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An overview of the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and its

sensors for the Mitsubishi 4G93 Engine

D.A. Sen, A.A. Zainul Abidin

Dept. of Electrical Engineering, Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Malaysia

Keywords: Engine Control Module; ECM, Engine by 50 million a year) some 90 percent use oil – not
Control Unit; Mitsubishi 4G93 Engine; Fuel Injector Duty because of some vast oil company conspiracy, but
Cycle. because, by conventional measures, oil-fueled ICEs
generate more power, more efficiency, more value for the
Abstract: energy dollar, than any other fuel-technology pair [3].
Today’s automobile manufacturers strive to design Nearly a century of continual refinement has created a
automobiles that provide the best performance balanced staggeringly efficient machine [4].
against good efficiency. Efficiency has become a central
issue in the design of new engines because of the need to 2.0 Background of the Internal Combustion
meet tighter environmental regulations and the demand for Engine (ICE)
fuel frugal automobiles by consumers. At the heart of
each automobile is the engine, which serves as the Almost all ICEs currently use what is called a four-stroke
automobile’s power plant. Modern engines use software combustion cycle to convert petrol into motion. The four-
loaded in the engine’s Engine Control Module (ECM) to stroke approach is also known as the Otto cycle, in honor
optimize performance and efficiency of the engine. The of Nikolaus Otto, who invented it in 1867 [5]. They are:
ECM collects all sensor data, interprets and processes this • Intake stroke
data, and then sends out control signals necessary for the • Compression stroke
smooth and efficient operation of the engine. This paper
• Combustion stroke
will investigate how the ECM in the Mitsubishi 4G93
• Exhaust stroke
engine receives information from the various sensors. An
overview of the sensors’ operations is presented. Finally,
this paper looks at how this information is used to control
the firing of the spark plugs and the amount of fuel
injected by varying the duty cycle of the fuel injectors.

1.0 Introduction
The automobile powered by the Otto petrol engine was
invented in Germany by Karl Benz in 1885. Benz was
granted a patent dated 29 January 1886 in Mannheim for
that automobile [1]. By 1913, more than a million cars and
trucks were racing across America and Europe, and most
of them ran on petrol or diesel [2]. The key breakthrough
that led to the dominance of the internal combustion
engine (ICE) was that there was compression prior to
combustion. This not only increased the efficiency, but
also yielded a much higher power-to-weight ratio than
earlier compression-less engines such as the steam engine.

