition output
The output of a system, such as this programmed
ignition, is very simple. The output stage, in common
Figure 8.22 Ignition calculation flow diagram
Figure 8.23 Typical of most ‘computer’ systems, the programmed ignition ECU can be represented by a block diagram
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
off point of the coil will control ignition timing and
the switch on point will control the dwell period.
HT distribution
The high tension distribution is similar to a more
conventional system. The rotor arm however is
mounted on the end of the camshaft with the distributor cap positioned over the top. The material
used for the cap is known as Velox, which is similar
to the epoxy type but has better electrical characteristics – it is less prone to tracking, for example. The
distributor cap is mounted on a base plate made of
Crasline which, as well as acting as the mounting
point, prevents any oil that leaks from the camshaft
seal fouling the cap and rotor arm. Another important function of the mounting plate is to prevent the
build-up of harmful gases such as ozone and nitric
oxide by venting them to the atmosphere. These
gases are created by the electrolytic action of the
spark as it jumps the air gap between the rotor arm
and the cap segment. The rotor arm is also made of
Crasline and is reinforced with a metal insert to
relieve fixing stresses.
8.4 Distributorless ignition
8.4.1 Principle of operation
Distributorless ignition has all the features of programmed ignition systems but, by using a special
type of ignition coil, outputs to the spark plugs
without the need for an HT distributor.
The system is generally only used on four-cylinder
engines because the control system becomes more
complex for higher numbers. The basic principle is
that of the ‘lost spark’. The distribution of the spark
is achieved by using two double-ended coils, which
are fired alternately by the ECU. The timing is
determined from a crankshaft speed and position
sensor as well as load and other corrections. When
one of the coils is fired, a spark is delivered to two
engine cylinders, either 1 and 4, or 2 and 3. The
spark delivered to the cylinder on the compression
stroke will ignite the mixture as normal. The spark
produced in the other cylinder will have no effect,
as this cylinder will be just completing its exhausted
Because of the low compression and the exhaust
gases in the ‘lost spark’ cylinder, the voltage used
for the spark to jump the gap is only about 3 kV.
This is similar to the more conventional rotor arm
to cap voltage. The spark produced in the compression cylinder is therefore not affected.
Figure 8.24 DIS ignition system
An interesting point here is that the spark on one
of the cylinders will jump from the earth electrode
to the spark plug centre. Many years ago this would
not have been acceptable, as the spark quality when
jumping this way would not have been as good as
when it jumps from the centre electrode. However,
the energy available from modern constant energy
systems will produce a spark of suitable quality in
either direction. Figure 8.24 shows the layout of the
distributorless ignition system (DIS) system.
8.4.2 System components
The DIS system consists of three main components: the electronic module, a crankshaft position
sensor and the DIS coil. In many systems a manifold absolute pressure sensor is integrated in the
module. The module functions in much the same way
as has been described for the previously described
electronic spark advance system.
The crankshaft position sensor is similar in
operation to the one described in the previous section. It is again a reluctance sensor and is positioned against the front of the flywheel or against a
reluctor wheel just behind the front crankshaft pulley. The tooth pattern consists of 35 teeth. These are
spaced at 10 ° intervals with a gap where the 36th
tooth would be. The missing tooth is positioned at
90 ° BTDC for cylinders number 1 and 4. This reference position is placed a fixed number of degrees
before top dead centre, in order to allow the timing
or ignition point to be calculated as a fixed angle
after the reference mark.
The low tension winding is supplied with battery voltage to a centre terminal. The appropriate
half of the winding is then switched to earth in the
Ignition systems
Figure 8.25 DIS coil
module. The high tension windings are separate
and are specific to cylinders 1 and 4, or 2 and 3.
Figure 8.25 shows a typical DIS coil.
Figure 8.26 Direct ignition system
8.5 Direct ignition
8.5.1 General description
Direct ignition is, in a way, the follow-on from
distributorless ignition. This system utilizes an
inductive coil for each cylinder. These coils are
mounted directly on the spark plugs. Figure 8.26
shows a cross-section of the direct ignition coil.
The use of an individual coil for each plug ensures
that the rise time for the low inductance primary
winding is very fast. This ensures that a very high
voltage, high energy spark is produced. This voltage, which can be in excess of 40 kV, provides efficient initiation of the combustion process under cold
starting conditions and with weak mixtures. Some
direct ignition systems use capacitor discharge
In order to switch the ignition coils, igniter units
are used. These can control up to three coils and are
simply the power stages of the control unit but in a
separate container. This allows less interference to
be caused in the main ECU due to heavy current
switching and shorter runs of wires carrying higher
as to which cylinder is on the compression stroke. A
system that does not require a sensor to determine
which cylinder is on compression (engine position
is known from a crank sensor) determines the information by initially firing all of the coils. The voltage
across the plugs allows measurement of the current
for each spark and will indicate which cylinder is
on its combustion stroke. This works because a
burning mixture has a lower resistance. The cylinder
with the highest current at this point will be the
cylinder on the combustion stroke.
A further feature of some systems is the case
when the engine is cranked over for an excessive
time, making flooding likely. The plugs are all fired
with multisparks for a period of time after the ignition is left in the on position for 5 seconds. This will
burn away any excess fuel.
During difficult starting conditions, multisparking is also used by some systems during 70 ° of
crank rotation before TDC. This assists with starting and then, once the engine is running, the timing
will return to its normal calculated position.
8.5.2 Control of ignition
8.6 Spark plugs
Ignition timing and dwell are controlled in a manner
similar to the previously described programmed
system. The one important addition to this on some
systems is a camshaft sensor to provide information
8.6.1 Functional requirements
The simple requirement of a spark plug is that it
must allow a spark to form within the combustion
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.27 Spark-plug construction
chamber, to initiate burning. In order to do this
the plug has to withstand a number of severe
conditions. Consider, as an example, a four-cylinder
four-stroke engine with a compression ratio of 9 : 1,
running at speeds up to 5000 rev/min. The following
conditions are typical. At this speed the four-stroke
cycle will repeat every 24 ms.
End of induction stroke –0.9 bar at 65 ° C.
Ignition firing point –9 bar at 350 ° C.
Highest value during power stroke –45 bar at
3000 ° C.
Power stroke completed –4 bar at 1100 ° C.
Besides the above conditions, the spark plug must
withstand severe vibration and a harsh chemical
environment. Finally, but perhaps most important,
the insulation properties must withstand voltage
pressures up to 40 kV.
8.6.2 Construction
Figure 8.27 shows a standard and a resistor spark
plug. The centre electrode is connected to the top
terminal by a stud. The electrode is constructed of a
nickel-based alloy. Silver and platinum are also
used for some applications. If a copper core is used in
the electrode this improves the thermal conduction
The insulating material is ceramic-based and of
a very high grade. Aluminium oxide, Al2O3 (95%
pure), is a popular choice, it is bonded into the
metal parts and glazed on the outside surface. The
properties of this material, which make it most suitable, are as follows:
Young’s modulus: 340 kN/mm2.
Coefficient of thermal expansion: 7.8 10 K1.
Thermal conductivity: 15–5 W/m K (Range
200–900 ° C).
Electrical resistance: 1013 /m.
The above list is intended as a guide only, as actual
values can vary widely with slight manufacturing changes. The electrically conductive glass seal
between the electrode and terminal stud is also used
as a resistor. This resistor has two functions. First,
to prevent burn-off of the centre electrode, and secondly to reduce radio interference. In both cases the
desired effect is achieved because the resistor damps
the current at the instant of ignition.
Flash-over, or tracking down the outside of the
plug insulation, is prevented by ribs that effectively
increase the surface distance from the terminal to
the metal fixing bolt, which is of course earthed to
the engine.
8.6.3 Heat range
Due to the many and varied constructional features
involved in the design of an engine, the range of
temperatures in which a spark plug is exposed to, can
Ignition systems
vary significantly. The operating temperature of the
centre electrode of a spark plug is critical. If the
temperature becomes too high then pre-ignition
may occur as the fuel–air mixture may become
ignited due to the incandescence of the plug electrode. On the other hand, if the electrode temperature is too low then carbon and oil fouling can occur
as deposits are not burnt off. Fouling of the plug
nose can cause shunts (a circuit in parallel with the
spark gap). It has been shown through experimentation and experience that the ideal operating temperature of the plug electrode is between 400 and
900 ° C. Figure 8.28 shows how the temperature of
the electrode changes with engine power output.
The heat range of a spark plug then is a measure
of its ability to transfer heat away from the centre
electrode. A hot running engine will require plugs
with a higher thermal loading ability than a colder
running engine. Note that hot and cold running of
an engine in this sense refers to the combustion
temperature and not to the efficiency of the cooling
The following factors determine the thermal
capacity of a spark plug.
8.6.4 Electrode materials
The material chosen for the spark plug electrode
must exhibit the following properties:
Figure 8.28 Temperature of a spark plug electrode changes
with engine power output
Insulator nose length.
Electrode material.
Thread contact length.
Projection of the electrode.
All these factors are dependent on each other and
the position of the plug in the engine also has a particular effect.
It has been found that a longer projection of the
electrode helps to reduce fouling problems due to
low power operation, stop–go driving and high altitude conditions. In order to use greater projection
of the electrode, better quality thermal conduction
is required to allow suitable heat transfer at higher
power outputs. Figure 8.29 shows the heat conducting paths of a spark plug together with changes in
design for heat ranges. Also shown are the range of
part numbers for NGK plugs.
High thermal conductivity.
High corrosion resistance.
High resistance to burn-off.
For normal applications, alloys of nickel are used
for the electrode material. Chromium, manganese,
silicon and magnesium are examples of the alloying
Figure 8.29 Heat conducting paths of a spark plug
constituents. These alloys exhibit excellent properties
with respect to corrosion and burn-off resistance.
To improve on the thermal conductivity, compound
electrodes are used. These allow a greater nose projection for the same temperature range, as discussed
in the last section. A common example of this type
of plug is the copper-core spark plug.
Silver electrodes are used for specialist applications as silver has very good thermal and electrical
properties. Again, with these plugs nose length can
be increased within the same temperature range.
The thermal conductivity of some electrode materials
is listed for comparison.
407 W/m K
384 W/m K
70 W/m K
59 W/m K
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.30 The semi-surface spark plug has good anti-fouling
Figure 8.31 V-grooved plug
Compound electrodes have an average thermal
conductivity of about 200 W/m K. Platinum tips are
used for some spark plug applications due to the
very high burn-off resistance of this material. It is
also possible because of this to use much smaller
diameter electrodes, thus increasing mixture accessibility. Platinum also has a catalytic effect, further
accelerating the combustion process.
Figure 8.30 shows a semi-surface spark-plug,
which, because of its design, has good anti-fouling
8.6.5 Electrode gap
Spark plug electrode gaps have, in general, increased
as the power of the ignition systems driving the spark
has increased. The simple relationship between plug
gap and voltage required is that, as the gap increases
so must the voltage (leaving aside engine operating
conditions). Furthermore, the energy available to
form a spark at a fixed engine speed is constant,
which means that a larger gap using higher voltage
will result in a shorter duration spark. A smaller gap
will allow a longer duration spark. For cold starting
an engine and for igniting weak mixtures, the duration of the spark is critical. Likewise the plug gap
must be as large as possible to allow easy access
for the mixture in order to prevent quenching of
the flame.
The final choice is therefore a compromise
reached through testing and development of a particular application. Plug gaps in the region of
0.6–1.2 mm seem to be the norm at present.
Figure 8.32 V-grooved spark plug firing, together with a graph
indicating potential improvements when compared with the
conventional plug
flame front and less quenching due to contact with
the earth and centre electrodes. Figure 8.32 shows a
V-grooved plug firing together with a graphical
indication of the potential improvements when
compared with the conventional plug.
8.6.6 V-grooved spark plug
The V-grooved plug is a development by NGK
designed to reduce electrode quenching and allow
the flame front to progress more easily from the
spark. This is achieved by forming the electrode
end into a ‘V’ shape, as shown in Figure 8.31.
This allows the spark to be formed at the side
of the electrode, giving better propagation of the
8.6.7 Choosing the correct plug
Two methods are often used to determine the best
spark plug for a given application. In the main it is
the temperature range that is of prime importance.
The first method of assessing plug temperature
is the thermocouple spark plug, as shown in Figure
8.33. This allows quite accurate measurement of the
Ignition systems
Figure 8.33 Thermocouple spark plug
temperature but does not allow the test to be carried
out for all types of plug.
A second method is the technique of ionic current measurement. When combustion has been initiated, the conductivity and pattern of current flow
across the plug gap is a very good indication of the
thermal load on the plug. This process allows accurate matching of the spark plug heat range to every
engine, as well as providing data on the combustion
temperature of a test engine. This technique is starting to be used as feedback to engine management
systems to assist with accurate control.
In the after-market, choosing the correct plug is
a matter of using manufacturers’ parts catalogues.
8.6.8 Spark plugs development
Most developments in spark plug technology are
incremental. Recent trends have been towards the
use of platinum plugs and the development of a plug
that will stay within acceptable parameters for long
periods (i.e. in excess of 50 000 miles/80 000 km).
Multiple electrode plugs are a contribution to
long life and reliability. Do note though that these
plugs only produce one spark at one of the electrodes each time they fire. The spark will jump
across the path of least resistance and this will normally be the path that will produce the best ignition
or start to combustion. Equally, the wear rate is
spread over two or more electrodes. A double electrode plug is shown as Figure 8.30. Figure 8.34
shows a platinum spark plug.
Figure 8.34 Platinum spark plug
8.7 Case studies
8.7.1 Introduction
Most modern ignition systems are combined with
the fuel management system. For this reason I have
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.35 Toyota integrated ignition assembly
Figure 8.36 Toyota integrated ignition circuit
chosen older case studies. I have even induced contact breakers, for fear that we forget how they work!
8.7.2 Integrated ignition
assembly (Toyota)
Figure 8.35 shows the components of an integrated
ignition assembly. The pulse generator, ignition coil
and igniter (module) are all mounted on the distributor. The unit contains conventional advance weights
and a vacuum/load sensitive advance unit. This also
doubles as an octane selector.
The circuit diagram is shown in Figure 8.36.
This shows how the inductive rotor triggers a
Darlington pair in the igniter unit to operate the coil
Ignition systems
Mounting all the components as one unit can
cause overheating problems. If the system is dismantled then any heat sink grease disturbed must
be replaced.
8.7.3 Contact breaker ignition
(lots of older cars)
Figure 8.4, at the start of this chapter, shows the circuit
of a typical contact breaker ignition system. The distributor rotates at half engine speed, and a cam causes
the contacts to open and close. This switching action
turns the current flow in the coil primary on and off
which, by mutual induction, creates a high voltage
in the secondary winding. This voltage is distributed
in the form of a spark via the cap and rotor arm.
A distributor is shown in Figure 8.37 complete
with the centrifugal advance weights and vacuum
capsule. As the engine speed increases, the weights
fly outwards under the control of springs. This movement causes the cam on the top central shaft of the
distributor to rotate against the direction of rotation
of the lower shaft. This opens the contacts earlier in
the cycle, thus advancing the ignition timing.
A vacuum advance unit moves the base plate on
which the contacts are secured, in response to changes
in engine load. This has most effect during cruising
due to the advance needed to burn a weaker mixture
used under these conditions.
Figure 8.20 shows the advance characteristics of
this type of distributor. The straight lines are normally described as the advance curve.
8.7.4 Bosch spark plugs –
100 years of development
It is now almost a hundred years since Bosch presented the first spark plug combined with a hightension magneto ignition system. On January 7,
1902 the company was awarded a patent for this
ground-breaking development. The reliable Bosch
ignition system solved what Carl Benz saw as the
main problem of the early automotive technology.
Together with improvements in production technology it was the spark plug that laid the foundations
for the rapid increase in automobile production
over the decades that followed. As a result, the time
came when everyone could afford a car.
Nowadays the Bosch spark plug, which has been
developed and improved continuously over the
decades, is a major system component which plays a
key role in fuel economy, clean and efficient combustion and the reliable operation of engines and catalytic
converters. Despite the tremendous increase in spark
plug performance, the useful life of a spark plug is
Figure 8.37 Contact breaker distributor
now about 20 000 to 30 000 km, some 20 to 30 times
higher than the figure 90 years ago. Some special
spark plugs even have a service life of 100 000 km
(Figure 8.38).
Bosch is continually adapting to new developments in engine technology such as four-valve
cylinder heads or lean mix engines. The latest
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.38 The core material of a spark plug is important for
performance (Source: Bosch Press)
example (2003–4) is the Volkswagen Lupo FSI, the
first mass-produced car with a very low-consumption
gasoline engine featuring both direct injection and
stratified charging. Bosch supplies the entire injection and ignition system as well as specially developed spark plugs. Go to the
web site to find the correct plug for any application.
Design variants and special materials such as
platinum or yttrium allow Bosch spark plugs to be
used in a wide variety of applications. Countless
different types of spark plug can also be produced
by changing the type, number and shape of the
electrodes. The current Bosch spark plug catalogue
includes 26 different electrode designs. All these
possibilities help engines meet ever more stringent
emission limits at the same time as ensuring greater
efficiency and a higher power output (Figure 8.39).
In 1902 Bosch produced about 300 spark plugs.
Now the company’s plant in Bamberg alone produces about a million spark plugs every working
day and worldwide production is about 350 million
spark plugs per year.
Bosch also produces spark plugs to Bosch worldwide quality standards at plants in India, Brazil,
China and Russia for local markets and manufacturers. In total Bosch has produced excessively more
than seven billion spark plugs. Laid end to end, they
would stretch more than 350 000 kilometres – all the
way to the moon!
100 years of Bosch spark plugs – the highlights:
Bosch is granted a patent for a new type of spark plug combined with a high-tension magneto on
January 7, 1902. The first systems are supplied to Daimler-Motorengesellschaft in Bad
Cannstatt on September 24, 1902
(onwards) In the first few years, production totals a few hundred units per year
The first spark plug factory is founded in Stuttgart
Bosch introduces the term ‘heat range’, which has remained the standard measure of the thermal
capacity of a spark plug (important for the ideal adaptation of a spark plug to a specific engine)
to this day
The Bamberg spark plug factory is founded
Bosch spark plug with composite centre electrode ensuring reliable cold starting and a longer service life is used on the Mercedes Benz 300 SL gull-wing
The Bamberg plant produces the billionth spark plug
Mass production of the thermoelastic plug with composite centre electrode starts
Spark plugs are adapted to changes in fuels and engine design making motors cleaner, more economical and more efficient (lead-free petrol, catalytic converters, four valves per cylinder, lean mix, etc.)
Platinum centre electrodes and composite materials with noble metal alloys boost the service life
of spark plugs to well in excess of 60 000 km
The Bosch spark plug with surface/air gap prevents carbon fouling, timing drift and misfiring even
in operation with frequent short trips
Nickel yttrium electrode material prolongs the service life of spark plugs
The seven billionth Bosch spark plug is produced
Supply of tailor-made spark plugs for the first direct injection stratified charge gasoline engine
(with ignition and injection system also supplied by Bosch)
(January 7) 100th anniversary of the first Bosch spark plug.
Ignition systems
Figure 8.40 Constant energy electronic ignition distributor
and ignition module
Figure 8.39 Four-electrode spark plug (Source: Bosch Press)
It is interesting to note that a standard spark plug
has up to 100 sparks per second or more than 20
million sparks over a useful life of 20 000 km. Spark
plug working conditions include voltage up to
30 000 V, temperatures up to 10 000 ° C and pressures up to 100 bar, as well as extremely aggressive
mixtures of hot petrol vapour, combustion products
and fuel–oil residues.
8.7.5 Ignition overview
Modern ignition systems are now part of the engine
management, which controls fuel delivery, ignition
and other vehicle functions. These systems are under
continuous development and reference to the manufacturer’s workshop manual is essential when working on any vehicle. The main ignition components
are the engine speed and load sensors, knock sensor, temperature sensor and the ignition coil. The
ECU reads from the sensors, interprets and compares the data, and sends output signals to the actuators. The output component for ignition is the coil.
Some form of electronic ignition is now fitted to all
spark ignition vehicles (Figure 8.40).
In order for a constant energy electronic ignition
system to operate, the dwell must increase with
engine speed. This will only be of benefit, however,
if the ignition coil can be charged up to its full capacity in a very short time. Constant energy means
that, within limits, the energy available to make the
spark at the plug remains constant under all operating
conditions. An energy value of about 0.3 mJ is all
that is required to ignite a static stoichiometric
(ideal proportion) mixture. However, with lean or
rich mixtures, together with high turbulence, energy
values in the region of 3 to 4 mJ are necessary. This
has made constant energy ignition essential on all
of today’s vehicles so they can meet emission and
performance requirements.
Programmed ignition is the term used by some
manufacturers for digitally controlled ignition; others
call it electronic spark advance (ESA). Constant
energy electronic ignition was a major step forwards and is still used on many vehicles, together
with a standard distributor. However, its limitations
lie in still having to rely upon mechanical components for speed and load advance characteristics. In
many cases these did not match ideally the requirements of the engine. With a digital system, information about the operating requirements of a particular
engine is programmed in to memory inside the
electronic control unit. This data, stored in read only
memory (ROM), is obtained from testing on an
engine dynamometer and then under various operating conditions (Figure 8.41).
Distributorless ignition has all the features of
programmed ignition systems but, by using a special type of ignition coil, operates the spark plugs
without the need for a distributor. The basic principle is that of the ‘lost spark’. On a four-cylinder
engine, the distribution of the spark is achieved by
using two double-ended coils, which are fired alternately by the ECU. The timing is determined from a
crankshaft speed and position sensor as well as load
and other corrections. When one of the coils is fired
a spark is delivered to two engine cylinders, either 1
and 4, or 2 and 3. The spark delivered to the cylinder on the compression stroke will ignite the mixture as normal. The spark produced in the other
cylinder will have no effect, as this cylinder will be
just completing its exhaust stroke.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.41 Distributorless ignition coil in position
Figure 8.42 Six direct ignition coils in position. Some systems use CDI
Direct ignition is similar, but has one ignition coil
for each cylinder, which is mounted directly on the
spark plug. The use of an individual coil for each
plug ensures that the charge time for the low inductance primary winding is very fast. This ensures that
a very high voltage, high-energy spark is produced
(Figure 8.42).
Ignition timing and dwell are controlled digitally. On some systems a camshaft sensor is used
to provide information about which cylinder is
on the compression stroke. An interesting method,
which does not require a sensor to determine
which cylinder is on compression (engine position
is known from a crank sensor), determines the
information by initially firing all of the coils. The
voltage across the plugs allows measurement of
the current for each spark and will indicate which
cylinder is on its combustion stroke. This works
because a burning mixture has a lower resistance.
The cylinder with the highest current at this point
will be the cylinder on the combustion stroke
(Figure 8.43).
Modern ignition systems that are part of an
engine management system, usually have a limphome facility that allows the engine to continue to
operate when defects are detected by the ECU.
Basic settings are substituted and a warning light is
illuminated to alert the driver. Self-test and onboard diagnostic (OBD) links are provided for
diagnostic tests to be carried out.
Ignition systems
Table 8.3 Common symptoms of an ignition system
malfunction and possible faults
Possible fault
Engine rotates but
does not start
Difficult to start when
Engine starts but then
stops immediately
Erratic idle
Figure 8.43 Combustion taking place (Source: Ford Media)
Misfire at idle speed
Ignition systems continue to develop and will
continue to improve. However, keep in mind that the
simple purpose of an ignition system is to ignite the
fuel–air mixture every time at the right time. And,
no matter how complex the electronics may seem,
the high voltage is produced by switching a coil on
and off.
Misfire through all speeds
8.8 Diagnosing ignition
system faults
8.8.1 Introduction
As with all systems, the six stages of fault-finding
should be followed.
1. Verify the fault.
2. Collect further information.
3. Evaluate the evidence.
4. Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
5. Rectify the problem.
6. Check all systems.
The procedure outlined in the next section is
related primarily to Stage 4 of the process. Table 8.3
lists some common symptoms of an ignition system
malfunction together with suggestions for the possible fault.
8.8.2 Testing procedure
Caution/Achtung/Attention – high voltages can
seriously damage your health!
The following procedure is generic and with a
little adaptation can be applied to any ignition system. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations
if in any doubt.
1. Check battery state of charge (at least 70%).
2. Hand and eye checks (all connections secure
and clean).
Lack of power
Runs on when switched
Pinking or knocking
under load
Damp ignition components
Spark plugs worn to excess
Ignition system open circuit
Spark plugs worn to excess
High resistance in ignition circuit
Ignition wiring connection
Ballast resistor open circuit
(older cars)
Incorrect plug gaps
Incorrect ignition timing
Ignition coil or distributor cap
Spark plugs worn to excess
Incorrect plugs or plug gaps
HT leads breaking down
Ignition timing incorrect
HT components tracking
Incorrect ignition timing
Ignition timing incorrect
Carbon build-up in engine
Ignition timing incorrect
Ignition system electronic fault
Knock sensor not working
3. Check supply to ignition coil (within 0.5 V of
4. Spark from coil via known good HT lead
(jumps about 10 mm, but do not try more).
5. If good spark then check HT system for tracking and open circuits. Check plug condition
(leads should be a maximum resistance of
about 30 k/m and per lead) – stop here in this
6. If no spark, or it will only jump a short distance, continue with this procedure (colour of
spark is not relevant).
7. Check continuity of coil windings (primary
0.5–3 , secondary several k.
8. Supply and earth to ‘module’ (12 V minimum
supply, earth drop 0.5 V maximum).
9. Supply to pulse generator if appropriate
(10–12 V).
10. Output of pulse generator (inductive about 1 V
AC when cranking, Hall type switches 0 V to
8 V DC).
11. Continuity of LT wires (0–0.1 ).
12. Replace ‘module’ but only if all tests above are
8.8.3 DIS diagnostics
The DIS system is very reliable due to the lack of
any moving parts. Some problems, however, can be
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 8.44 Assessing spark plug condition
experienced when trying to examine HT oscilloscope patterns due to the lack of a king lead. This
can often be overcome with a special adapter but it
is still necessary to move the sensing clip to each
lead in turn.
The DIS coil can be tested with an ohmmeter.
The resistance of each primary winding should be
0.5 and the secondary windings between 11 and
16 k. The coil will produce in excess of 37 kV in
an open circuit condition.
The plug leads have integral retaining clips to prevent water ingress and vibration problems. The maximum resistance for the HT leads is 30 k per lead.
No service adjustments are possible with this
system, with the exception of octane adjustment on
some models. This involves connecting two pins
together on the module for normal operation, or
earthing one pin or the other to change to a different fuel. The actual procedure must be checked
with the manufacturer for each particular model.
8.8.4 Spark plug diagnostics
Examination of the spark plugs is a good way of
assessing engine and associated systems condition.
Figure 8.44 is a useful guide as provided by NGK
8.9 Advanced ignition
by a number of factors. The HT produced is mainly
dependent on this value of primary current. The
rate of increase of primary current is vital because
this determines the value of current when the circuit is ‘broken’ in order to produce the collapse of
the magnetic field.
If the electrical constants of the primary ignition
system are known it is possible to calculate the
instantaneous primary current. This requires the
exponential equation:
1 eRt/L
where i instantaneous primary current, R total
primary resistance, L inductance of primary
winding, t time the current has been flowing,
e base of natural logs.
Some typical values for comparison are given in
Table 8.4
Using, as an example, a four-cylinder engine
running at 3000 rev/min, 6000 sparks per minute
are required (four sparks during the two revolutions
to complete the four-stroke cycle). This equates to
6000/60 or 100 sparks per second. At this rate each
spark must be produced and used in 10 ms.
Taking a typical dwell period of say 60%, the
time t, at 3000 rev/min on a four-cylinder engine, is
6 ms. At 6000 rev/min, t will be 3 ms. Employing
the exponential equation above, the instantaneous
current for each system is:
8.9.1 Ignition coil performance
The instantaneous value of the primary current in the
inductive circuit of the ignition coil is determined
Conventional system
Electronic system
3000 rev/min
6000 rev/min
3.2 A
10.9 A
2.4 A
7.3 A
Ignition systems
Table 8.4 Comparison of conventional and electronic ignitions
Conventional ignition
Electronic ignition
R 3–4 V 14 V
L 10 mH
R 1
V 14 V
L 4 mH
This gives a clear indication of how the energy
stored in the coil is much increased by the use of
low resistance and low inductance ignition coils. It
is important to note that the higher current flowing
in the electronic system would have been too much
for the conventional contact breakers.
The energy stored in the magnetic field of the
ignition coil is calculated as shown:
L i2
where E energy, L inductance of primary
winding, and i instantaneous primary current.
The stored energy of the electronic system at
6000 rev/min is 110 mJ; the energy in the conventional system is 30 mJ. This clearly shows the
advantage of electronic ignition as the spark energy
is directly related to the energy stored in the coil.
8.10 New developments
in ignition systems
5. Make a sketch to show the difference between
a hot and cold spark plug.
6. Describe what is meant by ‘mutual induction’
in the ignition coil.
7. Explain the term ‘constant energy’ in relation
to an ignition system.
8. Using a programmed ignition system fitted
with a knock sensor as the example, explain
why knock control is described as closed loop.
9. Make a clearly labelled sketch to show the
operation of an inductive pulse generator.
10. List all the main components of a basic (not
ESA) electronic ignition system and state the
purpose of each component.
8.11.2 Assignment
Draw an 8 8 look-up table (grid) for a digital
ignition system. The horizontal axis should represent engine speed from zero to 5000 rev/min, and
the vertical axis engine load from zero to 100%.
Fill in all the boxes with realistic figures and
explain why you have chosen these figures. You
should explain clearly the trends and not each individual figure.
Download the ‘Automotive Technology –
Electronics’ simulation program from my web site
and see if your figures agree with those in the program. Discuss reasons why they may differ.
8.10.1 Engine management
8.11.3 Multiple choice questions
Most serious developments in ignition are now
linked with the full control of all engine functions.
This means that the ignition system per se is not
likely to develop further in its own right. Ignition
timing, however, is being used to a greater extent
for controlling idle speed, traction control and
automatic gearbox surge control.
We have come a long way since ‘hot tube’
The ignition component that steps up voltage is the:
1. capacitor
2. condenser
3. coil
4. king lead
8.11 Self-assessment
8.11.1 Questions
1. Describe the purpose of an ignition system.
2. State five advantages of electronic ignition
compared with the contact breaker system.
3. Draw the circuit of a programmed ignition system and clearly label each part.
4. Explain what is meant by ignition timing and
why certain conditions require it to be advanced
or retarded.
Setting spark plug gaps too wide will cause running
problems because the firing voltage will:
1. increase and the spark duration will decrease
2. increase and the spark duration will increase
3. decrease and the spark duration will increase
4. decrease and the spark duration will decrease
A spark is created as the coil primary winding is:
1. switched on
2. switched off
3. charged
4. stabilized
Cruising conditions require the ignition timing to be:
1. retarded
2. reversed
3. allocated
4. advanced
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
An inductive pulse generator in an ignition distributor will NOT produce an output voltage when the
engine is:
1. running
2. cranking
3. stopped
4. over revving
With the ignition switched on, a Hall effect pulse
generator in an ignition distributor will produce an
output voltage when the:
1. engine is running
2. engine is cranking
3. Hall chip is shielded
4. Hall chip is not shielded
Technician A says a pulse shaper is used to shape
the AC output from a pulse generator to a square
wave pattern. Technician B says a Schmitt trigger is
used to shape the AC output from a pulse generator
to a square wave pattern. Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
A vehicle fitted with a system known as ‘Limp
Home’ means that if a fault develops:
1. and you are in an ambulance, it is what you have
to do if it breaks down …
2. the engine management system switches to just
enough engine cylinders to keep you going
3. the driver will not even notice and the vehicle
will keep going as normal
4. the engine management system switches in preset values to keep the vehicle driveable
A ‘hot running’ engine must be fitted with a:
1. hot spark plug
2. cold spark plug
3. taper seat spark plug
4. washer seat spark plug
Changes in pressure to a MAP sensor are converted
in many cases to a:
1. variable voltage output
2. variable current output
3. steady state reading
4. steady waveform reading
Electronic fuel control
9.1 Combustion
9.1.1 Introduction
The process of combustion in spark and compression ignition engines is best considered for petrol
and diesel engines in turn. The knowledge of the
more practical aspects of combustion has been
gained after years of research and is by no means
complete even now. For a complete picture of the
factors involved, further reference should be made
to appropriate sources. However, the combustion
section here will give enough details to allow considered opinion about the design and operation of
electronic fuel control systems.
9.1.2 Spark ignition engine
combustion process
A simplified description of the combustion process
within the cylinder of a spark ignition engine is as
follows. A single high intensity spark of high temperature passes between the electrodes of the spark
plug leaving behind it a thin thread of flame. From
this thin thread combustion spreads to the envelope
of mixture immediately surrounding it at a rate that
depends mainly on the flame front temperature,
but also, to a lesser degree, on the temperature and
density of the surrounding envelope.
In this way, a bubble of flame is built up that
spreads radially outwards until the whole mass of
mixture is burning. The bubble contains the highly
heated products of combustion, while ahead of it,
and being compressed by it, lies the still unburnt
If the cylinder contents were at rest this bubble
would be unbroken, but with the air turbulence
normally present within the cylinder, the filament
of flame is broken up into a ragged front, which
increases its area and greatly increases the speed
of advance. While the rate of advance depends on
the degree of turbulence, the direction is little
affected, unless some definite swirl is imposed on
the system. The combustion can be considered in
two stages.
1. Growth of a self-propagating flame.
2. Spread through the combustion chamber.
The first process is chemical and depends on the
nature of the fuel, the temperature and pressure at the
time and the speed at which the fuel will oxidize or
burn. Shown in Figure 9.1, it appears as the interval
from the spark (A) to the time when an increase in
pressure due to combustion can first be detected (B).
This ignition delay period can be clearly demonstrated. If fuel is burned at constant volume, having
been compressed to a self-ignition temperature, the
pressure–time relationship is as shown in Figure 9.2.
Figure 9.1 The speed at which fuel will oxidize or burn
Figure 9.2 Fuel is burned at constant volume having been
compressed to a self-ignition temperature. The pressure–time
relationship is shown
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
The time interval occurs with all fuels but may be
reduced with an increase of compression temperature. A similar result can be demonstrated, enabling
the effect of mixture strength on ignition delay to be
Returning to Figure 9.1, with the combustion
under way, the pressure rises within the engine cylinder from (B) to (C), very rapidly approaching the
‘constant volume’ process of the four-stroke cycle.
While (C) represents the peak cylinder pressure and
the completion of flame travel, all available heat
has not been liberated due to re-association, and
what can be referred to as after-burning continues
throughout the expansion stroke.
9.1.3 Range and rate of burning
The range and rate of burning can be summarized
by reference to the following graphs.
Figure 9.3 shows the approximate relation
between flame temperature and the time from spark
to propagation of flame for a hydrocarbon fuel.
Figure 9.4 shows the relation between the flame
temperature and the mixture strength.
Figure 9.5 shows the relationship between mixture strength and rate of burning.
These graphs show that the minimum delay time
(A to B) is about 0.2 ms with the mixture slightly rich.
While the second stage (B to C) is roughly
dependent upon the degree of the turbulence (and
on the engine speed), the initial delay necessitates
ignition advance as the engine speed increases.
Figure 9.6 shows the effects of incorrect ignition timing. As the ignition is advanced there is an
Figure 9.4 Relationship between flame temperature and
mixture strength
Figure 9.5 Relationship between mixture strength and rate of
Figure 9.3 Approximated relationship between flame temperature and the time from spark to propagation of flame for a
hydrocarbon fuel
Figure 9.6 Effects of faulty ignition timing on fuel burn
Electronic fuel control
increase in firing pressure (or maximum cylinder
pressure) generally accompanied by a reduction
in exhaust temperature. The effect of increasing
the range of the mixture strength speeds the whole
process up and thus increases the tendency to
9.1.4 Detonation
The detonation phenomenon is the limiting factor
on the output and efficiency of the spark ignition
engine. The mechanism of detonation is the setting
up within the engine cylinder of a pressure wave
travelling at such velocity as, by its impact against
the cylinder walls, to set them in vibration, and thus
produce a high pitched ‘ping’. When the spark
ignites a combustible mixture of the fuel and air, a
small nucleus of flame builds up, slowly at first but
accelerating rapidly. As the flame front advances
it compresses the remaining unburned mixture
ahead of it. The temperature of the unburned mixture is raised by compression and radiation from
the advancing flame until the remaining charge
ignites spontaneously. The detonation pressure
wave passes through the burning mixture at a very
high velocity and the cylinder walls emit the
ringing knock.
Detonation is seldom dangerous in small engines
since it is usually avoided at the first warning by easing the load, but at higher speeds, where the noise
level is high, the characteristic noise can and often
does go undetected. It can be extremely dangerous,
prompting pre-ignition and possibly the complete
destruction of the engine.
High compression temperature and pressure tend
to promote detonation. In addition, the ability of the
unburnt mixture to absorb or get rid of the heat radiated to it by the advancing flame front is also important. The latent enthalpy of the mixture and the
design of the combustion chamber affect this ability.
The latter must be arranged for adequate cooling of
the unburnt mixture by placing it near a well-cooled
feature such as an inlet valve.
The length of flame travel should be kept
as short as possible by careful positioning of the
point of ignition. Other factors include the time
(hence the ignition timing), since the reaction in the
unburnt mixture must take some time to develop;
the degree of turbulence (in general, higher turbulence tends to reduce detonation effects); and,
most importantly, the tendency of the fuel itself to
Some fuels behave better in this respect. Fuel
can be treated by additives (e.g. tetra-ethyl lead) to
improve performance. However, this aggravates an
already difficult pollution problem. A fuel with good
anti-knock properties is iso-octane, and a fuel that is
susceptible to detonation is normal heptane.
To obtain the octane number or the anti-knock
ratings of a particular blend of fuel, a test is carried
out on an engine run under carefully monitored conditions, and the onset of detonation is compared
with those values obtained from various mixtures of
iso-octane and normal heptane. If the performance
of the fuel is identical to, for example, a mixture of
90% iso-octane and 10% heptane, then the fuel is
said to have an octane rating of 90.
Mixing water, or methanol and water, with the
fuel can reduce detonation. A mainly alcohol-based
fuel, which enables the water to be held in solution,
is also helpful so that better use can be made of the
latent enthalpy of the water.
9.1.5 Pre-ignition
Evidence of the presence of pre-ignition is not so
apparent at the onset as detonation, but the results are
far more serious. There is no characteristic ‘ping’. In
fact, if audible at all, it appears as a dull thud. Since
it is not immediately noticeable, its effects are often
allowed to take a serious toll on the engine. The
process of combustion is not affected to any extent,
but a serious factor is that control of ignition timing
can be lost.
Pre-ignition can occur at the time of the spark
with no visible effect. More seriously, the ‘autoignition’ may creep earlier in the cycle. The danger
of pre-ignition lies not so much in development of
high pressures but in the very great increase in heat
flow to the piston and cylinder walls. The maximum
pressure does not, in fact, increase appreciably
although it may occur a little early.
In a single-cylinder engine, the process is
not dangerous since the reduction usually causes
the engine to stall. In a multiple-cylinder engine the
remaining cylinders (if only one is initially affected),
will carry on at full power and speed, dragging the
pre-igniting cylinder after them. The intense heat
flow in the affected cylinder can result in piston
seizure followed by the breaking up of the piston
with catastrophic results to the whole engine.
Pre-ignition is often initiated by some form of hot
spot, perhaps red-hot carbon or some poorly cooled
feature of combustion space. In some cases, if the
incorrect spark plug is used, over-heated electrodes
are responsible, but often detonation is the prime
cause. The detonation wave scours the cylinder
walls of residual gases present in a film on the surface with the result that the prime source of resistance to heat flow is removed and a great release of
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
heat occurs. Any weaknesses in the cooling system
are tested and any hot spots formed quickly give
rise to pre-ignition.
The compression ratio should be 9 : 1 for normal
use, 11 or 12 : 1 for higher performance.
The plug or plugs should be placed to minimize
the length of flame travel. They should not be in
pockets or otherwise shrouded since this reduces
effective cooling and also increases the tendency
toward cyclical variations.
Experimental evidence shows a considerable variation in pressure during successive expansion stokes.
This variation increases, as the mixture becomes too
weak or too rich. Lighter loads and lower compression ratios also aggravate the process. While the size
and position of the point of maximum pressure
changes, the mean effective pressure and engine
output is largely unaffected.
Specific fuel consumption
To avoid the onset of detonation and pre-ignition, a
careful layout of the valves and spark plugs is
essential. Smaller engines, for automotive use, are
firmly tied to the poppet valve. This, together with
the restriction of space involved with high compression ratios, presents the designer with interesting
The combustion chamber should be designed
bearing in mind the following factors:
Brake mean effective pressure
Figure 9.7 Effect of varying mixture strength while maintaining throttle, engine speed and ignition timing constant
Increased throttle opening
Specific fuel consumption
9.1.6 Combustion chamber
9.1.7 Stratification of cylinder
A very weak mixture is difficult to ignite but has
great potential for reducing emissions and improving economy. One technique to get around the problem of igniting weak mixtures is stratification.
It is found that if the mixture strength is
increased near the plug and weakened in the main
combustion chamber an overall reduction in mixture strength results, but with a corresponding
increase in thermal efficiency. To achieve this,
petrol injection is used – stratification being very
difficult with a conventional carburation system.
A novel approach to this technique is direct mixture
injection, which, it is claimed, can allow a petrol
engine to run with air-to-fuel ratios in the region of
150 : 1. This is discussed in a later section. The gasoline direct injection (GDi) engine from Mitsubishi
is interesting in this area and is again discussed in a
later section.
Brake mean effective pressure
Figure 9.8 Effect of operating at part throttle with varying
mixture strength
9.1.8 Mixture strength and
The effect of varying the mixture strength while
maintaining the throttle position, engine speed and
ignition timing constant is shown in Figure 9.7.
Figure 9.8 shows the effect of operating at part
throttle with varying mixture strength. The chemically correct mixture of approximately 14.7 : 1 lies
between the ratio that provides maximum power
(12 : 1), and minimum consumption (16 : 1). The
stoichiometric ratio of 14.7 : 1 is known as a lambda
value of one.
Electronic fuel control
Figure 9.9 Comparison of engine power output and fuel consumption, with changes in air–fuel ratio
Figure 9.9 shows a comparison between engine
power output and fuel consumption with changes in
air–fuel ratio.
9.1.9 Compression ignition
The process of combustion in the compression ignition engine differs from that in a spark ignition
engine. In this case the fuel is injected in a liquid state,
into a highly compressed, high-temperature air supply
in the engine cylinder. Each minute droplet is quickly
surrounded by an envelope of its own vapour as it
enters the highly heated air. This vapour, after a certain time, becomes inflamed on the surface. A crosssection of any one droplet would reveal a central core
of liquid, a thin surrounding film of vapour, with an
outer layer of flame. This sequence of vaporization
and burning persists as long as combustion continues.
The process of combustion (oxidization of the
hydrocarbon fuel), is in itself a lengthy process, but
one that may be accelerated artificially by providing
the most suitable conditions. The oxidization of the
fuel will proceed in air at normal atmospheric temperatures, but it will be greatly accelerated if the
temperature is raised. It will take years at 20 ° C, a
few days at 200 ° C and just a few minutes at 250 ° C.
In these cases, the rate of temperature rise due to oxidization is less than the rate at which the heat is being
lost due to convection and radiation. Ultimately, as
the temperature is raised, a critical stage is reached
where heat is being generated by oxidization at a
greater rate than it is being dissipated.
The temperature then proceeds to rise automatically. This, in turn, speeds up the oxidization process
and with it the release of heat. Events now take place
very rapidly, a flame is established and ignition takes
place. The temperature at which this critical change
takes place is usually termed the self-ignition temperature of the fuel. This, however, depends on many
factors such as pressure, time and the ability to
transmit heat from the initial oxidization.
We will now look at the injection of the fuel as
a droplet into the heated combustion chamber.
At a temperature well above the ignition point, the
extreme outer surface of the droplet immediately
starts to evaporate, surrounding the core with a thin
film of vapour. This involves a supply of heat from
the air surrounding the droplet in order to supply
the latent enthalpy of evaporation. This supply is
maintained by continuing to draw on the main
supply of heat from the mass of hot air.
Ignition can and will occur on the vapour envelope even with the core of the droplet still liquid
and relatively cold. Once the flame is established,
the combustion proceeds at a more rapid rate. This
causes a delay period, after injection commences
and before ignition takes place. The delay period
therefore depends on:
Excess of air temperature over and above the
self-ignition temperature of the fuel.
Air pressure, both from the point of view of the
supply of oxygen and improved heat transfer
between the hot air and cold fuel.
Once the delay period is over, the rate at which each
flaming droplet can find fresh oxygen to replenish
its consumption controls the rate of further burning. The relative velocity of the droplet to the surrounding air is thus of considerable importance. In
the compression ignition engine, the fuel is injected
over a period of perhaps 40–50 ° of crank angle.
This means that the oxygen supply is absorbed by
the fuel first injected, with a possible starvation of
the last fuel injected.
This necessitates a degree of turbulence of the
air so that the burnt gases are scavenged from the
injector zone and fresh air is brought into contact
with the fuel. It is clear that the turbulence should
be orderly and not disorganized, as in a spark ignition engine, where it is only necessary in order to
break up the flame front.
In a compression ignition engine the combustion can be regarded as occurring in three distinct
phases as shown in Figure 9.10.
Delay period.
Rapid pressure rise.
After-burning, i.e. the fuel is burning as it leaves
the injector.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
high compression ratios are a disadvantage mechanically and also inhibit the design of the combustion
chamber, particularly in small engines where the
bumping clearance consumes a large proportion of
the clearance volume.
9.1.10 Combustion chamber
design – diesel engine
The combustion chamber must be designed to:
Figure 9.10 Phases of diesel combustion
The longer the delay, the greater and more rapid the
pressure rise since more fuel will be present in the
cylinder before the rate of burning comes under
direct control of the rate of injection. The aim
should be to reduce the delay as much as possible,
both for the sake of smooth running, the avoidance
of knock and also to maintain control over the pressure change. There is, however, a lower limit to the
delay since, without delay, all the droplets would
burn as they leave the nozzle. This would make it
almost impossible to provide enough combustion
air within the concentrated spray and the delay
period also has its use in providing time for the
proper distribution of the fuel. The delay period
therefore depends on:
The pressure and temperature of the air.
The cetane rating of the fuel.
The volatility and latent enthalpy of the fuel.
The droplet size.
Controlled turbulence.
The effect of droplet size is important, as the rate of
droplet burning depends primarily on the rate at
which oxygen becomes available. It is, however,
vital for the droplet to penetrate some distance from
the nozzle around which burning will later become
concentrated. To do this, the size of the droplets
must be large enough to obtain sufficient momentum at injection. On the other hand, the smaller the
droplet the greater the relative surface area exposed
and the shorter the delay period. A compromise
between these two effects is clearly necessary.
With high compression ratios (15 : 1 and above)
the temperature and pressure are raised so that the
delay is reduced, which is an advantage. However,
Give the necessary compression ratio.
Provide the necessary turbulence.
Position for correct and optimum operation of
the valves and injector.
These criteria have effects that are interrelated.
Turbulence is normally obtained at the expense of
volumetric efficiency. Masked inlet valves (which
are mechanically undesirable) or ‘tangent’ directional ports restrict the air flow and therefore are
restrictive to high-speed engines.
To assist in breathing, four or even six valves per
cylinder can be used. This arrangement has the
advantage of keeping the injector central, a desirable aim for direct injection engines. Large valves
and their associated high lift, in addition to providing mechanical problems often require heavy piston recesses, which disturb squish and orderly
movement of the air.
A hemispherical combustion chamber assists
with the area available for valves, at the expense of
using an offset injector. Pre-combustion chambers,
whether of the air cell or ‘combustion swirl’ type
have the general disadvantage of being prone to
metallurgical failure or at least are under some
stress since, as they are required to produce a ‘hot
spot’ to assist combustion, the temperature stresses
in this region are extremely high. There is no
unique solution and the resulting combustion
chamber is always a compromise.
9.1.11 Summary of combustion
Section 9.1 has looked at some of the issues of combustion, and is intended to provide a background to
some of the other sections in this book. The subject
is very dynamic and improvements are constantly
being made. Some of the key issues this chapter has
raised so far include points such as the time to burn
a fuel–air mixture, the effects of changes in mixture
strength and ignition timing, the consequences of
detonation and other design problems.
Accurate control of engine operating variables is
one of the keys to controlling the combustion
process. This is covered in other chapters.
Electronic fuel control
9.2 Engine fuelling and
exhaust emissions
9.2.1 Operating conditions
The ideal air–fuel ratio is about 14.7 : 1. This is the
theoretical amount of air required to burn the fuel
completely. It is given a ‘lambda ()’ value of 1.
actual air quantity ÷ theoretical air quantity
The air–fuel ratio is altered during the following
operating conditions of an engine to improve its performance, drivability, consumption and emissions.
Cold starting – a richer mixture is needed to
compensate for fuel condensation and improves
Load or acceleration – a richer mixture to improve
Cruise or light loads – a weaker mixture for
Overrun – very weak mixture (if any) to improve
emissions and economy.
