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Sensing and Sensibility

Sensing and Sensability Sourced: Kevin Clemens – Automedia.com Once the vehicle has been started, the engine oil pressure, coolant level and temperature, transmission status and fuel level are all sampled by sensors, and their status is reported to the driver. Usually 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. In the old days, 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. If something went wrong, the driver was expected to notice an odd reading on one of the gauges. Today’s vehicles are obviously more complicated. Some of this complication is the result of legislated exhaust emissions and safety regulations. Some of it is due to the vast array of power accessories and luxury conveniences on all but the most basic cars. Digital computers now control engines. And all of these computers rely on fast-acting, reliable sensors. All of these sensors and computers require lots and lots of electrical wires, connections and harnesses. The sheer number of wires needed to control everything from automatic transmissions to power windows is overwhelming. But when things go wrong, it can be even more difficult to figure out where the problem lies. 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...