Today, the ICE is by far the most common power source

for the transport sector and will remain so; at least for the
foreseeable future. While alternative and renewable Figure 1: An illustration of several key components in a
energy technologies are available today, their typical four-stroke engine [6]
manufacturing costs, deployment issues, and required
infrastructure remain stumbling blocks to competing with Figure 1 illustrates the positions and dynamics of the
the ICE. Of the 750 million cars, trucks, and other crankshaft, piston, intake valve, exhaust valve, and a
vehicles now roaming the planet (and the number grows DOHC valvetrain configuration. The arrows indicate the
direction of movement of these reciprocating components combustion chambers. The sensors connected to the ECM
during the compression stroke. are:
• air flow sensor
The basic operation of a four-stroke cycle has remained • air intake temperature sensor
essentially the same for almost 150 years. Advances in • intake-manifold vacuum or manifold absolute
manufacturing technology, metallurgy, microprocessors,
pressure (MAP) sensor
and an overall better understanding of the science behind
• engine coolant temperature sensor
ICE operation, has led to the development of more
complex designs that continue to refine the ICE. • throttle position sensor
• oxygen sensor
Modern ICEs have moved away from the cam-in-block (or • Hall effect crankshaft sensor
OHV) systems in favor of overhead camshaft (OHC) • Hall effect camshaft sensor
valvetrain configurations. The carburetor, which is a
device which mixes air and fuel [7] has been replaced with In order to realize the decisions of the ECM into
fuel injectors and in some cases a servo controlled mechanical or combustion form, the ECM will send its
butterfly valve for more precise (and flexible) control. signals to two actuators which are:
Variable Valve Timing has been introduced by most major • spark plugs
automobile manufacturers to improve low-end torque and • fuel injectors
high-end power. The Engine Control Module (ECM) has
evolved from simple analogue circuits, to hybrid digital In order for the engine to have complete combustion, the
design with a look-up table, and finally to microprocessor air-fuel mixture must be correct. The stoichiometric ratio
based systems which can process the inputs from the for air-fuel in a petrol engine is 14.7:1. This means that,
engine sensors in real time [8]. volumetrically, 14.7 times more air than fuel is needed for
complete combustion. The complete combustion of air
3.0 Overview of the Mitsubishi 4G93 Engine and petrol yields carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O).
If there is not enough air then the combustion process will
The Mitsubishi 4G93 engine is a 1.8 liter double overhead be incomplete and produce carbon monoxide, nitrous
camshaft (DOHC) engine used as a power plant for cars oxides and unburnt hydrocarbons as unwanted byproducts.
like the Mitsubishi Lancer. A double overhead camshaft These emissions will cause air pollution in the form of
(also called double overhead cam, dual overhead cam or smog and acid rain.
twincam) valvetrain layout is characterized by two
camshafts being located within the cylinder head, where To combat the problem of automobile emissions, many
there are separate camshafts for inlet and exhaust valves governments worldwide have made it mandatory for all
[9]. new vehicles to be fitted with catalytic converters.
Catalytic converters convert carbon monoxide (CO),
nitrous oxides (NOx), and unburnt hydrocarbons into CO2
and H2O. However, as illustrated in Figure 3, the optimum
air-fuel ratio for a 3-way catalytic converter is 14.7:1.

When catalytic converters were made mandatory,

tetraethyl lead (TEL) which was used as an octane booster
in leaded petrol to prevent pinging or detonation had to be
removed. This is because lead poisons the catalytic
converter rendering it non-functional. This resulted in
lower compression ratios, and a loss of power. However,
the Mitsubishi 4G93 engine, as like many other modern
engines, has been able to improve its efficiency and power
to levels well above the older engines that used leaded
Figure 2: A cylinder head sliced in half shows two
petrol. This is thanks in part to the advancement in ECM
overhead camshafts—one above each of the two valves
algorithms, fuel injection technology and ignition timing.
As an open loop system, the ECM will have to calculate
It is a 4 cylinder inline engine that is available with either a
the amount of air entering the intake manifold before it can
turbocharger or as a normally aspirated engine. In order to
calculate the amount of fuel to deliver to each cylinder.
control the amount of air and fuel mixture the 4G93 uses
To do this, the air flow, air temperature and air pressure is
an Engine Control Module (ECM). The engine uses
measured. For example, if the temperature is low, the air
multipoint injection in delivering fuel to all the cylinders.
density will be high; therefore, more air will enter the
This would mean that each cylinder will have one
intake manifold. However, if the pressure is high, the air
designated injector. The engine also uses an electronic
density will also be high, thus more air will enter the
distributor-less ignition system to provide firing in the
intake manifold.
This temperature sensor is used to measure the
CO temperature of the air entering the intake manifold.
Generally, this is accomplished by means of a resistance
100 temperature detector or RTD. If the temperature of the
sensor falls then the resistance of the sensor will fall,
80 conversely, if the temperature increases then the resistance
will also rise.

Best operating Using a voltage divider circuit, a constant voltage will be

area for 3-way injected into the circuit. The voltage at the RTD, which is
Conversion catalyst connected in series with a constant resistor, is then
Efficiency % measured. When the temperature is high, the resistance
will be high; therefore the voltage across the RTD will
also be high. This will register as a high temperature in
20 the ECM.