The more accurately the air–fuel ratio is controlled
to cater for external conditions, then the better the
overall operation of the engine.
Figure 9.11 Theoretical results of burning a hydrocarbon fuel
and actual combustion results
9.2.2 Exhaust emissions
Figure 9.11 shows, first, the theoretical results of
burning a hydrocarbon fuel and, second, the actual
combustion results. The top part of the figure is
ideal but the lower part is the realistic result under
normal conditions. Note that this result is prior to
any further treatment, for example by a catalytic
Figure 9.12 shows the approximate percentages of
the various exhaust gas emissions. The volume of
pollutants is small but, because they are so poisonous,
they are undesirable and strong legislation now exists
to encourage their reduction. The actual values of
these emissions varies depending on engine design,
operating conditions, temperature and smooth running, to name just a few variables.
Table 9.1 lists the four main emissions that are
hazardous to health, together with a short description
of each.
9.2.3 Other sources of emissions
The main source of vehicle emissions is the exhaust,
but other areas of the vehicle must also come under
As well as sulphur in fuel, another area of contention between car manufacturers and oil companies
Figure 9.12 Composition of exhaust
is the question of who should bear the cost of
collecting fuel vapour at filling stations. The issue
of evaporative fuel emissions (EFEs) has become a
serious target for environmentalists. Approximately
10% of EFEs escape during refuelling.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 9.1 Main health hazard emissions
Carbon monoxide (CO)
This gas is very dangerous even in low concentrations. It has no smell or taste and is colourless.
When inhaled it combines in the body with the red blood cells, preventing them from carrying
oxygen. If absorbed by the body it can be fatal in a very short time.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
Oxides of nitrogen are colourless and odourless when they leave the engine but as soon as they
reach the atmosphere and mix with more oxygen, nitrogen oxides are formed.They are reddish
brown and have an acrid and pungent smell.These gases damage the body’s respiratory system
when inhaled.When combined with water vapour, nitric acid can be formed which is very
damaging to the windpipe and lungs. Nitrogen oxides are also a contributing factor to acid rain.
Hydrocarbons (HC)
A number of different hydrocarbons are emitted from an engine and are partly burnt or unburnt
fuel.When they mix with the atmosphere they can contribute to form smog. It is also believed
that hydrocarbons may be carcinogenic.
Particulate matter (PM)
This heading mainly covers lead and carbon. Lead was traditionally added to petrol to slow its
burning rate in order to reduce detonation. It is detrimental to health and is thought to cause
brain damage, especially in children. Lead will eventually be phased out as all new engines now
run on unleaded fuel. Particles of soot or carbon are more of a problem on diesel-fuelled
vehicles and these now have limits set by legislation.
Table 9.2 Fuel evaporation and crankcase emissions
Fuel evaporation from
the tank and system
Fuel evaporation causes hydrocarbons to be produced.The effect is greater as temperature
increases. A charcoal canister is the preferred method for reducing this problem.The fuel tank is
usually run at a pressure just under atmospheric by a connection to the intake manifold, drawing
the vapour through the charcoal canister.This must be controlled by the management system,
however, as even a 1% concentration of fuel vapour would shift the lambda value by 20%.This
is done by using a ‘purge valve’, which under some conditions is closed (full-load and idle, for
example) and can be progressively opened under other conditions.The system monitors the effect
through the use of the lambda sensor signal.
Crankcase fumes (blow by)
Hydrocarbons become concentrated in the crankcase mostly due to pressure blowing past the
piston rings.These gases must be conducted back into the combustion process.This usually
happens via the air intake system.This is described as positive crankcase ventilation.
In the US, the oil companies have won the battle.
All cars manufactured from the start of 1998 must
be fitted with 10 litre canisters filled with carbon
to catch and absorb the vapours. The outcome in
Europe is not certain and there is considerable debate
as to whether it should be the responsibility of the
oil companies to collect this vapour at the pump.
This still leaves the matter of preventing evaporation from the fuel line itself, another key problem
for car manufacturers. Technological advances in
design actually increase fuel evaporation from within
the fuelling system. This is because of the increasing
use of plastics, rather than metal, for manufacturing
fuel lines. Plastics allow petrol vapour to permeate
through into the atmosphere. The proximity of catalytic converters, which generate tremendous heat
to the fuel tank and the under-body shielding, contributes to making the fuel hotter and therefore
more liable to evaporate.
Table 9.2 describes this issue further and also
looks at crankcase emissions.
Evaporative emissions are measured in a ‘shed’!
This Sealed Housing for Evaporative Determination
(SHED) is used in two ways:
The vehicle with 40% of its maximum fuel is
warmed up (from about 14–28 ° C) in the shed
and the increased concentration of the hydrocarbons measured.
The vehicle is first warmed up over the normal
test cycle and then placed in the shed. The
increase in HC concentration is measured over
one hour.
9.2.4 Leaded and unleaded fuel
Tetra-ethyl lead was first added to petrol in the
1920s to slow down the rate of burning, improve
combustion and increase the octane rating of the
Electronic fuel control
fuel. All this at less cost than further refining by the
petrol companies.
The first real push for unleaded fuel was from
Los Angeles in California. To reduce this city’s
severe smog problem, the answer at the time seemed
to be to employ catalytic converters. However, if
leaded fuel is used, the ‘cat’ can be rendered inoperative. A further study showing that lead causes
brain damage in children sounded the death knell
for leaded fuel. This momentum spread worldwide
and still exists.
New evidence is now coming to light showing
that the additives used instead of lead were ending
up in the environment. The two main culprits are
benzene, which is strongly linked to leukaemia, and
MTBE, which poisons water and is very toxic to
almost all living things. This is potentially a far
worse problem than lead, which is now not thought
to be as bad as the initial reaction suggested.
It is important, however, to note that this is still
in the ‘discussion’ stage; further research is necessary for a fully reasoned conclusion. Note though
how any technological issue has far more to it than
first meets the eye.
Modern engines are now designed to run on
unleaded fuel, with one particular modification being
hardened valve seats. In Europe and other places,
leaded fuel has now been phased out completely.
This is a problem for owners of classic vehicles.
Many additives are available but these are not as
good as lead. Here is a list of comments I have
collated from a number of sources.
All engines with cast iron heads and no special
hardening of the exhaust valve seats will suffer
some damage running on unleaded. The extent
of the damage depends on the engine and on the
engine revs.
No petrol additives prevent valve seat recession
completely. Some are better than others but none
replace the action of lead.
The minimum critical level of lead in the fuel is
about 0.07 g Pb/l. Current levels in some leaded
fuel are 0.15 g Pb/l and so mixing alternate tanks
of leaded and unleaded is likely to be successful.
It is impossible to predict wear rates accurately
and often wear shows up predominantly in only
one cylinder.
Fitting hardened valve seats or performing
induction hardening on the valve seats is effective in engines where either of these processes
can be done.
Tests done by Rover appear to back up the theory that, although unleaded petrol does damage
all iron heads, the less spirited driver will not
Table 9.3 UK MOT regulations (introduced on 1 November
Vehicles first used
Before 1.8.1975
Visual check – excessive emissions only
On or after
Carbon monoxide – 4.5% maximum
Hydrocarbons – 1200 ppm maximum
On or after
Carbon monoxide – 3.5% maximum
Hydrocarbons – 1200 ppm maximum
On or after 1.8.94
(Minimum oil
temperature 60 ° C)
At idle 450–1500 rev/min:
Carbon monoxide – 0.5% maximum
At fast idle 2500–3000 rev/min:
Carbon monoxide – 0.3% maximum
Hydrocarbons – 200 ppm maximum
Lambda: 0.97–1.03
notice problems until a high mileage has been
covered on entirely lead-free fuel.
When unprotected engines are bench-tested on
unleaded fuel and then stripped down, damage
will always be evident. However, drivers seldom
complain of trouble running on unleaded, perhaps because they are not over-revving the
engine or are not covering high mileage.
I will leave you to make your own mind up about
these matters.
9.2.5 Exhaust emission
At the time of publication the current emission
regulations can be summarized by the following
tables: firstly, MOT regulations for UK vehicles and,
secondly, limits set for new vehicles produced in
or imported into the EU.
The tests are carried out with a warm engine at
the recommended idle speed. However, the hydrocarbon figure can also be checked at 1200 rev/min
if out of setting at idle speed. From 1 August 2001
a simplified emissions check was introduced and
this is carried out on vehicles prior to doing a full
test. If the vehicle meets the requirements during
the basic emission test (BET) then it passes. There
will be no need to measure the engine temperature
using the analyser probe, but the vehicle must be at
normal running temperature. However, engine rpm
will still be measured. If the vehicle fails the BET
then the full test is applied. The BET standards are
as follows:
Fast idle 2500–3000 rev/min: CO no more
than 0.3% and HC no more than 200 parts per
million, and Lambda between 0.97 and 1.03.
Normal idle 450–1500 rev/min: CO no more
than 0.5%.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 9.4 EU regulations for new vehicles
Vehicle speed km/h
Standard (g/km)
Stage 1 1992/1993
To 1994 diesel DI
Stage 2 1995/1996/1997
To 1999 diesel DI
Stage 3 1999/2000/2001
Stage 4 2005
Stage 5 2010 estimates
The full or advanced emission test is called a CAT
test for some reason – it does not refer to the ‘cat’!
Advanced emission tests must be carried out on
fully warmed up engines, the oil temperature must
be above 80 ° C and the idle speed must be to manufacturer’s specifications. Both engine speed and oil
temperature are measured using equipment attached
to the gas analyser.
Diesel engined vehicles are also tested for particulate emissions at idle and full load. However, the
test station will need to be satisfied that the engine
is in good order and the driver is asked to verify this;
for example, that cam belts have been changed at the
required intervals. If not, the test can be refused or if
the engine sounds rough then the emission part of
the test may be refused. The oil temperature should
exceed 80 ° C before the test can begin.
Vehicles first used prior to 1 August 1979 must
not emit dense blue or clearly visible black smoke
for a period of 5 seconds at idle. Dense blue or
black smoke under acceleration which would
obscure the view of other road users, will also fail
(acceleration is from tick-over to 2500 rpm or
half engine maximum speed, whichever is lower
for pre-1979 vehicles).
Vehicles first used on or after 1 August 1979 must
meet the limits prescribed when tested with a
properly calibrated smoke meter. In addition to the
metered requirements, they must not emit excessive smoke or vapour of any colour to an extent
likely to obscure the vision of other road users.
Once the engine is at the proper temperature, the
revs are raised to around 2500 rev/min, or half
Figure 9.13 EC test cycle
the engine’s maximum speed if this is lower, and
held there for 20 seconds. This purges the system.
A check is then carried out on the operation of the
speed governor by slowly raising the engine speed
to maximum. A calibrated smoke meter is connected
and the engine accelerated three times, prompted
each time by the smoke meter. If the vehicle meets
the required level after these three accelerations it
passes the emission test.
The way in which the accelerator pedal is
depressed is important. It needs to be pressed quickly
and continuously, but not violently. The full fuel
position should be reached within 1 second. This is
designed to reduce the possibility of engine damage
and keep the test conditions consistent.
European regulations are applicable to new
vehicles. The current and proposed European standards are summarized in Table 9.4.
The stage 1 and 2 directives have served to ensure
that all cars are required to be fitted with a three-way
catalytic converter to meet the standards. Stage 3
and 4 proposals require further technology in all areas
of engine control. Manufacturers are working hard to
introduce these measures. The present EEC test
cycle is shown; however, this is subject to development and change. The soak, or original, temperature
of the vehicle is currently 20–30 ° C, and an engine
idle time of 40 s is not included in the test from stage
3 onwards (Figure 9.13).
9.3 Electronic control of
9.3.1 Basic carburation
Figure 9.14 shows a simple fixed choke carburettor,
in order to describe the principles of operation of
this device. The float and needle valve assembly
ensure a constant level of petrol in the float chamber. The Venturi causes an increase in air speed and
hence a drop in pressure in the area of the outlet.
The main jet regulates how much fuel can be forced
Electronic fuel control
Figure 9.14 Simple fixed choke carburettor
Figure 9.16 Variable Venturi carburettor
9.3.2 Areas of control
Figure 9.15 Fuel forced into the air stream does not linearly
follow the increase in air quantity with a simple fixed choke
into this intake air stream by the higher pressure
now apparent in the float chamber. The basic principle is that as more air is forced into the engine
then more fuel will be mixed into the air stream.
Figure 9.15 shows the problem with this very
simple system; the amount of fuel forced into the
air stream does not linearly follow the increase in
air quantity. This means further compensation fuel
and air jets are required to meet all operating
Figure 9.16 shows a variable Venturi carburettor,
which keeps the air pressure in the Venturi constant,
and uses a tapered needle to control the amount
of fuel.
One version of the variable Venturi carburettor
(Figure 9.17) is used with electronic control. In
general, electronic control of a carburettor is used
in the following areas.
Idle speed
Controlled by a stepper motor to prevent stalling
but still allow a very low idle speed to improve
economy and reduce emissions. Idle speed may
also be changed in response to a signal from an
automatic gearbox to prevent either the engine from
stalling or the car from trying to creep.
Fast idle
The same stepper motor as above controls fast idle
in response to a signal from the engine temperature
sensor during the warm up period.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
system to be very closely matched to the requirements of the engine. This matching process is carried
out during development on test beds and dynamometers, as well as development in the car. The ideal
operating data for a large number of engine operating conditions are stored in a read only memory in
the ECU. Close control of the fuel quantity injected
allows the optimum setting for mixture strength
when all operating factors are taken into account
(see the air–fuel ratio section).
Further advantages of electronic fuel injection
control are that overrun cut off can easily be implemented, fuel can be cut at the engine’s rpm limit and
information on fuel used can be supplied to a trip
Fuel injection systems can be classified into two
main categories:
Figure 9.17 HIF variable Venturi carburettor with electronic
control components
Single-point injection – see Figure 9.18.
Multipoint injection – see Figure 9.19.
Both of these systems are discussed in more detail
in later sections of this chapter.
Choke (warm up enrichment)
A rotary choke or some other form of valve or
flap operates the choke mechanism depending
on engine and ambient temperature conditions.
Overrun fuel cut off
A small solenoid operated valve or similar cuts off
the fuel under particular conditions. These are often
that the engine temperature is above a set level,
the engine speed is above a set level and that the
accelerator pedal is in the off position.
The main control of the air–fuel ratio is a function of the mechanical design and is very difficult
to control by electrical means. Some systems have
used electronic control of a needle and jet but this
did not prove to be very popular.
9.4 Fuel injection
9.4.1 Advantages of fuel injection
The major advantage of any type of fuel injection
system is accurate control of the fuel quantity
injected into the engine. The basic principle of fuel
injection is that if petrol is supplied to an injector
(electrically controlled valve), at a constant differential pressure, then the amount of fuel injected will
be directly proportional to the injector open time.
Most systems are now electronically controlled
even if containing some mechanical metering components. This allows the operation of the injection
9.4.2 System overview
Figure 9.20 shows a typical control layout for a fuel
injection system. Depending on the sophistication
of the system, idle speed and idle mixture adjustment can be either mechanically or electronically
Figure 9.21 shows a block diagram of inputs and
outputs common to most fuel injection systems.
Note that the two most important input sensors to
the system are speed and load. The basic fuelling
requirement is determined from these inputs in a
similar way to the determination of ignition timing,
as described in a previous section.
A three-dimensional cartographic map, shown
in Figure 9.22, is used to represent how the information on an engine’s fuelling requirements is
stored. This information forms part of a read only
memory (ROM) chip in the ECU. When the ECU
has determined the look-up value of the fuel required
(injector open time), corrections to this figure can
be added for battery voltage, temperature, throttle
change or position and fuel cut off.
Idle speed and fast idle are also generally controlled by the ECU and a suitable actuator. It is also
possible to have a form of closed loop control with
electronic fuel injection. This involves a lambda
sensor to monitor exhaust gas oxygen content. This
allows very accurate control of the mixture strength,
as the oxygen content of the exhaust is proportional
to the air–fuel ratio. The signal from the lambda
sensor is used to adjust the injector open time.
Electronic fuel control
Figure 9.18 Fuel injection, singlepoint
Figure 9.19 Fuel injection, multipoint
Figure 9.20 Typical control layout
for a fuel injection system
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 9.23 is a flow chart showing one way in
which the information from the sensors could be processed to determine the best injector open duration
as well as control of engine idle speed.
9.4.3 Components of a fuel
injection system
The following parts with some additions, are typical of the Bosch ‘L’ Jetronic systems. These components are only briefly discussed, as most are
included in other sections in more detail.
Flap type air flow sensor
(Figure 9.24)
A Bosch vane-type sensor is shown which moves
due to the air being forced into the engine. The
information provided to the ECU is air quantity and
engine load.
Engine speed sensor
Most injection systems, which are not combined
directly with the ignition, take a signal from the coil
negative terminal. This provides speed data but also
engine position to some extent. A resistor in series
is often used to prevent high voltage surges reaching the ECU.
Temperature sensor (Figure 9.25)
A simple thermistor provides engine coolant temperature information.
Throttle position sensor
(Figure 9.26)
Various sensors are shown consisting of the twoswitch types, which only provide information that
the throttle is at idle, full load or anywhere else in
between; and potentiometer types, which give more
detailed information.
Lambda sensor (Figure 9.27)
This device provides information to the ECU on
exhaust gas oxygen content. From this information,
corrections can be applied to ensure the engine is
kept at or very near to stoichiometry. Also shown in
this figure is a combustion chamber pressure sensor.
Idle or fast idle control actuator
(Figure 9.28)
Figure 9.21 Block diagram of inputs and outputs common to
most fuel injection systems
Bimetal or stepper motor actuators are used but the
one shown is a pulsed actuator. The air that it allows
through is set by its open/close ratio.
Figure 9.22 Cartographic map used to
represent how the information on an engine’s
fuelling requirements are stored
Electronic fuel control
Fuel injector(s) (Figure 9.29)
Injector resistors
Two types are shown – the pintle and disc injectors.
They are simple solenoid-operated valves designed
to operate very quickly and produce a finely
atomized spray pattern.
These resistors were used on some systems when
the injector coil resistance was very low. A lower
inductive reactance in the circuit allows faster operation of the injectors. Most systems now limit
injector maximum current in the ECU in much the
same way as for low resistance ignition on coils.
Fuel pump (Figure 9.30)
The pump ensures a constant supply of fuel to the
fuel rail. The volume in the rail acts as a swamp to
prevent pressure fluctuations as the injectors operate. The pump must be able to maintain a pressure
of about 3 bar.
Fuel pressure regulator
(Figure 9.31)
This device ensures a constant differential pressure
across the injectors. It is a mechanical device and
has a connection to the inlet manifold.
Cold start injector and thermotime switch (Figure 9.32)
An extra injector was used on earlier systems as a
form of choke. This worked in conjunction with the
thermo-time switch to control the amount of cold
enrichment. Both engine temperature and a heating
winding heat it. This technique has been replaced on
newer systems, which enrich the mixture by increasing the number of injector pulses or the pulse length.
Combination relay (Figure 9.33)
This takes many forms on different systems but is
basically two relays, one to control the fuel pump
and one to power the rest of the injection system.
The relay is often controlled by the ECU or will only
operate when ignition pulses are sensed as a safety
feature. This will only allow the fuel pump to operate when the engine is being cranked or is running.
Electronic control unit (Figure 9.34)
Earlier ECUs were analogue in operation. All
ECUs now in use employ digital processing.
9.4.4 Sequential multipoint
Figure 9.23 Fuel and idle speed flow diagram
All of the systems discussed previously either inject
the fuel in continuous pulses, as in the single-point
system, or all of the multipoint injectors fire at the
same time, injecting half of the required fuel.
A sequential injection system injects fuel on the
induction stroke of each cylinder in the engine firing
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 9.24 Air flow meter
comparable to carburation techniques on price but
superior in performance.
9.5 Diesel fuel injection
9.5.1 Introduction to diesel fuel
Figure 9.25 Coolant temperature sensor
order. This system, while more complicated, allows
the stratification of the cylinder charge to be controlled to some extent, allowing an overall weaker
charge. Sequential injection is normally incorporated
with full engine management, which is discussed further in Chapter 10. Figure 9.35 shows a comparison
between normal and sequential injection.
9.4.5 Summary
The developments of fuel injection in general, and
the reduced complexity of single-point systems
in particular, have now started to make the carburettor obsolete. As emission regulations continue
to become more stringent, manufacturers are being
forced into using fuel injection, even on lower
priced models. This larger market will, in turn,
pull the price of the systems down, making them
The basic principle of the four-stroke diesel engine is
very similar to the petrol system. The main difference is that the mixture formation takes place in the
cylinder combustion chamber as the fuel is injected
under very high pressure. The timing and quantity of
the fuel injected is important from the usual viewpoints of performance, economy and emissions.
Fuel is metered into the combustion chamber by
way of a high pressure pump connected to injectors
via heavy duty pipes. When the fuel is injected it
mixes with the air in the cylinder and will selfignite at about 800 ° C. See the section on diesel
combustion for further details. The mixture formation in the cylinder is influenced by the following
Start of delivery and start of
injection (timing)
The timing of a diesel fuel injection pump to an
engine is usually done using start of delivery as the
reference mark. The actual start of injection, in
other words when fuel starts to leave the injector, is
slightly later than start of delivery, as this is influenced by the compression ratio of the engine, the
compressibility of the fuel and the length of the
delivery pipes. This timing increases the production
of carbon particles (soot) if too early, and increases
the hydrocarbon emissions if too late.
Electronic fuel control
Full load
Idle contact
Throttle switch
Throttle potentiometer
Throttle shaft
Figure 9.26 Throttle
Figure 9.27 Lambda sensor
Spray duration and rate of discharge
(fuel quantity)
Figure 9.28 Rotary idle actuator
The duration of the injection is expressed in
degrees of crankshaft rotation in milliseconds. This
clearly influences fuel quantity but the rate of discharge is also important. This rate is not constant
due to the mechanical characteristics of the injection pump.
Emissions of soot are greatly reduced by higher
pressure injection.
Injection pressure
Pressure of injection will affect the quantity of fuel,
but the most important issue here is the effect on
atomization. At higher pressures, the fuel will
atomize into smaller droplets with a corresponding
improvement in the burn quality. Indirect injection
systems use pressures up to about 350 bar, while
direct injection systems can be up to about 1000 bar.
Injection direction and
number of jets
The direction of injection must match very closely
the swirl and combustion chamber design. Deviations of only 2 ° from the ideal can greatly increase
particulate emissions.
Excess air factor (air–fuel ratio)
Diesel engines do not, in general, use a throttle
butterfly as the throttle acts directly on the injection
pump to control fuel quantity. At low speeds in
particular, the very high excess air factor ensures
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 9.29 Fuel injector
Figure 9.30 Fuel pump (high pressure)
complete burning and very low emissions. Diesel
engines operate where possible with an excess air
factor even at high speeds.
Figure 9.36 shows a typical diesel fuel injection
system. Detailed operation of the components is
beyond the scope of this book. The principles and
problems are the issues under consideration here,
in particular, the way electronics can be employed
to solve some of these problems.
9.5.2 Diesel exhaust emissions
Overall, the emissions from diesel combustion are
far lower than emissions from petrol combustion.
Figure 9.37 shows the comparison between petrol
and diesel emissions. The CO, HC and NOx emissions are lower, mainly due to the higher compression ratio and excess air factor. The higher
compression ratio improves the thermal efficiency
Electronic fuel control
Figure 9.33 Combination relay
Figure 9.31 Pressure regulator
Figure 9.34 Electronic control unit
9.5.3 Electronic control of
diesel injection
Figure 9.32 Typical cold start arrangement
and thus lowers the fuel consumption. The excess air
factor ensures more complete burning of the fuel.
The main problem area is that of particulate
emissions. These particle chains of carbon molecules can also contain hydrocarbons, mostly aldehydes. The effect of this emission is a pollution
problem but the possible carcinogenic effect of this
soot also gives a cause for concern. The diameter of
these particles is only a few ten thousandths of a
millimetre – consequently they float in the air and
can be inhaled.
The advent of electronic control over the diesel
injection pump has allowed many advances over the
purely mechanical system. The production of high
pressure and injection is, however, still mechanical
with all current systems. The following advantages
are apparent over the non-electronic control system.
More precise control of fuel quantity injected.
Better control of start of injection.
Idle speed control.
Control of exhaust gas recirculation.
Drive by wire system (potentiometer on throttle
An antisurge function.
Output to data acquisition systems etc.
Temperature compensation.
Cruise control.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 9.35 Simultaneous and sequential petrol injection
Figure 9.36 Diesel fuel injection system
of fuel. Fuel pressure is applied to a roller ring and
this controls the start of injection. A solenoid-operated valve controls the supply to the roller ring.
These actuators together allow control of the start of
injection and injection quantity.
Figure 9.39 shows a block diagram of a typical
electronic diesel control system. Ideal values for
fuel quantity and timing are stored in memory maps
in the electronic control unit. The injected fuel
quantity is calculated from the accelerator position and the engine speed. The start of injection is
determined from the following:
Figure 9.37 Comparison between petrol and diesel emissions
Figure 9.38 shows a distributor-type injection pump
used with electronic control. Because fuel must be
injected at high pressure, the hydraulic head, pressure pump and drive elements are still used. An
electromagnetic moving iron actuator adjusts the
position of the control collar, which in turn controls
the delivery stroke and therefore the injected quantity
Fuel quantity.
Engine speed.
Engine temperature.
Air pressure.
The ECU is able to compare start of injection with
actual delivery from a signal produced by the
needle motion sensor in the injector. Figure 9.40
shows a typical injector complete with a needle
motion sensor.
Electronic fuel control
Figure 9.38 Distributor type injection pump
with electronic control (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 9.40 Diesel injector complete with needle motion
9.6 Case studies
9.6.1 Bosch ‘L’ Jetronic –
Figure 9.39 Block diagram of typical electronic diesel control
Control of exhaust gas recirculation is by a simple solenoid valve. This is controlled as a function
of engine speed, temperature and injected quantity.
The ECU is also in control of the stop solenoid and
glow plugs (Figure 9.41) via a suitable relay.
Figure 9.42 is the complete layout of an electronic
diesel control system.
Owing to continued demands for improvements,
the ‘L’ Jetronic system has developed and changed
over the years. This section will highlight the main
changes that have taken place. The ‘L’ variation is
shown in Figure 9.43.
This system is changed little except for the removal
of the injector series resistors as the ECU now limits the output current to the injectors. The injector
resistance is 16 .
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
No current resistors are used and the throttle switch
is adjustable. The fuel pump does not have safety
contacts in the air flow sensor. The safety circuit is
incorporated in the electronic relay. This will only
allow the fuel pump to operate when an ignition
signal is present; that is, when the engine is running
or being cranked.
Metal shell
Centre electrode
Metal tube
Resistor coil
Magnesia powder
Heater coil
Figure 9.41 A typical diesel glow plug
Figure 9.42 Layout of an electrical diesel control system
Figure 9.43 L-Jetronic
Electronic fuel control
This is very similar to the LE1 systems except
the thermo-time switch and cold start injector
are not used. The ECU determines cold starting
enrichment and adjusts the injector open period
This system is a further refinement of the LE systems but also utilizes closed loop lambda control.
The ECU for the L3-Jetronic forms part of the
air flow meter installation, as shown in Figure 9.44.
The ECU now includes a ‘limp home’ facility.
The system can be operated with or without lambda
closed loop control. The air–fuel ratio can be adjusted
by a screw-operated potentiometer on the side of
the ECU.
The LH system incorporates most of the improvements noted above. The main difference is that
a hot-wire type of air flow meter is used. The component layout is shown in Figure 9.45. Further
developments are continuing but, in general, most
systems have now developed into combined fuel
and ignition control systems as discussed in the
next chapter.
9.6.2 Lucas hot wire –
multipoint injection
The Lucas hot-wire fuel injection system is a multipoint, indirect and intermittent injection system.
In line with many other systems, the basic fuelling
requirements are determined from engine speed and
rate of air flow. Engine load, engine temperature and
Figure 9.44 L3-Jetronic
air temperature are the three main correction factors. The calculation for the fuel injection period is
a digital process and the look-up values are stored
in a memory chip in the ECU. It is important with
this and other systems that no unmetered air enters
the engine except via the idle mixture screw on the
throttle body. Figure 9.46 is the schematic arrangement of the hot wire system.
All the major components of the system are
shown in Figure 9.47. The ECU acts on the signals
received from sensors and adjusts the length of pulse
supplied to the injectors. The ECU also controls the
time at which the injector pulses occur relative
to signals from the coil negative terminal. During
normal running conditions, the injectors on a fourcylinder engine are all fired at the same time and
inject half of the required amount, twice during the
complete engine cycle.
The fuel tank contains a swirl pot as part of
the pick-up pipe. This is to ensure that the pick-up
pipe is covered in fuel at all times, thus preventing
air being drawn into the fuel lines. A permanentmagnet electric motor is used for the fuel pump,
which incorporates a roller-cell-type pumping
assembly. An eccentric rotor on the motor shaft has
metal rollers in cut-outs around its edge. These
rollers are forced out by centrifugal force as the
motor rotates. This traps the fuel and forces it out
of the pressure side of the system. The motor is
always filled with fuel and the pump is able to selfprime. A non-return valve and a pressure relief
valve are fitted. These will cause a pressure to be
held in the system and prevent excessive pressure
build up, respectively. The pump is controlled by
the ECU via a relay. When the ignition is first
switched on, the pump runs for a short time to
ensure the system is at the correct pressure. The
pump will then only run when the engine is being
cranked or is running. A 1 ballast resistor is often
fitted in the supply to the pump. This will cut down
on noise but is also bypassed when the engine is
being cranked to ensure the pump runs at a ‘normal’ speed even when cranking causes the battery
voltage to drop.
An inertia switch, which is usually located in
the passenger compartment, cuts the supply to the
fuel pump in the case of a collision. This is a safety
feature to prevent fuel spillage. The switch can be
reset by hand.
In order for the fuel quantity injected to be a
function of the injection pulse length, the fuel pressure across the injector must be constant. This
fuel pressure, which is in the region of 3 bar, is the
difference between absolute fuel pressure and manifold absolute pressure. The fuel pressure regulator is
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 9.45 LH-Jetronic
Figure 9.46 Schematic arrangement of hot-wire electronic fuel injection system
Electronic fuel control
a simple pressure relief valve with a diaphragm and
spring on which the fuel pressure acts. When the
pressure exceeds the pre-set value (of the spring), a
valve is opened and the excess fuel returns down a
pipe to the tank. The chamber above the diaphragm
is connected to the inlet manifold via a pipe. As the
manifold pressure falls, less fuel pressure is required
to overcome the spring and so the fuel pressure drops
by the same amount as the manifold pressure has
dropped. The pressure regulator is a sealed unit and
no adjustment is possible. The important point to
remember is that the regulator keeps the injector differential pressure constant. This ensures that the fuel
injected is only dependent on the injector open time.
Figure 9.48 shows the type of injector used by
this system. One injector is used for each cylinder
with each injector clamped between the fuel rail
and the inlet manifold. The injector winding is
either 4 or 16 depending on the particular system and number of cylinders. The injectors are the
needle/pintle types.
The hot-wire air flow meter (Figure 9.49) is the
most important sensor in the system. It provides
information to the ECU on air mass flow. It consists
of a cast alloy body with an electronic module on
the top. Air drawn into the engine passes through the
main opening, with a small proportion going through
a bypass in which two small wires are fixed. These
two wires are a sensing wire and a compensation
wire. The compensation wire reacts only to the air
temperature. The sensing wire is heated with a
small current from the module. The quantity of air
drawn over this wire will cause a cooling effect and
alter its resistance, which is sensed by the module.
Figure 9.47 Hot-wire injection system components
Figure 9.48 Fuel injector
Figure 9.49 Hot-wire air flow
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
The air flow meter has just three wires, a positive
and negative supply and an output that varies between
about 0 and 5 V depending on air mass flow rate.
This system can react very quickly to changes and
also automatically compensates for changes in altitude. Chapter 2 gives further details of the operation of this sensor. Each air flow meter is matched
to its module, therefore repair is not normally
A throttle potentiometer is used to provide the
ECU with information on throttle position and
rate of change of throttle position. The device is a
simple three-wire variable resistor using a carbon
track, it is attached to the main throttle butterfly
spindle. A stable supply of 5 V allows a variable
output voltage depending on throttle position. At
idle, the output should be 325 mV and, at full load,
4.8 V. The rate of change indicates the extent of
acceleration or deceleration. This is used to enrich
the mixture or implement over-run fuel cut-off as
may be appropriate.
The throttle body is an alloy casting bolted to the
inlet manifold and connected to the air flow sensor
by a flexible trunking. This assembly contains the
throttle butterfly and potentiometer, and also
includes the stepper motor, which controls the air
bypass circuit. Heater pipes and breather pipes are
also connected to the throttle body.
The stepper motor is a four-terminal, two-coil,
permanent magnet motor. It is controlled by the
ECU to regulate idle speed and fast idle speed during the warm up period. The valve is located in an
airway, which bypasses the throttle valve. A cutaway section can be seen in Figure 9.50. The rotary
action of the stepper motor acts on a screw thread.
This causes the cone section at the head of the valve
to move linearly, progressively opening or closing
an aperture. An idle mixture screw is also incorporated in the throttle body which allows a small
amount of air to bypass the air flow sensor.
The coolant sensor is a simple thermistor and
provides information on engine temperature. The fuel
temperature sensor is a switch on earlier vehicles,
and a thermistor on later models. The information
provided allows the ECU to determine when hot
start enrichment is required. This is to counteract
the effects of fuel evaporation.
The heart of the system is the electronic control
unit. It contains a map of the ideal fuel settings for
16 engine speeds and eight engine loads. The figure
from the memory map is the basic injector pulse
width. Corrections are then added for a number of
factors, the most important being engine temperature and throttle position. Corrections are also added
for some or all of the following when appropriate.
Figure 9.50 Idle control on the hot-wire system is by stepper
Voltage correction
Pulse length is increased if battery voltage falls,
this is to compensate for the slower reaction time of
the injectors.
Cranking enrichment
The injectors are fired every ignition pulse instead
of every other pulse for cranking enrichment.
After-start enrichment
This is to ensure smooth running after starting. This
is provided at all engine temperatures, and it decays
over a set time. It is, however, kept up for a longer
period at lower temperatures. The ECU increases
the pulse length to achieve this enrichment.
Hot-start enrichment
A short period of extra enrichment, which decays
gradually, is used to assist with hot starting.
Acceleration enrichment
When the ECU detects a rising voltage from the
throttle sensor the pulse length is increased to
achieve a smoother response. The extra fuel is
needed as the rapid throttle opening causes a sudden inrush of air and, without extra fuel, a weak
mixture would cause a flat spot.
Deceleration weakening
The ECU detects this condition from a falling
throttle potentiometer voltage. The pulse length is
shortened to reduce fuel consumption and exhaust
Full load enrichment
This is again an increase in pulse length but by a
fixed percentage of the look-up and corrected value.
Electronic fuel control
Overrun fuel cut-off
This is an economy and emissions measure. The
injectors do not operate at all during this condition.
This situation will only occur with a warm engine,
throttle in the closed position and the engine speed
above a set level. If the throttle is pressed or the
engine falls below the threshold speed the fuel is
reinstated gradually to ensure smooth take up.
Overspeed fuel cut-off
To prevent the engine from being damaged by
excess speed, the ECU can switch off the injectors
above a set speed. The injectors are reinstated once
engine speed falls below the threshold figure.
Hot-wire fuel injection is a very adaptable system and will remain current in various forms for
some time. By way of summary, Figure 9.51 is a
typical circuit diagram of the hot wire system.
9.6.3 Bosch Mono Jetronic –
single point injection
The Mono Jetronic is an electronically controlled
system utilizing just one injector positioned above
the throttle butterfly valve. The throttle body
assembly is similar in appearance to a carburettor.
A low pressure (1 bar) fuel supply pump, as shown
in Figure 9.52, is used to supply the injector, which
injects the fuel intermittently into the inlet manifold. In common with most systems, sensors measuring engine variables supply the operating data.
The ECU computes the ideal fuel requirements and
outputs to the injector. The width of the injector
pulses determines the quantity of fuel introduced.
The injector for the system is a very fast-acting
valve. Figure 9.53 shows the injector in section. A
pintle on the needle valve is used and a conical spray
pattern is produced. This ensures excellent fuel
atomization and hence a better ‘burn’ in the cylinder. In order to ensure accurate metering of small
fuel quantities the valve needle and armature have a
very small mass. This permits opening and closing
times of less than 1 ms. The fuel supply to the injector
is continuous, this prevents air locks and a constant
supply of cool fuel. This also provides for good hot
starting performance, which can be inhibited by
evaporation if the fuel is hot.
Figure 9.54 shows the main components of the
Mono Jetronic system. The component most
noticeable by its absence is an air flow sensor
which is not used by this system. Air mass and load
are calculated from the throttle position sensor,
engine speed and air intake temperature. This is
sometimes known as the speed density method. At
a known engine speed with a known throttle opening, the engine will ‘consume’ a known volume of
air. If the air temperature is known then the air mass
can be calculated.
The basic injection quantity is generated in the
ECU as a function of engine speed and throttle
position. A ROM chip, represented by a cartographic map, stores data at 16 speed and 16 throttle
angle positions, giving 256 references altogether. If
the ECU detects deviations from the ideal air–fuel
ratio by signals from the lambda sensor then corrections are made. If these corrections are required
over an extended period then the new corrected values are stored in memory. These are continuously
updated over the life of the system. Further corrections are added to this look-up value for temperature, full load and idle conditions. Over-run fuel
cut-off and high engine speed cut-off are also
implemented when required.
The Bosch Mono Jetronic system also offers
adaptive idle control. This is to allow the lowest
possible smoothed idle speed to reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. A throttle valve
actuator changes the position of the valve in
response to a set speed calculated in the ECU,
which takes into account the engine temperature
and electrical loads on the alternator. The required
throttle angle is computed and placed in memory.
The adaptation capability of this system allows for
engine drift during its life and also makes corrections for altitude.
The electronic control unit checks all signals for
plausibility during normal operation. If a signal
deviates from the normal, this fault condition is
memorized and can be output to a diagnostic tester
or read as a blink code from a fault lamp.
9.6.4 Toyota Computer
Controlled System (TCCS)
The EFi system as shown in Figure 9.55 is
composed, as are most such systems, of three basic
Electronic control.
Fuel is supplied under constant pressure to the injectors by an electric fuel pump. The injectors inject a
metered quantity of fuel into the intake manifold
under the control of the ECU.
The air induction system is via an air filter
and provides sufficient air under all operating
Figure 9.51 Circuit diagram of a hot-wire system
Electronic fuel control
The central operation of injection is by microcomputer control. The TCCS controls the injectors
in response to signals relating to:
Intake air volume.
Intake air temperature.
Coolant temperature.
Engine speed.
Exhaust oxygen content.
The ECU detects any malfunctions and stores them in
the memory. The codes can be read as flashes of the
check engine warning light. In the event of serious
malfunction, a back-up circuit takes over to provide
minimal drivability.
more air) results in what is known as lean burn. Fuel
economy is maximized when the ratio is in the 20 to
22 : 1 range. Running leaner mixtures also reduces
NOx emissions. However, the potential for unstable
combustion increases. Reducing NOx emissions
under lean burn conditions is difficult because the
normal catalytic converter needs certain conditions
to work properly. Mazda have produced a ‘Z-lean
engine’ that offers both a wide lean burn range and
good power output at normal rev/min. Figure 9.56
shows a cutaway view of this engine.
Introducing more air into the cylinder necessarily results in a lower fuel density in the mixture and
9.6.5 Mazda lean burn
The optimum air–fuel ratio is 14.7 : 1 to ensure complete combustion. Increasing this ratio (introducing
Figure 9.52 Electric fuel pump (low pressure)
Figure 9.53 Low pressure injector (mini-injector)
Figure 9.54 Central injection unit
of the Mono Jetronic
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 9.55 Toyota computer control system (TCCS)
loss is also lower because one can open the throttle
wider when adjusting air input. These two effects
contribute to the higher fuel economy of lean burn
engines. Figure 9.57 shows these features.
The tumble swirl control (TSC) valve and its
effects are shown as Figure 9.58. The Z-lean engine
uses a feature known as a TSX (tumble swirl multiplex) port to control the vortex inside the cylinder.
Combining this with an air mixture type injector
which turns the fuel into a very fine spray and a
high-energy ignition system ensures that it can
operate on very lean mixtures up to 25 : 1. A special
catalytic converter combines the NOx and HC into
H2O, CO2 and N.
Figure 9.56 Cylinder-head and inlet path of a lean burn engine
thus a lower combustion temperature. This in turn
means that less heat energy is lost from the combustion chamber to the surrounding parts of the
engine. In addition to reduced heat loss, pumping
9.6.6 In-cylinder catalysts
A novel approach to reducing hydrocarbon emissions has been proposed and investigated by a team
from Brunel University (SAE paper 952419).
The unburned hydrocarbons in spark ignition
Electronic fuel control
Figure 9.57 Features of the lean burn system
Figure 9.58 Tumble swirl control
engines arise primarily from sources near the combustion chamber walls.
A platinum-rhodium coating was deposited on
the top and side surfaces of the piston crown and its
effects were examined under a variety of operating
The results were as follows:
HC emissions were reduced by about 20%.
NOx emissions did not change appreciably.
The catalyst caused a slightly faster initial flame
development but no evident effect on the burning rate.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
9.6.7 Electronic unit injection
(EUI) – diesel fuel
The advantages of electronic unit injection are as
Lower emissions
Through the use of higher injection pressures (up to
2000 bar), lower emissions of particulates and NOx
are achieved, together with a reduction in the levels
of noise traditionally associated with diesel engines.
Electronic fuel quantity and
timing control
Precise electronic control also assists in the reduction of emissions.
Shot to shot fuel adjustment
This feature also provides a very quick transient
response, improving vehicle drivability.
Control of all engine functions
Through a series of sensors connected to the electronic control unit (ECU), the EUI system ensures
that all the engine functions consistently operate at
optimum performance.
Electronically controlled pilot
A new feature developed to meet tighter NOx emissions standards, without loss of fuel consumption.
Pilot injection also reduces combustion noise.
Communication with other
Linked to the ECU, the EUI system can communicate with other vehicle systems such as ABS,
transmission and steering, making further systems
development possible.
Cylinder cut-out
This is used as a diagnostic aid and offers potential
for fuel economy at idling and low loads.
Reliability and durability
The EUI’s reliability is proven under field conditions. Experience in the truck market indicates a
service life of at least 800 000 km.
Further development potential
EUI technology is currently only at the beginning
of its life cycle; it has significant further development potential which will enable the system to meet
future tough emissions legislation.
In the EUI system, the fuel injection pump,
the injector and a solenoid valve are combined in
one, single unit; these unit injectors are located in the
cylinder-head, above the combustion chamber. The
EUI is driven by a rocker arm, which is in turn driven
by the engine camshaft. This is the most efficient
hydraulic and mechanical layout, giving the lowest
parasitic losses. The fuel feed and spill pass through
passages integrated in the cylinder-head.
The EUI uses sensors and an electronic control
unit (ECU) to achieve precise injection timing and
fuel quantities. Sensors located on the engine pass
information to the ECU on all the relevant engine
functions. This evaluates the information and compares it with optimum values stored in the ECU
to decide on the exact injection timing and fuel
quantity required to realize optimum performance.
Signals are then sent to the unit injector’s solenoidactuated spill valve system to deliver fuel at the
timing required to achieve this performance.
Injection is actuated by switching the integrated
solenoid valve. The closing point of the valve
marks the beginning of fuel delivery, and the duration of closing determines the fuel quantity. The
operating principle is as follows.
Each plunger moves through a fixed stroke, actuated by the engine camshaft. On the upward (filling)
stroke, fuel passes from the cylinder-head through
a series of integrated passages and the open spill
valve into a chamber below the plunger. The ECU
then sends a signal to the solenoid stator, which
results in the closure of the spill control valve. The
plunger continues its downward stroke causing
pressure to build in the high pressure passages. At a
pre-set pressure the nozzle opens and fuel injection
begins. When the solenoid stator is de-energized the
spill control valve opens, causing the pressure to
collapse, which allows the nozzle to close, resulting
in a very rapid termination of injection.
Lucas electronic unit injectors (Figure 9.59)
have been developed in a range of sizes to suit all
engines, and can be fitted to light- and heavy-duty
engines suitable for small cars and the largest
premium trucks.
Full diagnostics capability
9.6.8 Lucas diesel common
rail system (LDCR)
Fault codes can be stored and diagnostic equipment
To meet the future stringent emissions requirements, and offering further improvements in fuel
Electronic fuel control
Lower NOx emissions
Injection sequences that include periods both pre
and post the main injection can be utilized to reduce
emissions, particularly NOx, enabling the system
to meet the stringent emissions levels required by
EURO-III and US–98 legislation and beyond.
Noise reduction and NOx control
The inclusion of pilot injection results in a significant reduction in engine noise.
Full electronic control
The common rail offers all the benefits of full electronic control for vehicles, including extremely
accurate fuel metering and timing, as well as the
option to interface with other vehicle functions.
The common rail can be easily adapted for different engines. The main components are as follows.
Figure 9.59 Unit injector (Source: Bosch Press)
economy, the common rail fuel injection system is
becoming popular.
Fuel injection equipment with the capability of
operating at very high pressures is required to achieve
the ultra low emissions and low noise demands of
the future. The advantages of a system developed
by Lucas are summarized below.
Compact design
The compact design of the injector outline enables
the LDCR system to be used on 2 or 4 valves per
cylinder engines.
Modular system
With one electronically driven injector per engine
cylinder, the system is modular and can be used on
3, 4, 5 and 6 cylinder engines.
Low drive torque
As the pumping of the pressure rail is not phased
with the injection, the common rail system requires
a low drive torque from the engine.
Independent injection pressure
The injection pressure is independent of the engine
speed and load, so enabling high injection pressures
at low speed if required.
Common pressure accumulator (the ‘Rail’).
High pressure regulator.
High pressure supply pump.
Electronic solenoids.
Electronic Control Unit.
Filter unit.
Figure 9.60 shows the layout of a common rail
injection system. The system consists of a common
pressure accumulator, called the ‘rail’, which is
mounted along the engine block, and fed by a high
pressure pump. The pressure level of the rail is electronically regulated by a combination of metering
on the supply pump and fuel discharge by a highpressure regulator. The pressure accumulator operates independently of engine speed or load, so that
high injection pressure can be produced at low
speeds if required. A series of injectors is connected
to the rail, and each injector is opened and closed by
a solenoid, driven by the Electronic Control Unit.
A feed pump delivers the fuel through a filter
unit to the high-pressure pump. The high-pressure
pump delivers fuel to the high pressure rail. The
injectors inject fuel into the combustion chamber
when the solenoid valve is actuated.
Because the injection pressure is independent of
engine speed and load, the actual start of injection, the
injection pressure, and the duration of injection can be
freely chosen from a wide range. The introduction of
pilot injection, which is adjusted depending on engine
needs, results in significant engine noise reduction,
together with a reduction in NOx emissions. The
actuator controls the pressure in the system.
The Lucas system has been designed for use
on future HSDI engines for passenger cars, which
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
High pressure
Figure 9.60 Diesel common rail injection
will be required to meet the EURO-III and US–98
emissions legislation and beyond.
9.6.9 Bosch diesel systems
The following information is adapted from a speech
by Dr Ulrich Dohle, President of the Diesel Systems
Division, Robert Bosch GmbH. It illustrates not
only some of the interesting technology associated
with diesel injection, but also how the developments
are often led by legislation. Diesel cars are common
in Europe and are likely to become more so in the
USA in the near future.
Diesel-powered cars are more popular than ever
before in Western Europe. Since the beginning of the
1990s, the proportion of newly registered dieselpowered cars has almost tripled – from less than 15%
in 1991 to more than 40% today. In Austria, France
and Belgium, for example, around two out of every
three newly registered cars have diesel engines.
Bosch has had a decisive influence on the
European diesel boom. Modern high-pressure
injection systems have turned the heavy and dirty
slowcoaches of former times into the sporty, fuelefficient and clean cars of today. Since the beginning
of the 1990s, Bosch’s innovations have played a leading role in reducing the particulate emissions of
diesel cars by 80%, and other emissions (carbon
monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons) by at
least 90%.
Observation of the Euro 4 norms will mean that
particulate emissions are reduced by as much as
Figure 9.61 Cutaway view of a common rail high pressure
pump (Source: Bosch Press)
90%, and the emission of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons by at least 95%. Diesel
engines are also powerful; turbocharged automotive diesel engines are already capable of maximum
specific torque levels of 170 Nm, and specific
power ratings of more than 60 kW/litre of cylinder
capacity. At the same time, the fuel consumption of
diesel engines is very low. Diesel is the yardstick
against which all other propulsion systems are
measured in this respect.
Bosch is working hard to optimize the injection
system in order to further reduce both fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, and improve engine
performance. For example, Bosch has developed
the third generation of the Common Rail (CR) system, which went into series production in May 2003.
