Electronic fuel injection is a type of technology and mechanical structure that supplies fuel to an engine. These systems are most common in automobiles and trucks. All cars sold today in the United States are required to have electronic injection systems in large part because of these systems’ overall efficiency and reliability, and most new cars manufactured around the world rely on electronic models for similar reasons. The earliest cars used carburetors to transfer fuel between chambers. Carburetors are still very common in small appliances and machinery, but as cars became more advanced and complex it became harder and harder for carburetors to keep up. Electronic models use a series of circuits and pressure gauges to open and close fuel valves with precision and at high speeds. A series of sensors positioned throughout the engine helps keep the process running smoothly and can also be a quick means or identifying problems and needed repairs.
Engine Mechanics on a Basic Level
The engineering and science behind how engines work can be fairly complicated, but on a very basic level their main purpose is to take a fuel, usually petroleum gasoline or diesel, and convert it into energy that can be harnessed to produce motion. There are a number of steps in this process, but getting the fuel out of its tank and into the engine’s combustion chamber is one of the most critical. Electronic fuel injection (EFI) is the modern market standard, at least for cars. It’s a precise technology that is able to deliver just the right amount of fuel in response to driver command and engine needs.
Progressing Past the Carburetor Model
Though the vast majority of cars and trucks throughout the world today embrace an EFI model, earlier automobiles had carburetors, which were less efficient. Some other types of small engines, such as lawnmowers or rototillers, still use carburetors, as do many older cars still on the roads. These are more prone to failure and can be expensive to fix.
The first electronic injection systems were throttle body systems, or single point systems, and featured an electrically controlled fuel injector valve. Later, these were replaced by more efficient multi-port systems, which have a separate fuel injector for each cylinder. The latter design is better at metering out fuel accurately to each cylinder, and also provides for a faster response.
Focus on Efficiency
Although an electronic fuel injection system is much more complicated than a carburetor, it is also much more efficient. The injector is a type of valve that is controlled electronically, which opens and closes and supplies atomized fuel to the engine. It sprays fuel into the intake valves directly in the form of a fine mist. The injector opens and closes rapidly, and the pulse width, or the amount of time it stays open, determines how much fuel goes into the valve. Fuel is supplied to the injectors by a fuel rail.
Role of the Sensors
Several sensors are included as part of the system, mostly to ensure that the correct amount of fuel is delivered to the injectors and then to the intake valves. These sensors include an engine speed sensor, voltage sensor, coolant temperature sensor, throttle position sensor, oxygen sensor, and airflow sensor. In addition, a manifold absolute pressure sensor monitors the air pressure in the intake manifold to determine the amount of power being generated.
In a sequential fuel injection system, the injectors open one at a time, in conjunction with the opening of each cylinder. Some other injection systems may open all injectors simultaneously. The sequential option is advantageous because it allows for faster response when the driver makes a rapid change.
The entire injection system is controlled by an electronic control unit (ECU), which functions as a central exchange for information coming in from all the various sensors. The ECU uses this information to determine the length of pulse, spark advance, and other elements. The ECU has several safety features built in, including a fuel cut parameter and top speed parameter.