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Smart Cars, Smarter Technicians: Tackling Technology

Posted by on 10/1/2013 to Info News
A contemporary car has more computing power than was used to complete the first moon landing. How can an automotive technician stay current on these rapidly changing technologies? By keeping up-to-date on the latest diagnostic devices and tech training. Part of being a smart car technician is understanding the basic computer components. CANbus (Controller Area Network): The network of wires and software protocols between a vehicle's computers and sensors is known as the CANbus. The CAN connects various computers called electronic control units, or ECUs, allowing them to communicate data to each other. The CANbus network allows data from all the sensors and computers to circulate throughout the vehicle. ECUs: These mini-computers have sensors and switches that detect variables such as acceleration, braking, temperature, pressure, voltage, and many other signals. Each ECU transmits all its sensor and programming information constantly— as many as 2000 signals are being sent out at any one time. ECM (engine control computer): The ECM monitors and regulates engine functions, optimizes engine performance and monitors fuel consumption. Systems controlled by the ECM include fuel delivery, air management, and spark timing, among others. The ECM is the aspect of the computer system that will illuminate the check engine light. A “trouble code” is then stored in the memory. Retrieval of this code with a diagnostic tool will identify the problem area. This allows the automotive service technician to concentrate on the specific circuits causing the issue. Hybrid and electric cars have their own learning curve. An automotive technician needs to be retrained to work on their specialized systems. Safety training and special equipment is needed to service a vehicle that carries 700 volts of electricity. While slightly more complicated than programming a VCR, a smart car technician who keeps up with their training can easily stay a step ahead of the changing technologies that make up today's smart cars.

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