At the heart of the new injection system is the rapidswitch, compact inline injector with piezoelectric
technology. In 2005 the company plans to introduce
an improved variable injector nozzle, which will
make engines even quieter and cleaner. Bosch is also
working on solutions for exhaust emission treatment
systems, which in future will be obligatory for some
cars and commercial vehicles.
Third generation common rail with
piezoelectric inline injectors
In Bosch’s conventional Common Rail system
a magnetic coil controls the injector. A piston rod
transmits the hydraulic force required to open or
close the injector to the nozzle needle. In May 2003
series production began of Bosch’s third generation Common Rail, in which the injector actuators
consist of piezo crystals. Piezo crystals have the
property of expanding in an electrical field.
Electronic fuel control
1 Air mass meter
2 Engine ECU
3 High pressure pump
4 Common rail
5 Injectors
6 Engine speed
7 Coolant temp.
8 Filter
9 Accelerator
pedal sensor
Figure 9.62 Common rail injection system components (Source:
Bosch Press)
Figure 9.63 CR diesel rail, injectors, pump and ECU (Source: Bosch
The piezoelectric actuator is a package of several hundred very small, thin crystals. The piezo
actuator switches in less than ten thousandths of a
second – less than half the time required by a
magnetic switch. To exploit this property Bosch has
integrated the actuator into the injector body. In the
inline injector the movement of the piezo package
is transferred to the rapid-switch nozzle needle
without friction, as there are no mechanical components. The advantages over magnetic and existing
conventional piezo injectors lie in a more precise
dosing and an improved atomization of the injected
fuel mixture within the combustion chamber.
The higher switching speed of the injector
means that the intervals between the individual fuel
injections can be reduced, giving a more flexible
control of the injection process. The result is that
diesel engines become even quieter, more fuel efficient, cleaner and more powerful. With the in-line
Piezo actuator module
Coupling module
Control valve
Nozzle module
Figure 9.64 Piezo injector (Source: Bosch Press)
injector, the return flow of fuel not required for
injection is very small. This allowed engineers to
further reduce the delivery rate, and thus the energy
requirement, of the high-pressure pump.
The low tolerances for the injection quantity and
timing mean that the fuel dosage at the injector is
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
very exact. This results in lower levels of exhaust
pollutants. For example, one or two pre-injections
of fuel prevent the emission of white and blue
smoke just after a cold start, and combustion noise
is reduced. A supplementary injection following
immediately on the main injection lowers the emission of soot particulates and a further injection can
regenerate particulate filters, if fitted.
The Bosch third generation Common Rail system, with piezoelectric inline injectors, can reduce
internal engine emissions by up to 20% compared
with existing magnetic or piezoelectric systems
currently in use.
Bosch has plans for another technical innovation
in the Common Rail system in 2006. Ideas involving even higher injection pressures of over 2000
bar, and injectors with variable injection geometry
are currently being explored.
Improvements to the Unit-Injector
Bosch’s Unit-Injector System (UIS) has the highest
current injection pressure of any system at 2050 bar.
At the moment this system is exclusively manufactured for passenger cars produced by VW. The very
high injection pressures result, among other things,
in low particulate emissions. This meant that some
vehicles fitted with UIS were the first to meet the
Euro 4 emission criteria. Bosch is presently working
on a further development of the UIS. A Coaxial
Variable Nozzle will make the engines both quieter
and cleaner, and further increase available engine
The variable nozzle differs from the conventional
UIS injector in the number, arrangement, diameter
Coaxial vario nozzle
and shape of the injection apertures. A magnetic
valve controls two coaxial nozzle needles and opens
up two rows of jet apertures. The first row of apertures with a low rate of flow delivers small quantities of fuel at the start of the combustion process,
producing a ‘soft’ combustion and a low level of
combustion noise. In addition, under partial load
conditions it improves the mixture quality, leading
to significantly reduced emission levels.
Tests show particulate and nitrogen oxide reductions of between 25–40%. When the second row
of jet apertures (with a higher flow rate) is opened,
engine performance is enhanced without having to
increase the injection pressure. Under ideal conditions, pre-injection can be dispensed with across a
broad engine speed and load range, leading to lower
particulate emissions.
Exhaust emission treatment
In Bosch’s approach to the further lowering of
diesel engine emissions, the focus is primarily on
internal engine improvements; improved fuel combustion prevents, as far as possible, the formation
of pollutants and also reduces fuel consumption.
In this respect automobile manufacturers and their
component suppliers have already achieved a great
deal. A number of vehicles with a maximum permissible overall weight of between 1600–1800 kg,
and in some cases more than this, will come within
the Euro 4 thresholds even without any exhaust
treatment system.
However, heavy passenger cars will not meet
the Euro 4 standards without treatment systems.
Bosch’s EDC (Electronic Diesel Control) handles
the management of particulate filters and nitrogen
Figure 9.65 Variable nozzle unit
injector (Source: Bosch Press)
Electronic fuel control
oxide storage catalytic converters. It matches injection flexibly to the requirements of the exhaust
emission treatment systems, for example by altering injection timing, quantity and process. EDC
also matches the amount of combustion air fed to
the engine to the respective demand. This is done
by controlling the exhaust gas recirculation and
determining the setting of the throttle valve and the
operating pressure of the exhaust gas turbocharger.
Sensors convey information to the EDC about the
exhaust gas temperature, backpressure and composition. Engine management can, therefore, not only
determine the condition of the particulate filter and
the nitrogen oxide storage catalytic converter, but
also improve the quality of combustion.
Diesel particulate filters
If the injection system and the particulate filter
are working optimally together, exhaust emission
values can be further improved. Bosch, therefore, is
likely to begin mass production of diesel particulate
filters from late 2005. A final decision on this project is pending. The particulate filter from Bosch
is made of sintered metal and lasts considerably
longer than current ceramic models, since its special structure offers a high storage capacity for
oil and additive combustion residues. The filter is
designed in such a way that the filtered particulates
are very evenly deposited, allowing the condition of
the filter to be identified more reliably and its regeneration controlled far better than with other solutions. The Bosch diesel particulate filter is designed
to last as long as the vehicle itself.
Once the storage capacity of the particulate filter has been exhausted, the filter has to be regenerated by passing hot exhaust gases through it, which
burn up the deposited particulates. In order to produce the necessary high exhaust gas temperatures,
= Particulate matter
Figure 9.66 Diesel exhaust particulate filter (Source: Bosch
the EDC alters the amount of air fed to the engine, as
well as the amount of fuel injected and the timing
of the injection. In addition, some unburnt fuel can
be fed to the oxidizing catalytic converter by arranging for extra fuel to be injected during the expansion
stroke. The fuel combusts in the oxidizing catalytic
converter and raises the exhaust temperature even
further. Engineers are currently developing a system for injecting fuel directly into the exhaust duct,
supplementing the injection into the combustion
chamber just referred to.
People often express the hope that particulate
filters could be fitted retrospectively to dieselpowered vehicles. Such retro-fitting would require an
enormous technical input, since not only would the
engine have to be adjusted to the modified exhaust
system, but the control unit and the control unit software would also have to be extensively modified.
Exhaust gas treatment for
commercial vehicles
Commercial vehicles are only able to meet the current Euro 3 thresholds by using greatly improved
injection systems, up-to-date combustion processes
and intercooling. To meet the more stringent Euro 4
parameters, two options are possible:
Exhaust gas recycling, if necessary in combination with the use of a particulate filter.
Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). SCR, perhaps in combination with a particulate filter,
will be the favoured solution for Euro 5 (to be
introduced in 2008).
Bosch has developed the Denoxtronic dosage system for delivering the reducing agents for the SCR
system. In the SCR process, the nitrogen oxide in
the exhaust gases reacts with ammonia to produce
water and nitrogen. The required ammonia is generated directly in the exhaust duct by hydrolysis from
the added reducing agent AdBlue – a solution of
water and urea. Bosch’s Denoxtronic delivers to the
catalytic converter the required amount of AdBlue
dependent on the actual operating circumstances.
It will come into use for the first time in a series
production vehicle in 2004.
Engine design using an SCR catalytic converter
reduces the nitrogen oxide emissions of commercial vehicles by around 85%. This allows injection
timing to be advanced, leading to a reduction in fuel
consumption of up to 5%. If an oxidizing catalytic
converter is used, particulate emissions can also be
reduced by up to 30% – the use of an SCR catalytic
converter means that it pays to protect the environment, since the extra cost of the exhaust gas treatment
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
system is soon outweighed by the savings in fuel
9.7 Diagnosing fuel control
system faults
9.7.1 Introduction
As with all systems, the six stages of fault-finding
should be followed.
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evaluate the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all systems.
Table 9.5 Common symptoms of a fuel system malfunction
and possible faults
Possible fault
Engine rotates but
does not start
Difficult to start
when cold
Difficult to start
when hot
Engine starts
but then stops
Erratic idle
The procedure outlined in the next section is related
primarily to stage 4 of the process. Table 9.5 lists
some common symptoms of a fuel system malfunction together with suggestions for the possible fault.
Note that when diagnosing engine fuel system
faults, the same symptoms may indicate an ignition
Engine stalls
9.7.2 Testing procedure
Lack of power
Caution/Achtung/Attention – Burning fuel can seriously damage your health!
The following procedure is generic and, with a
little adaptation, can be applied to any fuel injection
system. Refer to manufacturer’s recommendations
if in any doubt. It is assumed the ignition system is
operating correctly. Most tests are carried out while
cranking the engine.
1. Check battery state of charge (at least 70%).
2. Hand and eye checks (all fuel and electrical connections secure and clean).
3. Check fuel pressure supplied to rail (in multipoint systems it will be about 2.5 bar but check
4. If the pressure is not correct jump to stage 10.
5. Is injector operation OK? – continue if not (suitable spray pattern or dwell reading across injector
6. Check supply circuits from main relay (battery
volts minimum).
7. Continuity of injector wiring (0–0.2 and note
that many injectors are connected in parallel).
Misfire through
all speeds
No fuel in the tank!
Air filter dirty or blocked.
Fuel pump not running.
No fuel being injected.
Air filter dirty or blocked.
Fuel system wiring fault.
Enrichment device not working
(choke or injection circuit).
Air filter dirty or blocked.
Fuel system wiring fault.
Fuel system contamination.
Fuel pump or circuit fault (relay).
Intake system air leak.
Air filter blocked.
Inlet system air leak.
Incorrect CO setting.
Fuel injectors not spraying correctly.
Fuel filter blocked.
Fuel pump delivery low.
Fuel tank ventilation system blocked.
Idle speed incorrect.
CO setting incorrect.
Fuel filter blocked.
Air filter blocked.
Intake air leak.
Idle control system not working.
Fuel filter blocked.
Air filter blocked.
Low fuel pump delivery.
Fuel injectors blocked.
Fuel system fault (air flow sensor
on some cars).
8. Sensor readings and continuity of wiring
(0–0.2 for the wiring sensors will vary with
9. If no fuel is being injected and all tests so far
are OK, suspect ECU.
10. Fuel supply – from stage 4.
11. Supply voltage to pump (within 0.5 V battery –
pump fault if supply is OK).
12. Check pump relay and circuit (note in most
cases the ECU closes the relay but this may be
bypassed on cranking).
13. Ensure all connections (electrical and fuel) are
remade correctly.
9.8 Advanced fuel control
Dr Ulrich Dohle, President, Diesel Systems Division, Robert
Bosch GmbH, June 2003, New Generations of Injection
Systems: Piezoelectrics and more make diesel even cleaner and
more fuel efficient. Speech at the 56th International Automotive
Press Briefing, Boxberg
9.8.1 Air–fuel ratio calculations
The ideal ratio by mass of air to fuel for complete
combustion is 14.7 : 1. This is given the lambda
Electronic fuel control
value 1, which is known as stoichiometry. This figure
can be calculated by working out the exact number
of oxygen atoms, that are required to oxidize completely the particular number of hydrogen and carbon
atoms in the hydrocarbon fuel, then multiplying by
the atomic mass of the respective elements.
Petrol consists of a number of ingredients, these
are known as fractions and fall into three chemical
e.g. octane
e.g. cyclohexane C6H12
e.g. benzene
The ideal air–fuel ratio for each of these can be calculated from the balanced chemical equation and
the atomic mass of each atom. The atomic masses
of interest are:
Carbon (C) 12
Hydrogen (H) 1
Oxygen (O) 16
The balanced chemical equation for complete
combustion of octane is as follows:
2C8H18 25O2 → 16CO2 18H2O
The molecular mass of 2C8H18 is:
(2 12 8) (2 1 18) 228
The molecular mass of 25 O2 is:
(25 16 2) 800
Therefore the oxygen to octane ratio is 800 : 228 or
3.5 : 1; in other words 1 kg of fuel uses 3.5 kg of
oxygen. Air contains 23% of oxygen by mass (21%
by volume), which means 1 kg of air contains 0.23 kg
of oxygen. Further, there is 1 kg of oxygen in
4.35 kg of air.
The ideal air–fuel (A/F) ratio for complete
combustion of octane is 3.5 4.35 15.2 : 1.
Octane: 2C8H18 25O2 → 16CO2 18H2O
A/F ratio 15.2 : 1
If a similar calculation is carried out for cyclohexane and benzene, the results are as follows.
Cyclohexane: C6H12 9O2 → 6CO2 6H2O
A/F ratio 14.7 : 1
Benzene: C6H6 15O2 → 6CO2 3H2O
A/F ratio 13.2 : 1
The above examples serve to explain how the
air–fuel ratio is calculated and how petrol/gasoline,
being a mixture of a number of fractions, has an
ideal air–fuel ratio of 14.7 : 1.
This figure is, however, only the theoretical
ideal and takes no account of pollutants produced
Figure 9.67 Influence of air–fuel ratio on the three main pollutants created from a spark ignition engine (no catalyst in use)
and the effect the air–fuel ratio has on engine performance. With modern engine fuel control systems it is possible to set the air–fuel ratio exactly at
this stoichiometric ratio if desired. As usual though,
a compromise must be sought as to the ideal setting. Figure 9.9 shows a graph comparing engine
power output and fuel consumption, with changes
in air–fuel ratio.
Figure 9.67 shows the influence of air–fuel ratio
on the three main pollutants created from a spark
ignition, internal combustion engine. A ratio slightly
weaker than the lambda value of 1 (or about 15.5 : 1
ratio) is often an appropriate compromise.
9.9 New developments
9.9.1 Bosch lambda diesel
Lambda sensing is now also applicable to diesel
engines. This new technology makes cars cleaner
and more economical. Bosch is now also applying
the lambda sensor in the closed loop control concept for diesel engines. The new system allows for
a previously unreached fine tuning of injection and
engine. This reduces fuel consumption and pollutant emission from diesel engines.
Different from the previous concept, the lambdabased control now optimizes the exhaust gas quality via exhaust gas recirculation, charge-air pressure
and start of injection. These parameters decisively
influence the emissions from diesel engines. A
broad-band lambda sensor, with a wide working
range, measures the oxygen content in the exhaust
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
control unit
Start of injection
Figure 9.68 Lambda sensing on a
diesel system (Source: Bosch Press)
gas and renders important information on the
combustion processes in the engine, which can be
utilized for the engine management.
Compared to the standard diesel engine management, the new Bosch system permits a stricter
adherence to low emission values. Engines are better protected against defects. For example, the
harmful combustion in cars running in overrun may
be detected and corrected. In engines running under
full load, the system offers more effective smoke
The lambda sensor will also monitor the NOx
accumulator catalytic converters (of future emission
purification systems). The sensor supplies data for
the management of the catalytic converter, which
has to be cleaned at regular intervals in order to preserve its storage capability.
9.10 Self-assessment
9.10.1 Questions
1. Explain what is meant by a lambda ()
value of 1.
2. State five advantages of fuel injection.
3. With reference to the combustion process,
describe the effects of ignition timing.
4. With reference to the combustion process,
describe the effects of mixture strength.
5. Draw a block diagram of a fuel injection system.
Describe briefly the purpose of each component.
6. Explain the combustion process in a diesel
7. Describe how electronic control of diesel fuel
injection is achieved and state the advantages
of EUI.
8. List all the main components of an electronic
carburation control system and state the purpose of each component.
9. Make a clearly labelled sketch to show the
operation of a fuel injector.
10. State six sources of emissions from a vehicle
and describe briefly how manufacturers are
tackling each of them.
9.10.2 Assignment
Draw an 8 8 look-up table (grid) for a digital
fuel control system. The horizontal axis should
represent engine speed from zero to 5000 rev/min,
and the vertical axis engine load from zero to
100%. Fill in all the boxes with realistic figures and
explain why you have chosen these figures. You
should explain the trends and not each individual
Download the ‘Automotive Technology –
Electronics’ simulation program from my web site
and see if your figures agree with those in the
program. Discuss reasons why they may differ.
9.10.3 Multiple choice questions
The ratio, by mass, of air to fuel that ensures
complete and clean combustion is:
1. 14.7 : 1
2. 10 : 1
3. 1 : 10
4. 1 : 14.7
Electronic fuel control
Exhaust gas products that are NOT harmful to the
environment are:
1. carbon dioxide and water
2. water and carbon monoxide
3. carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons
4. hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen
A valve fitted to the fuel rail in a petrol/gasoline
injection system is used to:
1. bleed air
2. depressurize the system or test pressure
3. replace fuel after changing the filter
4. connect a compression tester
On an engine fitted with Electronic Fuel Injection,
engine load may be determined by a:
1. MAP sensor
2. throttle position sensor
3. lambda sensor
4. vacuum capsule
Increased nitrogen oxides are formed when
1. temperatures are high
2. temperatures are low
3. speed is slow
4. speed is fast
The type of petrol injection system which makes
use of a single injector that sprays fuel towards a
throttle is termed a:
1. single point system
2. rotary system
3. multi-point system
4. in-line system
The function of a lambda sensor fitted in an exhaust
system is to monitor:
1. carbon monoxide
2. oxides of nitrogen
3. carbon dioxide
4. oxygen
An injector pulse width, in milliseconds, is
1. 1.5–10
2. 1.0–30
3. 1.5–40
4. 2.0–30
Technician A says the speed of flame spread in a
diesel engine is affected by the air charge temperature. Technician B says the speed of flame spread in
a diesel engine is affected by atomization of the
fuel. Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
Technician A says reduction in CO, NOx and HC
has been achieved by reducing lead in fuel. Technician B says reduction in CO, NOx and HC has been
achieved by using engine management systems.
Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
Engine management
10.1 Combined ignition
and fuel management
10.1.1 Introduction
As the requirements for lower and lower emissions
continue, together with the need for better performance, other areas of engine control are constantly
being investigated. This control is becoming even
more important as the possibility of carbon dioxide
emissions being included in future regulations
increases. Some of the current and potential areas
for further control of engine operation are included
in this section. Although some of the common areas
of ‘control’ have been covered in the previous two
chapters, this chapter will cover some aspects in
more detail and introduce further areas of engine
control. Some of the main issues are:
Ignition timing.
Dwell angle.
Fuel quantity.
EGR (exhaust gas recirculation).
Canister purge.
Idle speed.
An engine management system can be represented
by the standard three-stage model as shown in
Figure 10.1. This representation shows closed loop
feedback, which is a common feature, particularly
related to:
The block diagram shown as Figure 10.2 can further represent an engine management system. This
series of ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ is a good way of representing a complex system. This section continues
with a look at some of the less common ‘inputs and
10.1.2 Variable inlet tract
For an engine to operate at its best, volumetric efficiency is not possible with fixed manifolds. This is
because the length of the inlet tract determines the
velocity of the intake air and, in particular, the propagation of the pressure waves set up by the pumping
action of the cylinders. These standing waves can be
used to improve the ram effect of the charge as it
enters the cylinder but only if they coincide with
the opening of the inlet valves. The length of the
inlet tract has an effect on the frequency of these
waves. One method of changing the length of the
inlet tract is shown in Figure 10.3. The control valves
move, which changes the effective length of the inlet.
Figure 10.4 shows how the design of the inlet
manifold is a significant feature of the Volvo S80
10.1.3 Variable valve timing
With the widespread use of twin cam engines, one
cam for the inlet valves and one for the exhaust
lambda control,
idle speed.
Figure 10.1 Representation of complete engine control as the
standard functional system
Figure 10.2 General block diagram of an ignition and fuel
control system
Engine management
Figure 10.3 Variable length inlet manifold. A long tract;
B short tract
valves, it is possible to vary the valve overlap while
the engine is running. Honda has a system that
noticeably improves the power and torque range
by only opening both of the inlet valves at higher
speed. This system is shown as Figure 10.5.
A system of valves using oil pressure to turn the
cam with respect to its drive gear controls the cam
positions on the BMW system shown in Figure
10.6. The position of the cams is determined from a
suitable map held in ROM in the control unit.
A system that not only allows changes in valve
timing but also valve open periods is also starting to
be used. The system is known as active valve train
(AVT) and was intended to be a development tool
for the design of fixed camshafts. However, production versions are being developed. The opening
of the inlet and exhaust valves will be by hydraulic
Figure 10.4 Volvo engine showing the feature of the inlet manifold design
Figure 10.5 Honda’s valve control system. At low revs the VTEC-E engine opens only one inlet valve per cylinder fully, so just 12 valves
control the mixture and combustion of air and fuel. This delivers maximum efficiency with the lowest possible emissions. At higher
engine speeds, hydraulic pins activate the extra valves to give 16 valve performance
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
actuators working at up to 200 bar with a highspeed servo valve controlling flow to the actuators.
10.1.5 Wide range lambda
10.1.4 Combustion flame and
pressure sensing
Most lambda sensors provide excellent closedcontrol of the air–fuel ratio at or very near to stoichiometry (14.7 : 1). A sensor is now available that is
able to provide a linear output between air–fuel
ratios of 12 : 1 and about 24 : 1. This allows closed
loop feedback over a much wider range of operating
Research is ongoing in the development of cost
effective sensors for determining combustion pressure and combustion flame quality. These sensors
are used during development but currently are prohibitively expensive for use in production. When
available, these sensors will provide instantaneous
closed loop feedback about the combustion process. This will be particularly important with lean
burning engines.
Figure 10.6 Variable valve timing from BMW
Figure 10.7 Injection valve with air shrouding
10.1.6 Injectors with air
If high-speed air is introduced at the tip of an
injector, the dispersal of the fuel is considerably
improved. Droplet size can be reduced to below
50 m during idle conditions. Figure 10.7 shows an
injector with air shrouding.
Figure 10.8 shows the effect of this air shrouding as two photographs, one with the feature and
Figure 10.8 Better fuel preparation through injection with air
shrouding. Left: injection valve without air shrouding. Right:
injection valve with air shrouding
Engine management
one without. The improved dispersal and droplet
size is clear.
10.1.7 On-board diagnostics
Figure 10.9 shows the Bosch Motronic M5 with the
OBD 2 system. On-board diagnostics are becoming
essential for the longer term operation of a system
in order for it to produce a clean exhaust. Many
countries now require a very comprehensive diagnosis of all components which affect the exhaust. Any
fault detected will be indicated to the driver by a
warning light. The OBD 2 system is intended to
standardize the many varying methods used by different manufacturers. It is also thought that an extension to total vehicle diagnostics through a common
interface is possible in the near future.
Digital electronics allow both sensors and actuators to be monitored. Allocating values to all operating states of the sensors and actuators achieves
this. If a deviation from these figures is detected, it
is stored in memory and can be output in the workshop to assist with fault-finding.
Monitoring of the ignition system is very important as misfiring not only produces more emissions
of hydrocarbons, but the unburned fuel can enter
the catalytic converter and burn there. This can
cause higher than normal temperatures and may
damage the catalytic converter.
Figure 10.9 Motronic M5 with OBD 2
An accurate crankshaft speed sensor is used to
monitor ignition and combustion in the cylinders.
Misfiring alters the torque of the crankshaft for an
instant, which causes irregular rotation. This can be
monitored, thus allowing a misfire to be recognized
A number of further sensors are required for the
functions of the OBD 2 system. Another lambda
sensor, placed after the catalytic converter, monitors the operation of the OBD 2. An intake pressure
sensor and a valve are needed to control the activated charcoal filter to reduce and monitor evaporative emissions from the fuel tank. A differential
pressure sensor also monitors the fuel tank permeability. As well as the driver’s fault lamp a considerable increase in the electronics is required in the
control unit in order to operate an OBD system.
A better integral-monitoring system will have a
superior effect in reducing vehicle emissions than
tighter MOT regulations.
The diagnostic socket used by systems conforming to OBD 2 standards should have the following
pin configuration.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Bus Line, SAE J1850.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Chassis ground.
Signal ground.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
K Line, ISO 9141.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Bus – Line, SAE J1850.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
Manufacturer’s discretion.
L line, ISO 9141.
Vehicle battery positive.
It is hoped that with future standards and goals
set it will be beneficial for vehicle manufacturers
to begin implementation of at least the common
connector in the near term. Many diagnostic system
manufacturers would welcome this move.
If the current lack of standardization continues,
it will become counter-productive for all concerned.
10.2 Exhaust emission
10.2.1 Engine design
Many design details of an engine have a marked
effect on the production of pollutant emissions. With
this in mind, it will be clear that the final design
of an engine is a compromise between conflicting
interests. The major areas of interest are as discussed
in the following sections.
10.2.2 Combustion chamber
The main source of hydrocarbon emissions is
unburnt fuel that is in contact with the combustion
chamber walls. For this reason the surface area of
the walls should be kept as small as possible and
with the least complicated shape. A theoretical
ideal is a sphere but this is far from practical. Good
swirl of the cylinder charge is important, as this
facilitates better and more rapid burning. Perhaps
more important is to ensure a good swirl in the area
of the spark plug. This ensures a mixture quality
that is easier to ignite. The spark plug is best positioned in the centre of the combustion chamber as
this reduces the likelihood of combustion knock by
reducing the distance the flame front has to travel.
10.2.3 Compression ratio
The higher the compression ratio, the higher, in
general, the thermal efficiency of the engine and
therefore the better the performance and fuel consumption. The two main drawbacks to higher compression ratios are the increased emissions and the
increased tendency to knock. The problem with
emissions is due to the high temperature, which in
turn causes greater production of NOx. The increase
in temperature makes the fuel and air mixture more
likely to self-ignite, causing a higher risk of combustion knock. Countries which have had stringent
emission regulations for some time, such as the
USA and Japan, have tended to develop lower
compression engines. However, with the changes in
combustion chamber design and the more widespread introduction of four valves per cylinder,
together with greater electronic control and other
methods of dealing with emissions, compression
ratios have increased over the years.
10.2.4 Valve timing
The effect of valve timing on exhaust emissions can
be quite considerable. One of the main factors is the
amount of valve overlap. This is the time during
which the inlet valve has opened but the exhaust
valve has not yet closed. The duration of this phase
determines the amount of exhaust gas left in the
cylinder when the exhaust valve finally closes. This
has a significant effect on the reaction temperature
(the more exhaust gas the lower the temperature),
and hence has an effect on the emissions of NOx.
The main conflict is that, at higher speeds, a longer
inlet open period increases the power developed.
The down-side is that this causes a greater valve
overlap and, at idle, this can greatly increase emissions of hydrocarbons. This has led to the successful introduction of electronically controlled valve
10.2.5 Manifold designs
Gas flow within the inlet and exhaust manifolds is a
very complex subject. The main cause of this complexity is the transient changes in flow that are due
not only to changes in engine speed but also to
the pumping action of the cylinders. This pumping
action causes pressure fluctuations in the manifolds.
If the manifolds and both induction and exhaust
systems are designed to reflect the pressure wave
back at just the right time, great improvements in
volumetric efficiency can be attained. Many vehicles
are now fitted with adjustable length induction
tracts. Longer tracts are used at lower engine speeds
and shorter tracts at higher speed.
10.2.6 Charge stratification
If the charge mixture can be inducted into the cylinder in such a way that a richer mixture is in the
proximity of the spark plug, then overall the cylinder
Engine management
charge can be much weaker. This can bring great
advantages in fuel consumption, but the production
of NOx can still be a problem. The later section
on direct mixture injection development is a good
example of the use of this technique. Many leanburn engines use a form of stratification to reduce
the chances of misfire and rough running.
10.2.7 Warm up time
A significant quantity of emissions produced by
an average vehicle is created during the warm-up
phase. Suitable materials and care in the design of
the cooling system can reduce this problem. Some
engine management systems even run the ignition
timing slightly retarded during the warm-up phase
to heat the engine more quickly.
10.2.9 Ignition system
The ignition system can affect exhaust emissions
in two ways; first, by the quality of the spark produced, and secondly, the timing of the spark. The
quality of a spark will determine its ability to ignite
the mixture. The duration of the spark in particular
is significant when igniting weaker mixtures. The
stronger the spark the less the likelihood of a misfire, which can cause massive increases in the
production of hydrocarbons.
The timing of a spark is clearly critical but, as
ever, is a compromise with power, drivability,
consumption and emissions. Figure 10.12 is a graph
showing the influence of ignition timing on emissions and fuel consumption. The production of
carbon monoxide is dependent almost only on fuel
10.2.8 Exhaust gas recirculation
This technique is used primarily to reduce peak
combustion temperatures and hence the production
of nitrogen oxides (NOx). Exhaust gas recirculation
(EGR) can be either internal as mentioned above,
due to valve overlap, or external via a simple arrangement of pipes and a valve (Figure 10.10). A proportion of exhaust gas is simply returned to the inlet
side of the engine.
This EGR is controlled electronically as determined by a ROM in the ECU. This ensures that
drivability is not affected and also that the rate of
EGR is controlled. If the rate is too high, then the
production of hydrocarbons increases. Figure 10.11
shows the effect of various rates of EGR.
One drawback of EGR systems is that they can
become restricted by exhaust residue over a period
of time, thus changing the actual percentage of
recirculation. However, valves are now available
that reduce this particular problem.
Figure 10.10 Exhaust-gas recirculation system
Figure 10.11 Effect of various rates of EGR
Figure 10.12 Influence of ignition timing on emissions and fuel
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
mixture and is not significantly affected by changes
in ignition timing. Electronic and programmed
ignition systems have made significant improvements to the emission levels of today’s engines.
10.2.10 Thermal after-burning
Prior to the more widespread use of catalytic converters, thermal after-burning was used to reduce
the production of hydrocarbons. In fact, hydrocarbons do continue to burn in the exhaust manifold
and recent research has shown that the type of manifold used, such as cast iron or pressed steel, can
have a noticeable effect on the reduction of HC. At
temperatures of about 600 ° C, HC and CO are burnt
or oxidized into H2O and CO2. If air is injected into
the exhaust manifold just after the valves, then the
after-burning process can be encouraged.
10.2.11 Catalytic converters
Stringent regulations in most parts of the world
have made the use of a catalytic converter almost
indispensable. The three-way catalyst (TWC) is used
to great effect by most manufacturers. It is a very
simple device and looks similar to a standard
exhaust box. Note that, in order to operate correctly,
however, the engine must be run at – or very near
to – stoichiometry. This is to ensure that the right
‘ingredients’ are available for the catalyst to perform
its function.
Figure 10.13 shows a view of the inside of a catalytic converter. There are many types of hydrocarbons but the following example illustrates the main
reaction. Note that the reactions rely on some CO
being produced by the engine in order to reduce the
NOx. This is one of the reasons that manufacturers
have been forced to run engines at stoichiometry.
This legislation has tended to stifle the development of lean-burn techniques. The fine details of
the emission regulations can in fact, have a very
marked effect on the type of reduction techniques
used. The main reactions in the ‘cat’ are as follows:
2CO O2 → 2CO2
2C2H6 2CO → 4CO2 6H2O
2NO 2CO → N2 2CO2
The ceramic monolith type of base, when used
as the catalyst material, is a magnesium aluminium
silicate and, due to the several thousand very small
channels, provides a large surface area. This area is
coated with a wash coat of aluminium oxide, which
further increases its effective surface area by a factor of about seven thousand. Noble metals are used
for the catalysts. Platinum promotes the oxidation
of HC and CO, and rhodium helps the reduction
of NOx. The converter shown is the latest metal
substrate type with a built-in manifold. The whole
three-way catalytic converter only contains about
3–4 g of the precious metals.
Close-coupled catalytic converter system with fabricated manifold, lambda and OBD II-sensor.
The main catalytic converter is
designed as a modern 2-layer
converter with air-gap insulated
central part. The position of the
catalytic converter close to the
Figure 10.13 Catalytic converter
engine ensures a fast response
time (light-off) in the cold start
phase. The fabricated manifold
design both cuts the overall
weight of the vehicle and also
favours the lower thermal
mass of the light-off catalytic
converter. This innovative
system thus already complies
with future exhaust emission
Engine management
The ideal operating temperature range is from
about 400 to 800 ° C. A serious problem to counter is
the delay in the catalyst reaching this temperature.
This is known as the ‘catalyst light-off time’. Various methods have been used to reduce this time as
significant emissions are produced before ‘lightoff’ occurs. Electrical heating is one solution, as is
a form of burner, which involves lighting fuel inside
the converter. Another possibility is positioning the
converter as part of the exhaust manifold and down
pipe assembly. This greatly reduces light-off time
but gas flow problems, vibration and excessive temperature variations can be problems that reduce the
potential life of the unit.
Catalytic converters can be damaged in two ways.
The first is by the use of leaded fuel, which causes
lead compounds to be deposited on the active surfaces, thus reducing the effective area, and, secondly,
by engine misfire, which can cause the catalytic
converter to overheat due to burning inside the unit.
BMW, for example, uses a system on some vehicles
where a sensor monitors the output of the ignition
HT system and, if the spark is not present, will not
allow fuel to be injected.
A further possible technique to reduce emissions
during the warm-up time of the catalyst is to use a
small electrically heated pre-converter as shown in
Figure 10.14. Initial tests of this system show that
the emissions of hydrocarbons during the warm-up
phase can be reduced significantly. The problem yet
to be solved is that about 30 kW of heat is required
during the first 30 s to warm up the pre-converter.
This will require a current in the region of 250 A;
an extra battery may be one solution.
For a catalytic converter to operate at its optimum conversion rate in order to oxidize CO and
HC whilst reducing NOx, a narrow band within
0.5% of lambda value one is essential. Lambda sensors in use at present tend to operate within about
3% of the lambda mean value. When a catalytic
converter is in prime condition this is not a problem
due to storage capacity within the converter for CO
Figure 10.14 Electrically heated catalytic pre-converter
and O2. Damaged converters, however, cannot store
a sufficient quantity of these gases and hence become
less efficient. The damage, as suggested earlier in
this section, can be due to overheating or ‘poisoning’ due to lead or even silicon. If the control can be
kept within 0.5% of lambda the converter will
continue to be effective even if damaged to some
extent. Sensors are becoming available that can
work to this tolerance. A second sensor fitted after
the converter can be used to ensure ideal operation.
10.2.12 Closed loop lambda
Current regulations have almost made mandatory
closed loop control of the air–fuel mixture in conjunction with a three-way catalytic converter. It was
under discussion that a lambda value of 1 should
become compulsory for all operating conditions, but
this was not agreed.
Lambda control is a closed loop feedback
system in that the signal from a lambda sensor in
the exhaust can directly affect the fuel quantity
injected. The lambda sensor is described in more
detail in Chapter 2. Figure 10.15 shows a block
diagram of the lambda control system.
A graph to show the effect of lambda control and
a three-way catalyst (TWC) is shown in Figure 10.16.
Figure 10.15 Fuel metering with closed loop control
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
combustion chambers and injection techniques.
More accurate control of start of injection and spill
timing has allowed further improvements to be
made. Electronic control has also made a significant contribution. A number of further techniques
can be employed to control emissions.
10.3.2 Exhaust gas recirculation
In much the same way as with petrol engines,
exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) is employed primarily to reduce NOx emissions by reducing the
reaction temperature in the combustion chamber.
However, if the percentage of EGR is too high,
increased hydrocarbons and soot are produced.
10.3.3 Intake air temperature
Figure 10.16 The effect of lambda control and a three-way
catalyst (TWC)
The principle of operation is as follows: the lambda
sensor produces a voltage that is proportional to the
oxygen content of the exhaust, which is in turn proportional to the air–fuel ratio. At the ideal setting, this
voltage is about 450 mV. If the voltage received by the
ECU is below this value (weak mixture) the quantity
of fuel injected is increased slightly. If the signal
voltage is above the threshold (rich mixture) the fuel
quantity is reduced. This alteration in the air–fuel ratio
must not be too sudden as it could cause the engine to
buck. To prevent this, the ECU contains an integrator,
which changes the mixture over a period of time.
A delay also exists between the mixture formation
in the manifold and the measurement of the exhaust
gas oxygen. This is due to the engine’s working cycle
and the speed of the inlet mixture, the time for the
exhaust to reach the sensor and the sensor’s response
time. This is sometimes known as ‘dead time’ and
can be as much as one second at idle speed but only
a few hundred milliseconds at higher engine speeds.
Due to the dead time the mixture cannot be controlled to an exact value of 1. If the integrator
is adjusted to allow for engine speed then it is possible to keep the mixture in the lambda window
(0.97–1.03), which is the region in which the TWC
is at its most efficient.
This is appropriate to turbocharged engines such
that if the air is passed through an intercooler and
there are improvements in volumetric efficiency,
lower temperature will again reduce the production
of NOx. The intercooler is fitted in the same area as
the cooling system radiator.
10.3.4 Catalytic converter
On a diesel engine, a catalyst can be used to reduce
the emission of hydrocarbons but will have less
effect on nitrogen oxides. This is because diesel
engines are always run with excess air to ensure
better and more efficient burning of the fuel. A normal catalyst therefore will not strip the oxygen off
the NOx to oxidize the hydrocarbons because the
excess oxygen will be used instead. Special NOx
converters are becoming available.
10.3.5 Filters
To reduce the emission of particulate matter (soot),
filters can be used. These can vary from a fine grid
design made from a ceramic material, to centrifugal
filters and water trap techniques. The problem to
overcome is that the filters can get blocked, which
adversely affects the overall performance. Several
techniques are employed, including centrifugal
10.3 Control of diesel
10.4 Complete vehicle
control systems
10.3.1 Introduction
10.4.1 Introduction
Exhaust emissions from diesel engines have been
reduced considerably by changes in the design of
The possibility of a complete vehicle control system has been around since the first use of digital
Engine management
control. Figure 10.17 shows a representation of a
full vehicle control system. In principle, it involves
one ECU, which is capable of controlling all
aspects of the vehicle.
Figure 10.18 shows one way in which a number
of ECUs can be linked. In reality, however, rather
than one control unit, separate ECUs are used that
are able to communicate with each other via a controller area network (CAN) data bus.
10.4.2 Advantages of central
The advantages of central control come under two
main headings, inputs and outputs. On the input
side, consider all the inputs required to operate each
of the following:
Figure 10.17 Representation of a full vehicle control system
Figure 10.18 Linking ECUs
Ignition system.
Fuel system.
Transmission system.
It will be apparent that there are many common
requirements even with just three possible areas of
vehicle control. Having one central control system
can potentially decrease the complexity of the
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 10.19 System link
wiring whilst increasing the possibilities for control. This is, in fact, the advantage of the ‘outputs’.
Consider the common operating condition for a
vehicle of a sudden and hard acceleration and
the possible responses from each of the systems
Possible action
Retard the timing
Inject extra fuel
Change down a gear
If each system is operating in its own right, it is possible that each, to some extent, will not react in the
best way with respect to the others. For example,
the timing and fuel quantity may be set but then
the transmission ECU decides to change down a
gear thus increasing engine speed. This, in turn,
will require a change in fuel and timing. During
the transition stage, a decrease in efficiency and an
increase in emissions are likely.
With a single control unit, or at least communication between them, the ideal actions could all
take place at the most appropriate time. The complexity of the programming, however, requires much
increased computing power. This is particularly
apparent if other vehicle systems are considered,
such as traction control, ABS, active suspension and
steering. These systems are discussed individually
in other sections of this book.
10.4.3 Bosch Cartronic system
The complexity of combining systems as suggested
above is increasing. Bosch has a system involving a
hierarchy of vehicle electronics. Improvements in
performance, emissions, driver safety and comfort
require increased interconnection of various electronic systems. In the previous section, a simple
example highlighted the need for separate electronic
systems to communicate with each other. Bosch
uses a hierarchical signal structure to solve this
problem. Figure 10.19 shows two ways in which the
systems can be linked. The first using conventional
wiring and the second using a Controller Area
Network (CAN).
Figure 10.20 shows the difference between the
data flow in a stand-alone system and the data flow
in a hierarchical system. The Cartronic system
works on the principle that each system can only be
controlled by a system placed above it in the hierarchy. As an example, the integrated transmission
control systems of engine control and gearbox control do not communicate directly but via the hierarchically superior transmission control system.
10.4.4 Summary
Research is continuing into complete control systems for vehicles. As more and more systems are
integrated then the cost of the electronics necessary
will reduce. The computing power required for
these types of developments is increasing, and
32- (or even 64-) bit high-speed microcontrollers
Engine management
Figure 10.20 Cartronic system
will soon become the norm. The down-side of using
a single ECU to control the entire vehicle is the
replacement cost of the unit. At present prices, even
a single system ECU can cost a significant amount.
Overall though, the cost of vehicle manufacture may
be less.
Full central control has other possible advantages such as allowing the expansion of onboard
diagnostics (OBD) to cover the whole vehicle,
potentially saving repair time and running costs.
10.5 Case study –
Mitsubishi GDI
10.5.1 Introduction
I am grateful to Mitsubishi for the information in
this section.
For many years, innovative engine technology has
been a development priority of Mitsubishi Motors.
In particular, Mitsubishi has sought to improve
engine efficiency in an endeavour to meet growing
environmental demands – such as those for energy
conservation and the reduction of CO2 emissions in
order to limit the negative impact of the greenhouse
In Mitsubishi’s endeavour to design and build
ever more efficient engines, it has devoted significant resources to developing a gasoline direct injection engine. For years, automotive engineers have
believed this type of engine has the greatest potential to optimize fuel supply and combustion, which
in turn can deliver better performance and lower
fuel consumption. Until now, however, no one has
successfully designed an in-cylinder direct injection
engine for use on production vehicles. A result
of Mitsubishi’s engine development capabilities,
Mitsubishi’s advanced Gasoline Direct Injection
‘GDI’ engine is the realization of an engineering
For the fuel supply, conventional engines use a
fuel injection system which replaced the carburation system. MPI or Multi-Point Injection, where
the fuel is injected to each intake port, is currently
one of the most widely used systems. However,
even in MPI engines there are limits to the fuel supply response and the combustion control because
the fuel mixes with air before entering the cylinder.
Mitsubishi set out to push these limits by developing an engine where gasoline is directly injected
into the cylinder as in a diesel engine, and, moreover, where injection timings are precisely controlled to match load conditions. The GDI engine
achieved the following outstanding characteristics.
Extremely precise control of fuel supply to
achieve fuel efficiency that exceeds that of diesel
engines by enabling combustion of an ultra-lean
mixture supply.
A very efficient intake and a relatively high compression ratio unique to the GDI engine deliver
both high performance and a response that surpass those of conventional MPI engines.
Figure 10.21 shows the progress towards higher
output and efficiency. For Mitsubishi, the technology realized for this GDI engine will form the cornerstone of the next generation of high efficiency
engines and, in its view, the technology will continue to develop in this direction.
Figure 10.22 shows the transition of the fuel
supply system.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 10.21 Progress towards higher output and efficiency
Figure 10.22 Transition of fuel supply system
Figure 10.23 is the Mitsubishi Gasoline Direct
Injection (GDI) engine.
10.5.2 Major objectives of the
GDI engine
Ultra-low fuel consumption that is even better
than that of diesel engines.
Superior power to conventional MPI engines.
Technical features
Upright straight intake ports for optimal air flow
control in the cylinder.
Curved-top pistons for better combustion.
High-pressure fuel pump to feed pressurized
fuel into the injectors.
High-pressure swirl injectors for optimum
air–fuel mixture.
Figure 10.23 Mitsubishi gasoline direct injection ‘GDI’ engine
Engine management
Figure 10.24 Two combustion modes
The major characteristics of the GDI engine are
considered in the next few sections.
10.5.3 Lower fuel consumption
and higher output
Optimal fuel spray for two
combustion modes
Using methods and technologies unique to
Mitsubishi, the GDI engine provides both lower fuel
consumption and higher output. This seemingly
contradictory and difficult feat is achieved with the
use of two combustion modes. Put another way, injection timings change to match engine load.
For the load conditions required in average
urban driving, fuel is injected late in the compression stroke, as in a diesel engine. By doing so, an
ultra-lean combustion is achieved due to an ideal
formation of a stratified air–fuel mixture. During
high performance driving conditions, fuel is injected
during the intake stroke. This enables a homogeneous air–fuel mixture, like that in conventional
MPI engines, to deliver a higher output.
Ultra-lean combustion mode
Under most normal driving conditions, up to speeds
of 120 km/h, the Mitsubishi GDI engine operates in
ultra-lean combustion mode, resulting in less fuel
consumption. In this mode, fuel injection occurs at
the latter stage of the compression stroke and ignition occurs at an ultra-lean air–fuel ratio of 30 : 40
(35 : 55, including EGR).
Superior Output Mode
When the GDI engine is operating with higher
loads or at higher speeds, fuel injection takes place
during the intake stroke. This optimizes combustion by ensuring a homogeneous, cooler air–fuel
mixture which minimizes the possibility of engine
These two modes are represented in Figure 10.24.
10.5.4 The GDI engine’s
foundation technologies
There are four technical features that make up the
foundation technology. The ‘upright straight intake
port’ supplies optimal air flow into the cylinder. The
‘curved top piston’ controls combustion by helping
to shape the air–fuel mixture. The ‘high-pressure
fuel pump’ supplies the high-pressure needed for
direct in-cylinder injection. In addition, the ‘highpressure swirl injector’ controls the vaporization and
dispersion of the fuel spray.
These fundamental technologies, combined with
other unique fuel control technologies, enabled
Mitsubishi to achieve both development objectives –
fuel consumption lower than that of diesel engines
and output higher than that of conventional MPI
engines. The methods are shown below.
In-cylinder air flow
The GDI engine has upright straight intake ports
rather than the horizontal intake ports used in conventional engines. The upright straight intake ports
efficiently direct the air flow down at the curvedtop piston, which redirects the air flow into a strong
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
reverse tumble for optimal fuel injection, as shown
in Figure 10.25.
Fuel spray
Newly developed high-pressure swirl injectors provide the ideal spray pattern to match each engine’s
operational modes. This is shown as Figure 10.26.
At the same time, by applying highly swirling
motion to the entire fuel spray, the injectors enable
sufficient fuel atomization that is mandatory for
the GDI even with a relatively low fuel pressure of
50 kg/cm.
Optimized configuration of the
combustion chamber
The curved-top piston controls the shape of the
air–fuel mixture as well as the air flow inside the
combustion chamber and has an important role in
maintaining a compact air–fuel mixture. The mixture, which is injected late in the compression
stroke, is carried towards the spark plug before it
can disperse.
Figure 10.25 Upright straight intake ports
Figure 10.26 Swirl injectors
Mitsubishi’s advanced in-cylinder observation
techniques, including laser-methods, have been utilized to determine the optimum piston shape shown
in Figure 10.27.
10.5.5 Realization of lower fuel
Basic concept
In conventional gasoline engines, dispersion of an
air–fuel mixture with the ideal density around the
spark plug was very difficult. However, this is possible in the GDI engine. Furthermore, extremely
low fuel consumption is achieved because ideal
stratification enables fuel injected late in the compression stroke to maintain an ultra-lean air–fuel
An engine for analysis purposes has proved that
an air–fuel mixture with the optimum density
gathers around the spark plug in a stratified charge.
This is also borne out by analysing the behaviour
of the fuel spray immediately before ignition and
analysing the air–fuel mixture itself.
Engine management
As a result, extremely stable combustion of
an ultra-lean mixture with an air–fuel ratio of 40
(55, EGR included) is achieved as shown in
Figure 10.28.
Combustion of ultra-lean mixture
In conventional MPI engines, there were limits
to the mixture’s leanness due to large changes in
combustion characteristics. However, the stratified
mixture of the GDI enabled greatly decreasing the
air–fuel ratio without leading to poorer combustion. For example, during idling, when combustion
is most inactive and unstable, the GDI engine
maintains a stable and fast combustion even with
an extremely lean mixture of 40 : 1 air–fuel ratio
(55 : 1, EGR included). Figure 10.29 shows a comparison between GDI and a conventional multipoint
Vehicle fuel consumption
Fuel consumption is considered under idling, cruising and city driving conditions.
Fuel consumption during idling
Figure 10.27 Optimum piston shape
Spark Plug
The GDI engine maintains stable combustion
even at low idle speeds. Moreover, it offers greater
flexibility in setting the idle speed. Compared with
conventional engines, its fuel consumption during
idling is 40% less, as represented in Figure 10.30.
Fuel Spray
40 ° before Top Dead Centre
30 ° before Top Dead Centre
20 ° before Top Dead Centre
Figure 10.28 Behaviour of fuel spray (injection in compression stroke) – Schlieren photo method
Figure 10.29 Comparison between GDI and a conventional multipoint system
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Fuel consumption during cruising
At 40 km/h, the GDI engine uses 35% less fuel than a
comparably sized conventional engine (Figure 10.31).
