Introduction to modern car electronics
Modern cars are full of electronics we typically think very little of when driving a vehicle. Let's try to break it down a bit for easier understanding and laying foundation for full-featured exploration of computer based automotive diagnostics.
My name is Gytis Repečka, I am Data Engineer very interested in automotive diagnostics on my spare time.
I used to run Lithuanian automotive website AutoNews.lt from 2005 till 2011. Few years later I've started my journey with OBD-II tools when my daily car started showing famous “Check Engine” light. Disappointed by uninformative results received from local repair shop I decided my computer science background might help combining work experience with long-time passion towards cars. Now I want to share my insights with you in this new blog. You might wonder why this blog is so plain – well, because I got tired of heavyweight, ad-filled websites.
But let's come back to cars and start from the beginning.
Deep dive into digital world happens way before we even get into our vehicle: as soon as you press a button on your key to disarm security system or approaching the car with keyless entrance system by just having a special card in your pocket. Comfort system might greet you and adjust seat and mirror settings stored personally for you even before engine is started.
So in most cases we tend to identify electronics with gadgets that we interact with directly by pressing, tapping or just by watching them fading, zooming and capturing our attention – such are modern infotainment (word comes from “information” and “entertainment”) systems.
As electrical components play a critical role in the functioning of modern vehicle, form a complicated wired and nowadays even wireless network with hundreds of connections.
Hillier's Fundamentals of Automotive Electronics Book 2 (Sixth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2014) suggests approaching vehicle's circuitry by dividing the entire electrical sphere into separate systems:
- Power supply system
- Engine management system
- Ignition system
- Lighting system
- Instrumentation system
- Windshield system
- Signaling systems
- Climate control and ventilation system
- Locking and security system
- Drive management system
- Supplemental restraint system (SRS)
- In-car entertainment system
While I will not be going deep into car fundamentals now, you will see later on why it is important to understand main principles before exploring automotive diagnostics systems and OBD-II scanners.