4.3 Manifold Absolute Pressure Gauge

14:1 14.7:1 15:1 16:1 The pressure in the manifold is measured using a manifold
absolute pressure gauge (MAP gauge). The MAP gauge
Air-fuel Mixture Ratio will compare the pressure in the intake manifold to the
Rich Lean pressure of a specific vacuum. This provides a more
accurate measurement than the vacuum gauge because the
vacuum in a MAP gauge is fixed, whereas a vacuum gauge
Figure 3: The air-fuel mixture ratio “window”, within compares intake manifold pressure to atmospheric
which the air-fuel ratio must remain if the three way pressure, which varies.
catalytic converter is to work efficiently. (General Motors
Corporation) [11] The vacuum in a MAP gauge is separated from the intake
manifold pressure by a flexible diaphragm. The
To collect all this data the Mitsubishi 4G93 engine has diaphragm is connected to a strain gauge which will
many sensors. These sensors collect data and feed the convert the pressure to a voltage signal, which is then
information to the ECM. The ECM computes in real-time transmitted to the ECM as a varying voltage signal.
the correct amount of fuel to be injected into the cylinders
and the firing times of the spark plugs. 4.4 Coolant Temperature Sensor

4.0 Mitsubishi Engine Sensors The coolant temperature sensor functions like the air
intake temperature sensor. The reading from this sensor
4.1 The Air Flow Sensor will be used by the ECM to increase the amount of
supplied fuel when the coolant temperature is low –
In the case of the Mitsubishi 4G93 engine, the air flow is effectively taking the place of the traditional choke. As
detected using a hot wire induction type sensor. The the engine heats up, the ECM automatically reduces the
platinum wire is kept hot by current flowing through it. As amount of fuel injected by the fuel injectors.
air enters the manifold, this wire is cooled. The system
keeps the wire hot by increasing (or decreasing) the This sensor is also used by the ECM to switch on an
amount of current flowing through the wire. As more air electric fan that is used to cool the radiator when the
flows through the manifold, more current needs to flow coolant temperature is too high. The radiator fan’s cut-in
through the wire to keep the temperature constant. Thus and cut-out points are predefined in the ECM to maintain
air flow is measured by sensing the amount of current optimal engine temperature.
flowing through the wire.
4.5 Throttle Position Sensor
There are other ways of measuring the amount of air
entering the intake manifold. However, the measuring The throttle position sensor is used to control the idle
system used will depend on the car manufacturer. Usually speed of the engine. It is a rotary type sensor that uses a
Mitsubishi uses the hot wire induction method. Other wiper blade and resistance coil to form a simple voltage
methods include the vane system, the air flow sensor plate, divider. This configuration provides a voltage signal to
and the heated film method. the ECM.

4.2 Air Intake Temperature Sensor If the throttle is wide open the sensor will send a 5V signal
while if the valve is completely shut the sensor will send a
0V signal. The idle speed is controlled by a screw located over. This sensor will be the indicator for the ECM to
on the throttle body. The screw controls the set point of know if the piston has reached that point or not.
the throttle position sensor voltage.
The ECM will use the information gained from the sensors
4.6 The Oxygen Sensor above in order to activate the actuators to generate power
for the engine. The two type of actuators that are
The oxygen sensor will be used in order to measure the connected to the ECM are the fuel injectors and the spark
amount of oxygen that is left after the combustion process. plugs.
The oxygen sensor is about the size of a spark plug and
will produce a small voltage when it is exposed to oxygen. 5.0 Mitsubishi Engine Actuators
The voltage that the oxygen sensor produces is between
0.15V to 1.3V. This voltage is sent to the ECM to 5.1 The Spark Plug
determine weather the amount of fuel is to be increased or
decreased. The air-fuel ratio is correct when the oxygen The 4G93 is a four cylinder engine. Each cylinder has one
sensor reads 0.45V. spark plug to ignite the air-fuel mixture. The ECM will
first obtain the piston position from the camshaft and the
If the voltage drops below 0.45V, there is too much crankshaft position sensors. These readings will be sent to
oxygen and more fuel is needed. However, if the voltage the ECM through the ignition module. A decision of
rises above 0.45V, the oxygen content is too low and the which cylinder has reached TDC will be made by the
amount of fuel will have to be decreased. The oxygen ECM using the readings obtained from the ignition
sensor is also used to determine if the engine is working in module. The cylinder that has reached TDC will then be
open loop or closed loop because the oxygen sensor can given a signal through an ignition circuit. In our case the
only operate well at a temperature of between 200°C and 4G93 has 2 ignition coils. The ignition coil has 2
800°C. Below 200°C, the ECM will work in the open loop windings: a primary and a secondary winding. The signal
mode, without feedback on the content of oxygen in the from the ignition module will go into the primary winding
exhaust gases. and induce a voltage in the secondary winding, which
steps the voltage up to 25kV. This will cause the spark
4.7 The Hall Effect Crankshaft Sensor plug connected to the secondary winding to ignite.