Fuel consumption in city driving
In Japanese 10.15 mode tests (representative of
Japanese urban driving), the GDI engine used 35%
less fuel than comparably sized conventional gasoline engines. Moreover, these results indicate that
the GDI engine uses less fuel than even diesel
engines (Figure 10.32).
However, for the GDI engine, 97% NOx reduction
is achieved by utilizing a high-rate EGR (Exhaust
Gas Recirculation) such as 30%, which is allowed
by the stable combustion unique to the GDI, as
well as by the use of a newly developed lean-NOx
catalyst. Figure 10.33 shows a graph of NOx emissions. Figure 10.34 is a newly developed lean-NOx
10.5.6 Realization of superior
Emission control
Basic concept
Previous efforts to burn a lean air–fuel mixture have
resulted in difficulty in controlling NOx emissions.
To achieve power superior to conventional MPI
engines, the GDI engine has a high compression
Figure 10.30 Fuel consumption during idling
Figure 10.31 Fuel consumption during cruising
Engine management
Figure 10.32 Fuel consumption in city driving
Figure 10.33 NOx emissions
Figure 10.34 Newly developed lean NOx catalyst (HC selective deoxidization type)
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 10.35 Improved volumetric efficiency
Figure 10.36 Increased compression ratio
ratio and a highly efficient air intake system, which
result in improved volumetric efficiency.
Improved volumetric efficiency
Compared with conventional engines, the Mitsubishi
GDI engine provides better volumetric efficiency.
The upright straight intake ports enable smoother
air intake. The vaporization of fuel, which occurs
in the cylinder at a late stage of the compression
stroke, cools the air for better volumetric efficiency
(Figure 10.35).
Compared with conventional MPI engines of a
comparable size, the GDI engine provides approximately 10% greater output and torque at all speeds
(Figure 10.37).
In high-output mode, the GDI engine provides
outstanding acceleration. Figure 10.38 compares
the performance of the GDI engine with a conventional MPI engine.
10.6 Case studies – Bosch
10.6.1 Motronic M3
Increased compression ratio
The cooling of air inside the cylinder by the vaporization of fuel has another benefit to minimize
engine knocking. This allows a high compression
ratio of 12, and thus improved combustion efficiency (Figure 10.36).
The combination of ignition and injection control
has several advantages. The information received
from various sensors is used for computing both
fuelling and ignition requirements. Perhaps more
importantly, ignition and injection are closely
linked. The influence they have on each other can
Engine management
Figure 10.37 Engine performance
Figure 10.38 Vehicle acceleration
easily be taken into account to ensure that the
engine is working at its optimum, under all operation conditions.
Overall, this type of system is less complicated
than separate fuel and ignition systems and, in many
cases, the ECU is able to work in an emergency mode
by substituting missing information from sensors
with pre-programmed values. This will allow limited
but continued operation in the event of certain
system failures.
The ignition system is integrated and is operated
without a high tension distributor. The ignition process is controlled digitally by the ECU. The data for
the ideal characteristics are stored in ROM from
information gathered during both prototyping and
development of the engine. The main parameters
for ignition advance are engine speed and load, but
greater accuracy can be achieved by taking further
parameters into account, such as engine temperature. This provides both optimum output and close
control of anti-pollution levels. Performance and
pollution level control means that the actual ignition
point must, in many cases, be a trade-off between
the two.
The injection system is multipoint and, as is
the case for all fuel systems, the amount of fuel
delivered is primarily determined by the amount of
air drawn into the engine. The method for measuring
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 10.39 Bosch Motronic system components
these data is indirect in the case of this system as
a pressure sensor is being used to determine the
air quantity.
Electromagnetic injectors control the fuel supply
into the engine. The injector open period is determined by the ECU. This will obtain very accurate
control of the air–fuel mixture under all operating
conditions of the engine. The data for this are stored
in ROM in the same way as for the ignition.
Figure 10.39 shows the components of this
Figure 10.40 Crankshaft sensor signal
Ignition system operation
The main source of reference for the ignition system is from the crankshaft position sensor. This is a
magnetic inductive pick-up sensor positioned next
to a flywheel ring containing 58 teeth. Each tooth
takes up a 6 ° angle of the flywheel with one 12 ° gap
positioned 114 ° before top dead centre (TDC) for
the number one cylinder.
Typical resistance of the sensor coil is 800 .
The air gap between the sensor and flywheel ring is
about 1 mm. The signal produced by the flywheel
sensor is shown in Figure 10.40. It is essentially a
sine wave with one cycle missing, which corresponds to the gap in the teeth of the reluctor plate.
The information provided to the ECU is engine
speed from the frequency of the signal, and engine
position from the number of pulses before or after
the missed pulses.
The block diagram in Figure 10.41 shows a
block diagram layout of how the ignition system is
Figure 10.41 Simplified layout of the control of the ignition
controlled. At ignition system level the ECU must
be able to:
Determine and create advance curves.
Establish constant energy.
Transmit the ignition signal direct to the ignition
Engine management
Figure 10.42 Engine timing and dwell maps
The basic ignition advance angle is obtained from a
memorized cartographic map. This is held in a ROM
chip within the ECU. The parameters for this are:
Engine rev/min – given by the flywheel sensor.
Inlet air pressure – given by the manifold
absolute pressure sensor.
The above two parameters (speed and load) give the
basic setting but to ensure optimum advance angle
the timing is corrected by:
Coolant temperature.
Air temperature.
Throttle butterfly position.
The ignition is set to a predetermined advance during the starting phase. Figure 10.42 shows a typical
advance map and a dwell map used by the Motronic
system. These data are held in ROM. For full ignition
control, the electronic control unit has first to determine the basic timing for three different conditions.
Under idling conditions, ignition timing is often
moved very quickly by the ECU in order to control idle speed. When timing is advanced, engine
speed will increase within certain limits.
Full load conditions require careful control of
ignition timing to prevent combustion knock.
When a full load signal is sensed by the ECU
(high manifold pressure) the ignition advance
angle is reduced.
Partial throttle is the main area of control and,
as already stated, the basic timing is set initially
by a programme as a function of engine speed
and manifold pressure.
Corrections are added according to:
Operational strategy.
Knock protection.
Phase correction.
The ECU will also control ignition timing variation
during overrun fuel cut-off and reinstatement and
also ensure anti-jerk control. When starting, the ignition timing plan is replaced by a specific starting
strategy. Phase correction is when the ECU adjusts
the timing to take into account the time taken for
the HT pulse to reach the spark plugs. To ensure
good drivability the ECU can limit the variations
between the two ignition systems to a maximum
value, which varies according to engine speed and
the basic injection period.
The anti-jerk function operates when the basic
injection period is less than 2.5 ms and the engine
speed is between 720 and 3200 rev/min. This function operates to correct the programmed ignition
timing in relation to the instantaneous engine speed
and a set filtered speed; this is done to stabilize the
engine rotational characteristics as much as possible.
In order to maintain constant high tension (HT)
energy, the dwell period must increase in line with
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
engine speed. To ensure the ignition primary current reaches its maximum at the point of ignition, the
ECU controls the dwell by the use of another memory map, which takes battery voltage into account.
The signal from the flywheel sensor is virtually
a sinusoid created as the teeth pass the winding. The
zero value of this signal occurs as the sensor ‘sees’
the apex of each tooth. A circuit within the ECU
(a Schmitt trigger) converts the signal into a square
wave. The passage of the missing teeth gives a longer
duration signal. The ECU detects the gap in the teeth
and, from this, can determine the first TDC. The
second TDC in the cycle is determined by counting 29 teeth, which is half a revolution. The ECU,
having determined the ignition angle then controls
the coil every half engine revolution. Using the
reference signal, the ECU switches the coil on at
a point determined by a number of teeth corresponding to the dwell, before the point determined
by timing value, where the coil is switched off.
The ignition module is only used as a simple
switch to control the coil primary windings. It consists of a Darlington-type amplifier. This switching
function is carried out within the ECU on some systems, this choice very much depends on the location of the ECU compared with the ignition coil.
Also, the heat generated by the switching of heavy
current may be better separate from the main ECU.
A final consideration is whether the interference
caused by the switching could cause problems
within the ECU.
The ‘distributorless’ ignition coil is made up of
two primary windings and two secondary windings. The primary windings have a common 12 V
supply and are switched to earth in turn in the normal manner. The primary resistance is of the order
Figure 10.43 The main components in the fuel supply system
of 0.5 and the secondary resistance is 14.5 k.
The system works on the lost spark principle in that
cylinders 1 and 4 fire together as do 2 and 3. The
disadvantage of this system is that one cylinder of
each pair has the spark jumping from the plug earth
electrode to the centre. However, owing to the very
high energy available for the spark, this has no
significant effect on performance.
The HT cables used are resistive. Spark plugs
used for this system are standard but vary between
types of engine. A gap of around 0.8 mm is the norm.
Fuel supply
Fuel is collected from the tank by a pump either
immersed in it or outside, but near the tank. The
immersed type is quieter in operation has better
cooling and no internal leaks. The fuel is directed
forwards to the fuel rail or manifold, via a paper
filter. Figure 10.43 shows the fuel supply system.
Fuel pressure is maintained at about 2.5 bar
above manifold pressure by a regulator mounted on
the fuel rail. Excess fuel is returned to the tank. The
fuel is usually picked up via a swirl pot in the tank
to prevent aeration of the fuel. Each of the four inlet
manifold tracts has its own injector.
The fuel pump is a high-pressure type and is a
two-stage device. A low-pressure stage, created by a
turbine, draws fuel from the tank and a high-pressure
stage, created by a gear pump, delivers fuel to the
filter. It is powered by a 12 V supply from the fuel
pump relay, which is controlled by the ECU as a
safety measure.
The fuel pump characteristics are:
Delivery – 120 litres per hour at 3 bars.
Resistance – 0.8 (static).
Engine management
Voltage – 12 V.
Current – 10.5 A.
The rotation of the turbine draws fuel in via the
inlet. The fuel passes through the turbine and enters
the pump housing where it is pressurized by rotation of the pump and the reduction of the volume in
the gear chambers. This pressure opens a residual
valve and fuel passes to the filter. When the pump
stops, pressure is maintained by this valve, which
prevents the fuel returning. If, due to a faulty regulator or a blockage in the line, fuel pressure rises
above 7 bar an over-pressure valve will open, releasing fuel back to the tank. Figure 9.30 shows this
type of pump.
The fuel filter is placed between the fuel pump
and the fuel rail. It is fitted to ensure that the outlet
screen traps any paper particles from the filter
element. The filter will stop contamination down to
between 8 and 10 m. Replacement of the filter varies
between manufacturers but 80 000 km (50 000 miles)
is often recommended.
The fuel rail, in addition to providing a uniform
supply to the injectors, acts as an accumulator.
Depending on the size of the fuel rail some systems
also use an extra accumulator. The volume of the
fuel rail is large enough to act as a pressure fluctuation damper, ensuring that all injectors are supplied with fuel at a constant pressure.
Injectors and associated
One injector is used for each cylinder although very
high performance vehicles may use two. The injectors are connected to the fuel rail by a rubber seal.
The injector is an electrically operated valve manufactured to a very high precision. The injector comprises a body and needle attached to a magnetic
core. When the winding in the injector housing is
energized, the core or armature is attracted and the
valve opens, compressing a return spring. The fuel
is delivered in a fine spray to wait behind the closed
inlet valve until the induction stroke begins. Providing the pressure across the injector remains constant, the quantity of fuel admitted is related to the
open period, which in turn is determined by the time
the electromagnetic circuit is energized. The injectors typically have the following characteristics
(Figure 9.29 shows typical fuel injectors):
Supply voltage – 12 V.
Resistance – 16 .
Static output – 150 cc per minute at 3 bar.
The purpose of the fuel pressure regulator is to
maintain differential pressure across the injectors at
a pre-determined constant. This means the regulator must adjust the fuel pressure in response to
changes in manifold pressure. It is made of two compressed cases containing a diaphragm, spring and
a valve. Figure 9.31 is a fuel pressure regulator similar to those used on this and many other injection
The calibration of the regulator valve is determined by the spring tension. Changes in manifold
pressure vary the basic setting. When the fuel pressure is sufficient to move the diaphragm, the valve
opens and allows fuel to return to the tank. The
decrease in pressure in the manifold, also acting on
the diaphragm for example, idle speed, will allow
the valve to open more easily, hence maintaining a
constant differential pressure between the fuel rail
and the inlet manifold. This is a constant across the
injectors and hence the quantity of fuel injected is
determined only by the open time of the injectors.
The differential pressure is maintained at about
2.5 bar.
The air supply circuit will vary considerably
between manufacturers but an individual manifold
from a collector housing, into which the air is fed
via a simple butterfly valve, essentially supplies each
cylinder. The air is supplied from a suitable filter. A
supplementary air circuit is utilized during the warmup period after a cold start and to control idle speed.
Fuel mixture calculation
The quantity of fuel to be injected is determined
primarily by the quantity of air drawn into the
engine. This is dependent on two factors:
Engine rpm.
Inlet manifold pressure.
This speed load characteristic is held in the ECU
memory in ROM look-up tables.
A sensor connected to the manifold by a
pipe senses the manifold absolute pressure. It is a
piezoelectric-type sensor, where the resistance varies
with pressure. The sensor is fed with a stabilized
5 V supply and transmits an output voltage according to the pressure. The sensor is fitted away from
the manifold and hence a pipe is required to connect it. A volumetric capacity is usually fitted in
this line to damp down pressure fluctuations. The
output signal varies between about 0.25 V at 0.17 bar
to about 4.75 V at 1.05 bar. Figure 10.44 shows a
pressure sensor and its voltage output.
The density of air varies with temperature such
that the information from the MAP sensor on air
quantity will be incorrect over wide temperature
variations. An air temperature sensor is used to
inform the ECU of the inlet air temperature such
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
that the ECU may correct the quantity of fuel
injected. As the temperature of air decreases its density increases and hence the quantity of fuel injected
must also be increased.
The sensor is a negative temperature coefficient
(NTC) resistor. The resistance value decreases as
temperature increases and vice versa. The output
characteristic of this sensor is non-linear. Further
details about this type of sensor and one solution to
the non-linear response problem are examined in
Chapter 2.
In order to operate the injectors, the ECU needs
to know – in addition to air pressure – the engine
speed to determine the injection quantity. The same
flywheel sensor used by the ignition system provides this information. All four injectors operate
simultaneously, once per engine revolution, injecting half of the required fuel. This helps to ensure
balanced combustion. The start of injection varies
according to ignition timing.
A basic open period for the injectors is determined by using the ROM information relating to
manifold pressure and engine speed. Two corrections are then made, one relative to air temperature
and another depending on whether the engine is
idling, at full or partial load.
The ECU then carries out another group of corrections, if applicable:
Figure 10.44 Pressure sensor and its voltage output
Figure 10.45 Throttle potentiometer and its electrical circuit
after-start enrichment,
operational enrichment,
acceleration enrichment,
weakening on deceleration,
cut-off on overrun,
reinstatement of injection after cut-off,
correction for battery voltage variation.
Under starting conditions, the injection period is
calculated differently. This is determined mostly
from a set figure, which is varied as a function of
The coolant temperature sensor is a thermistor
and is used to provide a signal to the ECU relating
to engine coolant temperature. The ECU can then
calculate any corrections to fuel injection and ignition timing. The operation of this sensor is the same
as the air temperature sensor.
The throttle potentiometer is fixed on the throttle butterfly spindle and informs the ECU of the
throttle position and rate of change of throttle position. The sensor provides information on acceleration, deceleration and whether the throttle is in the
full load or idle position. Figure 10.45 shows the
throttle potentiometer and its electrical circuit. It
comprises a variable resistance and a fixed resistance. As is common with many sensors, a fixed
supply of 5 V is provided and the return signal will
Engine management
vary approximately between 0 and 5 V. The voltage
increases as the throttle is opened.
Operating functions The operation functions
employed by this system can be examined under a
number of headings or phases, as follows.
Starting phase Entry to the starting phase
occurs as soon as the ECU receives a signal from
the flywheel sensor. The ignition advance is determined relative to the engine speed and the water
temperature. The ECU operates the injectors four
times per engine cycle (twice per crankshaft revolution) in order to obtain the most uniform mixture
and to avoid wetting the plugs during the starting
phase. Figure 10.46 shows the injection and ignition timing relative to engine position. Injection
ceases 24 ° after the flywheel TDC signal. The ECU
sets an appropriate injection period, corrected in
relation to water temperature if starting from cold
and air temperature if starting from hot. Exit from
this starting phase is when the engine speed passes
a threshold determined by water temperature.
After-start enrichment phase Enrichment is
necessary to avoid stalling after starting. The
amount of enrichment is determined by water and
air temperature and decreases under control of the
ECU. If the engine is cold or an intermediate temperature, the initial mixture is a function of water
temperature. If the engine is hot, the initial mixture
is a function of air and water temperature. Figure
10.47 is a representation of the decreasing mixture
enrichment after a cold start. If the engine happens
to stop within a certain period of time just after a
cold start, the next post-start enrichment will be
reduced slightly.
temperature signal to make up for fuel losses and to
prevent the engine speed dropping. The enrichment
factor is reduced as the resistance of the temperature sensor falls, finally ceasing at 80 ° C. Figure
10.48 shows the enrichment factor during warm up.
The enrichment factor is determined by engine
speed and temperature at idle and at other times by
the programmed injection period relative to engine
speed as well as the water temperature. To overcome the frictional resistance of a cold engine it
is important to increase the mixture supply. This
is achieved by using a supplementary air control
device, which allows air to bypass the throttle
Idling phase Air required for idling bypasses the
throttle butterfly by a passage in the throttle housing. A volume screw is fitted for adjustment of idle
speed. Idle mixture adjustment is carried out electronically in response to the adjusting of a potentiometer, either on the ECU or as a separate unit. The
ignition and injection functions for idle condition
are set using information from the throttle potentiometer that the throttle is at the idle position, and
engine speed is set by information from the flywheel sensor.
Figure 10.47 Decreasing mixture enrichment after a cold start
Engine cold running phase During warm up,
the ignition timing is corrected in relation to water
temperature. Timing will also alter depending on
engine speed and load. During the warm-up phase,
the injector open period is increased by the coolant
Figure 10.46 Injection and ignition timing relative to engine
Figure 10.48 Enrichment factor during warm up
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Full load phase Under full load conditions the
ignition timing is related to engine speed and full
load information from the throttle potentiometer.
The injection function in order to achieve maximum
power must be set such that the mixture ratio is
increased to 1 : 1. The information from the throttle
potentiometer triggers a programme in the ECU to
enrich the mixture in relation to engine speed in
order to ensure maximum power over the speed
range but also to minimize the risk of knocking. It
is also important not to increase fuel consumption
unnecessarily and not to allow significant increases
in exhaust emissions.
Acceleration phase When a rapid acceleration
is detected by the ECU from the rate of change of
the throttle potentiometer signal, enrichment occurs
over a certain number of ignitions. The enrichment
value is determined from water temperature and
pressure variations in the inlet manifold. The enrichment then decreases over a number of ignitions.
Figure 10.49 shows the acceleration enrichment
phase. The enrichment is applied for the calibrated
number of ignitions and then reduced at a fixed rate
until it is non-existent. Acceleration enrichment will
not occur if the engine speed is above 5000 rev/min
or at idle. Under very strong acceleration it is possible to have unsynchronized injection. This is determined from the water temperature, a ROM map of
throttle position against engine speed and a battery
voltage correction.
falls to about 1000 rev/min, injection recommences
with the period rising to the value associated with the
current engine speed and load. Figure 10.50 shows
the strategy used to control injection cut-out and
Knock protection phase Ignition timing is also
controlled to reduce jerking and possible knocking
during cut-off and reinstatement. The calculated
advance is reduced to keep the ignition just under the
knock limit. The advance correction against knock
is a programme relating to injection period, engine
speed and water/air temperature.
Engine speed limitation Injection is cut-off
when the engine speed rises above 6900 rev/min
and is reinstated below this figure. This is simply to
afford some protection against over-revving of the
engine and the damage that may be caused.
Battery voltage correction This is a correction
in addition to all other functions in order to compensate for changes in system voltage. The voltage
is converted every TDC and the correction is then
applied to all injection period calculations. On
account of the time taken for full current to flow
in the injector winding and the time taken for the
current to cease, a variation exists depending on
applied voltage. Figure 10.51 shows how this delay
can occur; if S1 is greater than S2 a correction is
Deceleration phase If the change in manifold
pressure is greater than about 30 mbar the ECU
causes the mixture to be weakened relative to the
detected pressure change.
Injection cut-off on deceleration phase This
is designed to improve fuel economy and to reduce
particular emissions of hydrocarbons. It will occur
when the throttle is closed and when the engine
speed is above a threshold related to water temperature (about 1500 rev/min). When the engine speed
Figure 10.49 Acceleration enrichment phase
Figure 10.50 Strategy used to control injection cut-out and
Engine management
required. S1 S2 S where S represents the time
delay due to the inductance of the injector winding.
10.6.2 Motronic Gasoline Direct
Injection (GDi)
Bosch’s high-pressure injection system for gasoline
engines is based on a pressure reservoir and a fuel
rail, which a high-pressure pump charges to a regulated pressure of up to 120 bar. The fuel can therefore
be injected directly into the combustion chamber
via electro-magnetic injectors. This system achieves
reduced emissions and improved fuel consumption.
The air mass drawn in can be adjusted through
the electronically controlled throttle valve (gas-bywire) and is measured with the help of an air mass
meter. For mixture control, a wide-band oxygen
sensor is used in the exhaust. It is positioned before
the catalytic converters. This sensor can measure a
range between lambda 0.8 and infinity. The electronic engine control unit regulates the operating
modes of the engine with gasoline direct injection
in three ways:
Figure 10.51 Injector operation time curve
Stratified charge operation – with lambda values
greater than 1.
Homogenous operation – at lambda 1.
Rich homogenous operation – with lambda 0.8.
Compared to the traditional manifold injection system, the entire fuel amount must be injected in
full-load operation in a quarter of the time. The
available time is significantly shorter during stratified charge operation in part load. Especially at
idle, injection times of less than 0.5 ms are required
due to the lower fuel consumption. This is only onefifth of the available time for manifold injection.
The fuel must be atomized very finely in order
to create an optimal mixture in the brief moment
between injection and ignition. The fuel droplets for
direct injection are on average smaller than 20 m.
This is only one-fifth of the droplet size reached
with the traditional manifold injection and one-third
Figure 10.52 Injector used by gasoline direct injection (Source: Bosch Press)
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
of the diameter of a single human hair. This improves
efficiency considerably. However, even more important than fine atomization is an even fuel distribution in the injection beam. This is done to achieve
fast and uniform combustion.
Conventional spark ignition engines have a
homogenous air/fuel mixture at a 14.7 : 1 ratio, corresponding to a value of lambda 1. Direct injection engines, however, operate according to the
stratified charge concept in the part load range
and function with high excess air. In return, very low
fuel consumption is achieved.
With retarded fuel injection, a combustion
chamber split into two parts is an ideal condition,
with fuel injection just before the ignition point and
injection directly into the combustion chamber. The
result is a combustible air/fuel mixture cloud on the
spark plug. This is cushioned in a thermally insulated layer, which is composed of air and residual
exhaust gas. The engine operates with an almost
completely opened throttle valve, which reduces
pumping losses.
With stratified charge operation, the lambda value
in the combustion chamber is between about 1.5
and 3. In the part load range, gasoline direct injection achieves the greatest fuel savings with up to 40%
at idle compared to conventional fuel injection.
With increasing engine load, and therefore increasing injection quantities, the stratified charge cloud
becomes even richer and emission characteristics
become worse. Like diesel engine combustion, soot
may form. In order to prevent this, the DI-Motronic
engine control converts to a homogenous cylinder
charge at a pre-defined engine load. The system
injects very early during the intake process in order
to achieve a good air/fuel mixture at a value of
lambda 1.
As is the case for conventional manifold injection systems, the amount of air drawn in at all operating modes is adjusted through the throttle valve
according to the desired torque specified by the
driver. The Motronic ECU calculates the amount of
fuel to be injected from the drawn-in air mass and
performs an additional correction via lambda control. In this mode of operation, a torque increase
of up to 5% is possible. Both the thermodynamic
cooling effect of the fuel vaporizing directly in the
combustion chamber and the higher compression
of the engine with gasoline direct injection play a
role in this.
For these different operating modes two central
demands are raised for engine control:
The injection point must be adjustable between
‘late’ (during the compression phase) and ‘early’
(during the intake phase) depending on the operating point.
The adjustment for the drawn-in air mass must
be detached from the throttle pedal position in
order to permit unthrottled engine operation in
the lower load range. However, throttle control
in the upper load range must also be permitted.
Figure 10.53 Bosch Gasoline Direct Injection DI-Motronic (Source: Bosch Press)
Engine management
Figure 10.54 Cutaway engine showing the GDi system operating (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 10.55 System components showing fuel and electrical connections (Source: Bosch Press)
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Pedal position
Throttle valve position Closed
Air/fuel ratio
Figure 10.56 Switching between operating modes depending
on engine load (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 10.57 Operating modes (Source: Bosch Press)
Figure 10.58
With optimal use of the advantages, the average
fuel saving is up to 15%.
In stratified charge operation the nitrogen oxide
(NOx) segments in the very lean exhaust cannot be
reduced by a conventional, three-way catalytic converter. The NOx can be reduced by approximately
70% through exhaust returns before the catalytic
converter. However, this is not enough to fulfil the
ambitious emission limits of the future. Therefore,
emissions containing NOx must undergo special
treatment. Engine designers are using an additional
NOx accumulator catalytic converter in the exhaust
Engine management
system. The NOx is deposited in the form of
nitrates (HNO3) on the converter surface, with the
oxygen still contained in the lean exhaust.
The capacity of the NOx accumulator catalytic
converter is limited. Therefore, as soon as it is
exhausted the catalytic converter must be regenerated. In order to remove the deposited nitrates, the
DI-Motronic briefly changes over to its third
operating mode (rich homogenous operation with
lambda values of about 0.8). The nitrate, together
with the carbon monoxide, is reduced in the
exhaust to non-harmful nitrogen and oxygen. When
the engine operates in this range, the engine torque
is adjusted according to the driver’s pedal position
by opening the throttle valve. Engine management
achieves the difficult task of changing between the
different operating modes, in a fraction of a second,
in a way not noticeable to the driver.
The continuing challenge, set by legislation, is
to reduce vehicle emissions to very low levels. The
DI-Motronic system, which is now used by many
manufacturers, continues to reflect the good name
of Bosch.
Table 10.1 Common symptoms of an engine malfunction and
checks for possible faults
Engine will
not start
10.7.2 ECU auto-diagnostic
Most ECUs are equipped to advise the driver of a
fault in the system and to aid the repairer in detection of the problem. The detected fault is first
notified to the driver by a dashboard warning light.
Engine and battery earth connections.
Fuel filter and fuel pump.
Air intake system for leaks.
Fuses/fuel pump/system relays.
Fuel injection system wiring and
Coolant temperature sensor.
Auxiliary air valve/idle speed
control valve.
Fuel pressure regulator and
delivery rate.
ECU and connector.
Limp home function – if fitted.
Engine difficult
to start
when cold
1. Engine and battery earth
2. Fuel injection system wiring and
3. Fuses/fuel pump/system relays.
4. Fuel filter and fuel pump.
5. Air intake system for leaks.
6. Coolant temperature sensor.
7. Auxiliary air valve/idle speed
control valve.
8. Fuel pressure regulator and
delivery rate.
9. ECU and connector.
10. Limp home function – if fitted.
Engine difficult
to start
when warm
1. Engine and battery earth
2. Fuses/fuel pump/system relays.
3. Fuel filter and fuel pump.
4. Air intake system for leaks.
5. Coolant temperature sensor.
6. Fuel injection system wiring and
7. Air mass meter.
8. Fuel pressure regulator and
delivery rate.
9. Air sensor filter.
10. ECU and connector.
11. Knock control – if fitted.
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evaluate the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all systems.
The procedure outlined in the next section is related
primarily to stage 4 of the process. Table 10.1 is
based on information available from ‘Autodata’ in
its excellent range of books. It relates in particular
to the Bosch LH-Jetronic fuel system but it is also a
good guide to many other systems. The numbers
relate to the order in which the systems should be
As with all systems the six stages of fault finding
should be followed.
Check for possible faults
10.7 Diagnosing engine
management system faults
10.7.1 Introduction
Engine starts
then stops
Erratic idling
Engine and battery earth connections.
Fuel filter and fuel pump.
Air intake system for leaks.
Fuses/fuel pump/system relays.
Idle speed and CO content.
Throttle potentiometer.
Coolant temperature sensor.
Fuel injection system wiring and
9. ECU and connector.
10. Limp home function – if fitted.
1. Engine and battery earth
2. Air intake system for leaks.
3. Auxiliary air valve/idle speed
control valve.
4. Idle speed and CO content.
(Continued )
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 10.1 (Continued )
Check for possible faults
5. Fuel injection system wiring and
6. Coolant temperature sensor.
7. Knock control – if fitted.
8. Air mass meter.
9. Fuel pressure regulator and delivery
10. ECU and connector.
11. Limp home function – if fitted.
idle speed
1. Air intake system for leaks.
2. Vacuum hoses for leaks.
3. Auxiliary air valve/idle speed control
4. Idle speed and CO content.
5. Coolant temperature sensor.
Misfire at
idle speed
1. Engine and battery earth connections.
2. Air intake system for leaks.
3. Fuel injection system wiring and
4. Coolant temperature sensor.
5. Fuel pressure regulator and delivery
6. Air mass meter.
7. Fuses/fuel pump/system relays.
Misfire at
constant speed
1. Air flow sensor.
Hesitation when
1. Engine and battery earth connections.
2. Air intake system for leaks.
3. Fuel injection system wiring and
4. Vacuum hoses for leaks.
5. Coolant temperature sensor.
6. Fuel pressure regulator and delivery
7. Air mass meter.
8. ECU and connector.
9. Limp home function – if fitted.
Hesitation at
constant speed
3. Air mass meter.
4. ECU and connector.
Poor engine
1. Engine and battery earth connections.
2. Air intake system for leaks.
3. Fuel injection system wiring and
4. Throttle linkage.
5. Coolant temperature sensor.
6. Fuel pressure regulator and delivery
7. Air mass meter.
8. ECU and connector.
9. Limp home function – if fitted.
Excessive fuel
1. Air intake system for leaks.
2. Fuel injection system wiring and
3. Coolant temperature sensor.
4. Throttle potentiometer.
5. Fuses/fuel pump/system relays.
6. Air sensor filter.
7. Injector valves.
8. Air mass meter.
Knock during
1. Knock control – if fitted.
2. Fuel injection system wiring and
Engine and battery earth connections.
Idle speed and CO content.
Throttle potentiometer.
Throttle valve/housing/sticking/initial
Fuel pressure regulator and delivery
Coolant temperature sensor.
Air mass meter.
Limp home function – if fitted.
CO level too high
1. Limp home function – if fitted.
2. ECU and connector.
3. Emission control and EGR valve – if
4. Fuel injection system wiring and
5. Air intake system for leaks.
6. Coolant temperature sensor.
7. Fuel pressure regulator and delivery
CO level too low
Engine and battery earth connections.
Throttle linkage.
Vacuum hoses for leaks.
Auxiliary air valve/idle speed control
Fuel lines for blockage.
Fuel filter and fuel pump.
Injector valves.
ECU and connector.
Limp home function – if fitted.
Hesitation on
Check for possible faults
Poor performance
Engine and battery earth connections.
Air intake system for leaks.
Idle speed and CO content.
Coolant temperature sensor.
Fuel injection system wiring and
Injector valves.
ECU and connector.
Limp home function – if fitted.
Air mass meter.
Fuel pressure regulator and delivery
1. Engine and battery earth connections.
2. Air intake system for leaks.
3. Throttle valve/housing/sticking/initial
4. Fuel injection system wiring and
5. Coolant temperature sensor.
6. Fuel pressure regulator/fuel pressure
and delivery rate.
7. Air mass meter.
8. ECU and connector.
9. Limp home function – if fitted.
Engine management
A code giving the details is held in RAM within the
ECU. The repairer can read this fault code as an aid
to fault-finding.
Each fault detected is memorized as a numerical
code and can only be erased by a voluntary action.
Often, if the fault is not detected again for 50 starts
of the engine, the ECU erases the code automatically. Only serious faults will light the lamp but
minor faults are still recorded in memory. The
faults are memorized in the order of occurrence.
Certain major faults will cause the ECU to switch
over to an emergency mode. In this mode, the ECU
substitutes alternative values in place of the faulty
signal. This is called a ‘limp home facility’.
Faults can be read as two digit numbers from the
flashing warning light by shorting the diagnostic
wire to earth for more than 2.5 s but less than 10 s.
Earthing this wire for more than 10 s will erase the
fault memory, as does removing the ECU constant
battery supply. Earthing a wire to read fault codes
should only be carried out in accordance with the
manufacturer’s recommendations. The same coded
signals can be more easily read on many after-sales
service testers. On some systems it is not possible
to read the fault codes without a code reader.
10.7.3 Testing procedure
Caution/Achtung/Attention – Burning fuel can
seriously damage your health!
Caution/Achtung/Attention – High voltages can
seriously damage your health!
The following procedure is very generic but with a
little adaptation can be applied to any fuel injection
system. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations if in any doubt.
1. Check battery state of charge (at least 70%).
2. Hand and eye checks (all fuel and electrical connections secure and clean).
3. Check for spark at plug lead (if poor or no spark
jump to stage 15).
4. Check fuel pressure supplied to rail (for multipoint systems it will be about 2.5 bar but check
5. If the pressure is NOT correct jump to stage 11.
6. Is injector operation OK? – continue if NOT
(suitable spray pattern or dwell reading across
injector supply).
7. Check supply circuits from main relay (battery
volts minimum).
8. Continuity of injector wiring (0–0.2 and note
that many injectors are connected in parallel).
9. Sensor readings and continuity of wiring
(0–0.2 for the wiring sensors will vary with
10. If no fuel is being injected and all tests so far
are OK (suspect ECU).
11. Fuel supply – from stage 5.
12. Supply voltage to pump (within 0.5 V of battery – pump fault if supply is OK).
13. Check pump relay and circuit (note that, in most
cases, the ECU closes the relay but this may be
bypassed on cranking).
14. Ensure all connections (electrical and fuel) are
remade correctly.
15. Ignition section (if appropriate).
16. Check supply to ignition coil (within 0.5 V of
17. Spark from coil via known good HT lead
(jumps about 10 mm, but do not try more).
18. If good spark then check HT system for tracking and open circuits. Check plug condition
(leads should be a maximum resistance of about
30 k/m per lead) – stop here in this procedure.
19. If no spark, or it will only jump a short distance, continue with this procedure (colour of
spark is not relevant).
20. Check continuity of coil windings (primary
0.5–3 , secondary several k).
21. Supply and earth to ‘module’ (12 V minimum
supply, earth drop 0.5 V maximum).
22. Supply to pulse generator if appropriate
(10–12 V).
23. Output of pulse generator (inductive about
1 V AC when cranking, Hall-type switches
0–8 V DC).
24. Continuity of LT wires (0–0.1 ).
25. Suspect ECU but only if all of the above tests
are satisfactory.
10.7.4 Injection duration signals
Figure 10.59 shows typical injector signals as
would be shown on an oscilloscope during a test
procedure. These will vary depending on the particular system but, in principle, are the same. The
most important parts of the traces are marked.
These are the open time or dwell, current limiting
phase and the back EMF produced when the
injector is switched off. The traces showing variations in the dwell represent how the quantity of fuel
injected is varied. The difference in how the dwell
is varied is due to the method of injector switching.
If a simple on/off technique is used then the trace
will be as shown in the first two sketches; if current
limiting is used then the trace will be slightly different, as shown by the lower two sketches.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
accurately then density can be calculated. A basic
gas law states that, in a fixed volume:
T 
da do  i o 
 po Ti 
where da density; pi intake pressure; and
Ti intake temperature.
po, do and To are known values relating to pressure, density and temperature under ‘sea level standard day’ (SLSD) conditions.
The mass of the air can be calculated by:
Ma da V
Figure 10.59 Injector signals as would be shown on an oscilloscope during a test procedure
These traces are very useful for diagnosing
faults – it is possible to see how the trace changes
under the engine operating conditions, for example:
Does the trace width extend under acceleration?
Does the trace cut off on overrun?
Does the trace width reduce as the engine
warms up?
10.8 Advanced engine
management technology
10.8.1 Speed density and fuel
Engine management systems that do not use an air
flow sensor rely on the speed–density method for
determining the required fuel quantity. Accurate
measurement of the manifold absolute pressure
(MAP) and intake air temperature are essential with
this technique.
The volume flow rate of air taken into an engine
at a given speed can be calculated by:
 RPM   D  
Av 
  Ve  EGRv
 60   2  
where Av air volume flow rate (litres/s);
EGRv exhaust gas recirculation volume (litres/s);
D displacement of the engine (litres); and
Ve volumetric efficiency (as a percentage from
look-up tables).
The density of air in the inlet manifold is related
to its temperature and pressure. If these are measured
where Ma mass of air (kg); da density of the
air (kg/litre); and V volume of air (litres).
The mass flow rate can now be calculated by:
Am da Av
where Am air mass flow rate (kg/s).
Finally, by substitution and simplification, air
mass flow can be calculated by:
 RPM . D . Ve 
Am d a 
 EGRv 
Further to this calculation, the basic fuel quantity
can be determined as follows:
where F fuel quantity (kg) and AFR desired
air–fuel ratio.
To inject the required quantity of fuel, the final
calculation is that of the injector pulse width:
where T time and Rf fuel injector(s) delivery
Note that the actual injection period will also
depend on a number of other factors such as temperature and throttle position. The total fuel quantity may also be injected in two halves.
10.8.2 Ignition timing calculation
Data relating to the ideal ignition timing for a
particular engine are collected from dynamometer
tests and operational tests in the vehicle. These data
are stored in the form of look-up tables in ROM.
These look-up tables hold data relative to the speed
and load of the engine. The number of look-up
values is determined by the computing power of the
microcontroller, in other words the number of bits,
Engine management
Figure 10.60 Determination of effective ignition timing
as this determines the size of memory that can be
Inputs from speed and load sensors are converted to digital numbers and these form the reference to find the ideal timing value. A value can also
be looked up for the temperature correction. These
two digital numbers are now added to give a final
figure. Further corrections can be added in this way
for conditions such as overrun and even barometric
pressure if required.
This ‘timing number’ is used to set the point at
which the coil is switched off; that is, the actual ignition point. The ECU receives a timing pulse from
the ‘missing flywheel tooth’ and starts a ‘down
counter’. The coil is fired (switched off) when the
counter reaches the ‘timing number’. The computing of the actual ‘timing number’ is represented by
Figure 10.60.
To prevent engine damage caused by detonation
or combustion knock, but still allow the timing to
be set as far advanced as possible, a knock sensor is
used. The knock sensor (accelerometer) detects
the onset of combustion knock, but the detection
process only takes place in a ‘knock window’. This
window is just a few degrees of crankshaft rotation
either side of top dead centre compression for each
cylinder. This window is the only time knock can
occur and is also a quiet time as far as valve opening and closing is concerned. The sensor is tuned to
respond to a particular frequency range of about
5–10 kHz, which also helps to eliminate erroneous
signals. The resonant frequency of this type of
accelerometer is greater than about 25 kHz.
The signal from the knock sensor is filtered and
integrated in the ECU. A detection circuit determines a yes/no answer to whether the engine knocked
or not. When knock is detected on a particular
cylinder, the timing for that cylinder is retarded by
a set figure, often 2 °, each time the cylinder fires,
until the knocking stops. The timing is then advanced
more slowly back towards the look-up value. Figure
10.61 represents this process in more detail.
10.8.3 Dwell calculation
In order for an ignition system to produce constant
energy the dwell angle must increase as the engine
speed increases. Ideal dwell values are held in a
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
look-up table; engine speed forms one axis, and
battery voltage the other. If battery voltage falls, the
dwell angle is increased to compensate. The ‘dwell
number’ is used in a similar way to the ‘timing
number’ in the previous section except that this
time, the ‘dwell number’ is used to determine the
switch-on point of the coil during operation of the
down counter.
10.8.4 Injection duration
The main criteria for the quantity of fuel required
for injection are engine speed and load. Further
corrections are then added. Figure 10.62 represents
the process carried out in a digital electronic control unit to calculate injection duration. The process
Figure 10.61 How timing is varied in response to combustion knock
Figure 10.62a Determination of effective injector pulse width
Engine management
Figure 10.62b Engine management fuel and ignition calculation flow diagram
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
of injection duration calculation is summarized as
A basic open period for the injectors is determined from the ROM information relating to
engine speed and load.
Corrections for air and engine temperature.
Idling, full or partial load corrections.
After-start enrichment.
Operational enrichment.
Acceleration enrichment.
Weakening on deceleration.
Cut-off on over-run.
Reinstatement of injection after cut-off.
Correction for battery voltage variation.
Under starting conditions the injection period is
calculated differently. This is determined from a set
figure varied as a function of temperature.
10.8.5 Developing and testing
There is, of course, more than one way of producing a ‘computer’ program. Most programs used in
the electronic control unit of a vehicle digital control system are specialist applications and, as such,
are one-off creations. The method used to create the
final program is known as the ‘top down structured
programming technique’. Following on from a
‘need’ for the final product, the process can be seen
to pass through six definable stages.
1. Requirement analysis seeks to answer the question as to whether a computerized approach is the
best solution. It is, in effect, a feasibility study.
2. Task definition is a process of deciding exactly
what the software will perform. The outcome of
this stage will be a set of functional specifications.
3. Program design becomes more important as the
complexity of the task increases. This is because,
where possible, it is recommended that the program be split into a number of much smaller
tasks, each with its own detailed specification.
4. Coding is the stage at which the task begins to
be represented by a computer language. This is
when the task becomes more difficult to follow
as the language now used is to be understood by
the ‘computer’.
5. Debugging and validation is the process of correcting any errors or a bug in the program code
and then finally ensuring that it is valid. This
means checking that the desired outputs appear
in response to appropriate inputs. In other words,
does it work? (As a slight aside, did you know
that the original computer bug was actually a
moth trapped between the contacts of a relay?)
Note that it is very important to get the program
right at this stage as it is likely to be incorporated into tens of thousands of specially produced microcontrollers. A serious error can be
very expensive to rectify.
6. Operation and maintenance is the stage when
the program is actually in use. Occasionally
slight errors do not come to light until this stage,
such as a slight hesitation during acceleration at
high altitude or some other obscure problem.
These can be rectified by program maintenance
for inclusion in later models.
This section has been included with the intention of
filling in the broader picture of what is involved in
producing a program for, say, an electronic spark
advance system. Many good books are available for
further reading on this subject.
10.8.6 Simulation program
Automotive Technology (AT) is a training and diagnostic software program. It works in conjunction
with this textbook and on-line learning. All complex electronically controlled systems can be considered as having:
The main ‘AT’ program works in the same way but
also incorporates diagnostics. In other words, it will
help you learn how complex systems work and how
to diagnose faults with them. The program concentrates on engine management, starting and charging.
A MultiScope program is included that allows actual
tests to be carried out and the results viewed on a
scope or a multimeter. The software is fully functional but runs out of fuel! It should be registered if
you continue to use it to prevent the tank leaking …
The program allows you to ‘drive’ the vehicle or
directly change inputs to systems such as engine
management. The computer ( just like the computer
in a vehicle), will calculate the outputs of the system. Engine management is the main area covered
but other systems are available for use. The system
can be set to provide telemetry to the MultiScope as
the car is driven round the Silverstone circuit!
The diagnostics part of the program is designed
to assist with diagnosing faults in automotive
systems. It is ideal to help with the development of
diagnostic skills.
The comprehensive diagnostic routines are part
of the program. These can also be printed for use in
the workshop. A step by step process helps you
track down any fault. The MultiScope program is
Engine management
Figure 10.63
used to test the operation of sensors and actuators.
Faults can be set to allow practice of diagnostic
The program (as well as other useful resources)
can be downloaded from: www.automotivetechnology.
10.8.7 Hot chipping!
Hot chipping is the name often given to the fitting
of new processors/memory to improve the performance of a vehicle. It should be noted that the improvements are at the expense of economy, emissions and
engine life! Fitting a ‘Power Processor’, which is a
programmable computer specifically designed for
high performance engines, is the first step. The fuel
map, engine ignition timing map, acceleration fuel
and all parameters for fuel management are programmable using an IBM compatible PC or laptop computer. Note that a new ECU is needed in most cases
but this does allow improvement of other features.
The software even allows changes to be made
while you are driving the vehicle. This system is
appropriate for virtually any fuel injected engine.
A basic calibration is used to get the engine started
and running. The user then performs fine tuning.
The systems are capable of closed or open loop
operation. Some systems even feature control of
nitrous injection with automatic engagement based
on throttle position and rev/min. Ignition timing is
automatically retarded with pre-set parameters.
CalMap Software is a well respected system for
developing custom calibrations for high performance engines. The software allows ‘online’ and
‘offline’ adjustments to be made to the ‘ACCEL
Digital Fuel Injection Power Processors’ (contact
information is available in Chapter 18). The software kit comes with an interface cable, a user manual and a floppy disk, which contains the software.
The software is user friendly and arguably should
be considered a must for all modern performance
shops. Setting and adjusting the spark curve for your
distributor from a laptop computer in the vehicle is
possible – as you are driving down the road. Snapshots can be taken using the software. For example,
you could record a set distance run and review
the engine performance in order to determine how
the engine is running.
Tuning a fuel-injected engine requires experience, time and patience. One mistake with the laptop
keyboard and your engine can easily be turned into
a pile of junk from detonation or a lean condition!
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
When determining the size of the base fuel map’s
rev/min resolution, the cell widths should be as
small as possible. This gives the most tuning set
points in the operating range of the engine. If the
map is configured to 5000 rev/min, any resolution
above that figure would be lost, but resolution
would be gained where the engine spends its most
time, i.e. below 5000 rev/min.
If the fuel map is calibrated to 5000 rev/min and
the calibrated pulse width at that speed is 12 ms, the
ECU will keep issuing pulses of 12 ms at any speed
above this value. It is beneficial to use as many of
the 256 (16 16 look-up table or 28 relating to 8
bits) set points as possible during tuning. This is
established by setting the rev/min between cells.
The largest fuel commands should be at the peak
torque and, as the engine speed escalates above
peak torque, the pulse width reduces. Most values
from the ECU’s inputs and outputs will be available
‘on-screen’, as if from the serial data link on a
production ECU.
Most systems use ‘interpolative’ software, meaning the cells surrounding the actual chosen cell in
the fuel map will affect the issued pulse width.
Getting the fuel calculations as near to the stoichiometric set point as possible and using very little, if
any, oxygen sensor trim is a good technique. This is
the approach that the original equipment manufacturers use. While working on the base fuel map,
note that with injector pulse widths below 2 ms, you
are entering an unstable range. Work with all of the
cells around the chosen idle cell because the surrounding cell values are used for interpolation. Large
variations in matrix values around the idle cell can
lead to surging.
The resolution of the ignition map is referenced
from the fuel table and is scaled at a rate of 1.5 to the
fuel table. The same theory applies to the spark table,
as to the fuel table, in regard to keeping the same
timing command beyond its rev/min resolution. The
amount of retardation required to stop detonation
once it is started in the combustion chamber is
greater than the amount that would be needed never
to allow detonation to start. A trial and error method
is required for the best results. The amount of spark
advance is affected by engine criteria such as:
Cylinder-head combustion chamber design.
Mixture movement.
Piston design.
Intake manifold length and material.
Compression ratio.
Available fuel.
Thermal transfer from the cylinder-head to the
cooling system.
10.8.8 Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of an artificial mechanism to exhibit intelligent behaviour.
The term invites speculation about what constitutes
the mind or intelligence. Such questions can be considered separately, but the endeavour to construct
and understand increasingly sophisticated mechanisms continues.
AI has shown great promise in the area of expert
systems, or knowledge-based expert programs,
which, although powerful when answering questions within a specific domain, are nevertheless
incapable of any type of adaptable, or truly intelligent, reasoning.
No generally accepted theories have yet emerged
within the field of AI, due in part to AI being a new
science. However, it is assumed that on the highest
level, an AI system must receive input from its
environment, determine an action or response and
deliver an output to its environment. This requires
techniques of expert reasoning, common sense
reasoning, problem solving, planning, signal interpretation and learning. Finally, the system must
construct a response that will be effective in its
The possibilities for AI in vehicle use are unlimited. In fact, it becomes more a question of how
much control the driver would be willing to hand
over to the car. If, for example, the vehicle radar
detects that you tend to follow the car in front too
closely, should it cause the brakes to be applied?
The answer would probably be no, but if the question was, as the engine seems to surge at idle should
the idle speed be increased slightly, then the answer
would most likely be yes.
