In Part I you get a quick look at how the different systems in a vehicle work together to get you moving and where you want to go. In this part, I give you a closer look at the electrical system and the fuel system. After you know the basics about each system, you get detailed instructions on what you can do to maintain them or to ensure that the professionals do their best to keep these systems in shape.
This part also covers a variety of innovative and ecologically sound alternatively fueled vehicles that increase fuel efficiency, reduce air pollution, and reduce the threat to our planet from global warming.
The electrical system includes several subsystems that provide your vehicle with that vital spark that makes it start and then keeps it running. It’s one of the many systems on a vehicle that’s monitored and controlled by a kind of “supercomputer” called the engine control unit, or ECU for short.
You encounter this god-like critter in several chapters of this book, so you should meet it before you get to the various systems that form the electrical system. Whenever you encounter a term set in this font, you’ll find it defined in the glossary in Appendix A.
functions of the car, including the electrical, fuel, and emissions control systems. Among other tasks, the ECU fires the fuel injectors on fuel-injected engines, fires the spark plugs, and controls valve timing, emissions controls, the fuel/air mixture, and even the cooling fan.
The ECU itself rarely malfunctions, is the key to the diagnostics that pinpoint problems and is primarily responsible for managing the fuel efficiency and performance of your vehicle.
Moving on to the electrical system here are some of the services that the individual systems and major parts involved in the electrical system perform.
Introducing the Engine Control Unit (ECU)
The starting system, shown in is the portion of the electrical system that gets your vehicle started. When you turn your key in the ignition switch to “Start” (or activate the ignition by pushing a button), the action closes a circuit that lets electrical current flow from your car’s battery to its starter.
On the way, the current passes through a device called the starter solenoid. Basically, all the solenoid does is pass the current along and move the starter gears into contact with the flywheel. You don’t adjust or replace it unless it breaks down.
The Starting System
Because actually seeing and touching something is worth a thousand words, it’s a good idea to take this book out to your vehicle and trace the path of the electric current to each part in the system. Don’t be shy now! (If you need them, you can find instructions for ) I know the area looks like a maze of wires, bottles, and boxes, but once you can identify the major parts, it won’t be as scary anymore.
As you try to trace the wiring through the starting system, if you find a couple of parts that I haven’t mentioned yet, just hang in there. Like the solenoid, you don’t have to fuss with these parts unless they fail; and if they fail, they have to be replaced by a professional. The following sections give you a closer look at each part of the starting system. Be sure to read them before undertaking any of the electrical work.