Automotive Sensors Information
Twist the key to start your car, pickup truck or SUV; and you are faced with a veritable Christmas tree of lights on the dashboard. Even entry-level cars have warning lights, indicating that the engine; anti-lock-braking system and airbag restraint system are ready for action. So, one by one, these lights wink out, as sensors communicate with computers; and each system is checked and determined to be in working order.
Once the vehicle has been started; the engine oil pressure, coolant level and temperature, transmission status; and fuel level are all sampled by car engine sensors. And, their status is reported to the driver, sometimes using traditional analog gauges. But, more commonly through a general “systems OK” message. Some cars alert the driver only when there is something wrong; illuminating a “Check Engine” light to tell you that all is not well.
Automotive Sensors, The old Analog Days
In the old days, car engine sensors and instrumentation were very simple. There was an oil light that would illuminate, when the oil pressure was low and an alternator light; that would come on, when the battery wasn’t receiving a proper charge. Consequently, sometimes the gauges were the sensors. For example, the oil pressure gauge, was often attached to the engine itself; with a thin oil line that ran to the gauge in the dashboard. All of these analog gauges, were quite simple. And, it was up to the driver to monitor them while driving. So, if something went wrong; the driver was expected to notice, an odd reading on one of the gauges.
Automotive Sensors, The New Digital Age
Today’s vehicles are obviously more complicated. Digital computers now control engines. Luxury cars have “body computers” to control luxury features. And, all of these computers rely on fast-acting, reliable car engine sensors.
On the plus side, these digital electronic systems; make it easy to constantly monitor, vital engine parameters. Like oil pressure, coolant temperature and exhaust emissions and report back to the driver when something is amiss. Automotive sensors, continually monitor major systems, sending real-time signals to onboard computers. And, these computers keep track of everything. Consequently, alerting the driver, only when something is wrong or when the vehicle is due for service.
How far has this gone? In many vehicles today, digital computers control not only engine functions. But, also everything from the climate control system to headlight and taillight operation. More than that, many systems are now required to store information for later access. Service technicians can plug their own computers; into a vehicle and often quickly diagnose what is wrong; even if the problem is sporadic. That is, of course, if everything is operating as it should. And, if the technician has been thoroughly trained and has the proper service tools.