It is not just the taking in of information and
then applying a response as this is carried out by all
electronic systems to some extent, but in being able
to adapt and change. For example, if the engine was
noticed to surge when the idle speed was set to
600 rev/min, then the ECU would increase the
speed to, say, 700 rev/min. The adaptability, or a
very simple form of AI, comes in deciding to set the
idle speed at 700 rev/min on future occasions. This
principle of modifying the response is the key. Many
systems use a variation of this idea to control idle
speed and also to adapt air–fuel ratios in response
to a lambda sensor signal.
An adaptive ignition system has the ability to
adapt the ignition point to the prevailing conditions.
Programmed ignition has precise values stored in
the memory appropriate for a particular engine.
However, due to manufacturing tolerances, engine
wear with age and road conditions means that the
Engine management
ideal timing does not always correspond to that
held in the ECU memory.
The adaptive ignition ECU has a threedimensional memory map as normal for looking up
the basic timing setting, but it also has the ability
to alter the spark timing rapidly, either retarding or
advancing, and to assess the effect this has on engine
torque. The ECU monitors engine speed by the
crankshaft sensor, and if it sees an increase in speed
after a timing alteration, it can assume better combustion. If this is the case, the appropriate speed load
site on the memory map is updated. The increase in
speed detected is for one cylinder at a time; therefore, normal engine speed changes due to the
throttle operation do not affect the setting.
The operation of the adaptive ignition system is
such as to try and achieve a certain slope on the
timing versus torque curve as shown by Figure
10.64. Often the slope is zero (point A) for maximum
Figure 10.64 Timing versus torque curve
Figure 10.65 Adaptive ignition block diagram
economy but is sometimes non-zero (point B), to
avoid detonation and reduce emissions.
Figure 10.65 shows the adaptive ignition block
diagram. The fixed spark timing map produces a
‘non-adapted’ timing setting. A variation is then
added or subtracted from this point and the variation
is also sent to the slope detector. The slope detector
determines whether the engine torque was increased
or decreased from the measure of the slope on the
torque/timing curve compared with data from the
slope map. The difference is used to update the timing
correction map. The correction map can be updated
every time a spark variation occurs, allowing very
fast adaptation even during rapid changes in engine
operation. The slope map can be used to aim for either
maximum torque or minimum emissions.
10.8.9 Neural computing
The technology behind neural computing is relatively new and is expanding rapidly. The exciting
aspect is that neural networks have the capacity to
learn rather than having to be programmed. This
form of artificial intelligence does not require specific instructions on how a problem can be solved.
The user allows the computer to adapt itself during
a training period, based on examples of similar
problems. After training, the computer is able to
relate the problem to the solution, inputs to outputs,
and thus offer a viable answer to the ‘question’.
The main part of a neural computer is the neural
network, a schematic representation of which is
shown in Figure 10.66. In this representation the
circles represent neurons and the lines represent
links between them. A neuron is a simple processor,
which takes one or more inputs and produces an
output. Each input has an associated ‘weight’,
which determines its intensity or strength. The
neuron simply has to determine the weight of its
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
European market has an advantage as the emission
laws in the USA and, in particular, the State of
California, are very stringent and set to become
more so. It is reasonable to expect that EC regulations will broadly follow the same route. The one
potential difference is if CO2 is included in the legislation. This will, in effect, make fuel consumption
as big an issue as noxious emissions. Some of the
current areas of development are briefly mentioned
below. It is becoming clear that nitrogen oxides are
the most difficult gases to reduce in line with future
legislation. The technology for a NOx reducing catalyst has just started to reach production stage.
Figure 10.66 Neural network
inputs and produce a suitably weighted output. The
number of neurons in a network can range from
tens to many thousands.
The way the system learns is by comparing its
actual output with an expected output. This produces
an error value, which in turn changes the relative
weights of the links back through the whole network.
This eventually results in an ideal solution, as connections leading to the correct answer are strengthened. This, in principle, is similar to the way a human
brain works. The neural computing system has a
number of advantages over the conventional method.
Very fast operation due to ‘parallel processing’.
Reduced development time.
Ability to find solutions to problems that are
difficult to define.
Flexible approach to a solution, which can be
adapted to changing circumstances.
More robust, as it can handle ‘fuzzy’ data or unexpected situations. An adaptive fuzzy system acts
like a human expert. It learns from experience
and uses new data to fine-tune its knowledge.
The advantages outlined make the use of neural
nets on automobile systems almost inevitable. Some
are even starting to be used in such a way that the
engine control system is able to learn the driver’s
technique and anticipate the next most likely action.
It can then set appropriate system parameters before
the action even happens!
10.9 New developments in
engine management
10.9.2 Lean burn engines
Any engine running at a lambda value greater than
one is a form of lean burn. In other words, the combustion takes place with an excess of air. Fuel consumption is improved and CO2 emissions are lower
than with a conventional ‘lambda equals one and
catalyst system’. However, with the same comparison,
NOx emissions are higher. This is due to the excess
air factor. Rough running can also be a problem
with lean burn (Figure 10.67), due to the problems
encountered lighting lean mixtures. A form of charge
stratification is a way of improving this. Note also the
case studies in this and the previous chapters.
10.9.3 Direct mixture injection
A new technique called DMI, or direct mixture
injection, shows a potential 30% saving in fuel.
This system involves loading a small mixing chamber above the cylinder-head with a suitable quantity
of fuel during the compression stroke and start of
combustion. This may be by a normal injector. The
heat of the chamber ensures total fuel evaporation.
During an appropriate point in the next cycle the
mixture is injected into the combustion chamber.
This is one of the key advances because it is injected
in such a way that the charge is in the immediate
vicinity of the spark plug. This stratification is controlled by the mixture injection valve opening, the
in-cylinder pressure and the mixing chamber pressure. Figure 10.68 shows the layout of a DMI system. The lambda values possible with this system
range from 8 to 10 at idle and from 0.9 to 1 at full
load. Compare this with the lean limits of a homogeneous mixture, which is typically 1.6–1.8.
10.9.1 Introduction
Research is going on all the time into different ways
of reducing emissions in order to keep within the
current and expected regulations. In a way, the
10.9.4 Two-stroke engines
The two-stroke engine could be the answer to emission problems, but experts have differing views.
Engine management
Figure 10.67 Lean-burn engine
Figure 10.68 Layout of a direct mixture injection system
The main reason for this is that the potential
improvements for the four-stroke system have by no
means been exhausted. The claimed advantages of
the two-stroke engine are lower weight, lower fuel
consumption and higher power density. These, however, differ depending on engine design. The major
disadvantages are less smooth running, shorter life
and higher NOx emissions. An Australian company,
Orbital, have made a considerable contribution to
two-stroke technology. A simple shutter control is
used in their system and, in a published paper, a onelitre two-stroke engine was compared with a one-litre
four-stroke engine. The two-stroke engine weighs
30% less, has lower consumption and low NOx
levels while being comparable in all other ways. The
engine can use direct injection to stratify the charge.
10.9.5 Alternative fuels
Engines using alcohol (e.g. ethanol) do not require
major design changes. The fuel supply components
would need to withstand corrosion and slightly different cold start strategies are needed. Other than
this, changes to the engine ‘maps’ are all that is
required. If an alcohol sensor is used in the fuel tank,
the management system could adapt to changes in
the percentage of alcohol used, if mixed with petrol.
Some advantages in emissions are apparent with
ethanol–petrol mixtures. It is said that the use of
alcohol fuels is a political, not a technical issue.
Gas powered engines have been used for some
time but storage of suitable quantities is a problem.
These engines, however, do produce lower CO, HC
and CO2 emissions. Hydrogen powered vehicles
offer the potential to exceed the ultra low emission
vehicle (ULEV) limits, but are still in the early
stages. Many manufacturers do, however, have
prototypes. Electric powered vehicles, which meet
the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) limits, are discussed in Chapter 17.
When all alternatives are considered it is clear
that the petrol/gasoline and diesel engines are not
easily replaceable. Indeed there are still many possible areas for further improvements.
10.9.6 Delphi’s ‘building block’
approach to advanced engine
management systems
This section is included as an example of how the
‘current thinking’ is going with regard to engine
management systems in general. Delphi is a well
respected company in this area.
The following is taken from a Press Release –
Delphi Energy & Engine Management Systems,
Presentation to the SAE, 1998.
‘Engine management is the science of equipping
and calibrating an engine to achieve the cleanest
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
possible exhaust stream while maintaining top performance and fuel economy, and continuously diagnosing system faults. However, the focus on those
priorities often varies around the world, reflecting
differing governmental regulations, customer expectations and driving conditions and a host of vehicle
types and content levels.
Typically, an engine management system integrates numerous elements, including:
An engine control module (ECM).
Control and diagnostics software.
An air induction and control subsystem.
A fuel handling module.
A fuel injection module.
An ignition subsystem.
A catalytic converter.
A subsystem to handle evaporative emissions.
A variety of sensors and solenoids.’
Benefits of the building block approach include the
Delphi states the following: ‘We don’t start at
ground zero with each customer, in each market,
with each vehicle. We use modular systems architecture, rapid calibration development tools and
controls based on real world models. We use offthe-shelf interchangeable hardware whenever possible and software that will work in most systems
and most processors. We use “plug and play” tools,
like auto-code generation, so we do not have to
recalibrate the whole system when we modify a
piece of it.
Highlighted advanced engine management systems include the following:
Modular systems architecture.
Delphi’s building block approach to engine
management selects from sets of “commonized”,
interchangeable software and electronics in the
engine or powertrain control modules.
Allowing OEMs to custom-build systems for
widely differing markets.
Software has expansion/deletion capabilities.
Systems are designed with a minimum number
of basic electronic controllers, which can be
expanded if desired.
Component hardware is interchangeable among
Software can be used across a variety of systems.
Rapid Calibration Development Tools (RapidCal).
Rapid prototyping permits immediate evaluation
of the performance of new systems developments.
Results can be benchmarked against plant/
control models and rapid prototypes to verify
correct implementation.
Model-Based Controls (MBC).
Control algorithms are redesigned around physically based models or mathematical representations of “the real world”.
Piece changes only require changing the calibration data for that single piece, rather than changing the whole system.
MBC technologies include pneumatic and
thermal estimators, model-based transient fuel
control and individual cylinder fuel control.
Saves development costs.
Offers flexibility to manufacturers.
Adapts easily to the needs of a variety of customers, from emerging markets to high-end
Allows use of off-the-shelf components with
minimal recalibration after modification.
Enables compliance with varying emissions regulations over a wide range of driving conditions,
driving habits, customer expectations and vehicle
Saves fuel, reduces emissions.
Reduces time-to-market for vehicle manufacturers.’
10.9.7 Video link diagnostics
Some manufacturers have introduced hand-held
video cameras to aid with diagnosing faults. This is
relevant to all areas of the vehicle as well as engine
management systems.
The camera is linked via an Internet/modem line
from the dealers to the manufacturers. The technician is therefore able to show what tests have been
done as well as describe the problem to the engineer/
10.9.8 Saab combustion control
The Saab Combustion Control (SCC) system has
been developed to reduce fuel consumption and
significantly reduce exhaust emissions. However,
engine performance is not affected. The key to the
operation of the SCC is the use of exhaust gases.
By circulating a significant proportion of exhaust
gas back into the combustion process, the fuel consumption can be reduced by up to 10%. The exhaust
emissions can also be reduced to a value below the
American Ultra Low Emission Vehicle 2 (ULEV2)
and the European Euro 4 requirements. This technology almost halved the carbon monoxide and
Engine management
Variable spark plug gap with high spark energy –
the spark plug gap is variable from 1–3.5 mm.
The spark is created from the centre electrode of
the SPI to a fixed earth electrode, with a 3.5 mm
gap, or to an earth electrode actually on the
piston. Very high spark energy (about 80 mJ) is
necessary to ignite an air/fuel mixture that is
mixed with 70% of exhaust gases.
The best way to understand the SCC process is to
start with the expansion or power stroke (the following numbers refer to Figure 10.70).
Figure 10.69 Combustion control spark plug injector
(Source: Saab)
hydrocarbon emissions, and cut the nitrogen oxide
emissions by 75%.
Unlike standard direct injection systems, the
SCC system reaps benefits without disturbing the
ideal air-to-fuel ratio (14.7 : 1). This ratio is necessary for a conventional three-way catalytic converter to work properly. The most important aspects
of the SCC system are:
Air-assisted fuel injection with turbulence generator – the injector unit and spark plug are combined into one unit known as the spark plug
injector (SPI). Fuel is injected directly into the
cylinder with the help of compressed air and
another blast of air creates turbulence in the
cylinder just before the fuel is ignited. This assists
combustion and shortens the combustion time.
Variable valve timing – variable cams are used
so that the SCC system can vary the opening
and closing of the inlet and exhaust valves. This
allows exhaust gases to be mixed into the combustion air in the cylinder. This is the key aspect
that gets the benefits of direct injection while keeping lambda 1 under most operating conditions.
The exact recirculation percentage depends on
the operating conditions, but up to 70% of the
cylinder contents during combustion can consist
of exhaust gases.
1. The power stroke operates in the normal way –
air/fuel mixture burns, increases the pressure,
and this forces the piston down.
2. As the piston reaches the end of the power
stroke, the exhaust valves open and most of the
exhaust is discharged through the exhaust ports.
Remaining exhaust gases are discharging as the
piston rises on the exhaust stroke.
3. Fuel is injected into the cylinder via the SPI just
before the piston reaches TDC. The inlet valves
open at the same time. Exhaust, mixed with fuel,
is discharged through both the exhaust and inlet
4. At the start of the inlet stroke, the exhaust and inlet
valves open and the mixture of exhaust and fuel is
drawn back from the exhaust manifold into the
cylinder. A significant proportion of the exhaust/
fuel mixture now flows up into the inlet ports.
5. As the piston continues to move down, the exhaust
valves close but the inlet valves stay open. The
exhaust/fuel mixture that flowed into the inlet
manifold is now drawn back into the cylinder.
6. As the piston nears BDC, all the exhaust/fuel
mixture is drawn back into the cylinder. Towards
the end of the inlet stroke, only air is drawn in.
7. As the piston moves upwards during the compression stroke, the inlet valves close and the
mixture of exhaust, air and fuel is compressed.
About half way up the compression stroke, the
SPI delivers a blast of air into the cylinder. This
creates turbulence that facilitates combustion and
therefore shortens the combustion time.
8. Just before the piston reaches TDC, a spark from
the electrode of the SPI ignites the mixture (a)
and the next expansion stroke begins (b).
The three-way catalytic converter is still the most
important exhaust emission control element. This is
because it can catalyse up to 99% of the harmful
components in the exhaust gases. However, the
catalytic converter has no influence on the carbon
dioxide (CO2) emissions, which are directly proportional to the fuel consumption.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 10.70 Stages of combustion control (Source: Saab)
Direct injection of petrol is a good way of lowering fuel consumption. Because a precise amount of
fuel is injected directly into the cylinder, the consumption can be controlled more accurately. However, only the area around the plug is ignitable
because the remainder of the cylinder is filled with
air. With standard direct injection systems, this
reduces fuel consumption but results in higher nitrogen oxide emissions. The resulting exhaust gases
are not ideally suited to a conventional three-way
catalytic converter. For this reason, a special catalytic converter with a ‘nitrogen oxide trap’ has to
be used. These are more expensive because they
have higher levels of precious metals. In addition,
they are more temperature-sensitive and need cooling when under heavy load. This is often achieved
by injecting extra fuel. To regenerate the NOx trap
when it is ‘full up’, the engine also has to be run
briefly on a richer fuel/air mixture.
The SCC system also contributes towards reducing pumping losses. These usually occur when an
engine is running at low load with the throttle almost
closed. Under these conditions, the piston in the
cylinder operates under a partial vacuum during the
Engine management
induction stroke. The extra energy required for
pulling down the piston results in increased fuel
consumption. In an SCC engine the cylinder is supplied with just the amount of fuel and air needed at
any particular time. The remainder of the cylinder
is filled with exhaust gases. This means that the piston does not need to draw in extra air and pumping
losses are reduced. The exhaust gases account for
60–70% of the combustion chamber volume, while
29–39% is air; the fuel occupies less than 1%. In
general, a higher proportion of exhaust gas is used
when the engine is running at low load.
Under low load conditions, the spark is fired from
the centre electrode of the plug injector to a fixed
earth electrode with a gap of 3.5 mm. Under high
load conditions, the spark is fired later (retarded).
The gas density in the combustion chamber, under
these conditions, is too high for the spark to jump
3.5 mm. A pin on the piston is used instead. The
spark will jump to the electrode on the piston when
the gap is less than 3.5 mm.
The Saab combustion control system is now in
use and is proving to be very effective. Developments are continuing.
Better cabin comfort is achieved by boosting of
the heating at lower engine speeds, and heating in
the cabin is maintained in cold weather after the
engine has been switched off.
Development of Valeo’s fully electronically
controlled thermal management system, THEMIS,
started, in 1995, to work towards satisfying the
Euro IV and Euro V emission levels and the Corporate
Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulation for
North America. Valeo designed and prototyped several variants of THEMIS. These have been tested
extensively on various European and US cars from
1.4 litre L4 to 3.8 litre V6 engines.
The complete architecture consists of:
10.9.9 Active cooling – Valeo
Valeo has developed an active cooling system known
as THEMIS. This system uses electronic control to
manage and optimize engine temperature. The main
system components are an electronic valve, an electronically controlled fan and an electrical water
pump. Engine temperature is controlled by the efficient management of coolant and air within and
around the engine. The advantages of this system are:
Reduced fuel consumption.
Lower emissions.
Reduced engine wear.
Pumptronic® or electronic water pump. This
system uses brushless motor technology, wet-rotor
and rare earth magnets. This results in a global
efficiency of over 55%.
Fantronic® or continuous variable speed fan
system. This uses an embedded pulse width
modulation driver in the motor, which is cooled
by the fan blades themselves.
Multi-way proportional electronic valve.
Engine temperature sensor.
Electronic control unit.
Optimized heat exchangers (coolant radiators and
heater cores).
In addition to improved fuel efficiency, reduced emission levels, enhanced cabin comfort and improved
engine reliability, it is possible to have fail-safe
modes, self diagnosis options and servicing diagnosis. Fuel consumption and emissions were tested
according to the European and US test cycles in
laboratory conditions. Field testing was carried out
at very low temperatures in Northern Europe and at
the hottest temperatures in Southern Europe.
Coolant does not flow during warm up, to allow
the engine to heat up quickly; this limits thermal
losses. Emissions of HC decrease by 10% and
CO by 0–20% during the test cycles. NOx remains
unchanged. A higher coolant temperature (110/
115 ° C vs 95 ° C) is possible on low and medium
loads. This results in more efficient combustion,
a 2–5% fuel economy and proportionate reduction
of CO2 emissions. The following benefits are also
Figure 10.71 Pumptronic® – electric cooling pump (Source:
Boosting water flow in cold weather provides
30 minutes of heating even after the engine has
When cabin heating is not required, there is no
water flow in the heater core to optimize climate
control systems.
Knocking and local boiling in the cylinder head
are reduced. At high engine load, the ECU
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
lowers engine temperature to an average 90 ° C
for maximum performance.
No thermal shocks or heat peak when the engine
stops. The electric water pump boosts water flow
to ensure a steady reduction of temperature when
Potential trouble can be anticipated. In the case of
a rapid rise of temperature, the controller boosts
the water flow and/or the fan system.
The Valeo THEMIS system tunes and controls the
operation of the various components continuously.
If one component is not working correctly, the system can compensate by over-boosting another component. This is known as a fail-safe mode and the
driver is informed via a warning light. Overall, this
active cooling system also reduces the power consumed by the water pump. The first applications are
expected in 2005.
10.9.10 Engine trends – spark
Recently in Europe (late 2003), vehicles with compression ignition (CI) engines have started to outsell the spark ignition (SI) versions. However, because
of this competition, as well as that from alternative
fuel vehicles, engineers are making more developments to the SI engine. More power, reduced consumption and emissions, together with more efficient
packaging are the key challenges being met. Some
of the innovations under development and/or in use
are considered briefly here.
Variable compression ratios
A higher compression ratio results in greater thermal efficiency. However, it also makes the engine
run hotter and the components are under greater
stress. Being able to vary the compression ratio to
achieve improvements under certain speed and load
conditions is an innovative approach. Saab has done
considerable work in this area.
Electromechanical valve train
Full control of valve operation means engine management can take greater control. However, operating valves independently is difficult – so the camshaft
will be with us for some time yet. Lotus engineers
have made significant advancements using hydraulic
operating mechanisms.
Figure 10.72 Fantronic® – electrically operated cooling fan
(Source: Valeo)
High efficiency superchargers
New developments in supercharging mean that the
charger itself takes less energy from the engine. Of
particular interest are electrically driven superchargers because they allow full electronic control.
Cylinder deactivation
This technique has been tried on and off for a number of years. The capacity of, say, a 3-litre V8 is
reduced when used around town, with the consequent reduction in consumption and emissions. GM
uses this system on their XV8 engine. It is called
displacement on demand.
High pressure direct injection
Figure 10.73 Electronic control valve (Source: Valeo)
Gasoline direct injection is now becoming commonplace. However, work is ongoing to increase the fuel
pressure, as this results in more possibilities for
Engine management
controlling the cylinder charge. Needless to say,
Bosch are working in this area!
Reduced-current draw-fuel pumps
A simple but effective technique, which can result
in lower emissions and consumption, is to reduce
the electrical current consumed. A fuel pump has
been developed by Visteon, which can increase fuel
economy by up to 0.2 mpg.
Intelligent valve control
Honda have produced an engine for the RSX that
uses intelligent valve control. The valve lift and
phase can be controlled electronically. The result is
impressive economy and low emissions.
4. Make a clearly labelled sketch to show an
exhaust gas recirculation system.
5. Draw a block diagram of an engine management
system showing all the main inputs and outputs.
6. Describe the purpose of on-board diagnostics
7. Make a simple sketch to show a variable length
inlet manifold system.
8. State the information provided by a throttle
9. State four methods of reducing diesel engine
10. Explain the operation of a gasoline direct injection (GDI) system.
10.10.2 Assignment
This concept has been in use by BMW for some
time. The idea is that the driver’s instructions, via
the throttle pedal, are interpreted and the throttle
is moved to achieve optimum performance. For
example, for full acceleration the driver ‘floors’ the
pedal – which opens the throttle fully on a traditional system – but opens the throttle more progressively on a gas-by-wire system.
1. Research the current state of development of
‘lean-burn’ technology. Produce an essay discussing current progress. Consider also the
advantages and disadvantages of this method of
engine operation. Make a reasoned prediction of
the way in which this technology will develop.
2. Compare the early version of the Motronic system
with the Motronic M5 or other systems and report
on where, and why, changes have been made.
Air-assisted direct fuel injection
One important aspect of direct fuel injection is that
the charge in the cylinder can be stratified. In other
words, the region around the plug is at the ideal
ratio, but a large part of the cylinder is then made
up of air or, better, recirculated exhaust gases. Ford
now have an engine that can run as lean as 60 : 1.
‘W’ engine configuration
An interesting cylinder configuration, quite appropriately developed by VW, is the ‘double V’ or ‘W’
concept. This allows a W12 engine to be as compact as a V8. The result is very smooth operation
and a relatively low mass which, as with any reduction in mass, improves efficiency.
Some of the areas outlined above are discussed
in more detail in other parts of this book. The overall implication, however, is that there is a lot of life
left in the SI engine yet …
10.10 Self-assessment
10.10.1 Questions
1. Describe what is meant by ‘Engine management’.
2. State what the term ‘light off’ refers to in connection with catalytic converters.
3. Explain the stages of calculating ‘fuel quantity’
that take place in an ECU.
10.10.3 Multiple choice questions
Gasoline direct injection systems allow mixture in
the cylinder to be:
1. homogenous
2. stratified
3. incremental
4. strong
The main ECU ‘input’ parameters for calculating
ignition timing and injector duration are:
1. speed and temperature
2. speed and load
3. pressure and temperature
4. pressure and load
A throttle potentiometer provides information
relating to:
1. throttle position and engine load
2. throttle position and driver intention
3. idle position and engine load
4. idle position and driver intention
One design feature of an inlet manifold that ensures
all cylinders are supplied with the same volume and
air flow characteristics is the:
1. length and diameter
2. fitting of an air flow meter
3. fitting of a MAP sensor
4. material it is made from
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Atomization and distribution of fuel is generally
improved if the air:
1. speed is reduced
2. pressure is reduced
3. is heated
4. is cooled
A function that switches off the injectors during
certain conditions is known as:
1. over-run fuel cut-off
2. deceleration reduction
3. under-run fuel cut-off
4. acceleration reduction
A catalytic converter is fitted close to the exhaust
manifold because:
1. it is the furthest point from the expansion box
2. it is protected from vibration
3. exhaust heat aids chemical reactions
4. exhaust gas speed is low at this point
An EGR system usually operates during:
1. cold starts
2. high vacuum conditions
3. fast accelerations
4. engine decelerations
Measurement of exhaust emissions, just after starting the engine from cold, gives a higher than specification reading. The reason for this is:
1. the temperature of the catalyst is low
2. the catalyst is faulty
3. combustion temperature is always higher after
4. compression pressures are higher after start-up
A correctly functioning lambda sensor will give
readings between:
1. 0.002–0.008 volts
2. 0.02–0.08 volts
3. 0.2–0.8 volts
4. 2–8 volts
11.1 Lighting
11.1.1 Introduction
Vehicle lighting systems are very important, particularly where road safety is concerned. If headlights
were suddenly to fail at night and at high speed, the
result could be catastrophic. Many techniques have
been used, ranging from automatic changeover circuits to thermal circuit breakers, which pulse the
lights rather than putting them out as a blown fuse
would. Modern wiring systems fuse each bulb filament separately and even if the main supply to
the headlights failed, it is likely that dim-dip would
still work.
We have come a long way since lights such as
the Lucas ‘King of the road’ were in use. These were
acetylene lamps! A key point to remember with
vehicle lights is that they must allow the driver to:
See in the dark.
Be seen in the dark (or conditions of poor
Sidelights, tail lights, brake lights and others are
relatively straightforward. Headlights present the
most problems, namely that, on dipped beam they
must provide adequate light for the driver but without dazzling other road users. Many techniques have
been tried over the years and great advances have
been made, but the conflict between seeing and dazzling is very difficult to overcome. One of the latest
developments, ultra-violet (UV) lighting, which is
discussed later, shows some promise.
11.1.2 Bulbs
Joseph Swan in the UK demonstrated the first light
bulb in 1878. Much incremental development has
taken place since that time. The number, shape and
size of bulbs used on vehicles is increasing all the
time. Figure 11.1 shows a common selection. Most
bulbs for vehicle lighting are generally either conventional tungsten filament bulbs or tungsten halogen.
Figure 11.1 Selection of bulbs
Figure 11.2 A bulb filament is like a spiralled spiral
In the conventional bulb the tungsten filament is
heated to incandescence by an electric current. In a
vacuum the temperature is about 2300 ° C. Tungsten
is a heavy metallic element and has the symbol W;
its atomic number is 74; and its atomic weight 2.85.
The pure metal is steel grey to tin white in colour.
Its physical properties include the highest melting
point of all metals: 3410 ° C. Pure tungsten is easily
forged, spun, drawn and extruded, whereas in an
impure state it is brittle and can be fabricated only
with difficulty. Tungsten oxidizes in air, especially
at higher temperatures, but it is resistant to corrosion and is only slightly attacked by most mineral
acids. Tungsten or its alloys are therefore ideal for use
as filaments for electric light bulbs. The filament is
normally wound into a ‘spiralled spiral’ to allow a
suitable length of thin wire in a small space and to
provide some mechanical strength. Figure 11.2 shows
a typical bulb filament.
If the temperature mentioned above is exceeded
even in a vacuum, then the filament will become
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
very volatile and break. This is why the voltage at
which a bulb is operated must be kept within tight
limits. The vacuum in a bulb prevents the conduction of heat from the filament but limits the operating temperature.
Gas-filled bulbs are more usual, where the glass
bulb is filled with an inert gas such as argon under
pressure. This allows the filament to work at a
higher temperature without failing and therefore
produce a whiter light. These bulbs will produce
about 17 lm/W compared with a vacuum bulb, which
will produce about 11 lm/W.
Almost all vehicles now use tungsten halogen
bulbs for their headlights as these are able to
produce about 24 lm/W (more for some modern
designs). The bulb has a long life and will not blacken
over a period of time like other bulbs. This is because
in normal gas bulbs, over a period of time, about 10%
of the filament metal evaporates and is deposited
on the bulb wall. The gas in halogen bulbs is mostly
iodine. The name halogen is used because there are
four elements within group VIIA of the periodic
table, known collectively as the halogens. The name,
derived from the Greek hal- and -gen, means ‘saltproducing’. The four halogens are bromine, chlorine,
fluorine and iodine. They are highly reactive and
are not found free in nature. The gas is filled to a
pressure of several bar.
The glass envelope used for the tungsten halogen bulb is made from fused silicon or quartz. The
tungsten filament still evaporates but, on its way to
the bulb wall, the tungsten atom combines with two
or more halogen atoms forming a tungsten halide.
This will not be deposited on to the bulb because of
its temperature. The convection currents will cause the
halide to move back towards the filament at some
point and it then splits up, returning the tungsten to
the filament and releasing the halogen. Because of
this the bulb will not become blackened, the light
output will therefore remain constant throughout its
life. The envelope can also be made smaller as can the
filament, thus allowing better focusing. Figure 11.3
shows a tungsten halogen headlight bulb.
Next, some common bulbs are discussed further.
The glass envelope has a tubular shape, with the filament stretched between brass caps cemented to the
tube ends. This bulb was commonly used for numberplate and interior roof lighting.
Miniature centre contact (MCC)
This bulb has a bayonet cap consisting of two locating pins projecting from either side of the cylindrical
Figure 11.3 Halogen bulb
cap. The diameter of the cap is about 9 mm. It has
a single central contact (SCC), with the metal cap
body forming the second contact, often the earth
connection. It is made with various power ratings
ranging from 1 to 5 W.
Capless bulb
These bulbs have a semi-tubular glass envelope
with a flattened end, which provides the support for
the terminal wires, which are bent over to form the
two contacts. The power rating is up to 5 W, and
these bulbs are used for panel lights, sidelights and
parking. They are now very popular due to the low
cost of manufacture.
Single contact, small bayonet cap
These bulbs have a bayonet cap with a diameter of
about 15 mm with a spherical glass envelope enclosing a single filament. A single central contact (SCC)
uses the metal cap body to form the second contact.
The size or wattage of the bulb is normally 5 W or
21 W. The small 5 W bulb, is used for side or tail
lights and the larger 21 W bulb is used for indicators,
hazard, reversing and rear fog-lights.
Double contact, small bayonet cap
Similar in shape and size to the large SCC 15 mm
SBC bulb, as described above. It has two filaments,
one end of each being connected to an end contact,
and both of the other ends are joined to the cap
body forming a third contact, which is usually the
earth. These caps have offset bayonet pins so that
the two filaments, which are of different wattage,
Lighting 293
cannot be connected the wrong way around. One
filament is used for the stop light and the other for
the tail light. They are rated at 21 and 5 W (21/5 W)
11.1.3 External lights
Regulations exist relating to external lights, the following is a simplified interpretation and amalgamation of current regulations, the range of permissible
luminous intensity is given in brackets after each sub
Sidelights (up to 60 cd)
A vehicle must have two sidelights each with wattage
of less than 7 W. Most vehicles have the sidelights
incorporated as part of the headlight assembly.
Rear lights (up to 60 cd)
Again, two must be fitted each with wattage not
less than 5 W. Lights used in Europe must be ‘E’
marked and show a diffused light. Their position
must be within 400 mm from the vehicle edge and
over 500 mm apart, and between 350 and 1500 mm
above the ground.
Brake lights (40–100 cd)
There two lights are often combined with the rear
lights. They must be between 15 and 36 W each,
with diffused light and must operate when any form
of first line brake is applied. Brake lights must be
between 350 and 1500 mm above the ground and at
least 500 mm apart in a symmetrical position. Highlevel brake lights are now allowed and, if fitted,
must operate with the primary brake lights.
Reversing lights (300–600 cd)
No more than two lights may be fitted with a maximum wattage each of 24 W. The light must not
dazzle and either be switched automatically from
the gearbox or with a switch incorporating a warning light. Safety reversing ‘beepers’ are now often
fitted in conjunction with this circuit, particularly
on larger vehicles.
Day running lights (800 cd max)
Volvo use day running lights as these are in
fact required in Sweden and Finland. These lights
come on with the ignition and must only work in
conjunction with the rear lights. Their function is to
indicate that the vehicle is moving or about to move.
They switch off when parking or headlights are
Rear fog lights (150–300 cd)
One or two may be fitted but, if only one, then it
must be on the offside or centre line of the vehicle.
They must be between 250 and 1000 mm above the
ground and over 100 mm from any brake light. The
wattage is normally 21 W and they must only operate when either the sidelights, headlights or front
fog lights are in use.
Front spot and fog lights
If front spot lights are fitted (auxiliary driving lights),
they must be between 500 and 1200 mm above the
ground and more than 400 mm from the side of
the vehicle. If the lights are non-dipping then they
must only operate when the headlights are on main
beam. Front fog lamps are fitted below 500 mm
from the ground and may only be used in fog or
falling snow. Spot lamps are designed to produce a
long beam of light to illuminate the road in the distance. Fog lights are designed to produce a sharp
cut off line such as to illuminate the road just in
front of the vehicle but without reflecting back or
causing glare.
Figure 11.4 shows a selection of vehicle light
designs and some of the groupings used.
11.1.4 Headlight reflectors
Light from a source, such as the filament of a bulb,
can be projected in the form of a beam of varying
patterns by using a suitable reflector and a lens.
Reflectors used for headlights are usually parabolic, bifocal or homifocal. Lenses, which are also
used as the headlight cover glass, are used to direct
the light to the side of the road and in a downward
direction. Figure 11.5 shows how lenses and reflectors can be used to direct the light.
The object of the headlight reflector is to direct
the random light rays produced by the bulb into a
beam of concentrated light by applying the laws of
reflection. Bulb filament position relative to the
reflector is important, if the desired beam direction
and shape are to be obtained. This is demonstrated
in Figure 11.5(a). First, the light source (the light
filament) is at the focal point, so the reflected beam
will be parallel to the principal axis. If the filament
is between the focal point and the reflector, the
reflected beam will diverge – that is, spread outwards along the principal axis. Alternatively, if
the filament is positioned in front of the focal point
the reflected beam will converge towards the principal axis.
A reflector is basically a layer of silver, chrome
or aluminium deposited on a smooth and polished
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
surface such as brass or glass. Consider a mirror
reflector that ‘caves in’ – this is called a concave
reflector. The centre point on the reflector is called
the pole, and a line drawn perpendicular to the surface from the pole is known as the principal axis.
If a light source is moved along this line, a point
will be found where the radiating light produces a
reflected beam parallel to the principal axis. This
point is known as the focal point, and its distance
from the pole is known as the focal length.
Parabolic reflector
A parabola is a curve similar in shape to the curved
path of a stone thrown forward in the air. A parabolic reflector (Figure 11.5(a)) has the property of
reflecting rays parallel to the principal axis when a
light source is placed at its focal point, no matter
where the rays fall on the reflector. It therefore
produces a bright parallel reflected beam of constant light intensity. With a parabolic reflector, most
of the light rays from the light-bulb are reflected
and only a small amount of direct rays disperses as
stray light.
The intensity of reflected light is strongest near
the beam axis, except for light cut-off by the bulb
itself. The intensity drops off towards the outer edges
of the beam. A common type of reflector and bulb
arrangement is shown in Figure 11.6 where the dip
filament is shielded. This gives a nice sharp cut-off
line when on dip beam and is used mostly with
asymmetric headlights.
Bifocal reflector
The bifocal reflector (Figure 11.5(c)) as its name
suggests has two reflector sections with different
focal points. This helps to take advantage of the
Lighting 295
light striking the lower reflector area. The parabolic
section in the lower area is designed to reflect light
down to improve the near field area just in front of
the vehicle. This technique is not suitable for twin
filament bulbs, it is therefore only used on vehicles
with a four-headlight system. With the aid of powerful
CAD programs, variable focus reflectors can be made
with non-parabolic sections to produce a smooth
transition between each area.
Homifocal reflector
A homifocal reflector (Figure 11.5(d)) is made up
of a number of sections each with a common focal
point. This design allows a shorter focal length and
hence, overall, the light unit will have less depth.
Figure 11.4 Vehicle lighting designs.
(a) Ford Mustang (b) Jaguar S-Type;
(c) Mercedes-Benz S-class; (d) the
Hyundai XG
The effective luminous flux is also increased. It can
be used with a twin filament bulb to provide dip and
main beam. The light from the main reflector section
provides the normal long range lighting and the
auxiliary reflectors improve near field and lateral
Poly-ellipsoidal headlight system
The poly-ellipsoidal system (PES) as shown in
Figure 11.7 was introduced by Bosch in 1983. It
allows the light produced to be as good, or in some
cases better than conventional lights, but with a
light-opening area of less than 30 cm2. This is achieved by using a CAD designed elliptical reflector
Figure 11.5 Headlight patterns are produced by careful use of
lenses and reflectors
Lighting 297
and projection optics. A shield is used to ensure
a suitable beam pattern. This can be for a clearly
defined cut-off line or even an intentional lack of
sharpness. The newer PES Plus system, which is
intended for larger vehicles, further improves the
near-field illumination. These lights are only used
with single filament bulbs and must form part of a
four-headlamp system.
11.1.5 Headlight lenses
A good headlight should have a powerful far-reaching
central beam, around which the light is distributed
Figure 11.6 Creating a dip beam with a twin filament shielded
Figure 11.7 Improved poly-ellipsoid low beam
both horizontally and vertically in order to illuminate as great an area of the road surface as possible.
The beam formation can be considerably improved
by passing the reflected light rays through a transparent block of lenses. It is the function of the
lenses partially to redistribute the reflected light
beam and any stray light rays, so that a better overall
road illumination is achieved with the minimum of
glare. A block prism lens is shown as Figure 11.5(b).
Lenses work on the principle of refraction – that
is, the change in the direction of light rays when
passing into or out of a transparent medium, such as
glass (plastic on some very recent headlights). The
headlight front cover and glass lens, is divided up
into a large number of small rectangular zones,
each zone being formed optically in the shape of a
concave flute or a combination of flute and prisms.
The shape of these sections is such that, when the
roughly parallel beam passes through the glass, each
individual lens element will redirect the light rays
to obtain an improved overall light projection or
beam pattern.
The flutes control the horizontal spread of light.
At the same time the prisms sharply bend the rays
downwards to give diffused local lighting just in
front of the vehicle. The action of lenses is shown
as Figure 11.5(b).
Many headlights are now made with clear lenses,
which means that all the light directionality is performed by the reflector (see Figure 11.4).
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 11.10 Principle of headlight aiming
Figure 11.8 Manual headlight levelling
Figure 11.11 Beam setter principle
Figure 11.12 Headlight aiming board
Figure 11.9 Automatic headlight adjustment
11.1.6 Headlight levelling
The principle of headlight levelling is very simple,
the position of the lights must change depending on
the load in the vehicle. Figure 11.8 shows a simple
manual aiming device operated by the driver.
An automatic system can be operated from sensors positioned on the vehicle suspension. This will
allow automatic compensation for whatever the
load distribution on the vehicle. Figure 11.9 shows
the layout of this system. The actuators, which actually move the lights, can vary from hydraulic
devices to stepper motors.
The practicality of headlight aiming is represented by Figure 11.10. Adjustment is by moving
two screws positioned on the headlights, such that
one will cause the light to move up and down the
other will cause side-to-side movement.
11.1.7 Headlight beam setting
Many types of beam-setting equipment are available and most work on the same principle, which is
represented in Figure 11.11. The method is the same
as using an aiming board but is more convenient
and accurate due to easier working and less room
being required.
To set the headlights of a car using an aiming
board the following procedure should be adopted.
1. Park the car on level ground, square on to a vertical aiming board at a distance of 10 m if possible.
The car should be unladen except for the driver.
2. Mark out the aiming board as shown in Figure
3. Bounce the suspension to ensure it is level.
4. With the lights set on dip beam, adjust the cut-off
line to the horizontal mark, which will be 1 cm*
* or whatever the manufacturer recommends
Lighting 299
Figure 11.14 Simplified circuit of dim-dip lights using a series
If there is any doubt as to the visibility or conditions, switch on dipped headlights. If your
vehicle is in good order it will not discharge the
Figure 11.13 Simplified lighting circuit
below the height of the headlight centre, for every
1 m the car is away from the board. The breakoff point should be adjusted to the centre line of
each light in turn.
11.2 Lighting circuits
11.2.1 Basic lighting circuit
Figure 11.13 shows a simple lighting circuit. Whilst
this representation helps to demonstrate the way in
which a lighting circuit operates, it is not now used
in this simple form. The circuit does, however, help
to show in a simple way how various lights in and
around the vehicle operate with respect to each other.
For example, fog lights can be wired to work only
when the sidelights are on. Another example is
how the headlights cannot be operated without the
sidelights first being switched on.
11.2.2 Dim-dip circuit
Dim-dip headlights are an attempt to stop drivers just
using sidelights in semi-dark or poor visibility conditions. The circuit is such that when sidelights and
ignition are on together, then the headlights will come
on automatically at about one-sixth of normal power.
Dim-dip lights are achieved in one of two ways. The
first uses a simple resistor in series with the headlight bulb and the second is to use a ‘chopper’ module, which switches the power to the headlights
on and off rapidly. In either case the ‘dimmer’ is
bypassed when the driver selects normal headlights.
Figure 11.14 is a simplified circuit of dim-dip lights
using a series resistor. This is the most cost-effective
method but has the problem that the resistor (about
1 ) gets quite hot and hence has to be positioned
11.3 Gas discharge and
LED lighting
11.3.1 Gas discharge lamps
Gas discharge headlamps (GDL) are now being fitted to vehicles. They have the potential to provide
more effective illumination and new design possibilities for the front of a vehicle. The conflict between
aerodynamic styling and suitable lighting positions
is an economy/safety tradeoff, which is undesirable.
The new headlamps make a significant contribution towards improving this situation because they
can be relatively small. The GDL system consists of
three main components.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 11.15 Operating principle of a gas discharge bulb
Figure 11.16 Ballast system to control a GDL
This operates in a very different way from conventional incandescent bulbs. A much higher voltage
is needed. Figure 11.15 illustrates the operating
principle of a GD bulb.
Ballast system
This contains an ignition and control unit and converts the electrical system voltage into the operating
voltage required by the lamp. It controls the ignition stage and run up as well as regulating during
continuous use and finally monitors operation as a
safety aspect. Figure 11.16 shows the lamp circuit
and components.
Figure 11.17 Spectrum of light produced by the GDL (top)
compared with that from a halogen HI bulb
Table 11.1
Comparison of Hl and Dl bulbs
Light (%)
Heat (%)
UV radiation (%)
The design of the headlamp is broadly similar to
conventional units. However, in order to meet the
limits set for dazzle, a more accurate finish is needed,
hence more production costs are involved.
The source of light in the gas discharge lamp
is an electric arc, and the actual discharge bulb is
only about 10 mm across. Two electrodes extend
into the bulb, which is made from quartz glass. The
gap between these electrodes is 4 mm. The distance
between the end of the electrode and the bulb
contact surface is 25 mm – this corresponds to the
dimensions of the standardized H1 bulb.
At room temperature, the bulb contains a mixture
of mercury, various metal salts and xenon under
pressure. When the light is switched on, the xenon
illuminates at once and evaporates the mercury and
metal salts. The high luminous efficiency is due to
the metal vapour mixture. The mercury generates
most of the light and the metal salts affect the colour
spectrum. Figure 11.17 shows the spectrum of light
produced by the GDL compared with that from a
halogen H1 bulb. Table 11.1 highlights the difference in output between the D1 and H1 bulbs (the
figures are approximate and for comparison only).
The high output of UV radiation from the GDL
means that for reasons of safety, special filters are
required. Figure 11.18 shows the luminance of the
GDL again compared with an H1 bulb. The average
output of the GDL is three times greater.
To start the D1 lamp, the following four stages
are run through in sequence.
Ignition – a high voltage pulse causes a spark to
jump between the electrodes, which ionizes the
gap. This creates a tubular discharge path.
Lighting 301
use. Figure 11.5(e) shows the light distribution of
the D1 and H1 bulbs used in headlamps.
11.3.2 Ultraviolet headlights
Figure 11.18 Luminance of the GDL compared with a halogen
light bulb
Immediate light – the current flowing along the
discharge path excites the xenon, which then
emits light at about 20% of its continuous value.
Run-up – the lamp is now operated at increased
wattage, the temperature rises rapidly and the
mercury and metal salts evaporate. The pressure in
the lamp increases as the luminous flux increases
and the light shifts from the blue to the white
Continuous – the lamp is now operated at a stabilized power rating of 35 W. This ensures that the
arc remains still and the output does not flicker.
The luminous flux (28 000 lm) and the colour
temperature (4500 K) are reached.
In order to control the above stages of operation, a
ballast system is required. A high voltage, which can
be as much as 20 kV, is generated to start the arc.
During run-up, the ballast system limits the current
and then also limits voltage. This wattage control
allows the light to build up very quickly but prevents overshoot, which would reduce the life of the
bulb. The ballast unit also contains radio suppression
and safety circuits.
The complete headlamp can be designed in a
different way, as the D1 bulb produces 2.5 times the
light flux and at less than half the temperature of
the conventional H1 bulb. This allows far greater
variation in the styling of the headlamp and hence
the front end of the vehicle.
If the GDL system is used as a dip beam, the
self-levelling lights are required because of the high
luminous intensities. However, use as a main beam
may be a problem because of the on/off nature. A
GDL system for dip beam, which stays on all the time
and is supplemented by a conventional main beam
(four-headlamp system), may be the most appropriate
The GDL can be used to produce ultraviolet (UV)
lights. Since UV radiation is virtually invisible it will
not dazzle oncoming traffic but will illuminate fluorescent objects such as specially treated road markings and clothing. These glow in the dark much like a
white shirt under some disco lights. The UV light will
also penetrate fog and mist, as the light reflected by
water droplets is invisible. It will even pass through
a few centimetres of snow.
Cars with UV lights use a four-headlamp system.
This consists of two conventional halogen main/dip
lights and two UV lights. The UV lights come on
at the same time as the dipped beams, effectively
doubling their range but without dazzling.
Two-stage blue filters are used to eliminate visible
light. Precise control of the filter colour is needed
to ensure UVB and UVC are filtered out, as these
can cause eye damage and skin cancer. This leaves
UVA, which is just beyond the visible spectrum and
is used, for example, in suntan lamps. However,
some danger still exists; for example, if a child were
to look directly and at close range into the faint blue
glow of the lights. To prevent this, the lights will
only operate when the vehicle is moving. This is a
very promising contribution to road safety.
11.3.3 LED lighting
Light emitting diode (LED) displays were first produced commercially in 1968. Almost from this time
there has been speculation as to possible vehicle
applications. Such LEDs have certainly found
applications in the interior vehicle, particularly in
dashboard displays. However, until recently, legislation has prevented the use of LEDs for exterior
lighting. A simple change in the legislative language
from ‘incandescent lamp’ to ‘light source’, has at
last made it possible to use lighting devices other
than filament bulbs. Figure 11.19 shows a light unit
containing LEDs.
The advantages of LED lighting are clear, the
greatest being reliability. LEDs have a typical rated
life of over 50 000 hours, compared with just a few
thousand for incandescent lamps. The environment
in which vehicle lights have to survive is hostile to
say the least. Extreme variations in temperature and
humidity as well as serious shocks and vibration have
to be endured.
LEDs are more expensive than bulbs but the
potential savings in design costs due to sealed units
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Operation of the switch allows the supply on the N
or N/S wire (colour codes are discussed on page
85) to pass to fuses 7 and 8 on an R wire. The two
fuses then supply left sidelights and right sidelights
as well as the number plate light.
Dipped beam
When the dip beam is selected, a supply is passed to
fuse 9 on a U wire and then to the dim-dip unit,
which is now de-energized. This then allows a supply to fuses 10 and 11 on the O/U wire. This supply
is then passed to the left light on a U/K wire and the
right light on a U/B wire.
Main beam
Figure 11.19 Light units with LEDs
being used and the greater freedom of design could
outweigh the extra expense. A further advantage is
that they turn on quicker than ordinary bulbs. This
turn-on time is important; the times are about 130 ms
for the LEDs, and 200 ms for bulbs. If this is related
to a vehicle brake light at motorway speeds, then
the increased reaction time equates to about a car
length. This is also potentially a major contribution
to road safety.
Most of the major manufacturers are undertaking
research into the use of LED lighting. Much time is
being spent looking at the use of LEDs as high-level
brake lights. This is because of their shock resistance, which will allow them to be mounted on the
boot lid. In convertible cars, which have no rear
screen as such, this application is ideal. Many manufacturers are designing rear spoilers with lights built
in, and this is a good development as a safety aspect.
Heavy vehicle side marker lights are an area of
use where LEDs have proved popular. Many lighting manufacturers are already producing lights for
the after-market. Being able to use sealed units will
greatly increase the life expectancy. Side indicator
repeaters are a similar issue due to the harsh environmental conditions.
