Modern car is full of computer bits and bobs. We’ll cover some of the essential modern car computer components in this blog post. By the end of it, you should have a good idea about what’s happening on the technical side under the hood.
Nowadays, the first thing any garage will do is plug in a diagnostics computer to find out if there are any fault codes stored by you car’s onboard computer.
Brakes & ABS
The ABS, or Anti-Lock Breaking System, prevents your car’s wheels locking up under heavy breaking conditions.
The basic principle is that all four wheels have a sensor on them to pick up the speed of each wheel. It then detects when breaking if any of the wheels are skidding. It will apply pressure where needed in a matter of milliseconds to prevent the wheels from locking and the car from driving into a skid and therefore out of control.
ABS faults are now an MOT failure. If you see the ABS light come up on your dashboard, we recommend you bring it to your garage to make sure you’re driving in the safest possible conditions.
It’s normally quite a quick fix. The majority of the time, one sensor has failed and simply needs to be replaced and reset. Diagnostic equipment is needed to identify where the fault it.
Fuel Air Mix and Exhaust Emissions
Back in the day, when your car started to run a bit “rough” you’d take it to your local garage for a tune up. This meant adjusting the carburettor to make sure the fuel / air mixture was optimised.
The modern car does this on its own, thousands of times a minute! The Lambda Sensor takes care of this. It is situated in the exhaust pipe and constantly analyses the emission gasses created by the engine. It sends a signal to the injection system, which will then alter the amount of fuel or air going into the engine. This will give you the cleanest possible emissions from your car’s exhaust.
Ever wondered what the engine light is for on your dashboard? Well one thing it can signify is that your that your Lambda Sensor is faulty.
If your Lambda Sensor if faulty, it may fail its MOT because it’s emissions will be outside the legal limits.
Remote Central Locking
Remote central locking is something we’re all very familiar with on non-vintage cars. It works via a sensor in the key fob, activated by a button, which picks up a radiowave from the car and locks or unlocks the doors.
Really modern cars go a step beyond remote central locking and have completely keyless entry. Keyless entry will unlock or lock all the doors as you approach or leave the vehicle. The signal also opens the car door and activates the ignition. All the driver needs to do is press the button to start the engine.
Quite a leap from the old fashioned crank on the front of the very first motor cars!
The downside of this is that software is available, and in use by car thieves, which can detect the keyless entry signal and clone it. Even when the key is inside a building. Needless to say, this offers them entry to the vehicle and the ability to drive it away.
Manufacturers are on the case to prevent this. Meanwhile, a simple solution is to protect your car key in a credit card protection wallet or in a good old fashioned metal tin. This will interrupt the signal and prevent it being broadcast.
Cruise control allows you to pick a speed and the car will maintain that speed constantly until you either press the clutch, brake, or turn it off. This is particularly useful on long straight journeys, motorways in particular. Where there is, in theory, a steady speed of constantly moving traffic.
It’s also very useful in roadwork conditions where you can set your speed at the legal limit and not worry too much about creeping over without realising.
Some cars have an Adaptive Cruise Control sensor. This is a sensor in the front which is a form of radar. It detects objects in front of the car, hopefully vehicles, and will reduce speed to prevent your car getting dangerously close to the vehicle in front.
This system is also usually connected to Adaptive Braking. This will apply the brakes if the car in front suddenly stops or reduces its speed.
All this is made possible by your car’s onboard computer systems.
SIM Card Tracking
Similar to the black box given to new learner drivers, new cars are fitted with a SIM card. Mostly top brands at the moment – Audi, BMW, Bentley, Mercedes. But Ford are looking into it, so it won’t be long before we see this feature in all new cars.
Monitors location and reports any car faults directly back to the manufacturer. When you take the car into the manufacturer, they will be able to automatically get the data of any faults from the car’s number plate.
Automatic Speed Restriction
Just around the corner, all new cars will have automatic speed restriction. This system is based on GPS and will register when your car enters a speed restriction zone. It won’t just notify you that you’re over the speed limit, it will automatically inhibit the speed of your vehicle so that you won’t be able to drive over the speed limit.
The proposal is that this will be implemented in all new vehicles by 2025. Watch this space for updates!