11.4 Case studies
11.4.1 Rover lighting circuit
The circuit shown in Figure 11.20 is the complete
lighting system of a Rover vehicle. Operation of the
main parts of this circuit is as follows.
Selecting main beam allows a supply on the U/W
wire to the main/dip relay, thus energizing it. A supply is therefore placed on fuses 21 and 22 and hence
to each of the headlight main beam bulbs.
When sidelights are on there is a supply to the dimdip unit on the R/B wire. If the ignition supplies a
second feed on the G wire then the unit will allow a
supply from fuse 5 to the dim-dip resistor on an N/S
wire and then on to the dim-dip unit on an N/G wire.
The unit then links this supply to fuses 10 and 11
(dip beam fuses).
11.4.2 Generic lighting circuit –
Figure 11.21 shows a typical lighting circuit using
the ‘flow diagram’ or schematic technique. The identifiers are listed in the Table 11.2. Note that, when
following this circuit, the wires do not pass directly
through the ‘lamp check module’ from top to bottom.
There is a connection to the appropriate lamp but
this will be through for example, a sensing coil.
Also, note how codes are used to show connections from some components to others rather than a
line representing the wire. This is to reduce the
number of wires in general but also to reduce crossover points.
11.4.3 Xenon lighting – Hella
The risk of being injured or killed in a traffic accident on the roads is much higher at night than during the day, in spite of the smaller volumes of traffic.
Although only about 33% of accidents occur at dusk
or in the dark, the number of persons seriously
injured increases by 50%, and the number of deaths
Figure 11.20 Complete vehicle lighting circuit
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 11.21 Lighting circuit
flow diagram
Table 11.2 Identifiers for Figure 11.21
Dimmer for instrument lighting
Fog warning lamps
Main beam headlamps
Fog lamps
Dip beam headlamps
Side-marker lamps
Number plate lamp
Tail lamps
Reverse lamp
Instrument lighting
Indicator lamps
Lighting relay
Headlamp switch
Fog lamp switch
Dip switch
Stop lamp switch
Turn signal switch
Back-up lamp switch
Hazard warning switch
Plug, lamp check module
Plug, check control
Socket, hazard warning relay
by 136% compared with accidents that occur during
the day.
Alongside factors such as self-dazzling caused
by wet road surfaces, higher speeds because of the
reduced traffic density and a reduction of about 25%
of the distance maintained to the vehicle in front,
causes relating to eye physiology play a very important role.
The eyes age faster than any other sensory organ,
and the human eye’s powers of vision begin to
deteriorate noticeably from as early an age as 30!
The consequence of this – a reduction in visual acuity and contrast sensitivity when the light begins to
fade – is a situation that is very rarely noticed by the
motorist, as these functional deficits develop only
However, the vision – even of a person with
healthy eyes – is considerably reduced at night. The
associated risk factors include delayed adjustment
to changes between light and dark, impaired colour
vision and the slow transition from day to night,
which, through the habituation effect, can lull the
motorist into a false sense of security.
Hella – for the past 100 years a forerunner in the
development and production of innovative head-lamp
and lighting systems – is therefore giving increasing backing to xenon technology, the only system
that offers more light than conventional tungsten
bulbs – and that is daylight quality.
However, a good xenon headlamp alone is not
enough to translate the additional light quantity and
quality into increased safety. In order, for example,
to avoid the hazard of being dazzled by oncoming
traffic, the legally required range of additional
equipment includes such items as headlamp cleaning equipment and automatic beam levellers. Only
the system as whole is able to provide the clear
advantage of higher safety for all road-users, even
under the most adverse weather conditions. This
means that even in rain, fog and snow, spatial vision
is improved and the motorist’s orientation abilities
are less restricted.
Already today, according to a survey, 94% of
xenon headlamp users are convinced of their positive
Lighting 305
benefits. Night vision is improved claim 85% of
users – in the case of the over-50s this figure is even
increased to 90%. Visibility in rain is also judged by
80% to be better, while 75% of those surveyed have
perceived an increase in safety for cyclists and
pedestrians owing to the wider illumination of the
road. The same percentage maintains that, thanks to
xenon light, obstacles on the road are more easily
In order to make this increase in active safety
available to as many road users as possible, the automobile industry – whether as standard equipment or
as an optional accessory – is laying more emphasis
on xenon headlamps. The annual requirement for
xenon headlamps in Europe is estimated to rise
to over two million units by the year 2000. Today,
more than 600 000 cars have already been equipped
with xenon headlamps.
The xenon bulb is a micro-discharge bulb filled
with a mixture of noble gases including xenon. The
bulb has no filament, as is the case with a halogen
bulb, but the light arc is created between two electrodes. As is the case with other gas discharge bulbs,
the xenon bulb has an electronic starter for quick
ignition, and requires an electronic ballast to function properly.
The xenon bulb provides more than twice the
amount of light of a halogen bulb, while only consuming half the power. Therefore, the driver can see
more clearly, and the car has more power for other
functions. Moreover, it is environmentally friendly,
as less power means less fuel consumption. The
clear white light produced by the xenon bulb is similar to daylight. Research has shown that this
enables drivers to concentrate better. Furthermore,
this particular light colour reflects the road markings and signs better than conventional lighting.
The xenon bulb also delivers a marked contribution
to road safety in the event of limited visibility due
to weather conditions. In practical terms, the life
span of the bulb is equal to that of the car, which
means that the bulb need only be replaced in exceptional cases.
The light produced by a xenon bulb is, in fact, not
blue but white, falling well within the international
specifications for white light – the light only appears
blue in comparison to the warmer ‘yellow’ light produced by halogen. However, it clearly appears white
in comparison to daylight. Technically speaking, it is
possible to adapt the light colour produced, but this
would lead to a substantial loss of intensity, thereby
cancelling out the particular advantages.
The international regulations governing light
distribution and intensity on the road are very strict.
Xenon light falls well within these boundaries.
Figure 11.22 Hella xenon lighting
In addition, technically speaking, xenon lighting is
less irritating than conventional light. As the light–
darkness borders are much more clearly defined, less
light is reflected into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
The increased amount (double) of light produced is
mainly used to achieve higher intensity and better
distribution of light on the road. Moreover, the
verges are also better lit. There are three conditions
that must be met. These are contained in the international regulations concerning the use of xenon
light: the headlamps must be aligned according to
regulations; the vehicle must be fitted with an automatic headlamp levelling system, so that when the
load is increased the headlight beams are automatically adjusted; the headlamp must be fitted with an
automatic cleaning system, as dirt deposits on the
lens act as a diffuser, thereby projecting the light
beyond the prescribed range. These three conditions together with the extensive life span of the
xenon bulb greatly reduce the risk of incorrectly
aligned headlamps. The use of halogen bulbs entails
a much higher risk.
Xenon light sometimes appears to irritate oncoming drivers. In normal circumstances drivers look
straight ahead; however, due to the conspicuous
colour of xenon light, drivers are more inclined to
look into the headlamps. The same phenomenon was
experienced during the introduction of halogen headlamps in the 1960s. In those days people also spoke
of ‘that irritating white light’. The introduction of
xenon headlamps will therefore entail a period in
which everybody will become accustomed. Figure
11.22 shows the xenon lamp from Hella.
11.4.4 Blue lights!
Philips ‘BlueVision’ white light stimulates driver
concentration and makes night-time driving less
tiring and reflects much better on road markings and
signs. The new headlight and sidelight bulbs meet
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
all the European safety legislation. The bulbs are
directly interchangeable with existing bulbs.
With the introduction of BlueVision, Philips
Automotive Lighting is illuminating the way ahead
to the future of enhanced headlamp performance.
The future is … white light BlueVision. For the
simple reason that the Blue Vision lamps reproduce
day-light type light … in night-time conditions!
Using the UV cut quartz developed by Philips
for halogen lamps means that BlueVision can safely
be used for all headlamps. However, it should be
noted that halogen technology is not comparable to
the xenon discharge technology, fitted as original
equipment to more and more of the world’s cars.
11.4.5 New signalling and
lighting technologies
Valeo Lighting Systems has developed new signal
lighting technologies to provide more variety and
innovation to signal lamp concepts, which are a key
styling feature on cars.
Jewel aspect signal lamps
Jewel aspect signal lamps are based on the complex shape technology widely used in headlamps.
Beam pattern is no longer completely controlled by
the lens but by the reflector which, in some cases,
may be in conjunction with an intermediary filter.
Conventional lens optics using prisms is minimized, giving the impression of greater depth and
Mono-colour signal lamps
With mono-colour technology, in addition to the
traditional red functions (stop, tail lamp and fog),
the reverse and turn signal functions appear red
when not in use, but emit white and amber light
respectively when functioning. Several technologies make this possible. In the case of subtractive
synthesis lamps, coloured screens are placed in
front of the bulb. Their colours are selected so that,
in conjunction with the red of the external lens,
they colour the light emitted by the lamp in line
with the regulations: white for reverse, amber for
the turn signal. Complementary colour technology
uses a two-colour external lens, which combines
red (dominant) and its complementary colour (yellow for the turn signal, blue for reverse). The combination of these two lights – red and yellow for the
turn signal, red and blue for reverse – produces the
colour of light (white or amber) stipulated by the
Linear lighting
Linear tail lamps can easily be harmonized with the
design of the vehicle by introducing the aspect of
very elongated lamps. Each function light is narrow,
(35 mm), and can be up to 400 mm long. The lamps
use optical intermediary screens, which are so precise that they not only fulfil legal photometric requirements but also create a harmonious overall aspect
and very distinct separations between the function
lights. This new technology is particularly well suited
for the rear of mini-vans and light trucks.
New light sources for signal lamps
LED (light emitting diode) and neon combination
lamps are a unique way to combine style and safety.
Innovative style: thanks to their compactness, LED
and neon offer enhanced design flexibility, notably
for highlighting the lines of the vehicle and illuminating the bumper. Their homogeneous or pointillist
appearance accentuates the differentiation and
high-tech aspect of these signal lamps. Increased
safety: the response time of these new sources,
approximately 0.2 s faster than incandescent bulbs,
allows danger to be anticipated as it provides the
equivalent of 5 m extra braking distance for a
vehicle travelling behind at 120 km/h.
Centre high mounted stop lamps
An LED CHMSL illuminates 0.2 s faster than conventional incandescent lamps, improving driver response
time and providing extra braking distance of 5 m at
120 km/h. Owing to their low height and reduced
depth, LED CHMSLs can be easily harmonized with
all vehicle designs, whether they are mounted inside
or integrated into the exterior body or spoiler. The
lifetime of an LED CHMSL is greater than 2000
hours, exceeding the average use of the light during
the life of the vehicle. Each new LED generation
feature enhances photometric performance and allows
a reduction in the number of LEDs required for the
CHMSL function. This number has already decreased
from 16 to 12 in some configurations and should
decrease even further over the next few years.
Neon technology
As with LED technology, neon lamps have an almost
instantaneous response time (increased safety), take
up little space (design flexibility) and last more than
2000 hours, thus exceeding the average use of a
CHMSL during the life of the vehicle. Moreover, the
neon CHMSL is very homogeneous in appearance
and offers unmatched lateral visibility.
Lighting 307
11.4.6 Electric headlamp
levelling actuators
The primary function of a levelling actuator is to
adjust the low beam in accordance with the load carried by the car and thereby avoid dazzling oncoming
traffic. Manual electric levelling actuators are connected up to a control knob on the dashboard so
allowing the driver to adjust beam height.
In addition to its range of manual electric headlamp levelling actuators, Valeo now also offers a
new range of automatic actuators. As their name
implies, these products do not require any driver
adjustment. They are of two types.
Automatic static actuators adjust beam height to
the optimum position in line with vehicle load
conditions. The system includes two sensors
(front and rear) which measure the attitude of the
vehicle. An electronic module converts data from
the sensors and drives two electric gear motors (or
actuators) located at the rear of the headlamps,
which are mechanically attached to the reflectors.
Beam height is adjusted every 10–30 s.
Automatic dynamic adjusters have two sensors,
an electronic module and two actuators. The
sensors are the same as in the static system but
the electronic module is more sophisticated in
that it includes electronics that control rapid
response actuator stepper motors. Response time
to changes in vehicle attitude due to acceleration
or deceleration is measured in tenths of a second.
Corrective action is continuous and provides
enhanced driving comfort, as the beam aim is
optimized. In line with regulations, automatic
dynamic levelling actuators are mandatory on all
vehicles equipped with high intensity discharge
(HID) lighting systems.
11.4.7 Baroptic styling concept
The Baroptic concept provides flexibility in the frontend styling of vehicles for the year 2000 and beyond
while optimizing aerodynamics. The Baroptic lighting system’s volume is significantly reduced as
compared with complex shape technology. The volume benefits allow enhanced management of ‘under
hood’ packaging. The product is a breakthrough both
in terms of volume and shape. The futuristic elongated appearance of Baroptic headlamps, illuminated
or not, sets them apart from conventional headlamps which tend to be oval or circular-shaped.
The Baroptic uses a new optical concept. Traditionally, the luminous flux emitted by the source is
reflected by the surface of the reflector (parabolic
or complex shape) and the beam is spread by a striated outer lens or refocused by the inner lenses
(elliptical reflector), which then projects this flux
onto the road.
In the Baroptic system, the luminous flux generated either by a halogen or a HID lamp is projected
into an optical guide with reflecting facets. It is then
focused through lenses and, positioned along the
optical guide, which defines, in conjunction with
shields, the desired beam characteristics: spread,
width, length, cut-off and homogeneity.
The benefit of this total reflection system is that
photometric performance is similar to normal-sized
headlamps. The spread of light is also optimized,
which serves to enhance visual comfort when driving at night. The Baroptic system is currently under
11.4.8 Complex shape reflectors
The surface of the reflector is calculated through
advanced computer analysis using a minimum of
50 000 individual points, each specific to the headlamp model under design. The third generation of
complex shape reflectors (SC3) combines the benefits of the first two developments and controls both
beam cut-off and pattern as well as homogeneity.
SC3 headlamp lenses can be perfectly clear or with
striations purely for decorative purposes. The lens is
there to enhance aesthetic appeal and aerodynamics.
Figure 11.23 shows a headlamp using this technique
together with some other lighting components.
11.4.9 Infrared lights
Thermal-imaging technology promises to make
night driving less hazardous. Infrared thermalimaging systems are going to be fitted to cars. The
Cadillac division of General Motors is now offering
a system called ‘Night Vision’ as an option. After
‘Night Vision’ is switched on, ‘hot’ objects, including animals and people show up as white in the
thermal image, as shown in Figure 11.24.
The infrared end of the light spectrum was discovered as long ago as 1800 by William Herschel.
When investigating light passing through a prism,
Herschel found heat was being emitted by rays he
could not see. This part of the spectrum is called
infrared (from the Latin infra, meaning ‘below’)
because the rays are below the frequency of
red light. The infrared spectrum begins at a wavelength of about 0.75 m and extends up to 1 mm.
Every object at a temperature above absolute zero
(273 ° C) emits some kind of infrared radiation.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 11.23 SC3 and other lighting products from ‘Valeo’
Figure 11.24 Night vision system in use
On the vehicle system a camera unit sits on
headlamp-type mountings in the centre of the car,
behind the front grille. Its aim is adjusted just like
that of headlamps. The mid-grille position was
chosen because most front collisions involve offset
rather than full head-on impacts. However, the sensor is claimed to be tough enough to withstand
9 mph (14.5 kph) bumper impacts anyway. The
sensor is focused 125 m ahead of the car as shown
in Figure 11.25.
The outer lens of the sensor is coated with
silicon to protect it against scratching. Behind this
are two lenses made of black glass called tecalgenite. This is a composite material that transmits
Figure 11.25 Night vision system range
infrared easily but visible light will not pass
through it.
The device looks a bit like a conventional camera, but instead of film it houses a bank of ferroelectric barium-strontium-titanate (BST) sensor
elements; 76 800 of them can be packed onto a
substrate measuring 25 mm square. Each element is
a temperature dependent capacitor, the capacitance
of which changes in direct proportion to how much
infrared radiation it senses. This is termed an
uncooled focal plane array (UFPA). An electricallyheated element maintains a temperature of 10 ° C
inside the UFPA, enabling it to operate between
ambient temperatures of 40 and 85 ° C.
Lighting 309
Between the lens and the bank of UFPA sensor
elements there is a thin silicon disc rotated by an
electric motor at 1800 rev/min. Helical swirls are
etched on some segments of the disc. Infrared radiation is blocked by the swirls but passes straight
through the plain segments. The UFPA elements
respond to the thermal energy of the objects viewed
by the lens. Each sensor’s reading switches on and
off every 1/30 of a second, thus providing video signals for the system’s head-up display (HUD).
The display, built into the dashboard, projects a
black-and-white image, which the driver sees near
the front edge of the car’s bonnet. Objects in the
image are the same size as viewed by the UFPA,
helping the driver judge distances to them.
11.4.10 RGB lights
The reliability of the LED is allowing designers to
integrate lights into the vehicle body in ways that
have so far not been possible. The colour of light
emitted by LEDs is red, orange, amber, yellow or
green. Developments are progressing to produce a
blue LED which, when combined with red and green,
will allow white light from a solid state device. Red,
green and blue are the primary colours of light and
can be mixed to produce any other colour. This is how
the combinations of pixels (RGB), on a colour monitor or television screen operate.
The possibilities as the technology develops are
very wide. The type of lights used and the possible
position of the lights on the vehicle are limitless.
Rear lights in particular could be changed depending
on what the requirements were. For example, when
travelling normally, the rear lights would be red but
when reversing all of the light could be white.
11.4.11 Single light-source
It is now possible to use a gas discharge lamp (GDL)
as a central source for vehicle lighting. Development
of this new headlamp system allows a reduction
in headlamp dimensions for the same output or
improved lighting with the same dimensions. Using
a GDL as a central light source for all the vehicle
lights is shown in Figure 11.26.
The principle is that light from the ‘super light
source’, is distributed to the headlamps and other
lamps by a light-guide or fibre-optic link. The light
from the GDL enters the fibre-optics via special
lenses and leaves the light-guide in a similar manner
as shown in Figure 11.27. A patterned covered lens
provides the required light distribution. Shields can
Figure 11.26 Using a GDL as central light source for all the
vehicle lights
Figure 11.27 The light from the gas discharge lamp (GDL)
enters and leaves the light guide via a special lens
provide functions such as indicators, or electrochromatic switches may even become available.
Heat build-up can be a problem in the fibreoptics but an infrared permeable coating on the
reflector will help to alleviate this issue. The lightguide system has a very low photometric efficiency
(10–20% at best), but the very efficient light source
still makes this technique feasible. One of the main
advantages is being able to improve the light distribution of the main headlamp. Due to the legal
limits with regard to dazzle, conventional lights
do not intensely illuminate the area just under the
cut-off line. Consequently, several glass fibre bundles
can be used to direct the light in an even distribution
onto the desired areas of the road.
The central light source can be placed anywhere
in the vehicle. Only one source is required but it is
thought that a second would be used for safety reasons. A vehicle at present uses some 30 to 40 bulbs,
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
and this number could be reduced markedly. A single light source could be utilized for rear lights on
the vehicle, which would allow rear lights with an
overall depth of only about 15 mm. This could be
supplied with light from a single conventional bulb.
11.5 Diagnosing lighting
system faults
11.5.1 Introduction
As with all systems the six stages of faultfinding
should be followed.
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evalute the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all sytems.
The procedure outlined in the next section is related
primarily to stage 4 of the process. Table 11.3 lists
some common symptoms of a lighting system malfunction together with suggestions for the possible
fault. The faults are very generic but will serve as a
good reminder.
11.5.2 Testing procedure
The process of checking a lighting system circuit is
broadly as follows:
1. Hand and eye checks (loose wires, loose switches
and other obvious faults) – all connections clean
and tight.
Table 11.3 Common symptoms and possible faults of a
lighting system malfunction
Possible fault
Lights dim
• High resistance in the circuit
• Low alternator output
• Discoloured lenses or reflectors
Headlights out
of adjustment
Suspension fault
Loose fittings
Damage to body panels
Adjustment incorrect
Lights do not work
• Bulbs blown
• Fuse blown
• Loose or broken
• Relay not working
• Corrosion in light units
• Switch not making contact
2. Check battery (see Chapter 5) – must be 70%
3. Check bulb(s) – visual check or test with
4. Fuse continuity – (do not trust your eyes) voltage at both sides with a meter or a test lamp.
5. If used, does the relay click (if yes, jump to
stage 8) – this means the relay has operated, it
is not necessarily making contact.
6. Supply to switch – battery volts.
7. Supply from the switch – battery volts.
8. Supplies to relay – battery volts.
9. Feed out of the relay – battery volts.
10. Voltage supply to the light – within 0.5 V of the
11. Earth circuit (continuity or voltage) – 0 or 0 V.
11.6 Advanced lighting
11.6.1 Lighting terms and
Many unusual terms are used when relating to lighting, this section aims to give a simplified description
of those used when dealing with vehicle lighting.
First, terms associated with the light itself are given,
and then terms relating more particularly to vehicle
lights. The definitions given are generally related to
the construction and use of headlights.
Luminous flux ()
The unit of luminous flux is the lumen (lm).
Luminous flux is defined as the amount of light
passing through an area in one second. The lumen
is defined as the light falling on a unit area at a unit
distance from a light source, which has a luminous
intensity of one candela.
Luminous intensity I
This is the power to produce illumination at a distance. The unit is the candela (cd); it is a measure of
the brightness of the light rather than the amount of
light falling on an object.
Illumination intensity E
This can be defined on a surface as the luminous
flux reaching it per unit area. The luminous intensity of a surface such as the road will be reduced if
the light rays are at an angle. The unit is the lux (lx),
it is equivalent to one lumen per square metre or to
Lighting 311
the illuminance of a surface one metre from a point
source of light of one candela. In simple terms it
depends on the brightness, distance from, and angle
to, a light source.
is adapted to curves and the high beam to the vehicle’s speed. These lighting functions provide drivers
Brightness or luminance L
This should not be confused with illumination. For
example when driving at night the illumination
from the vehicle lights will remain constant. The
brightness or luminance of the road will vary
depending on its surface colour. Luminance therefore depends not just on the illumination but also
on the light reflected back from the surface.
Range of a headlight
The distance at which the headlight beam still has a
specified luminous intensity.
Geometric range
This is the distance to the cut-off line on the road
surface when the dip beam is set at an inclination
below the horizontal.
Visual range
This is affected by many factors so cannot be
expressed in units but it is defined broadly as the
distance within the luminous field of vision, at which
an object can still be seen.
Signal identification range
The distance at which a light signal can be seen
under poor conditions.
Glare or dazzle
This is again difficult to express, as different people
will perceive it in different ways. A figure is used,
however, and that is if the luminous intensity is 1 lx
at a distance of 25 m, in front of a dipped headlight
at the height of the light centre, then the light is said
not to glare or dazzle. The old British method stated
that the lights must not dazzle a person on the same
horizontal plane as the vehicle at a distance over
25 feet, whose eye level is more than 3 ft 6 in above
the plane (I presume s/he is sitting down.)! In general, headlights when on dipped beam must fall
below a horizontal line by 1% (1.2% or more in
some cases) or 1 cm/m.
11.6.2 Expert Lighting Systems
The Expert Lighting System is a new Valeo technology developed to adapt the headlamp beam to
various road and traffic conditions. The low beam
enhanced comfort due to the increased quantity
of light and quality of the beam,
improved safety, particularly in difficult driving
conditions such as winding mountain roads.
This function is achieved by additional moving
reflectors, which rotate according to the position
of the steering wheel (in line with the direction
of the driver’s sight). The additional beam illuminates the area beyond or at the curve that is not normally illuminated by a traditional low beam
High beam adaptation to speed is based on the
translation of ‘additional mirrors’ within the high
beam reflector. The high beam is automatically
adapted for beam width and range according to
vehicle speed. This function is not subject to the
introduction of new regulations.
11.6.3 Intelligent front
lighting – Hella
The lighting of modern vehicles has improved continually in the past few decades. The halogen technology developed by Hella in particular set new
standards after it was introduced early in the 1970s,
as has xenon technology in the 1990s. The advantages of these systems were, and still are, their high
lighting performance and their precise light distribution. The intelligent lighting systems of the
future, however, will have to offer even more
than this in order to make driving safer and more
In cooperation with the motor industry, Hella is
masterminding a project for the development of an
intelligent front lighting system for future generations of motor vehicles. Market research surveys
conducted all over Europe first enabled an analysis
to be made of the requirements drivers make on
their vehicle lighting.
European drivers, according to this study, would
like the front lighting to respond to the various different light conditions they encounter such as daylight, twilight, night-time, and driving in and out of
tunnels, and to such weather situations as rain, fog,
or falling snow. They would also like better illumination on bends. Drivers would also like better light
on motorways. Their list of requirements also
includes better light along the edge of the road, and
additional light for parking in a narrow space and
when reversing.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
For Hella’s lighting experts, turning these requirements into an intelligent front lighting system means
comprehensive detail work and the development of
totally new lighting technologies that can respond in
various different ways to all these different situations, some of which call for contradictory patterns
of light distribution.
For instance, direct lighting of the area immediately in front of the car is desirable when the roadway
is dry, but can dazzle oncoming traffic if the road is
wet. Light emitted above the cut-off line in fog
dazzles the driver him/herself. And a long-range,
narrow pattern of light distribution for high-speed
motorway driving is unsuitable on twisting country
roads, where the need is for a broad illumination in
front of the car, possibly augmented by special headlamps for bends or a ‘dynamic’ long-range lighting
system. Despite the wide diversity of all these lightdistribution patterns, none must be allowed to
dazzle oncoming drivers.
Another theme is the idea of lights that switch on
automatically. Unlit vehicles keep turning up at night,
for instance in city-centre traffic, because the street
lighting is so good that some drivers fail to notice that
they are driving without lights. The same phenomenon can be seen where cars drive through tunnels. In
both cases, the unlit vehicles represent a major safety
risk because other road users can hardly see them.
With the aid of the sensors that are already
installed on some vehicles, an intelligent lighting
system can recognize the ever-changing light situation and give the appropriate assistance to the driver.
For instance, the sunlight sensors that already exist
for controlling air-conditioning systems, or speed
sensing devices, could also deliver data to an intelligent lighting system.
Additional sensors for ambient light and light
density in the field of vision, for identifying a dry or
wet road, fog, and whether the road ahead is straight
or curved, could also deliver important data. In
modern vehicles with digital electronic systems and
bus interfaces, these data will not only be useful to
the lighting systems but also to the other electronically controlled systems, such as ABS or ASR, and
give the driver vital assistance particularly in the
most difficult driving situations.
The data transmitted by the various sensors on a
vehicle can only be put to use if the vehicle has a
‘dynamic’ headlamp system that is capable of producing various different light-distribution patterns.
This could begin with an automatic, dynamic heightadjustment and headlamps that automatically swivel
sideways and could even include variable reflectors
providing a whole range of light-distribution
Figure 11.28 Dynamic bending light and normal lighting
(Source: Valeo)
11.7 New developments in
lighting systems
11.7.1 Light duties
Bending Light
Valeo is developing a headlight technology it calls
‘Bending Light’.1 This technique automatically
directs light into road bends to optimize forward
visibility at night. The technology makes a significant contribution to comfort and convenience by
reducing driver fatigue.
The Bending Light system consists of a bi-xenon
projector, or reflector headlamp, that can rotate up
from its normal position. An additional projector, or
reflector, or a combination of the two can be used to
deliver more light into a road bend. The actuation of
the motorized lighting unit, within each headlamp
assembly, is controlled by an electronic control unit,
which employs signals from the steering wheel and
wheel-speed sensors. A link to a satellite navigation
system (GPS) can also be used if required.
Bending Light is the first of a new generation of
adaptive front lighting systems to be launched by
Valeo following an extensive R&D program. The
range includes three distinct lighting types:
Motorway Lighting – typically above 80 km/h
(50 mph), the low-beam function of the headlamp is raised using a signal received from the
wheel-speed sensor to actuate a self-levelling
system, which increases driver visibility at high
Adverse Weather Lighting – provides, under
reduced-visibility conditions in fog, rain and
snow, additional illumination to help keep track
Valeo, 2002/3, Adaptive Front Lighting Systems – Bending
Lighting 313
Manual adjustment
Vertical rotation axis
Large frame
BI-Xenon projector
Small frame
Horizontal rotation axis
Figure 11.29 Mechanical design of
the AFS (Source: Visteon)
of road edges, while light is removed from the
foreground to reduce reflection from the wet road
Town Lighting – in well-illuminated urban
areas the light beam is lowered and lateral light
is increased, improving pedestrian and cyclist
identification at crossings as well as reducing
Bending Light is an intelligent headlamp system that
optimizes the night-time illumination of road curves
by directional control of vehicle headlamps. To turn
an increased quantity of light into road bends automatically, Bending Light systems adopt several flexible design approaches. Dynamic Bending Light
(DBL) uses a Bi-Xenon lamp (projector or reflector
type) housed in each headlamp unit, together with an
electronic actuator and an electronic control unit.
This design facilitates the horizontal rotation of
the Bi-Xenon lamp by up to 15 ° from the normal
‘straight-ahead’ position. This function is controlled
by a microcontroller linked to the vehicle’s data network with real-time inputs from both the steering
angle and speed sensors. Fixed Bending Light (FBL)
employs an additional projector or reflector type
lamp integrated into the headlamp unit at a 45 ° angle.
Figure 11.30 Situation where AFS improves target detection
(Source: Visteon)
the individual driving situation, thus enhancing
visibility and safety for drivers at night.
Advanced Frontlighting Systems included:
Basic function:
Advanced Frontlighting System
Visteon’s Advanced Frontlighting System2 incorporates innovative electronic controls to adjust headlight output so that the beam pattern is directed for
specific driving conditions, such as speed and
vehicle direction. The driver automatically experiences the optimized light distribution according to
Visteon, June 17, 2002, Innovations: Advanced Front
Lighting Systems
Electronic control module.
Swivel low beam headlamp.
Halogen in low beam.
Expanded function – provides additional features
above the basic function:
Electronic control module.
Beam pattern will adjust up at high speeds and
down and outward at low speeds.
42 V compatible.
Ability to shift the low beam up when the high
beam is activated.
Longer and narrower light distribution to increase
visibility at greater distances.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 11. 31 Four functions of AFS (Source: Visteon)
Shorter and wider light distribution to increase
visibility at closer distances.
Driver flexibility to activate/deactivate the system.
Each system is equipped with sensors, that detect
changing conditions, a driver-controlled switch, an
electronic control unit, which processes data from
the sensors, and electronic mechanisms that reposition the headlights. Each system is controlled by a
Visteon proprietary algorithm that controls headlight actuation. A central processor receives data
from a steering wheel sensor (to measure steering
angle), a speed sensor and axle sensors to direct the
headlights in real time.
When a vehicle turns a corner, for instance, the
outer headlight maintains a straight beam pattern
while the inner headlight beam illuminates the
upcoming turn. AFS responds to vehicle speed,
adjusting for higher and lower speeds. Additionally,
at times when high beams are activated, the system
adjusts the low beam upwards to further extend the
range of vision.
One fundamental differentiator of these systems is
Visteon’s ability to scale them to the manufacturer’s
needs. This system can use cost-effective Halogen
bulbs. Visteon’s internal surveys revealed that while
vehicle buyers know and understand the benefits
of Xenon technology, the higher cost of Xenon
bulbs could act as a potential deterrent to consumers.
Depending on manufacturer needs, Advanced Frontlighting Systems can be modified to recognize and
respond to a variety of road conditions, and can also
be implemented on vehicles with 14 or 42 V electrical systems.
Visteon’s Advanced Frontlighting Systems also
offer a great degree of design flexibility for vehicle
designers. These systems, well suited to the recent
trend towards projector-style headlights, can be easily packaged as an articulated assembly in reflectorstyle headlamps.
Other lighting developments
Two other continuing areas of lighting developments
are the use of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and gas
discharge lighting (GDL).
Figure 11.32 LED lighting (Source: Visteon)
Figure 11.33 Xenon lighting (Source: Visteon)
LEDs have a typical rated life often 25 times that
of incandescent lamps. Extreme variations in temperature and humidity, as well as serious shocks
and vibration, have to be endured. LEDs are more
suited to this type of environment. LEDs are more
expensive than bulbs, but the potential savings in
design costs, due to sealed units being used and
greater freedom of design, could outweigh the extra
expense. A further advantage is that they turn on
quicker than ordinary bulbs – important when used
as stoplights.
The benefit of Xenon lighting is that it emits
more than twice the amount of light of a halogen
bulb, while only consuming half the power. Therefore, the driver can see more clearly and the car has
more power for other functions.
The clear white light produced by the xenon
bulb is similar to daylight, and research has shown
that this enables drivers to concentrate better. In
practical terms, the life span of the bulb is equal to
Lighting 315
that of the car, which means that the bulb need only
be replaced in exceptional cases.
11.7.2 LEDs
LED displays have been used for many years in
dashboards and other instrument-type applications.
However, until recently, LEDs were not expected
to be used for replacing bulbs in lighting applications. LEDs provide much higher reliability and
lower power consumption, as well as requiring less
Recent advances in brightness and colour availability are leading to the use of LEDs in place of
incandescent lamps. It currently takes a cluster of
LEDs to match the light output of an ordinary bulb,
but the LED cluster only consumes about 15% of
the power for the same light output. Incandescent
lamps need replacing after about 1000 hours
whereas LEDs will last up to 100 000 hours.
Recently, due to the advent of gallium nitride
(GaN) and indium doped gallium nitride (InGaN),
‘super-bright’ LEDs are starting to replace incandescent bulbs. Blue is a key issue – or at least a key
colour. In addition to adding another colour to the
‘instrument palate’, blue is key in working within a
matrix of red and green. In other words, when combined it will produce white or any other colour of
light. However, while white light can be created by
the ‘RGB’ method, coating an ‘InGaN’ blue LED
with phosphor directly produces a white light output by a process commonly called the phosphor
down-conversion method.
A number of manufacturers have focussed on
production or purchase of InGaN LEDs. InGaN
LEDs have fallen in price by over 50% recently and
are expected to do the same again in the near future.
LEDs will continue to become more popular for
less traditional uses.
11.8 Self-assessment
11.8.1 Questions
1. Describe briefly the reasons for fitting vehicle
2. State four methods of converting electrical
energy into light energy.
3. Explain the reason why headlights are fused
4. Draw a simplified circuit of a lighting system
showing the side- and headlight bulbs, light
switch, dip switch and main beam warning
5. Make a clearly labelled sketch to show the
‘aiming board’ method of setting headlight
6. Describe the operation of a gas discharge
7. List the advantages and disadvantages of gas
discharge lamps.
8. Explain the operation of infrared lighting
and sketch a block diagram of the system
9. Define the term ‘Expert or Intelligent lighting’.
10. Draw a typical dim-dip circuit and state the
reason why it is used.
11.8.2 Assignment
Design a vehicle lighting system using technology
described in this chapter. Decide which techniques
you are going to use and justify your choices. For
example, you may choose to use a single light
source for all lights or you may decide to use neon
lights for the rear and gas discharge for the front.
Whatever the choice, it should be justified with
sound reasons such as cost, safety, aerodynamics,
styling, reliability and so on.
Make sketches to show exterior views. Circuit
diagrams are not necessary but you should note
where components would be located. State whether
the vehicle is standard or ‘top of the range’ etc.
11.8.3 Multiple choice
In a conventional incandescent bulb the filament is
made from:
1. halogen
2. tungsten
3. quartz
4. non-resistive wire
In a headlamp the bulb’s filament position relative
to the reflector ensures:
1. the correct beam direction
2. reduced electrical resistance
3. the correct beam colour
4. increased electrical resistance
An asymmetric headlight gives a:
1. whiter light
2. dim-dip facility
3. diverging beam pattern
4. sharp cut-off line when on dip
Technician A says dim-dip lighting is achieved with
a simple series resistor. Technician B says dim-dip
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
lighting is achieved by switching on and off fast.
Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
The main advantage of using light emitting diodes
(LEDs) in vehicle lighting is:
1. the variety of colours available
2. that they produce whiter light
3. their long life
4. all of the above
The wattage of a stoplight bulb is normally:
1. 5 W
2. 6 W
3. 12 W
4. 21 W
One safety hazard associated with gas discharge
lamps is related to the:
1. use of high voltages
2. use of kryptonite gas
3. length of time to cool down
4. length of time to discharge
The headlights of a vehicle fail to illuminate when
switched on. An initial visual check shows the
wiring to be OK and the relay ‘clicks’. Technician A
says the fault is poor relay earth connection.
Technician B says check the relay output. Who is
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
Correct headlamp beam alignment is necessary
1. it is a legal requirement
2. it ensures efficient operation
3. road safety is improved
4. all of the above
Checking the stoplight switch can be done by
removing the wires and:
1. bridging them with a jumper wire
2. bridging the switch terminals with a test
3. bridging them with a voltmeter
4. bridging the switch terminals with an ammeter
12.1 Windscreen washers
and wipers
12.1.1 Functional requirements
The requirements of the wiper system are simple.
The windscreen must be clean enough to provide
suitable visibility at all times. To do this, the wiper
system must meet the following requirements.
Efficient removal of water and snow.
Efficient removal of dirt.
Operate at temperatures from 30 to 80 ° C.
Pass the stall and snow load test.
Service life in the region of 1500 000 wipe cycles.
Resistant to corrosion from acid, alkali and ozone.
In order to meet the above criteria, components of
good quality are required for both the wiper and
washer system. The actual method used by the
blades in cleaning the screen can vary, providing
the legally prescribed area of the screen is cleaned.
Figure 12.1 shows five such techniques.
Figure 12.2 shows how the front screen is split
into ‘zones’ and how a ‘non-circular wiping’ technique is applied.
12.1.2 Wiper blades
The wiper blades are made of a rubber compound
and are held on to the screen by a spring in the
wiper arm. The aerodynamic properties of the
wiper blades have become increasingly important
due to the design of the vehicle as different air currents flow on and around the screen area. The strip
on top of the rubber element is often perforated to
reduce air drag. A good quality blade will have a
contact width of about 0.1 mm. The lip wipes the
surface of the screen at an angle of about 45°. The
pressure of the blade on the screen is also important
as the coefficient of friction between the rubber and
glass can vary from 0.8 to 2.5 when dry and 0.1 to
0.6 when wet. Temperature and velocity will also
affect these figures.
Figure 12.1 Five techniques of moving wiper blades on the
12.1.3 Wiper linkages
Most wiper linkages consist of series or parallel
mechanisms. Some older types use a flexible rack
and wheel boxes similar to the operating mechanism of many sunroofs. One of the main considerations for the design of a wiper linkage is the point at
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 12.2 Non-circular wiping
Figure 12.4 Wiper linkage used on some vehicles, together
with the cam link which allows off-screen reverse parking
12.1.4 Wiper motors
Figure 12.3 Two typical wiper linkage layouts
which the blades must reverse. This is because of
the high forces on the motor and linkage at this
time. If the reverse point is set so that the linkage is
at its maximum force transmission angle then the
reverse action of the blades puts less strain on the
system. This also ensures smoother operation.
Figure 12.3 shows two typical wiper linkage layouts, the first figure is shown at the reverse point.
Note that the position of the rotary link and the
angles of the rods are designed to reduce the loading on the motor at this point.
Figure 12.4 shows one method used on some
vehicles together with the cam linkage, which allows
off-screen parking.
Most, if not all, wiper motors now in use are the permanent magnet motors. The drive is taken via a
worm gear to increase torque and reduce speed.
Three brushes may be used to allow two-speed operation. The normal speed operates through twobrushes placed in the usual positions opposite to
each other. For a fast speed, the third brush is placed
closer to the earth brush. This reduces the number of
armature windings between them, which reduces
resistance and hence increases current and therefore
speed. Figure 12.5 shows two typical wiper motors.
Typical specifications for wiper motor speed and
hence wipe frequency are 45 rev/min at normal
speed and 65 rev/min at fast speed. The motor must
be able to overcome the starting friction of each
blade at a minimum speed of 5 rev/min.
The characteristics of a typical car wiper motor
are shown in Figure 12.6. The two sets of curves
indicate fast and slow speed.
Wiper motors, or the associated circuit, often
have some kind of short circuit protection. This is to
protect the motor in the event of stalling, if frozen to
the screen for example. A thermal trip of some type
is often used or a current sensing circuit in the wiper
ECU, if fitted. The maximum time a motor can withstand stalled current is normally specified. This is
usually in the region of about 15 minutes.
12.1.5 Windscreen washers
The windscreen washer system usually consists of a
simple DC permanent magnet motor driving a centrifugal water pump. The water, preferably with a
cleaning additive, is directed onto an appropriate
part of the screen by two or more jets. A non-return
valve is often fitted in the line to the jets to prevent
Auxiliaries 319
Rear motor with
electronic components
Front wiper motor
Figure 12.6 Characteristics of a wiper motor; the two sets of
curves indicate fast and slow speed
water siphoning back to the reservoir. This also
allows ‘instant’ operation when the washer button is
pressed. The washer circuit is normally linked to the
wiper circuit such that when the washers are operated the wipers start automatically and will continue
for several more sweeps after the washers have
stopped. The circuit is shown in the next section.
12.1.6 Washer and wiper circuits
Figure 12.7 shows a circuit for fast, slow and intermittent wiper control. The switches are shown in
the off position and the motor is stopped and in its
park position. Note that the two main brushes of the
motor are connected together via the limit switch,
delay unit contacts and the wiper switch. This
causes regenerative braking because of the current
generated by the motor due to its momentum after
the power is switched off. Being connected to a
very low resistance loads up the ‘generator’ and it
stops instantly when the park limit switch closes.
Figure 12.5 Wiper motors
When either the delay contacts or the main switch
contacts are operated the motor will run at slow
speed. When fast speed is selected the third brush on
the motor is used. On switching off, the motor will
continue to run until the park limit switch changes
over to the position shown. This switch is only in the
position shown when the blades are in the parked
A simple capacitor-resistor (CR) timer circuit
often based around a 555 IC or similar integrated
circuit is used to control intermittent wipe. The
charge or discharge time of the capacitor causes a
delay in the operation of a transistor, which in turn
operates a relay with change-over contacts.
Figure 12.8 shows the circuit of a programmed
wiper system. The ECU contains two change-over
relays to enable the motor to be reversed. Also contained in the ECU is a circuit to switch off the
motor supply in the event of the blades stalling. To
reset this the driver’s switch must be returned to the
off position.
12.1.7 Electronic control of
windscreen wipers
Further control of wipers other than just delay is
possible with appropriate electronic control. Manufacturers have used programmed electronic control
of the windscreen wipers for a number of years now.
One system consists of a two-speed motor with two
limit switches, one for the park position and one that
operates at the top limit of the sweep. A column
switch is utilized that has positions for wash/wipe,
fast speed, slow speed, flick wipe and delay, and
which has several settings. The heart of this system is
the programmed wiper control unit. An innovative
feature is that the wiper blades may be parked below
the screen. This is achieved by utilizing the top limit
switch to signal the ECU to reverse the motor for
parking. The switch is normally closed and switches
open circuit when the blades reach the ‘A’ post. Due
to the design of the linkage, the arms move further
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 12.7 Wiper circuit with intermittent/delay operation as well as slow and fast speed
Figure 12.8 Programmed washer wipe and variable intermittent wipe circuit
Auxiliaries 321
when working in reverse and pull the blades off the
screen. The normal park limit switch stops the motor,
via the ECU in this position.
Some vehicles use a similar system with even
more enhanced facilities. This is regulated by either
a central control unit (CCU) or a multifunction unit
(MFU). These units can often control other systems
as well as the wipers, thus allowing reduced wiring
bulk under the dash area. Electric windows, headlights and a heated rear window, to name just a few,
are now often controlled by a central unit. A CCU
allows the following facilities for the wipers (front
and rear).
Front wash/wipe
The CCU activates the wipers when the washer
switch is pressed and keeps them going for a further
six seconds when the switch is released.
Intermittent wipe
When the switch is moved to this position, the CCU
operates the wipers for one sweep. When back in
the rest position, the CCU waits for a set time and
then operates another sweep and so on. This continues until the switch is moved to the off position.
The time delay can be set by the driver – as one of
five settings of a variable resistor. This changes the
delay from about 3 s with a resistance of 500 , to a
delay of about 20 s with a resistance of 5400 .
Stall protection
When the rear wiper is operated, the CCU starts a
timer. If no movement is detected within 15 s the
power to the motor is removed. This is reset when
the driver’s switch is moved to the off position.
12.1.8 Microprocessor
controlled wipers
A problem facing car manufacturers is that of
fitting a suitable wiper linkage into the minimal
space available with modern body styles. One solution is to use a separate motor for each blade. This
leaves another problem, and that is how to synchronize the operation of each motor. In order to allow
synchronization, a datum point and a way of measuring distance from this point is needed. The solution to this is to utilize a normal park limit switch as
the datum and to count the revolutions of the motor
armature to imply distance moved.
A computer program can then be used to control
the motors. The inputs to the program are from the
driver’s switch, the motor limit switches and the
motor armature revolution counters. Fully programmed operation in this way will allow more
sophisticated facilities to be used if required. A
slight delay in the start and reverse point of each
motor can be used to reduce high current draw.
12.2 Signalling circuits
Rear wiper system
When the switch is operated, the CCU operates the
rear wipers for three sweeps by counting the signal
from the park switch. The wiper will then be activated
once every six seconds until switched off by
the driver.
Rear wash/wipe
When the rear washer switch is pressed, the CCU
will operate the rear wiper and then continue its
operation for three sweeps after the washer switch
is released. If the rear wiper is not switched on the
CCU will operate the blades for one more sweep
after about 18 s. This is commonly known as the
‘dribble wipe’!
Rear wiper when reverse gear is
If the front wipers are switched on and reverse gear
is selected the CCU will operate the rear wiper continuously. This will stop when either the front wipers
are switched off or reverse gear is deselected.
12.2.1 Introduction
Direction indicators have a number of statutory
requirements. The light produced must be amber,
but the indicators may be grouped with other
lamps. The flashing rate must be between one and
two per second with a relative ‘on’ time of between
30 and 57%. If a fault develops, this must be apparent to the driver by the operation of a warning light
on the dashboard. The fault can be indicated by a
distinct change in frequency of operation or the
warning light remaining on. If one of the main
bulbs fails then the remaining lights should continue to flash perceptibly.
Legislation exists as to the mounting position of
the exterior lamps, such that the rear indicator
lights must be within a set distance of the tail lights
and within a set height. The wattage of the indicator
light bulbs is normally 21 W at 6, 12 or 24 V as
Brake lights fall under the heading of auxiliaries
or ‘signalling’. A circuit is examined later in this
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 12.10 Electronic flasher unit
Figure 12.9 Circuit diagram of an electronic flasher unit
12.2.2 Flasher units
Figure 12.9 shows the internal circuit of an electronic
flasher unit. The operation of this unit is based around
an integrated circuit. The type shown can operate at
least four 21 W bulbs (front and rear) and two 5 W
side repeaters when operating in hazard mode. This
will continue for several hours if required. Flasher
units are rated by the number of bulbs they are capable of operating. When towing a trailer or caravan
the unit must be able to operate at a higher wattage.
Most units use a relay for the actual switching as this
is not susceptible to voltage spikes and also provides
an audible signal.
The electronic circuit is constructed together with
the relay, on a printed circuit board. Very few components are used as the integrated circuit is specially
designed for use as an indicator timer. The integrated
circuit itself has three main sections. The relay driver,
an oscillator and a bulb failure circuit. A Zener diode
is built in to the IC to ensure constant voltage such
that the frequency of operation will remain constant
in the range 10–15 V. The timer for the oscillator is
controlled by R1 and C. The values are normally set
to give an on–off ratio of 50% and an operating
frequency of 1.5 Hz (90 per minute).
The on–off signals produced by the oscillator are
passed to a driver circuit, which is a Darlington pair
with a diode connected to protect it from back-EMF
as the relay coil is switched on and off. Bulb failure
Figure 12.11 Typical brake light circuit
is recognized when the volt drop across the low
value resistor R2 falls. The bulb failure circuit causes
the oscillator to double the speed of operation. Extra
capacitors can be used for added protection against
transient voltages and for interference suppression.
Figure 12.10 shows the normal ‘packaging’ for a
flasher unit.
12.2.3 Brake lights
Figure 12.11 shows a typical brake light circuit.
Most incorporate a relay to switch the lights, which
is in turn operated by a spring-loaded switch on the
brake pedal. Links from this circuit to cruise control
may be found. This is to cause the cruise control to
switch off as the brakes are operated.
12.3 Other auxiliary
12.3.1 Electric horns
Regulations in most countries state that the horn (or
audible warning device) should produce a uniform
Auxiliaries 323
Figure 12.12 Horn and circuit
sound. This consequently makes sirens and melodytype fanfare horns illegal! Most horns draw a large
current, so are switched by a suitable relay.
The standard horn operates by simple electromagnetic switching. As current flow causes an armature that is attached to a tone disc to be attracted to a
stop, a set of contacts is opened. This disconnects the
current allowing the armature and disc to return
under spring tension. The whole process keeps
repeating when the horn switch is on. The frequency
of movement and hence the fundamental tone is
arranged to lie between 1.8 and 3.5 kHz. This gives
good penetration through traffic noise. Twin horn
systems, which have a high and low tone horn, are
often used. This produces a more pleasing sound but
is still very audible in both town and higher speed
conditions. Figure 12.12 shows a typical horn
together with its associated circuit.
12.3.2 Engine cooling fan motors
Most engine cooling fan motors (radiator cooling)
are simple permanent magnet types. Figure 12.13
shows a typical example. The fans used often have
the blades placed asymmetrically (balanced but not
in a regular pattern) to reduce noise when operating.
When twin cooling fans and motors are fitted,
they can be run in series or parallel. This is often the
case when air conditioning is used as the condenser
is usually placed in front of the radiator and extra
cooling air speed may be needed.
A circuit for series or parallel operation of cooling
fans is shown in Figure 12.14.
12.3.3 Headlight wipers and
There are two ways in which headlights are cleaned,
first by high pressure jets, and secondly by small
wiper blades with low pressure water supply. The
Figure 12.13 Engine cooling motor
Figure 12.14 Circuit for series or parallel operation of
cooling fans
second method is, in fact, much the same as windscreen cleaning but on a smaller scale. The high
pressure system tends to be favoured but can suffer
in very cold conditions due to the fluid freezing. It
is expected that the wash system should be capable
of about 50 operations before refilling of the reservoir is necessary. Figure 12.15 shows the pressure
wash technique.
Headlight cleaners are often combined with the
windscreen washers. They operate each time the
windscreen washers are activated, if the headlights
are also switched on.
A retractable nozzle for headlight cleaners is often
used. When the water pressure is pumped to the
nozzle it pushes the nozzle from its retracted position,
flush with the bodywork. When the washing is completed the jet is retracted back into the housing.
Some minor vehicle electrical systems, which are
not covered elsewhere, are shown in Figure 12.16.
Cigar lighter, clock, rotating beacon and electric aerial are all circuits that could be used by many other
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 12.16 Electric aerial, rotating beacon, cigar lighter and
clock circuit
Figure 12.15 Headlight washers in action
12.4 Case studies
12.4.1 Indicators and hazard
circuit – Rover
The circuit diagram shown in Figure 12.17 is part of
the circuit from a Rover car and shows the full layout
of the indicator and hazard lights wiring. Note how
the hazard switch, when operated, disconnects the
ignition supply from the flasher unit and replaces it
with a constant supply. The hazard system will therefore operate at any time but the indicators will only
work when the ignition is switched on. When the
indicator switch is operated left or right, the front,
rear and repeater bulbs are connected to the output
terminal of the flasher unit, which then operates and
causes the bulbs to flash.
When the hazard switch is operated, five sets of
contacts are moved. Two sets connect left and right
circuits to the output of the flasher unit. One set disconnects the ignition supply and another set connects the battery supply to the unit. The final set of
contacts causes a hazard warning light to be operated. On this and most vehicles the hazard switch is
illuminated when the sidelights are switched on.
When operating in hazard mode the bulbs would
draw 7.8 A (94 W/12 V).
However, this current will peak much higher due
to the cold resistance of the bulbs. In the circuit
shown, the top fuse is direct from the battery and
the other is ignition controlled.
With the ignition switched on, fuse 1 in the passenger compartment fusebox provides a feed to the
hazard warning switch on the G wire. Provided the
hazard warning switch is in the off position the feed
crosses the switch and supplies the flasher unit on
the LG/K wire. When the switch control is moved
for a right turn, the switch makes contact when the
LG/N wire from the flasher unit is connected to the
G/W wire, allowing a supply to pass the right-hand
front and rear indicator lights and then to earth on
the B wire. When the switch control is moved for a
left turn, the switch makes contact with the G/R
wire, which allows the supply to pass to the lefthand front and rear indicator lights and then to earth
on the B wire. The action of the flasher unit causes
the circuit to ‘make and break’.
By pressing the hazard warning switch a battery
supply on the N/O from fuse 3 (1.4, 2.0 and diesel
models) or 4 (1.6 models) in the engine bay fusebox
crosses the switch and supplies the flasher unit on
the LG/K wire. At the same time contacts are
closed to connect the hazard warning light and the
flasher unit to both the G/W and GIR wires, the
right-hand and left-hand indicators and the warning
light flash alternately.
Auxiliaries 325
Figure 12.17 Indicator and hazard circuit – Rover
12.4.2 Wiper circuit – Ford
The circuit shown in Figure 12.18 is similar to that
used on many Ford vehicles. Note that the two sets
of switch contacts are mechanically linked together.
The switches are shown in the ‘off’ position. A link
is shown to a headlamp cleaning relay (if fitted) to
allow operation of the headlamp washers as the
screen washers are used. This will only occur if the
headlamps are also switched on.
The wire codes follow the convention outlined
in Chapter 3. The motor is a three-brush PM type
and contains a parking switch. Following the top
terminal of the motor, as shown, results in a connection to earth via the control switch and the limit
switch. This is to achieve regenerative braking.
screen, depending on vehicle speed. At high speeds
the air stream can cause the blades to lift and judder.
This seriously reduces the cleaning effectiveness. If
the original pressure is set to compensate this, the
pressure at rest could deform the arms and blades.
The pressure control system is shown in Figure
12.19. Sensors are used to determine the air stream
velocity and intensity of the rain. An ECU evaluates
the data from these sensors and passes an appropriate signal to the servo motor. When the blades are
in the rest position, pressure is very low to avoid
damage. The pressure rises with increasing vehicle
speed and heavy rain.
The system is able to respond very quickly such
that, when overtaking, the deluge of spray is cleared
by increased pressure and also, if the screen dries
off, the pressure is reduced to prevent scraping.
12.4.3 Wiper blade pressure
12.4.4 Valeo wiper systems
Bosch has a system of wiper pressure control, which
can infinitely vary the pressure of the blade onto the
Car makers are constantly looking for ways to reduce
the noise generated by wiper systems. The two main
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 12.18 Wiper/washer control circuit used by Ford
Auxiliaries 327
Figure 12.20 Linear wiper system
fully integrated into vehicle design. Figure 12.20
shows this technique.
The Silencio windshield wiper offers two major
innovations to enhance passenger comfort and safety:
Figure 12.19 Wiper blade pressure control system
sources of noise are the wiper blade (particularly
when it turns over at the end of each movement) and
the wiper motor.
Valeo has produced a new rear wiper module
offering an original solution to these problems in the
form of a specific, integrated electronics control
system. This system is designed around an H-bridge
power stage, which has no relays. This eliminates
all switching noise. The control algorithm provides
pinpoint management of wiper speed; it slows the
blades at the end of each cycle, thus cutting out
turning noise.
Note: an H-bridge uses four power devices that
are connected to reverse the voltage across both terminals of a load. This is used to control the direction
of a motor.
Current wiper systems that are based on an alternative rotary movement cover a wipe area of between
50 and 60% of the total surface area of the rear window. This limit is due to the height/width ratio and the
curve of the window. Valeo’s linear rear wiper concept ensures optimum visual comfort as it covers over
80% of the rear window surface; this is a visibility
gain for the driver exceeding 60%.
This increase in the driver’s field of vision
enhances safety, especially during low-speed manoeuvres such as reversing or parking. The linear rear
wiper concept is in keeping with the trend towards
narrower, highly convex rear windows and can be
A new extended-life rubber coating called ‘Skin’.
A wear indicator that tells the driver when to
change the wiper.
External wear factors such as UV, ozone, pollution,
windshield wiper fluid, etc. damage the rubber blade
and affect wiping quality. ‘Skin’ is a new coating that
protects the blade.
This surface coating, composed of a slipping
agent, a polymer bonding agent and an ‘impermeability’ agent, can be applied to natural or synthetic
rubber. An innovative polymerization process ensures
long-lasting adhesion to the blade. By protecting the
blade from wear, ‘Skin’ maintains initial wiping
quality longer and also eliminates rubber squeaking
and friction noise on dry glass.
Silencio is also fitted with a wear indicator that
tells the driver the state of wear of the wiper blade.
The indicator – a round tab fixed to the wiper –
degrades at the same speed as the rubber blade.
External wear factors such as UV, ozone and pollution activate chemicals in the indicator which then
gradually changes colour, going from black to yellow, as the wiper wears out.
12.4.5 Electronic fan system
The electronic control of the fan system is a further
step in the drive to improve engine cooling
management. Besides reducing electrical consumption, one of the main benefits of Valeo’s concept is
the reduction in noise levels thanks to continuous
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
fan speed regulation, adjusted to the minimum
air flow required for engine cooling and A/C
Valeo is due to start producing these variable speed
fan/motor units in 2000. They have the following
technical features.
compact pulse width modulation (PWM) module
integrated into the motor.
12.5 Diagnosing auxiliary
system faults
Electrical consumption reduced by half for an
average usage profile.
Noise level reduced by 15 dBa at half speed.
Soft start of the fan, which removes peak starting
currents and provides a better subjective sound
12.5.1 Introduction
As with all systems the six stages of fault-finding
should be followed.
Electronic functions designed to improve the safety
of the fan are possible; speed can be adapted to the
minimum required, diagnostic functions are possible and self-protection in case of fan lock due to
contamination is built in.
The fan electronic management unit can be easily
installed in different places in the engine compartment to meet all types of customer specifications, even
the most demanding ones in terms of high temperature.
Valeo is currently developing a new concept that has a
Table 12.1
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evaluate the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all systems.
The procedure outlined in the next section is related
primarily to stage 4 of the process. Table 12.1 lists
some common symptoms of an auxiliary system
malfunction together with suggestions for the
Common symptoms and possible faults of an auxiliary system malfunction
Possible fault
Horn not working or poor sound quality
Wipers not working or poor operation
Washers not working or poor operation
Indicators not working or incorrect operating speed
Heater blower not working or poor operation
Loose or broken wiring/connections/fuse.
Corrosion in horn connections.
Switch not making contact.
High resistance contact on switch or wiring.
Relay not working.
Loose or broken wiring/connections/fuse.
Corrosion in wiper connections.
Switch not making contact.
High resistance contact on switch or wiring.
Relay/timer not working.
Motor brushes or slip ring connections worn.
Limit switch contacts open circuit or high resistance.
Blades and/or arm springs in poor condition.
Loose or broken wiring/connections/fuse.
Corrosion in washer motor connections.
Switch not making contact.
Pump motor poor or not working.
Blocked pipes or jets.
Incorrect fluid additive used.
Bulb(s) blown.
Loose or broken wiring/connections/fuse.
Corrosion in horn connections.
Switch not making contact.
High resistance contact on switch or wiring.
Relay not working.
Loose or broken wiring/connections/fuse.
Switch not making contact.
Motor brushes worn.
Speed selection resistors open circuit.
Auxiliaries 329
possible fault. The faults are very generic but will
serve as a good reminder.
12.5.2 Testing procedure
The process of checking an auxiliary system circuit
is broadly as follows.
1. Hand and eye checks (loose wires, loose
switches and other obvious faults) – all connections clean and tight.
2. Check battery (see Chapter 5) – must be 70%
3. Check motor linkage/bulbs – visual check.
4. Fuse continuity – (do not trust your eyes) voltage at both sides with a meter or a test lamp.
5. If used does the relay click (if yes, jump to stage
8) – this means the relay has operated, but it is
not necessarily making contact.
6. Supply to switch – battery volts.
7. Supply from the switch – battery volts.
8. Supplies to relay – battery volts.
9. Feed out of the relay – battery volts.
10. Voltage supply to the motor – within 0.5 V of
the battery.
11. Earth circuit (continuity or voltage) – 0 or 0 V.
12.6 Advanced auxiliary
systems technology
12.6.1 Wiper motor torque
The torque required to overcome starting friction of
each wiper blade can be calculated as follows:
 w   1  R 
T F max f s f t l  a     h 
 w m   e   Rc 
torque to move one wiper arm;
force of one blade onto the screen;
max maximum dry coefficient of friction
(e.g. 2.5);
multiplier for joint friction (e.g. 1.15);
tolerance factor (e.g. 1.12);
wiper arm length;
wa maximum angular velocity of arm;
wm mean angular velocity of motor crank;
efficiency of the motor gear unit
(e.g. 0.8);
Rh motor winding resistance – hot;
Rc motor winding resistance – cold.
12.6.2 PM Motor – electronic
speed control
The automotive industry uses permanent magnet
(PM) motors because they are economical to produce and provide good performance. A simple current limiting resistor or a voltage regulator can vary
the motor’s speed. This simple method is often used
for motors requiring variable speed control.
However, to control the speed of a motor that draws
20 A at full speed and about 10 A at half speed is a
At full speed, the overall motor control system’s
efficiency is around 80%. If the speed is reduced to
half the system’s, then efficiency drops to 40%.
This is because there would be a heat loss of 70 W
in the series resistor and 14 W lost in the motor. A
more efficient speed control system is therefore
One way is to interrupt the motor’s voltage at a
variable duty cycle using a switching power supply.
A system known as pulse width modulation
(PWM) has been developed. An introduction to this
technique follows.
Because the armature of the PM motor acts as a
flywheel, the voltage interruption rate can be 1 kHz
or slower, without causing the motor’s speed to pulsate. A problem at this or other audible frequencies
is the noise generated from within the motor. At
higher frequencies, 16 kHz for example, the audible
noise is minimized. A further noise problem is significant EMR (electromagnetic radiation). This is
generated by the fast switching speeds. This can be
improved by slowing down the switching edge
of the operating signal. A compromise has to be
made between the edge speeds and power device
heat loss.
When the EMR problems are safely contained,
the stalled motor condition must be considered. The
motor’s copper windings have a positive temperature coefficient of 0.00393 /° C. Therefore, a
0.25 motor resistance value at 2 5 ° C would be
about 0.18 at 40 ° C. Using a typical 20 A
motor as the load, the maximum stalled or locked
rotor current can be calculated to be about 77 A
as shown:
I max E max
R mtr
where Emax maximum power supply voltage
(14.4 V) and Rmtr minimum motor resistance
(0.18 ).
When the maximum motor current has been calculated, the specifications of the power transistor
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
can be determined. In this case, the device needs an
average current rating of at least 77 A. However, a
further consideration for reliable power transistor
operation is its worst case heat dissipation.
The worst case includes maximum values for the
supply voltage, ambient temperature and motor
current. A junction temperature of 150 ° C for
the power transistors is used as a maximum point.
The following equation calculates the transistor’s
maximum allowable heat dissipation for use in an
85 ° C environment using a 2.7 ° C/W heat sink and
a 1° C/W junction to case power FET thermal
PDmax TJ max TAmax
where TJmax maximum allowable junction temperature (150 ° C); TAmax maximum ambient
temperature (85 ° C); RJC junction to case
thermal resistance (1 ° C/W); RCS case to
heat sink interface thermal resistance (0.1 ° C/W);
RSA heat sink to ambient thermal resistance
(2.7 ° C/W).
Using the given figure results in a value of about
17.1 W. This is considerably better than using a
dropping resistor, but to achieve this, several power
transistors would have to be connected in parallel.
Significant heat sinking is also necessary.
This technique may become popular because of
its significant improvement in efficiency over conventional methods and the possibilities for greater
control over the speed of a PM motor.
12.7 New developments in
auxiliary systems
12.7.1 Electronic wiper control
The first electronically controlled reversing twinmotor wiper system was fitted to the 2002
Volkswagen Phaeton. The two main advantages are
that the twin motor system does not use much space
and also results in excellent visibility in any situation.
Traditional wiper systems have two wiper arms connected to a single motor via an appropriate linkage.
With this new system, the wiper arms are synchronized electronically and do not share a mechanical
link. The motors reverse, under electronic control, at
the end of the wipe area. The motors decelerate
before reversing to reduce shock loading. This also
reduces the reversing noise and increases the service
life of the wiper blades.
The electronic wiper system reduces the impact
of headwind and rain intensity on the wiping frequency, and the size of the wipe pattern. In this way,
the electronic system always provides the maximum
field of view at a constant sweep rate. When the
wipers are turned off, the blades and arms park
under the screen. This improves aerodynamics and
reduces the risk of injuries during collisions with
pedestrians. The wiper system can be made to operate automatically if it is combined with a rain and
light sensor.
The two drives of the wiper arms are adjustable
to suit specific features of the vehicle and a linkage
is not used. This means that manufacturers gain
Figure 12.21 Comparison of
single- and twin-motor wiper systems (Source: Bosch Press)
Auxiliaries 331
Enlarged wipe field
1 Extended reversing position
2 Extended park position
Figure 12.22 Electronically controlled wiper system (Source:
Bosch Press)
Figure 12.23 Twin-motor wipers
in position (Source: Bosch Press)
significant installation advantages. This is particularly so in vehicles with contrary-motion systems.
The system is adjustable to match specific vehicle
construction details.
Lower emissions.
Reduced engine wear.
The electronic water pump shown uses brushless
motor technology, wet-rotor and rare earth magnets. See section 10.9.9 for further details.
12.7.2 Electric engine cooling
Using an electric motor in place of the coolant or
water pump means that power consumption can be
reduced and engine cooling can be electronically
controlled or enhanced. The pump shown here is
used in conjunction with an electronic valve and
fan. The valve replaces the thermostat. The advantages of this technique are:
Reduced fuel consumption (through reduced
power usage, as well as efficiency gains).
12.8 Self-assessment
12.8.1 Questions
1. State four electrical systems considered to be
2. Describe briefly how a flasher/indicator unit is
3. Make a clearly labelled sketch to show a typical wiper motor linkage.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
3. 2.5 Hz
4. 3.5 Hz
The wattage of an indicator bulb is normally:
1. 5 W
2. 6 W
3. 12 W
4. 21 W
Figure 12.24 Electric cooling pump (Source: Valeo)
4. Draw a circuit diagram of an indicator circuit,
and label each part.
5. List five requirements of a wiper system.
6. Explain how off-screen parking is achieved by
some wiper systems.
7. Describe what is meant by the term ‘stall protection’ in relation to wiper motors.
8. Draw a clearly labelled brake light circuit.
Include three 21 W bulbs, a relay and fuse as
well as the brake light switch.
9. Calculate the rating of the fuse required in
Question 8.
10. Explain with the aid of a sketch what is meant
by ‘windscreen zones’.
12.8.2 Assignment
Investigate a modern vehicle and produce a report
of the efficiency and operation of the washer and
wiper systems (front and rear).
Make a reasoned list of suggestions as to how
improvements could be made. Consider for the purposes of lateral thinking that, in this case, money is
not an issue!
12.8.3 Multiple choice questions
When checking the operation of a relay, an audible
click is heard when the switch is operated. If there
is no supply out from the relay this indicates:
1. that the relay is faulty
2. an open circuit supply
3. a faulty switch
4. all of these
The operating frequency of an electronic flasher
unit is:
1. 0.5 Hz
2. 1.5 Hz
A wiper motor may use three brushes in order to:
1. increase torque
2. allow two speed operation
3. allow three speed operation
4. provide intermittent operation
A thermal trip may be incorporated in a wiper
motor in order to:
1. park the blades
2. protect the motor
3. provide intermittent operation
4. slow the blades in heavy rain
When the two main brushes of a wiper motor are
connected together via the limit switch, delay unit
contacts and the wiper switch, this causes:
1. fast speed operation
2. slow speed operation
3. regenerative braking
4. none of the above
Off-screen parking of wiper blades reduces:
1. current draw
2. voltage drop
3. aerodynamic drag
4. aerodynamic drop
The delay time in a wiper control unit is set by a
resistor and:
1. an inductor
2. a transistor
3. a diode
4. a capacitor
A front screen wiper system can have:
1. only one motor
2. two motors
3. no motors
4. all of the above
A vehicle horn produces sound because a tone disc
is made to vibrate by:
1. electrostatics
2. electroplating
3. electrocuting
4. electromagnetism
13.1 Gauges and sensors
13.1.1 Introduction
The topic of instrumentation has now reached such
a level as to have become a subject in its own right.
This chapter covers some of the basic principles of
the science, with examples as to how it relates to
automobile systems. By definition, an instrumentation system can be said to convert a ‘variable’, into
a readable or usable display. For example, a fuel level
instrument system will display, often by an analogue
gauge, a representation of the fuel in the tank.
Instrumentation is not always associated with a
gauge or a read-out type display. In many cases the
whole system can be used just to operate a warning
light. However, the system must still work to certain standards, for example if a low outside temperature warning light did not illuminate at the correct
time, a dangerous situation could develop.
This chapter will cover vehicle instrumentation
systems in use and examine in more detail the
issues involved in choosing or designing an instrumentation system. Chapter 2 contains many details
associated with sensors, an integral part of an
instrumentation system, and it may be appropriate
to refer back for some information related to this
13.1.2 Sensors
In order to put some limit on the size of this section,
only electrical sensors associated with vehicle use
will be considered. Sensors are used in vehicle
applications for many purposes; for example, the
coolant temperature thermistor is used to provide
data to the engine management system as well as to
the driver via a display. For the purpose of providing information to the driver, Table 13.1 gives a list
of measurands (things that are measured) together
with typical sensors, which is representative of
today’s vehicles.
Figure 13.1 shows some of the sensors listed in
Table 13.1.
Table 13.1 Measurements and sensors
Measurement required
Sensor example
Fuel level
Bulb failure
Road speed
Engine speed
Fluid levels
Oil pressure
Brake pad wear
Lights in operation
Battery charge rate
Variable resistor
Reed relay
Inductive pulse generator
Hall effect
Float and reed switch
Diaphragm switch
Embedded contact wire
Bulb and simple circuit
Bulb circuit/voltage monitor
13.1.3 Thermal-type gauges
Thermal gauges, which are ideal for fuel and
engine temperature indication, have been in use for
many years. This will continue because of their
simple design and inherent ‘thermal’ damping. The
gauge works by utilizing the heating effect of electricity and the benefit of the widely adopted bimetal
strip. As a current flows through a simple heating
coil wound on a bimetal strip, heat causes the strip
to bend. The bimetal strip is connected to a pointer
on a suitable scale. The amount of bend is proportional to the heat, which in turn is proportional to
the current flowing. Providing the sensor can vary
its resistance in proportion to the measurand (e.g.
fuel level), the gauge will indicate a suitable representation providing it has been calibrated for the particular task. Figure 13.2 shows a representation of
a typical thermal gauge.
The inherent damping is due to the slow thermal
effect on the bimetal strip. This causes the needle to
move very slowly to its final position. It can be said
to have a large time constant. This is a particular
advantage for displaying fuel level, as the variable
resistor in the tank will move, as the fuel moves,
due to vehicle movement! If the gauge were able to
react quickly it would be constantly moving. The
movement of the fuel however is, in effect, averaged out and a relatively accurate display can be
obtained. Some electronically driven thermal fuel
gauges are damped even more by the control system.
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 13.1 Sensors used for instrumentation
Figure 13.2 Bimetal strip operation in a thermal-type gauge
Figure 13.3 Bimetal fuel and temperature gauge circuit
Thermal-type gauges are used with a variable
resistor and float in a fuel tank or with a thermistor
in the engine water jacket. Figure 13.3 shows the
circuit of these two together. The resistance of the
fuel tank sender can be made non-linear to counteract any non-linear response of the gauge. The sender
resistance is at a maximum when the tank is empty.
A constant voltage supply is required to prevent
changes in the vehicle system voltage affecting
the reading. This is because, if the system voltage
increased, the current flowing would increase and
hence the gauges would read higher. Most voltage
stabilizers are simple Zener diode circuits, as shown
in Figure 13.4.
13.1.4 Moving iron gauges
The moving iron gauge was in use earlier than the
thermal type but is now gaining popularity for some
applications. Figure 13.5 shows the circuit and
Figure 13.4 A voltage stabilizer
Figure 13.6 Principle of the air-cored gauge together with the
circuit when used as a fuel level or temperature indicator and
the resultant magnetic fields
balanced and the gauge will read half full. The sender
resistance is at a maximum when the tank is full.
13.1.5 Air-cored gauges
Figure 13.5 Circuit/principle of the moving iron gauge
principle of the moving iron gauge system. Two
small electromagnets are used which act upon a
small soft iron armature connected to a pointer. The
armature will position itself between the cores of
the electromagnets depending on the magnetic
strength of each. The ratio of magnetism in each
core is changed as the linear variable resistance
sender changes and hence the needle is moved. This
type of gauge reacts very quickly (it has a small
time constant) and is prone to swing about with
movement of the vehicle. Some form of external
damping can be used to improve this problem.
Resistor R1 is used to balance out the resistance of
the tank sender. A good way to visualize the operation of the circuit is to note that when the tank is
half full, the resistance of the sender will be the
same as the resistance of R1. This makes the circuit
Air-cored gauges work on the same principle as a
compass needle lining up with a magnetic field.
The needle of the display is attached to a very small
permanent magnet. Three coils of wire are used and
each produces a magnetic field. The magnet will line
up with the resultant of the three fields. The current
flowing and the number of turns (ampere-turns)
determine the strength of the magnetic flux produced by each coil. As the number of turns remains
constant the current is the key factor. Figure 13.6
shows the principle of the air-cored gauge together
with the circuit for use as a temperature indicator.
The ballast resistor on the left is used to limit maximum current and the calibration resistor is used for
calibration. The thermistor is the temperature sender.
As the thermistor resistance is increased, the current
in all three coils will change. Current through C will
be increased but the current in coils A and B will
decrease. The resultant magnetic fields are shown
in Figure 13.6. This moves the magnetic armature
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
The air-cored gauge has a number of advantages.
It has almost instant response and, as the needle
is held in a magnetic field, it will not move as the
vehicle changes position. The gauge can be arranged
to continue to register the last position even
when switched off or, if a small ‘pull off’ magnet is
used, it will return to its zero position. As a system
voltage change would affect the current flowing in all
three coils variations are cancelled out, negating the
need for voltage stabilization. Note that the operation
is similar to the moving iron gauge.
motor, which is driven by the output of a divider
and a power amplifier. The divider is to calibrate the
action of the stepper motor to the distance covered.
The actual speedometer gauge can be calibrated to
any vehicle by changing the time delay of the
monostable (see Chapter 2).
A system for driving a tachometer is similar to
the speedometer system. Pulses from the ignition
primary circuit are often used to drive this gauge.
Figure 13.8 shows the block diagram of a typical
13.1.6 Other types of gauges
13.1.7 A digital instrumentation
A variation of any of the above types of gauge can
be used to display other required outputs, such as
voltage or oil pressure. Gauges to display road or
engine speed, however, need to react very quickly
to changes. Many systems now use stepper motors
for this purpose although some retain the conventional cable driven speedometers.
Figure 13.7 shows a block diagram of a
speedometer, which uses an ammeter as the gauge.
This system uses a quenched oscillator sensor that
will produce a constant amplitude signal even at
very low speed. The frequency of the signal is proportional to road speed. The sensor is driven from
the gearbox or a final drive output. The electronic
control or signal conditioning circuit consists firstly
of a Schmitt trigger, which shapes the signal and
suppresses any noise picked up in the wiring. The
monostable is used to produce uniform signals in
proportion to those from the pulse generator. The
moving coil gauge will read an average of the pulses.
This average value is dependent on the frequency of
the input signal, which in turn is dependent on
vehicle speed. The odometer is driven by a stepper
Figure 13.7 Block diagram of a speedometer system which
uses a simple ammeter as the gauge
Figure 13.9 shows a typical digital instrumentation
system. All signal conditioning and logic functions
are carried out in the ECU. This will often form part
of the dashboard assembly. Standard sensors provide information to the ECU, which in turn will drive
suitable displays. The ECU contains a ROM section, which allows it to be programmed to a specific
Figure 13.9 Digital instrumentation system
Figure 13.8 Block diagram of a tachometer which uses signals from the ignition coil
vehicle. The gauges used are as described in the
above sections. Some of the extra functions available with this system are described briefly as follows.
Low fuel warning light – can be made to illuminate at a particular resistance reading from the
fuel tank sender unit.
High engine temperature warning light – can
be made to operate at a set resistance of the
Steady reading of the temperature gauge – to
prevent the gauge fluctuating as the cooling system thermostat operates, the gauge can be made
to read only at, say, five set figures. For example,
if the input resistance varies from 240 to 200 as the thermostat operates, the ECU will output
just one reading, corresponding to ‘normal’ on the
gauge. If the resistance is much higher or lower
the gauge will read to one of the five higher or
lower positions. This gives a low resolution but
high readability for the driver.
Oil pressure or other warning lights can be made
to flash – this is more likely to catch the driver’s
Service or inspection interval warning lights can
be used – the warning lights are operated broadly
as a function of time but, for example, the service interval is reduced if the engine experiences
high speeds and/or high temperatures. Oil condition sensors are also used to help determine
service intervals.
Alternator warning light – works as normal but
the same or an extra light can be made to operate
if the output is reduced or if the drive belt slips.
This is achieved by a wire from one phase of the
alternator providing a pulsed signal, which is compared to a pulsed signal from the ignition. If the
ratio of the pulses changed this would indicate
a slipping belt.
As an example of how some of this system works
consider the high temperature and low fuel warning
lights as examples. Figure 13.10 shows a block
diagram of just this part of the overall system.
The analogue to digital converter is time division
multiplexed to various sensors. The signals from
the temperature and fuel level sensors will produce
a certain digital representation of a numerical value
when they reach say 180 (about 105 ° C) and
200 (10 litres left), respectively. These figures
(assigned to variables ‘temp_input’ and ‘fuel_input’)
can then be compared with those pre-programmed
into memory, variables ‘high_temp’ and ‘low_fuel’.
The following simplified lines of computer program indicate the logical result.
IF temp_input high_temp THEN
high_temp_light on
IF fuel-input low_fuel THEN
low_fuel_light on
A whole program is built up which can be made
suitable for any particular vehicle requirements.
13.2 Driver information
13.2.1 Vehicle condition
VCM or vehicle condition monitoring is a form of
instrumentation. It has now become difficult to separate it from the more normal instrumentation system discussed in the first part of this chapter. The
complete VCM system can include driver information relating to the following list of systems that can
be monitored.
Figure 13.10 Block diagram of high temperature and low fuel
warning lights.The A/D converter is time division multiplexed to
various sensors
High engine temperature.
Low fuel.
Low brake fluid.
Worn brake pads.
Low coolant level.
Low oil level.
Low screen washer fluid.
Low outside temperature.
Bulb failure.
Doors, bonnet or boot open warning.
Figure 13.11 shows a trip computer display, which
also incorporates the vehicle map (see next section).
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 13.11 Trip computer display and a vehicle ‘map’
Figure 13.13 Equivalent circuit of a dual resistance self-testing
Table 13.2 Input to the system
Figure 13.12 Bulb failure warning circuit
The circuit shown in Figure 13.12 can be used
to operate bulb failure warning lights for whatever
particular circuit it is monitoring. The simple principle is that the reed relay is only operated when the
bulb being monitored is drawing current. The fluid
and temperature level monitoring systems work in a
similar way to the systems described earlier but in
some cases the level of a fluid is monitored by a
float and switch.
Oil level can be monitored by measuring the
resistance of a heated wire on the end of the dipstick.
A small current is passed through the wire to heat it.
How much of the wire is covered by oil will determine its temperature and therefore its resistance.
Many of the circuits monitored use a dual resistance system so that the circuit itself is also checked.
Figure 13.13 shows the equivalent circuit for this
technique. In effect, it will produce one of three
possible outputs: high resistance, low resistance or
an out-of-range reading. The high or low resistance
readings are used to indicate say correct fluid level
and low fluid level. A figure outside these limits
would indicate a circuit fault of either a short or
open circuit connection.
Clock signal
Vehicle speed
Fuel being used
Fuel in the tank
Crystal oscillator
Speed sensor or instruments ECU
Injector open time or flow meter
Tank sender unit
Data input by the driver
The display is often just a collection of LEDs or a
back lit LCD. These are arranged into suitable patterns and shapes such as to represent the circuit or
system being monitored. An open door will illuminate a symbol that looks like the door of the vehicle
map (plan view of the car) is open. Low outside temperature or ice warning is often a large snowflake.
13.2.2 Trip computer
The trip computer used on many top range vehicles
is arguably an expensive novelty, but is popular nonetheless. The display and keypad of a typical trip
computer are shown in Figure 13.11. The functions
available on most systems are:
Time and date.
Elapsed time or a stop watch.
Estimated time of arrival.
Average fuel consumption.
Range on remaining fuel.
Trip distance.
The above details can usually be displayed in imperial, US or metric units as required. In order to calculate the above outputs the inputs to the system
shown in Table 13.2 are required.
Figure 13.14 shows a block diagram of a trip
computer system. Note that several systems use the
same inputs and that several systems ‘communicate’
with each other. This makes the overall wiring very
bulky – if not complicated. This type of interaction
USA. ‘DriverGuide’ is the electronic equivalent of
winding down a window and asking for directions.
By choosing from a variety of screen menus, the
driver can specify where he or she wants to go.
Twenty seconds later a printed sheet of driving
instructions constructed from a cartographic database will be printed. Computerized route finding
software is already very popular. Its one problem is
that the data on disk is out of date instantly due to
roadworks and other restrictions. Transmitting live
data to the vehicle is the answer.
13.3 Visual displays
Figure 13.14 Display of a typical trip computer
and commonality between systems has been one of
the reasons for the development of multiplexed
wiring techniques (see Chapter 3).
13.2.3 Traffic information
Over 25 years have passed since we first watched
James Bond use a tracking device, which showed a
moving blip across a screen on the dashboard of his
Aston Martin. Advances in computer technology
and GPS systems have turned this into reality.
In California, many motor vehicles have been
equipped with a gadget called the Navigator, which
helps drivers get to a destination by displaying their
vehicle’s location on a glowing green map. The Navigator, introduced by a company known as Etak, is
an electronic road map that calculates position by
means of dead reckoning. Data from a solid-state
compass installed in the vehicle’s roof and from
sensors mounted on its wheels are processed by a
computer and displayed on a dashboard screen. The
car’s position is represented as a fixed triangle on a
map, which scrolls down as the car moves forward
and rotates sideways when it turns.
Toyota already offers a computerized dash-board
map on an expensive model sold only in Japan, but
many manufacturers are considering fitting these
devices in the near future. Jaguar, as part of a project called ‘Prometheus’, in conjunction with other
manufacturers, has developed a computerized system
that picks up information from static transmitters.
This system gives directions and advanced warning
of road junctions, signposts and speed limits.
Other forms of driver information systems are
being considered, such as one being developed in
13.3.1 Choosing the best display –
The function of any visual display is to communicate
information to the desired level of accuracy. Most
displays used in the vehicle must provide instant data
but the accuracy is not always important. Analogue
displays can provide almost instant feedback from one
short glance. For example, if the needle of the temperature gauge is about in the middle then the driver
can assume that the engine temperature is within
suitable limits. A digital read-out of temperature
such as 98 ° C would not be as easy to interpret. This
is a good example as to why even when digital processing and display techniques are used, the actual
read-out will still be in analogue form. Figure 13.15
shows a display using analogue gauges.
Figure 13.16 shows an instrument display using
digital representation. Numerical and other forms of
display are, however, used for many applications.
Some of these are as follows:
Vehicle map.
Trip computer.
Radio displays.
Route finding displays.
General instruments.
These displays can be created in a number of ways;
the following sections examine each of these in more
detail. To drive individual segments or parts of a
complete display, a technique called time division
multiplexing is often used.
13.3.2 Light-emitting diode
If the PN junction of a diode is manufactured from
gallium arsenide phosphide (GaAsP), light will be
emitted from the junction when a current is made to
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 13.15 Analogue display
Figure 13.16 A display using LEDs
pass in the forward-biased direction. This is a lightemitting diode (LED) and will produce red, yellow
or green light with slight changes in the manufacturing process. LEDs are used extensively as indicators on electronic equipment and in digital
displays. They last for a very long time (50 000
hours) and draw only a small current.
LED displays are tending to be replaced for
automobile use by the liquid crystal type display,
which can be backlit to make it easier to read in the
daylight. However, LEDs are still popular for many
The actual display will normally consist of a
number of LEDs arranged into a suitable pattern for
the required output. This can range from the standard seven-segment display to show numbers, to a
custom-designed speedometer display. A small
number of LED displays are shown in Figure 13.17.
13.3.3 Liquid crystal displays
Liquid crystals are substances that do not melt
directly from a solid to the liquid phase, but first
pass through a paracrystalline stage in which the
molecules are partially ordered. In this stage, a liquid
crystal is a cloudy or translucent fluid but still has
some of the optical properties of a solid crystal.
Figure 13.17 LED displays
The three main types of liquid crystals are
smectic, nematic and cholesteric (twisted nematic),
which are differentiated by the alignments of the
rod-shaped molecules. Smectic liquid crystals have
molecules parallel to one another, forming a layer,
but within the layer no pattern exists. Nematic types
have the rod-like molecules oriented parallel to one
another but have no layer structure. The cholesteric
types have parallel molecules, and the layers are
arranged in a helical, or spiral, fashion.
Mechanical stress, electric and magnetic fields,
pressure and temperature can alter the molecular
structure of liquid crystals. A liquid crystal also scatters light that shines on it. Because of these properties, liquid crystals are used to display letters and
numbers on calculators, digital watches and automobile instrument displays. LCDs are also used
for portable computer screens and even television
Figure 13.18 Principle of a liquid crystal display
Figure 13.19 Backlighting effect can be used to good effect for
display purposes
screens. The LCD has many more areas of potential
use and developments are ongoing. In particular,
this type of display is now good enough to reproduce pictures and text on computer screens.
One type of display uses the cholesteric type of
liquid crystal. This display is achieved by only allowing polarized light to enter the liquid crystal which,
as it passes through the crystal, is rotated by 90 °.
The light then passes through a second polarizer,
which is set at 90 ° to the first. A mirror at the back
of the arrangement reflects the light so that it
returns through the polarizer, the crystal and the
front polarizer again. The net result is that light is
simply reflected, but only when the liquid crystal is
in this one particular state.
When a voltage of about 10 V at 50 Hz is applied
to the crystal, it becomes disorganized and the light
passing through it is no longer twisted by 90 °. This
means that the light polarized by the first polarizer
will not pass through the second, and will therefore
not be reflected. This will show as a dark area on
the display.
These areas are constructed into suitable segments in much the same way as with LEDs to provide whatever type of display is required. The size
of each individual area can be very small, such as to
form one pixel of a TV or computer screen if appropriate. Figure 13.18 shows a representation of how
this liquid crystal display works.
LCDs use very low power but do require a source
of light to operate. To be able to read the display in
the dark some form of lighting for the display is
required. Instead of using a reflecting mirror at the
back of the display a source of light known as backlighting can be used. A condition known as DC electroluminescence is an ideal phenomenon. This uses
a zinc-sulphide based compound, which is placed
between two electrodes in much the same way as the
Figure 13.20 Vacuum fluorescent display
liquid crystal, but it emits light when a voltage is
applied. Figure 13.19 shows how this backlighting
effect can be used to good effect for display purposes.
13.3.4 Vacuum fluorescent
A vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) works in
much the same way as a television tube and screen.
It is becoming increasingly popular for vehicle use
because it produces a bright light (which is adjustable) and a wider choice of colours than LED or LCD
displays. Figure 13.20 shows that the VFD system
consists of three main components. These are the
filament, the grid and the screen with segments
placed appropriately for the intended use of the display. The filament forms the cathode and the segments the anode of the main circuit. The control
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
grid is used to control brightness as the voltage is
When a current is passed through the tungsten
filaments they become red hot (several hundred
degrees centigrade) and emit electrons. The whole
unit is made to contain a good vacuum so that the
electrons are not affected by any outside influence.
The segments are coated with a fluorescent substance
and connected to a control wire. The segments are
given a positive potential to attract the electrons.
When electrons strike the segments they fluoresce,
emitting a yellow-green or a blue-green light depending on the type of phosphor used to coat the segments. If the potential of the grid is changed, the
number of electrons striking the segments can be
changed, thus affecting the brightness. If no segments are connected to a supply (often only about
5 V), then all the electrons emitted are stopped at
the grid. The grid is also important in that it tends to
organize the movement of electrons.
Figure 13.21 shows a circuit used to control a
VFD. Note how the potential of the segments when
activated is above that of the grid. The driver circuit
for this system is much the same, in principle, as
any other display, i.e. the electronic control will
connect one or more of the appropriate segments to
a supply to produce the desired output.
The glass front of the display can be coloured to
improve the readability and aesthetic value. This type
of display has many advantages but the main problem for automobile use is its susceptibility to shock
and vibration. This can be overcome, however, with
suitable mountings.
13.3.5 Head-up displays
Figure 13.21 Circuit which could be used to control a VFD
Figure 13.22 Head-up display
One of the main problems to solve with any automobile instrument or monitoring display is that the
driver has to look away from the road to see the information. Also, in many cases, the driver does not
actually need to look at the display, and hence could
miss an important warning such as low oil pressure.
Many techniques can be used such as warning beepers or placing the instruments almost in view, but
one of the most innovative is the head-up display
(HUD). This was originally developed by the aircraft
industry for fighter pilots; aircraft designers had
similar problems in displaying up to 100 different
warning devices in an aircraft cockpit. Figure 13.22
shows the principle of a head-up display. Information from a display device, which could be a CRT
(cathode ray tube), is directed onto a partially reflecting mirror. The information displayed on the CRT
would therefore have to be reversed for this system.
Under normal circumstances the driver would be
able to see the road through the mirror. The brightness of the display would, of course, have to be
adjusted to suit ambient lighting conditions. A great
deal of data could be presented when this system is
computer controlled.
A problem, however, is which information to
provide in this way. The speedometer could form
part of a lower level display and a low oil pressure
could cause a flash right in front of the driver. A
visual warning could also be displayed when a forward facing radar detects an impending collision.
Current HUD systems are for straight-ahead vision,
but liquid crystal rear view mirrors, used to dim and
cut headlight glare automatically, can be used as an
effective display screen for rear facing, blind spot
detecting radar.
One of the most interesting studies is to determine
exactly where the driver is looking at any point in
time, which could be used to determine where the
head-up display would be projected at any particular
time. The technique involves tiny video cameras,
coupled to a laser beam that reflects from the cornea
of the driver’s eye and can measure exactly where
he or she is looking. Apart from its use in research,
the eye motion detector is one of a series of tools
used in bio-mechanical research that can directly
monitor the physical well-being of the driver. Some
of these tools could eventually be used actively to
control the car or to wake up a driver who is at risk
of falling asleep.
13.3.6 Display techniques
Most of the discussion in previous sections has been
related to the activation of an individual display
device. The techniques used for – and the layout of –
dashboard or display panels are very important.
To a great extent this again comes back to readability. When so many techniques are available to the
designer it is tempting to use the most technologically advanced. This, however, is not always the
best. It is prudent to ask the one simple question:
what is the most appropriate display technique for
this application? Figure 13.23 shows a display that
combines some of the devices discussed previously.
Many of the decisions regarding the display are
going to be according to the preference of the
designer. I find numerical display of vehicle speed
Figure 13.23 Displays which combine some of the devices
Figure 13.24 An instrument panel and other readout displays
or engine rev/min irritating. Even the bar graph displays are not as good as simple analogue needles
(this, however, is only my opinion).
The layout and the way that instruments are combined is an area in which much research has been
carried out. This relates to the time it takes the driver
to gain the information required when looking away
from the road to glance at the instrument pack.
Figure 13.24 shows an instrument panel and other
readout displays. Note how compact it is so that
the information can be absorbed almost without the
driver having to scan to each readout in turn. The
aesthetic looks of the dashboard are an important
selling point for a vehicle. This could be at odds with
the best readability on some occasions.
13.4 Case studies
13.4.1 Air-cored temperature
gauge – Rover
Figure 13.25 shows the system used on some Rover
vehicles for the temperature gauge. It is an aircored device with fluid damping. The temperature
gauge is fitted with a spiral pull off spring to make
the gauge read ‘cold’ when the ignition is switched
off. The fuel gauge is very similar but retains its
position when the ignition is off.
When the system receives a supply from the
ignition the resistance of the thermistor determines
the current flowing through the coils. When engine
coolant temperature is low, the resistance of the
sender will be high. This will cause the voltage at
point X to be higher than that at point Y. This will
be above the Zener voltage and so the diode will
conduct in its reverse direction. Current will flow
through coil A and coil B directly but also a further
path will exist through R and the diode, effectively
bypassing coil A. This will cause the magnetism of
coil B to be greater than coil A, deflecting the magnet
and pointer towards the cold side. As the resistance
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
of the sender falls with increasing temperature, the
voltage at X will fall, reducing the current through
coil B, allowing the needle to rise.
At normal operating temperature, the voltage at X
will be just under the Zener diode breakdown voltage.
Current through each coil will now be the same and
the gauge will read in the centre. If coolant temperature increases further, then current will flow through
the diode in its forward direction, thus increasing
the current through coil A, which will cause the
needle to move to the hot side. Operation of the fuel
gauge is similar but a resistor is used in place of the
Figure 13.25 Air-cored gauge with fluid damping
Figure 13.26 ‘Alpine’ navigation system mounted in a vehicle
Zener diode. The diode is used to stabilize the gauge
when reading ‘normal’ to reduce fluctuations due to
thermostat operation.
13.4.2 Car navigation system –
Alpine Electronics
The ‘Alpine’ navigation system is one of the most
advanced systems in current use. It features very
accurate maps, is easy to use and even offers some
voice guidance. The system consists of the base unit,
a monitor, an antenna, a remote control and CDROM discs. Figure 13.26 shows the system in a
vehicle. The following features are highlighted by
One easy setting and you’re on your way. You
can input and have the system search for your destination in a variety of ways: by address, street name,
category or memory point. Destinations can be set
by quick alphabetical input or you can switch directly
to common destinations like airports or hotels.
Popup menus allow you to choose spellings of
destinations, memory inputs, etc. by using the
remote control cursor.
Once inputting is done, the system calculates the
best route to your destination according to your
instructions. You can choose whether to go via motorway or normal streets, and also include local-points
(like restaurants or fuel stations) or exclude avoidpoints, which you set. If traffic flow is obstructed,
use ‘Alternate Route Setting’ instantly to get a new
route. Cross-border routes can also be specified.
Alpine gives ‘Voice Guidance’ to the destination, as well as a wide selection of display options.
The ‘Basic Direction Mode’ displays only the most
essential information, so as not to distract you from
driving. It clearly shows the car’s direction, distance
to next junction, and time remaining to destination.
The direction at the next junction is also shown – a
big advantage in heavy traffic. ‘Intersection Zoom’
is a facility allowing a closer look, and any of several display modes, such as north-up or heading-up,
are available. Figure 13.27 shows two screenshots
from the system.
Intersection Zoom is an interesting feature of the
Alpine system and the key to its easy to understand
guidance. As you approach an intersection, the
upcoming junction is enlarged so you know exactly
what turns are required to stay on your route. If a
junction is missed, the ‘Auto Reroute’ function calculates a new route within seconds. It works so
smoothly and quickly you may not even realize you
have missed your original way!
Alpine has become the most successful navigation system in the world. This has been achieved
by meeting present demands and also by anticipating future needs. For instance, if you change from
summer to winter tyres, the system may have to be
calibrated. The Alpine system auto-calibrates during
the first few miles and software updates are easily
downloaded from CD into the flash memory.
13.4.3 Telematics
The information provided here is taken from information provided by the Automobile Association
(AA), a well-respected organization, in the UK.
Similar developments are taking place across the
world. It was difficult to know whether ‘Telematics’
should be included in the instrumentation section
or elsewhere – but here it is anyway.
The car is a necessary component of our lives.
Over the last 50 years the number of vehicles has
grown 10-fold and, by 2030, traffic is expected to
have increased by a further 60%. The cost of personal transport is high; we should be acting now to
ease congestion, save fuel and protect the environment. The technology to create some of the solutions is already available.
First-generation telematics services are already
available, or under development. They include:
Voice based roadside assistance, emergency
dispatch, traffic information services and route
Travel guidance, points of interest, touring and
travel information.
Stolen vehicle tracking by satellite.
Radio Data System (RDS) built into most car
radios and the recent launch of RDS-TMC
(Traffic Message Channel).
A fifth of all driving time is spent getting lost on
unfamiliar roads even though it is possible to pinpoint specific locations like fuel stations and then
guide a vehicle to them.
A small telematics control unit fitted in a vehicle
can open up a new world of information services,
using a combination of communications and computing technology. The unit is connected to a receiver
that constantly calculates the vehicle’s position using
data received from satellites. These data are combined with other information and fed to the telematics service centre. The information could then
be used to guide a patrol vehicle to a breakdown.
By linking the telematics unit, the service centre
could even use a diagnostic program to identify the
mechanical or electrical problem.
As Europe’s largest traffic information broadcaster, the AA has taken a leading role in nine separate EC transport studies and has developed
real-time traffic management systems that provide
instant information about road problems and uncongested routes. When an onboard telematics unit is
linked to a vehicle’s engine management system it
will be able to monitor vehicle performance and
give advance warning of mechanical problems. In
the near future, a wide range of vital new services
may be on offer.
Traffic information. To give drivers the best and
quickest route destination given the road conditions at the time.
Figure 13.27 Screenshots from ‘Alpine’ showing (a) intersection zoom and (b) automatic rerouting
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Route guidance. The service centre will be able
to calculate the best route to a nominated destination, taking into account traffic conditions
along the way, and relay it to a visual and audible display in the vehicle.
Radio Date System Traffic Message Channel
(RDS-TMC). This is coded traffic information,
broadcast continuously as a sub-carrier on a
national radio channel, with updates made very
20 seconds. A driver can choose precisely when
he or she receives the information, and can even
specify particular roads that are relevant to their
own journey.
Vehicle tracking. This is tracking technology that
can trace a stolen vehicle and identify its location.
Remote services. To lock, unlock or immobilize
a vehicle remotely. The operator will even be able
to flash the vehicle’s lights to help you locate it in
a car park.
Emergency dispatch. An in-vehicle emergency
button that will be able to alert the emergency
services to an incident and give its location.
Alternatively, the services could be alerted automatically by a vehicle sensor, triggered by an
event such as a deployed airbag.
Remote vehicle diagnostics. Telematics will predict when your vehicle is about to break down,
and arrange for a patrol to meet you at a convenient nearby location.
Floating car data. Every vehicle fitted with a
telematics unit could eventually help to keep traffic moving by automatically and continuously
providing the service centre with details of traffic flow in its immediate location. That traffic
condition data can then be assessed and fed back
out to other drivers who may be approaching the
same area and possible congestion.
(Data from Automobile Association, 1998)
Table 13.3 Common symptoms and possible faults of an
instrumentation system malfunction
Possible fault
Fuel and temperature
gauges both read high
or low
Gauges read full/hot or
empty/cold all the time
Instruments do not work
● Voltage stabilizer.
● Short/open circuit sensors.
● Short or open circuit wiring.
● Loose or broken wiring/
● Inoperative instrument
voltage stabilizer.
● Sender units (sensor) faulty.
● Gauge unit fault (not very
13.5 Diagnosing
instrumentation system
13.5.1 Introduction
As with all systems the six stages of fault-finding
should be followed.
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evaluate the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all systems.
The procedure outlined in the next section is related
primarily to stage 4 of the process. Table 13.3 lists
some common symptoms of an instrumentation system malfunction together with suggestions for the
possible fault. The faults are very generic but will
serve as a good reminder.
13.5.2 Testing procedure
The process of checking a thermal gauge fuel or
temperature instrument system is broadly as follows.
1. Hand and eye checks (loose wires, loose switches
and other obvious faults) – all connections clean
and tight.
2. Either fit a known good 200 resistor in place
of the temperature sender – gauge should read full.
3. Or short fuel tank sender wire to earth – gauge
should read full.
4. Check continuity of wire from gauge to sender –
0 to 0.5 .
5. Check supply voltage to gauge (pulsed 0–12 V
on old systems) – 10 V stabilized on most.
6. If all above tests are OK the gauge head is at fault.
13.6 Advanced
instrumentation technology
13.6.1 Multiplexed displays
In order to drive even a simple seven-segment display, at least eight wiring connections are required.
This would be one supply and seven earths (one for
each segment). This does not include auxiliary lines
required for other purposes, such as backlighting or
brightness. To display three seven-segment units,
up to about 30 wires and connections would be
To reduce the wiring, time division multiplexing
is used. This means that the individual display unit
will only be lit during its own small time slot. From
Figure 13.28 it can be seen that, if the bottom connection is made at the same time as the appropriate
data is present on the seven input lines, only one
seven-segment display will be activated. This is
carried out for each in turn, thousands of times a
second and the human eye does not perceive a
The technique of multiplexing is taken a stage
further by some systems, in that one digital controller carries out the whole of the data or signal
processing. Figure 13.29 shows this in block diagram
form. The technique is known as data sampling.
The electronic control unit samples each input in
turn in its own time slot, and outputs to the appropriate display again in a form suitable for the display device used. The electronics will contain a
number of A/D and D/A converters and these will
also be multiplexed where possible.
13.6.2 Quantization
When analogue signals are converted to digital, a
process called quantization takes place. This could
be described as digital encoding. Digital encoding breaks down all data into elementary binary
digits (bits), which enable it to be processed, stored,
transmitted and decoded as required by computer
The value of an analogue signal changes smoothly
between zero and a maximum. This infinitely varying quantity is converted to a series of discrete values
of 0 or 1 by a process known as quantization. The
range of values from zero to the maximum possible is
divided into a discrete number of steps or quantization levels. The number of steps possible depends on
the bit size of the word the digital processors can deal
with. For an 8-bit word, the range can be divided into
256 steps (28), i.e. from 000000002 to 111111112.
These digital ‘samples’ should always be taken at
more than twice the frequency of the analogue signal
to ensure accurate reproduction.
Quantization introduces an error into the process,
as each value is ‘rounded’ to the nearest quantization
level. The greater the number of quantization levels
the more accurate the process will be, but obviously,
increased accuracy involves more bits being used to
define the increased number of levels.
13.6.3 Holography
Figure 13.28 Time divisions multiplexing is used so the individual display unit will only be lit during its own small time slot
A holographic image is a three-dimensional representation of the original subject. It can be created
by splitting a laser beam into object and reference
beams. These beams produce an interference pattern, which can be stored on a plate or projected on
to a special screen. Some research is currently
ongoing towards using holography to improve night
driving safety. Information from infrared cameras
Figure 13.29 Block diagram showing how multiplexing is taken a stage further by some systems
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
can be processed, and then an enhanced holographic image can be projected onto a vehicle
13.7 New developments
in instrumentation
13.7.1 Global positioning
system (GPS)
From 1974 to 1979 a trial using six satellites allowed
navigation in North America for just four hours per
day. This trial was extended worldwide by using
eleven satellites until 1982, at which time it was
decided that the system would be extended to twentyfour satellites, in six orbits, with four operating in
each. These orbits are not symmetrical and they can
be varied. They are set at a height of about 21 000 km
(13 000 miles) and take approximately twelve hours
to orbit the Earth.
The system was developed by the American
Department of Defence. Using an encrypted code
allows a ground location to be positioned to within
a few centimetres. The signal employed for civilian
use is artificially reduced in quality so that positioning accuracy is in the region of 50 m.
The GPS satellites send out synchronized information fifty times a second. Data on orbit position,
time and identification signals are transmitted. The
navigation computer, in the vehicle or elsewhere,
receives signals from up to eight satellites. The times
taken for the signals to reach the vehicle are calculated at the same time. From this information the
computer can calculate the distance from each satellite. The current vehicle position can then be determined using three coordinates. Imagine the three
satellites forming a triangle – the position of the
vehicle within that triangle can be determined if the
distance from each corner (satellite) is known.
The satellites each have very accurate atomic
clocks (four of them) that are synchronized by a
communication link between satellites. Navigation
computers also have clocks and, to eliminate the difference between satellite time and computer time,
an additional measurement to a more distant satellite
is taken.
The main components of a ‘sat-nav’ system are
shown in Figure 13.31. Maps of towns and cities as
well as names of towns, cities and roads are stored
on CD-ROM in the main unit. Information on main
routes and menu sound/text is also held. The unit is
mounted in the boot or under the passenger seat.
Figure 13.30 Satellites used to determine vehicle position
(Source: Ford)
In addition to the GPS, the operating unit also controls the ICE system.
The navigation unit processes the following
input signals:
Magnetic field sensor OR turn angle sensor
(depending on version).
ABS wheel speed sensor signals.
GPS positioning information.
Data from the CD-ROM.
Reverse light switch.
The wheel speed sensors provide information on distance covered. The sensors on the non-driven wheels
are used because the driven wheels slip when accelerating. On some versions turn angle is calculated by
comparing left and right hand signals. This is not
necessary when a turn angle sensor is used.
The reverse light switch is used because the
signals from the wheel speed sensors do not indicate
if the vehicle is travelling forwards or in reverse.
The GPS antenna receives the satellite signals and
also amplifies them. It is mounted under the panel
in front of the windscreen or a similar position.
The magnetic field sensor (if used) is usually
located at the top of the rear window in a sealed
housing. The compass determines direction of
travel in relation to the Earth’s magnetic field. It
also senses the changes in direction when driving
round a corner or a bend.
The two crossed measuring coils sense changes
in the Earth’s magnetic field because it has a different effect in each of them. The direction of the
Earth’s field can be calculated from the polarity and
voltage produced by these two coils. The smaller
Figure 13.31 Radio navigation system (Source: Ford). 1. ABS module (distance information calculated from wheel speed sensors). 2.
GPS antenna. 3. Reverse light switch. 4. Main computer including CD-ROM drive. 5. Speakers. 6. Display and operating unit. 7. Magnetic
field sensor (not used if the main unit contains a turn angle sensor).
Figure 13.32 Magnetic field sensor or compass (Source: Ford).
1. Sensor element. 2. Evaluation circuit.
excitation coil produces a signal that causes the ferrite core to oscillate. The direction of the Earth’s
magnetic field causes the signals from the measuring coils to change depending on the direction of
the vehicle. One problem with this type of sensor is
that it is also affected by other magnetic fields such
as that produced by the heated rear window.
Allowance must therefore be made for this in the
The turn angle sensor allows the navigation
computer to follow a digital map, in conjunction
with other sensor signals, because it provides accurate information about the turning of the vehicle
around its vertical axis. It is mounted in the main
Figure 13.33 Turn angle sensor (Source: Ford). Piezo electric
element (picks up acceleration in the twisting direction B
around the vertical axis of the vehicle A). 2. Piezo electric element (causes vibration in direction C).
unit and supersedes the magnetic compass. The sensor is like a tiny tuning fork that is made to vibrate,
in the kilohertz range, by the two lower Piezoelectric elements. The upper elements sense the
acceleration when the vehicle changes direction;
this is because the twisting of the Piezo elements
causes an electrical charge. This signal is processed,
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
converted into a voltage that corresponds to vehicle
turning movement, and sent on to the main computer. The advantage of this type of sensor is that it
is not sensitive to magnetic effects.
The operation method and functions available will
vary with manufacturers and are also under constant
development. However, Figure 13.34 is a typical
example as used by Ford. A later display and control unit version is shown in Figure 13.35; the functions have been developed but are similar.
Text and speech output in a number of languages
is normally available. When English is selected as
the language, a choice of metric and imperial measurements is also available.
When the NAV function is selected, a menu
appears that shows options such as:
Address book (for pre-set destinations).
Points of interest.
Last destination.
System setup (includes a diagnostic mode on
some systems).
To use the system, the destination address is entered
using the cursor keys. The systems ‘predict’ the
possible destination as letters are entered, so it is
not usually necessary to enter the complete address.
Once the destination is set the unit will calculate
the route. Options may be given for the shortest
or quickest routes at this stage. Driving instructions, relating to the route to be followed, are given
visually on the display and audibly through the
Address entry.
Figure 13.34 Typical operating unit display (Source: Ford). 1. On/off switch. 2.Volume, bass, fade and balance (selected by SEL). 3. Mute
button. 4. Display area. 5.Tape control. 6.Tape/CD. 7.Wavebands. 8. Navigation system on/off. 9. Info. 10. Detour function. 11. Pre-set stations. 12. Menu/return 13. Cursor control. 14. Select audio function.
Figure 13.35 Telematics display (Source: Ford)
Even though the satellite information only provides a positional accuracy of about 50 m, using
dead-reckoning the intelligent software system
can still get the driver to their destination with an
accuracy of about 5 m. Dead-reckoning means that
the vehicle position is determined from speed sensor and turn angle signals. The computer can
update the vehicle position given by the GPS data
by using the possible positions on the stored digital
map. For example, when the vehicle approaches
and then makes a right turn, the combination of
GPS data and dead-reckoning allows its position to
be determined more accurately. This is because in
many places on the map only one particular position is possible – it is assumed that short cuts across
fields are not taken! Dead-reckoning even allows
navigation when satellite signals are disrupted.
However, the starting position of a journey would
also need to be entered.
Global positioning systems use a combination
of information from satellites and sensors to accurately determine the vehicle position on a digital
map. A route can then be calculated to a given destination. Like all vehicle systems, GPS continues to
develop and will do for some time yet as more features are added to the software. Already it is possible to ‘ask’ the system for the nearest fuel station
or restaurant, for example. Work is continuing as
more vehicle entertainment and telematics systems
13.7.2 Advanced telematics
and communications
systems – Jaguar
The following description, supplied by Jaguar,
relates to the 2004 Jaguar XJ and is a good illustration of how telematics and communication systems
are progressing:
JaguarVoice, an industry-first for Jaguar in 1999,
provides drivers and rear passengers with access to
voice-activated control of compatible systems, including primary audio functions, teletext, telephone,
climate control, navigation systems and in-vehicle
displays. Jaguar has made voice activation – a technology to reduce distraction when driving – an ongoing
research priority. All vehicles are pre-wired for installation of the desired language mode. The system
will be available in English, French, and Spanish.
A push-to-talk (PTT) button located on the
steering wheel and in the rear multimedia switch
pack (where specified) activates the JaguarVoice
system, and automatically mutes the audio system
volume, for telephone use.
DVD Navigation, a Denso navigation system
with a large 7-inch screen, is available across the XJ
range. Using exceptionally fast DVD technology
to deliver timely mapping information to the clear,
touch-sensitive screen, the system is easily programmed with the desired destination, such as a
house number or street junction. Alternatively, a
Figure 13.36 Jaguar DVD/Navigation touch
screen (Source: Ford)
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 13.37 BMW HUD – a clear information source – albeit in German here! (Source: Siemens)
post/zip code can be entered into the system, which
then calculates a route and instructs the driver via
visual and voice guidance. If the driver strays off
the route, the system recalculates a revised routing
to the desired destination and guides accordingly.
DVD technology allows complete mapping of, for
example, the whole of the USA on one disc.
Along the route, the system can indicate ‘points of
interest’, including restaurants, hotels, fuel stations,
parking areas and Jaguar dealers, and can even be
linked with the fuel gauge to automatically display
nearby fuel stations when the fuel level indicated
The navigation system receives signals from
global positioning satellites (GPS) that allow its
electronic control unit (ECU) to calculate the vehicle’s exact location, along with its speed and direction, using inputs from ABS system sensors and a
gyroscopic sensor. The navigation system’s crystal
clear screen is also used for touch-screen programming of vehicle systems. Navigation is optional
across the range.
The new rear seat multimedia system allows rear
seat passengers to access the audio and video systems independently of the driver and front seat passenger. The front passenger could be listening to a
CD, while one of the rear seat passengers is viewing
a film on DVD and the other rear seat passenger
plays a video game.
Two 16 cm (6.5-inch) colour display screens are
mounted in the rear of the front seat head restraints
for video and TV viewing. Rear seat passengers use
headphones to listen to the audio output in comfort.
The rear multimedia switch pack controls audio
and video signals and has an open architecture to
accept all types of inputs from devices. Sockets for
two accessory headphones are also located in the
switch pack. The rear multimedia system is optional
on XJR and Vanden Plas versions.
A high quality sound system comes as standard.
The 8-speaker sound system fitted to the XJ8 features a single-slot CD and radio with RDS, and
automatic volume control. The system is pre-wired
for a six-disc CD auto-changer. A 320 watt Jaguar
Premium sound system with 12 speakers, digital
sound processing, power amplifier, subwoofers, as
well as the remote six-disc CD auto-changer and
single-slot CD/radio is fitted as standard on XJR
and Vanden Plas and optional on the XJ8.
(It is interesting to note that, as with many developments, telematics is converging with other systems. This is particularly so with the multimedia
13.7.3 Siemens cockpit display
Some one hundred years after the invention of the
speedometer, modern cockpits have advanced well
beyond the primitive instrumentation of the first
cars and trucks. Although round instruments with
pointers and scales are still in evidence, ever larger
displays, screens and dazzling illumination technologies optimize a growing driver information load.
‘Siemens VDO Automotive AG’ (Siemens) is at work
on exciting new developments such as the coloured
head-up display, which will change information
management behind the steering wheel dramatically. Although vehicles today generate more data,
commands and messages that have to be transmitted, the driver is informed much faster and far more
efficiently than in the past.
Currently, it is taken as a given that our vehicles
will keep drivers informed about the important
things, such as a low oil level or the proper road exit
to take. Instruments are now more or less fully programmable and offer the ideal medium for the
exchange of information. Modern instrumentation,
going well beyond the conventional requirements
of speed, rpm and fuel consumption, provide indepth analysis of mechanical problems, or project
information, from the on-board computer directly
into the driver’s line of sight. What’s more, navigation instructions and controls for the audio system
and telephone are increasingly being shifted out of
the centre console and into the instrument cluster.
Instrumentation technology has developed
quickly. While the first screen displays in the mid1980s were small monochrome screens, they have
given way to large full-colour monitors. The latest
instruments can even create three-dimensional
graphics on a high-resolution TFT (thin film transistor) monitor. For navigation purposes, megabytescale image data are programmed into systems today,
offering the driver a variety of scenarios composed
from more than 300 individual images. In addition,
navigation controls make use of several hundred
pictograms and, in some cases, moving animations.
Mechanical warnings may be viewed on the instrument cluster – with supplementary information in
several languages. Powerful computing is naturally
required for this enormous graphics capability. For
this reason Siemens is one of the first suppliers to
use 32-bit processors that guarantee particularly
high computing speeds.
Siemens designs instrumentation to make the best
use of the limited space behind the steering wheel.
Where a miniaturization of printed circuit boards,
controllers and movements is not sufficient alone,
displays are completely integrated into the round
dashboard instrument – as in the BMW 7 Series or
in the E-Class from Mercedes-Benz. Here, Siemens
developers place the pointer either through the middle of the dot matrix display or on an invisible ring
around the outside of the instrument scale. This prevents, for example, a telephone directory display
from being obscured. And, so that the circular
segment display for the autonomous cruise control
does not interfere with navigation instructions,
several displays are often layered. In light of these
developments, the instrument cluster display has a
great future. In the near term, it will even be possible to display the pointer and dial of a fully reconfigurable instrument cluster as a digital computer
animation. Farther out, the digital cluster may even
displace other elements from the instrument panel.
To maintain effective eye contact between driver
and vehicle, the illumination has to be right. For this
reason Siemens has consistently forged new ground
with the development of many high-tech lighting
technologies. In the beginning instruments were
floodlit from the outside using a bulb, and later illuminated from the rear through a partially transparent dial. Since 1995 light-emitting diodes (LED)
have offered perfect colour saturation, uniform illumination and maintenance-free operation. These
extremely bright light sources are available in practically the entire colour spectrum, including the white
LED. A novel solution helped eliminate the annoying halo that surrounded the speedometer pointer
shaft in some devices. Today the pointer is irradiated
with invisible ultraviolet LED light which becomes
visible only in a tip made of luminescent material.
Many of these new technologies, of course, require
new electronics. In order to save space on the printed
circuit board, Siemens is employing a unique solution that is now on the speedometer dial of the
Mercedes-Benz E-Class – a white electroluminescent film. Parallel to this work is also being done on
a projection display in which the surface of the
cockpit is used as a projector screen. This affords
new freedom for the designer because even curved
surfaces could be used for the display in the future.
Another interesting design twist: when the car is
parked, the instrument cluster is completely invisible.
In the near future the classic dashboard instrument
will be getting additional support. Siemens will soon
bring the first programmable colour head-up display into production. The HUD will significantly
expand the display area of the instrument panel.
Important information on speed, vehicle condition
and navigation can be projected in colour onto the
windscreen with a powerful light source and mirrors.
In the direct field of view the driver can immediately receive information without taking his eyes
off the road. Tests have already shown that driver
concentration is maintained for longer periods with
the head-up display. The eyes adapt very quickly to
the information projected on the windshield; there
is also less time lag between the appearance of the
information and the driver’s reaction.
That time saving means safer driving.1
Siemens, Nov. 7, 2002, Frankfurt,
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Emitted light
Rear electrode
Figure 13.38 Construction of an EL lamp (Source: Durel)
13.7.4 Electroluminescent
instrument lighting – Durel
Electroluminescent backlighting is an enticing technology for the automotive industry because of its
thin, uniform lighting characteristics. Durel Corporation has done significant development work in this
area.2 Electroluminescent (EL) lamps provide a range
of exciting opportunities for instrument designers.
An EL lamp is similar to a capacitor. It consists
of a dielectric layer and a light-emitting phosphor
layer between two conductive plates. The device
needs to be protected from high voltages but the
dielectric layer achieves this because it is an insulator. Alternating current (AC) is needed to operate an
EL lamp. The AC generates an electric field across
the phosphor and dielectric layers. The phosphor
electrons are excited by the electric field which
causes them to move to a higher energy orbit. When
these electrons fall back to a lower orbit, energy is
released in the form of light.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is used as the
base material for many EL lamps. The front electrode is made of indium tin oxide (ITO). The phosphor, dielectric and rear electrode are screen printed
over the ITO side of the polyester, which results in
a source of light that is thin and flat.
There are a number of clear benefits to EL
Flexibility (thin and lightweight).
Easy to make into different shapes.
Low power consumption and low heat generation.
Simple to design.
The other options for instrument lighting are bulbs,
light emitting diodes and cold-cathode fluorescent
LD McFerren, CL Baker and RT Eckersley, 2002, Durel Corp.
SAE paper 2002-01-1039
Figure 13.39 IC inverter for an EL system (Source: Durel)
lamps (sometimes known as vacuum fluorescent
displays). EL lamps are often superior to these
other types, particularly when instruments are considered as a complete system.
A wide range of colours can be created using the
EL method. This is achieved by blending combinations of phosphors before screen printing. It is also
possible to print selected areas with different phosphors, thus creating a multi-coloured lamp. Typical
colours are blue-green, green, yellow-green, white,
blue and orange-red.
Because EL lamps need AC to emit light, it is
necessary to use an inverter. Typically, the signal
used for EL operation is 60 to 150 Vrms at a frequency of 300 to 500 Hz. The current draw of the
inverter and lit area is only about 1 to 2 mA/cm2.
EL lamps can operate for over 20 000 hours, which
usually exceeds the life of the vehicle.
For final assembly purposes the EL lamp is
essentially a 2.5 mm-thick film that is sandwiched
between a backplate and the graphic overlay.
The future for EL instrument lighting is bright!
The reduced costs and uniform lighting characteristics
make the technology desirable to designers. With further development of brighter EL lamps, daytime lighting and ‘telltale’ lighting will also become possible.
13.8 Self-assessment
13.8.1 Questions
1. State the main advantage of a thermal gauge.
2. Make a clearly labelled sketch of a thermal fuel
gauge circuit.
3. Describe why moving iron and air-cored
gauges do not need a voltage stabilizer.
4. Define the term, ‘driver information’.
5. Explain why digital displays are multiplexed.
6. Draw the circuit of a bulb failure system and
describe its operation.
7. List five typical outputs of a trip computer and
the inputs required to calculate each of them.
8. Describe with the aid of a sketch how a head-up
display (HUD) operates.
9. Explain the operation of an air-cored fuel
gauge system.
10. Describe what is meant by ‘Telematics’.
13.8.2 Assignment
Design an instrument display for a car. Choose whatever type of display techniques you want, but make
a report justifying your choices. Some key issues
to consider are readability, accuracy, cost and aesthetic appeal.
13.8.3 Multiple choice questions
When checking an NTC type temperature sensor,
Technician A says remember resistance increases as
temperature increases. Technician B says remember
resistance decreases as temperature increases. Who
is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
One characteristic of a thermal type fuel gauge is its:
1. slow moving needle
2. almost instantaneous response
3. need for a reed switch type sensor
4. ability to be used for oil pressure measurement
The component which prevents changes in the system voltage affecting a gauge reading is called a:
1. moving iron resistor
2. variable resistor
3. current regulator
4. voltage stabilizer
An air-cored gauge uses the same principle as:
1. a compass needle lining up with a magnetic field
2. wind pushing a windmill blade
3. a bi-metal strip moving the needle when heated
4. none of these
The instrument which uses pulses from the ignition
primary circuit is a:
1. speedometer
2. tachometer
3. ammeter
4. odometer
A vehicle condition monitoring system can monitor:
1. bulb operation by monitoring current drawn by
the lights
2. door position by signals from switches
3. brake pad wear by contact wires in the friction
4. all of the above
One reason for using a dual resistance system is:
1. if one resistor breaks down the other will still
2. so that the circuit itself is checked
3. it reduces the operating temperature of the
4. so the current flow in the circuit is increased
The basic functions available on a trip computer
1. average fuel consumption, trip distance, elapsed
2. trip distance, elapsed time, fuel remaining
3. elapsed time, fuel remaining, estimated time of
4. fuel remaining, estimated time of arrival, date
and time
Technician A says advantages of LEDs are that they
last a very long time and only draw a small current.
Technician B says a disadvantage of LEDs is that they
only produce red, yellow or green light. Who is right?
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B
Backlighting of a liquid crystal display (LCD) is
used in order to:
1. be able to read the display
2. prevent DC electroluminescence
3. display the light in a forward biased direction
4. increase vacuum fluorescence
Air conditioning
14.1 Conventional heating
and ventilation
14.1.1 Introduction
The earliest electrical heating I have come across was
a pair of gloves with heating elements woven into the
material (c. 1920). These were then connected to
the vehicle electrical system and worked like little
electric fires. The thought of what happened in the
case of a short circuit is a little worrying!
The development of interior vehicle heating has
been an incremental process and will continue to be
so – the introduction of air conditioning being the
largest step. The comfort we now take for granted
had some very cold beginnings, but the technology
in this area of the vehicle electrical system is still
evolving. Systems now range from basic hot/cold air
blowers to complex automatic temperature and climate control systems.
Any heating and ventilation system has a simple
set of requirements, which are met to varying standards. These can be summarized as follows.
be created. This is achieved by using a plenum
chamber. A plenum chamber by definition holds a
gas (in this case air), at a pressure higher than the
ambient pressure. The plenum chamber on a vehicle
is usually situated just below the windscreen, behind
the bonnet hood. When the vehicle is moving the air
flow over the vehicle will cause a higher pressure in
this area. Figure 14.2 shows an illustration of the
plenum chamber effect. Suitable flaps and drains are
utilized to prevent water entering the car through
this opening.
By means of distribution trunking, control flaps
and suitable ‘nozzles’, the air can be directed as
required. This system is enhanced with the addition
of a variable speed blower motor. Figure 14.3 shows
a typical ventilation and heating system layout.
Adjustable temperature in the vehicle cabin.
Heat must be available as soon as possible.
Distribute heat to various parts of the vehicle.
Ventilate with fresh air with minimum noise.
Facilitate the demisting of all windows.
Ease of control operation.
The above list, whilst by no means definitive, gives
an indication of what is required from a heating and
ventilation system. As usual, the more complex the
system the more the requirements are fulfilled. This
is directly related to cost.
Some solutions to the above requirements are
discussed below, starting with simple ventilation and
leading on to full automatic temperature control.
Figure 14.1 shows a representation of the perceived
comfortable temperature in the vehicle compared
with the outside temperature.
Figure 14.1 Representation of comfortable temperature
14.1.2 Ventilation
To allow fresh air from outside the vehicle to be circulated inside the cabin, a pressure difference must
Figure 14.2 Plenum chamber effect
Air conditioning
When extra air is forced into a vehicle cabin the
interior pressure would increase if no outlet was
available. Most passenger cars have the outlet grills
on each side of the vehicle above or near the rear
quarter panels or doors.
14.1.3 Heating system –
water-cooled engine
Heat from the engine is utilized to increase the temperature of the car interior. This is achieved by use
of a heat exchanger, called the heater matrix. Due
to the action of the thermostat in the engine cooling
system the water temperature remains broadly constant. This allows for the air being passed over the
heater matrix to be heated by a set amount depending on the outside air temperature and the rate of air
flow. A source of hot air is therefore available for
heating the vehicle interior. However, some form of
control is required over how much heat (if any), is
required. The method used on most modern vehicles
is the blending technique. This is simply a control
flap, which determines how much of the air being
passed into the vehicle is directed over the heater
matrix. The main drawback of this system is the
change in air flow with vehicle speed. Some systems use a valve to control the hot coolant flowing
to the heater matrix.
By a suitable arrangement of flaps it is possible
to direct air of the chosen temperature to selected
areas of the vehicle interior. In general, basic systems allow the warm air to be adjusted between
the inside of the windscreen and the driver and
passenger foot wells. Most vehicles also have small
vents directing warm air at the drivers and front
passenger’s side windows. Fresh cool air outlets
with directional nozzles are also fitted.
One final facility, which is available on many
vehicles, is the choice between fresh or recirculated
air. The main reason for this is to decrease the time
it takes to demist or defrost the vehicle windows,
and simply to heat the car interior more quickly to
a higher temperature. The other reason is that, for
example, in heavy congested traffic, the outside air
may not be very clean.
14.1.4 Heater blower motors
The motors used to increase air flow are simple permanent magnet two-brush motors. The blower fan
is often the centrifugal type and in many cases, the
blades are positioned asymmetrically to reduce
resonant noise. Figure 14.4 shows a typical motor
and fan arrangement. Varying the voltage supplied
controls motor speed. This is achieved by using
dropping resistors. The speed in some cases is
made ‘infinitely’ variable by the use of a variable
resistor. In most cases the motor is controlled to
three or four set speeds.
Figure 14.5 shows a circuit diagram typical of a
three-speed control system. The resistors are usually wire wound and are placed in the air stream to
prevent overheating. These resistors will have low
values in the region of 1 or less.
Figure 14.4 HVAC motor mounted in spiral housing
Figure 14.3 Ventilation and heating system
Figure 14.5 Circuit diagram of a three-speed control system
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
14.1.5 Electronic heating control
14.2.2 Principle of refrigeration
Most vehicles that have electronic control of the
heating system also include air conditioning, which
is covered in the next section. However, a short
description at this stage will help to lead into the
more complex systems. Figure 14.6 shows a block
diagram representing an electronically controlled
vehicle heating system.
This system requires control of the blower motor,
blend flap, direction flaps and the fresh or recirculated air flap. The technique involves one or a number of temperature sensors suitably positioned in the
vehicle interior, to provide information for the ECU.
The ECU responds to information received from
these sensors and sets the controls to their optimum
positions. The whole arrangement is, in fact, a simple closed loop feedback system with the air temperature closing the loop. The ECU has to compare
the position of the temperature control switch with
the information that is supplied by the sensors and
either cool or heat the car interior as required.
To understand the principle of refrigeration the following terms and definitions will be useful.
14.2 Air conditioning
14.2.1 Introduction
A vehicle fitted with air conditioning allows the temperature of the cabin to be controlled to the ideal or
most comfortable value determined by the ambient
conditions. The system as a whole still utilizes the
standard heating and ventilation components, but
with the important addition of an evaporator, which
both cools and dehumidifies the air.
Air conditioning can be manually controlled or,
as is now often the case, combined with some form
of electronic control. The system as a whole can be
thought of as a type of refrigerator or heat exchanger.
Heat is removed from the car interior and dispersed
to the outside air.
Figure 14.6 An electronically controlled vehicle heating system
Heat is a form of energy.
Temperature means the degree of heat of an
Heat will only flow from a higher to a lower temperature.
Heat quantity is measured in ‘calories’ (more
often kcal).
1 kcal heat quantity, changes the temperature of
1 kg of liquid water by 1 ° C.
Change of state, is a term used to describe the
changing of a solid to a liquid, a liquid to a gas,
a gas to a liquid or a liquid to a solid.
Evaporation is used to describe the change of
state from a liquid to a gas.
Condensation is used to describe the change of
state from gas to liquid.
Latent heat describes the energy required to
evaporate a liquid without changing its temperature (breaking of molecular bonds), or the amount
of heat given off when a gas condenses back into
a liquid without changing temperature (making
of molecular bonds).
Latent heat in the change of state of a refrigerant is
the key to air conditioning. A simple example of this
is that if you put a liquid such as methylated spirits on
your hand it feels cold. This is because it evaporates
and the change of state (liquid to gas) uses heat from
your body. This is why the process is often thought of
as ‘unheating’ rather than cooling.
The refrigerant used in many air conditioning
systems is known as R134A. This substance changes
state from liquid to gas at 26.3 ° C. R134A is hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) rather than chlorofluorocarbon
(CFC) based, due to the problems with atmospheric
ozone depletion associated with CFC-based refrigerants. Note that this type of refrigerant is not compatible with older systems.
A key to understanding refrigeration is to remember that a low-pressure refrigerant will have low temperature, and a high-pressure refrigerant will have a
high temperature.
Figure 14.7 shows the basic principle of an air
conditioning or refrigeration system. The basic components are the evaporator, condenser and pump or
compressor. The evaporator is situated in the car; the
condenser outside the car, usually in the air stream.
The compressor is driven by the engine.
As the pump operates it will cause the pressure
on its intake side to fall, which will allow the refrigerant in the evaporator to evaporate and draw heat
Air conditioning
from the vehicle interior. The high pressure or output
of the pump is connected to the condenser. The pressure causes the refrigerant to condense (in the condenser); thus giving off heat outside the vehicle as
it changes state.
Several further components are needed for efficient operation; these are explained over the next
few sections. Figure 14.8 shows some typical components of an air conditioning system.
Figure 14.7 Basic principle of an air conditioning or refrigeration system
14.2.3 Air conditioning overview
The operation of the system is a continuous cycle.
The compressor pumps low pressure but heat laden
vapour from the evaporator, compresses it and pumps
it as a super-heated vapour under high pressure to
the condenser. The temperature of the refrigerant at
this stage is much higher than the outside air temperature, hence it gives up its heat via the fins on the
condenser as it changes state back to a liquid.
This high-pressure liquid is then passed to the
receiver-drier where any vapour which has not yet
turned back to a liquid is stored, and a desiccant bag
removes any moisture (water) that is contaminating
the refrigerant. The high-pressure liquid is now
passed through the thermostatic expansion valve
and is converted back to a low-pressure liquid as it
passes through a restriction in the valve into the
evaporator. This valve is the element of the system
that controls the refrigerant flow and hence the
amount of cooling provided. As the liquid changes
state to a gas in the evaporator, it takes up heat from
its surroundings, thus cooling or ‘unheating’ the
air that is forced over the fins. The low pressure
vapour leaves the evaporator returning to the pump,
Plate fin evaporator
Heating and
Ventilation unit
Air conditioning unit
Complete air conditioning system
Figure 14.8 Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) components
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 14.9 Air conditioning operation
thus completing the cycle. The cycle is represented
in Figure 14.9.
If the temperature of the refrigerant increases
beyond certain limits, condenser cooling fans can
be switched in to supplement the ram air effect.
A safety switch is fitted in the high-pressure side
of most systems. It is often known as a high–low
pressure switch, as it will switch off the compressor
if the pressure is too high due to a component fault,
or if the pressure is too low due to a leakage, thus
protecting the compressor.
14.2.4 Automatic temperature
Full temperature control systems provide a comfortable interior temperature in line with the passenger controlled input. The electronic control unit
has full control of fan speed, air distribution, air
temperature, fresh or recirculated air and the air conditioning pump. These systems will soon be able to
control automatic demist or defrost, when reliable
sensors are available. A single button will currently
set the system to full defrost or demist.
A number of sensors are used to provide input to
the ECU.
An ambient temperature sensor mounted outside
the vehicle will allow compensation for extreme
temperature variations. This device is usually a
A solar light sensor can be mounted on the fascia
panel. This device is a photodiode and allows a
measurement of direct sunlight from which the
ECU can determine whether to increase the air
to the face vents.
The in-car temperature sensors are simple thermistors but, to allow for an accurate reading, a
small motor and fan can be used to take a sample of interior air and direct it over the sensing
A coolant temperature sensor is used to monitor
the temperature of the coolant supplied to the
heater matrix. This sensor is used to prevent
operation of the system until coolant temperature is high enough to heat the vehicle interior.
Driver input control switches.
The ECU takes information from all of the above
sources and will set the system in the most appropriate manner as determined by the software. Control of
the flaps can be either by solenoid controlled vacuum actuators or by small motors. The main blower
motor is controlled by a heavy duty power transistor
and is constantly variable. These systems are able to
provide a comfortable interior temperature when
exterior conditions range from 10 to 35 ° C even
in extreme sunlight.
14.3 Other heating
14.3.1 Seat heating
The concept of seat heating is very simple. A heating element is placed in the seat, together with an
on–off switch and a control to regulate the heat.
However, the design of these heaters is more complex than first appears.
The heater must meet the following criteria.
The heater must only supply the heat loss experienced by the person’s body.
Heat to be supplied only at the major contact
Leather and fabric seats require different systems due to their different thermal properties.
Heating elements must fit the design of the seat.
The elements must pass the same rigorous tests as
the seat, such as squirm, jounce and bump tests.
Figure 14.10 shows a seat containing heating
In order for the passengers (including the driver)
to be comfortable, rigorous tests have been carried
out to find the optimum heat settings and the best
position for the heating elements. Many tests are carried out on new designs, using a manikin with sensors
attached, to measure the temperature and heat flow.
The cable used for most heating elements is
known as a Sine Cable and consists of multi-strand
alloyed copper. This cable may be coated with tin or
insulated as the application demands. The heating
element is laminated and bonded between layers of
polyurethane foam.
The traditional method of control is a simple
thermostat switch. Recent developments, however,
tend to favour electronic control combined with
a thermistor. A major supplier of seat heaters,
Air conditioning
Figure 14.11 Screen heating circuit.
14.4 Case studies
14.4.1 Air conditioning – Rover
Figure 14.10 Seat containing heating element
Scandmec Ltd, supplies an electronic system that
includes push button switches, potentiometers, timer
function, short and open circuit detection. This is in
addition to accurate control of the chosen temperature setting. These seat heaters will heat up to provide
an initial sensation in 1 minute and to full regulated
temperature in 3 minutes.
14.3.2 Screen heating
Heating of the rear screen involves a very simple
circuit as shown in Figure 14.11. The heating elements consist of a thin metallic strip bonded to the
glass. When a current is passed through the elements,
heat is generated and the window will defrost or
demist. This circuit can draw high current, 10–15 A
being typical. Because of this, the circuit often contains a timer relay to prevent the heater being left on
too long. The timer will switch off after 10–15 minutes. The elements are usually positioned to defrost
the main area of the screen and the rest position of the
rear wiper blade if fitted.
Front windscreen heating is being introduced
on some vehicles. This of course presents more problems than the rear screen, as vision must not
be obscured. The technology, drawn from the aircraft
industry, involves very thin wires cast into the glass.
As with the heated rear window, this device can consume a large current and is operated by a timer relay.
Figure 14.12 is the air conditioning system layout
showing all the main components.
The compressor shown in Figure 14.13 is beltdriven from the engine crankshaft and it acts as a
pump circulating refrigerant through the system. The
compressor shown is a piston and reed valve type. As
the refrigerant is drawn into the cylinder due to the
action of the piston, the outlet valve is closed due to
the pressure. When the piston begins its compression
stroke the inlet reed valve closes and the outlet opens.
This compressor is controlled by an electromagnetic
clutch, which may be either under manual control or
electronic control depending on the type of system.
Figure 14.14 shows the condenser fitted in front
of the vehicle radiator. It is very similar in construction to the radiator and fulfils a similar role. The
heat is conducted through the aluminium pipes and
fins to the surrounding air and then, by a process of
convection, is dispersed by the air movement. The
air movement is caused by the ram effect, which is
supplemented by fans as required.
Figure 14.15 is the receiver–drier assembly. It is
connected in the high-pressure line between the
condenser and the thermostatic expansion valve.
This component has four features.
A reservoir to hold refrigerant until a greater flow
is required.
A filter to prevent contaminants circulating
through the system.
Vapour is retained in this unit until it finally converts back to a liquid.
A drying agent removes any moisture from the
system. The substance used in R134A systems is
Zeolite. Some manufacturers recommend that this
unit should be replaced if the system has been
open to the atmosphere.
A sight glass is fitted to some receiver–driers to give
an indication of refrigerant condition and system
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Figure 14.12 Air conditioning system layout
Figure 14.13 Air conditioning compressor
operation. The refrigerant generally appears clear if
all is in order.
The thermostatic expansion valve is shown as part
of Figure 14.16 together with the evaporator assembly. It has two functions to fulfil:
Control the flow of refrigerant as demanded by
the system.
Reduce refrigerant pressure in the evaporator.
The thermostatic expansion valve is a simple
spring-controlled ball valve, which has a diaphragm
attached to a spring. A temperature sensitive gas
such as carbon dioxide acts upon the diaphragm.
Figure 14.14 Air conditioning condenser
The gas is in a closed system including a capillary
tube and a sensing bulb. This sensing bulb is
secured on the evaporator. If the temperature of the
evaporator rises, the gas in the bulb expands and
acts on the diaphragm such as to open the ball valve
Air conditioning
and allow a greater flow of refrigerant. If the evaporator were to become too cold, then the gas in the
bulb will contract and the ball valve will close. In
this way, the flow of refrigerant is controlled and
the temperature of the evaporator is held fairly constant under varying air flow conditions.
The evaporator assembly is similar in construction to the condenser, consisting of fins to maximize heat transfer. It is mounted in the car under
the dash panel, forming part of the overall heating
and ventilation system. The refrigerant changes
state in the evaporator from a liquid to a vapour. As
well as cooling the air passed over it, the evaporator
also removes moisture from the air. This is because
the moisture in the air will condense on the fins
and can be drained away. The action is much like
breathing on a cold pane of glass. A thermistor is
fitted to the evaporator on some systems to monitor
temperature. The compressor is cycled if the temperature falls below about 3 or 4 ° C to prevent the
chance of water freezing on the evaporator, which
would restrict air flow.
The electrical circuit is shown in Figure 14.17.
The following points are worthy of note.
Figure 14.15 Receiver–drier
Figure 14.16 Evaporator and thermostatic expansion valve
A connection exists between the air conditioning
ECU and the engine management ECU. The reasons for this are so that the compressor can be
switched off under very hard acceleration and to
enable better control of engine idle.
Figure 14.17 Air conditioning electrical circuit
Air conditioning
Twin cooling fans are used to cool the condenser.
These can be run at two speeds using relays to
connect them in series for slow operation, or in
parallel for full speed.
A number of safety features are included such as
the high/low pressure switches.
14.4.2 Electrically driven
air conditioning
To drive the air conditioning pump electrically
could provide the following benefits:
Sealed motor and pump assembly.
Smaller and less complex compressor.
Flexible positioning (no drive belt).
Full cooling capacity at any engine speed.
Greater control is possible.
The motor output power necessary to drive an electric
automotive air conditioning (A/C) system depends
on the cooling capacity of the system, its efficiency
and the boundary conditions (temperatures) it is
operating against. All of these quantities are variable under normal vehicle operation. The use of a
‘brushless’ motor has been considered. The following ‘standard’ rating conditions are useful in assessing maximum power levels.
Stop-and-go driving in heavy traffic
Under these test conditions, high compressor discharge pressures will tend to overload the motor. To
prevent this problem, fresh air must be restricted at
idle to reduce evaporator load and, if possible, the
condenser fan should operate at overspeed conditions. The motor must be operated at lower speeds
during idle to prevent overload and, consequently,
will not reach its maximum power requirement.
Hot soak followed by pull down
This test is established by placing the vehicle in a hot
sunny environment until the cabin temperature rises
to about 65 ° C. The vehicle is then operated at about
50 km/h with maximum A/C and fan speed control
settings. An electric A/C system operating at about
half of its maximum speed offers pull down performance equivalent to a conventional A/C system.
If operated at maximum during the pull down test,
a significant reduction in the time taken to reach
acceptable cabin temperatures could be achieved.
This establishes a maximum capacity level, which in
turn sets the size of the motor and its drive electronics. For conventional A/C systems, a 3.75 kW motor
is a reasonable estimate for this condition. About
70% of the total load is used to condition the fresh
outside air. Reducing or eliminating fresh air load
at highway speeds has a direct influence on the size
of the electric drive system.
A series of computer simulations was conducted
to explore ways of reducing the motor power requirement. Using a two-stage cycle with 25% fresh air
results in a 1.5 kW load on the motor. A conventional
cycle using a high-efficiency compressor coupled
with a 20% fresh air limitation also results in a
1.5 kW load. A 1.5 kW motor is a realistic option
for automotive air conditioning.
The combined motor and electronics cost significantly affects the feasibility of electric automotive
A/C systems. Cost increases significantly as the
required motor power increases. Development of
more efficient A/C systems is ongoing. Assuming
these developments are successful, a 1.5 kW electrically driven A/C system will be possible and will
be able to provide performance equal to or better
than today’s systems.
In this application, brushless DC motor systems
are expected to achieve efficiencies of 85–90% when
designed specifically for sealed automotive A/C
applications. This translates into a maximum electrical demand from the vehicle power supply system of 1.7 kW when the A/C electrical drive operates
under maximum cooling conditions.
Research is continuing in this area but, like
many other developments, the current extra costs of
the system may soon be outweighed by the benefits
of extra control.
14.5 Diagnosing air
conditioning system faults
14.5.1 Introduction
As with all systems, the six stages of fault-finding
should be followed.
Cruising with full fresh air intake
Verify the fault.
Collect further information.
Evaluate the evidence.
Carry out further tests in a logical sequence.
Rectify the problem.
Check all systems.
This operating condition requires the A/C system
to maintain comfortable cabin temperatures while
processing significant quantities of outside air.
Table 14.1 lists some common symptoms of an air
conditioning system malfunction together with suggestions for the possible fault. The faults are generic
Automobile electrical and electronic systems
Table 14.1 Symptoms and faults of an air conditioning system
Possible fault
After stopping the compressor,
pressure falls quickly to about
195 kPa and then falls gradually
Air in the system or, if no bubbles are seen in the sight glass as the condenser is
cooled with water, excessive refrigerant may be the fault.
Discharge pressure low
Fault with the compressor or, if bubbles are seen, low refrigerant.
Discharge temperature is
lower than normal
Frozen evaporator.
Suction pressure too high
High pressure valve fault, excessive refrigerant or expansion valve open too long.
Suction and discharge pressure
too high
Excessive refrigerant in the system or condenser not working due to fan fault or
clogged fins.
Suction and discharge pressure
too low
Clogged or kinked pipes.
Refrigerant loss
Oily marks (from the lubricant in the refrigerant) near joints or seals indicate leaks.
but will serve as a good reminder. It is assumed an
appropriate pressure gauge set has been connected.
14.5.2 Testing procedure
Do not work on the refrigerant side of air conditioning systems unless you have been trained and
have access to suitable equipment.
The process of checking an air conditioning system is broadly as follows.
1. Hand and eye checks (loose wires, loose switches
and other obvious faults) – all connections clean
and tight.
2. Check system pressures.
3. Check discharge temperature.
4. Inspect receiver–drier sight glass.
5. Refer to the previous table.
14.6 Advanced
temperature control
14.6.1 Heat transfer
Here is a reminder of the key terms associated with
heat transfer.
energy is present in all materials in the form of the
kinetic energy of their vibrating molecules, and
may be conducted from one molecule to the next in
the form of this mechanical vibration. In the case of
metals, which are particularly good conductors of
heat, the free electrons within the material carry
heat around very quickly.
In physics, radiation is the emission of radiant
energy as particles or waves; for example, heat,
light, alpha particles and beta particles.
When designing a heating or air conditioning
system, calculations can be used to determine the
heating or cooling effect required. The following is
the main heat current equation and can be used, for
example, to help determine the heat loss through
the windows.
x / kA
where Q heat energy, T temperature,
x thickness/distance of material, t time, k thermal conductivity of the material (W m1 K1),
A cross-sectional area, Q/t can be thought of as
‘heat current’.
14.6.2 Armature reaction
Heat energy transfer that involves the movement of
a fluid (gas or liquid). Fluid in contact with the
source of heat expands and tends to rise within the
bulk of the fluid. Cooler fluid sinks to take its place,
setting up a convection current.
Most heater motors, like many other motors, are
unidirectional due to the positioning of the brushes.
When a motor is running it also acts as a generator
producing a back EMF. The brushes of a motor
(or generator) must be placed around the commutator
in such a way that, as the armature rotates and the
brushes effectively short one commutator segment
to the next, no EMF must be present in that associated armature winding.
Flow of heat energy through a material without the
movement of any part of the material itself. Heat
Air conditioning
Using a photo-catalyst means that air in the cabin
can be improved because pollutant gases are eliminated. These gases can be destroyed by the UV
action of a photo-catalyst. Volatile organic components, nitrogen and sulphur oxides are the main culprits. Bacteria can also be eliminated because they
are killed on the filter. The photo-catalyst, which is
made of titanium oxide (TiO2), is self-regenerating
to ensure long life. The system is 70% efficient
on toluene after 6 minutes in recirculation mode. It
can also be made to start automatically in association with the pollution sensor.
14.7.2 Electric heating and
air conditioning
Figure 14.18 Field warp which causes armature reaction
If an EMF is present, then current will flow
when the short is made. This creates sparks at the
brushes and is known as armature reaction. To overcome this problem, the brushes are moved from the
geometric neutral axis to the magnetic neutral axis
of the motor fields. This is because, as armature current flows, the magnetism created around the armature windings interacts with the main magnetic field
causing it to warp. Figure 14.18. shows this field
warp diagrammatically. This phenomenon was used
in some very early generators as a way of controlling output.
14.7 New developments
in temperature control
14.7.1 Heating is cool
Two interesting developments by Valeo show how
heating systems can actually be quite cool! These are:
Pollution sensor.
The pollution sensor provides improved cabin air
quality for enhanced comfort of vehicle passengers.
The sensor detects the principal noxious atmo