The Hall Effect crankshaft sensor is used in order to 5.2 The Fuel Injectors
calculate the speed of the engine and, at the same time,
calculate the position of each cylinder. The transducer will The 4G93 uses solenoid operated fuel injectors. When the
send a voltage signal to the ECM via the ignition coil ignition key is turned on, there will be a voltage present at
module depending on the magnetic field detected. the solenoid. The fuel pump in the gas tank will also start
pressurizing the fuel lines at this time. A mechanical fuel
Using a stationary magnet, a transducer to detect magnetic regulator will allow some of the fuel to enter the fuel rail
fields, and three vanes that are connected to the crankshaft, and some to return back to the fuel tank. During
the Hall Effect crank sensor can determine the speed of the operation, the ECM will provide a ground signal when it
engine and the piston position. This is done by having the wants the solenoid to open. When the solenoid is open,
vanes move in between the stationary magnet and the the pressurized fuel from the fuel rails will spray out the
transducer. The vanes will cause the magnetic field fuel injector nozzle and enter the combustion chamber.
(produced by stationary magnet) that is sensed by the
transducer to have an interruption thus causing a change in The driver of the car will press the accelerator that will
the voltage sent to the ECM. When there is an open a butterfly valve which allows air to enter the intake
interruption, that is called an off signal and when there is manifold via the air cleaner or air filter. This air will then
no interruption that is called an on signal. How frequent enter the intake manifold. The ECM will use the readings
the on and off signals happen will be used by the ECM to from the following sensors to determine the duty cycle of
calculate the engine speed. Another signal from the the fuel injectors:
camshaft sensor will be used with the crank sensor in order • The air flow sensor
for the ECM to calculate the piston position. • Air intake temperature sensor
• Manifold absolute pressure gauge
4.8 The Hall Effect Camshaft Sensor • Coolant temperature sensor
• Throttle position sensor
Like the crank shaft sensor the camshaft sensor is also Hall • The oxygen sensor
Effect in nature. However rather than having vanes on the
camshaft, a permanent magnet is mounted on the cam shaft Figure 4 illustrates the various different fuel injector firing
gear. The camshaft is used to open and close valves in the profiles. These profiles are built into the ECM to allow
engine. The firing must occur a few degrees before Top the ECM to cater for the different driving condition.
Dead Center (TDC) just after the compression stroke is Transition between any two profiles is fully transparent to
the driver and occurs when the ECM determines that a References
specific profile is invalid. A new profile is then selected
based on the input from the sensors at the time. All this is
calculated by the ECM in real time.

Figure 4: The wider the pulse width, the longer the injector
is open and the greater the amount of fuel that sprays out
(Ford Motor Company) [12].

6.0 Conclusion

The Mitsubishi 4G93 engine is indeed a complex and well

tuned power plant that is able to deliver the best
performance in an economical manner. It is able to use
both open loop and closed loop control depending on
driving conditions. The development and integration of
the ECM into the automobile has greatly enhanced the
reliability, performance, and efficiency of the ICE.
Together with better aerodynamics and low rolling-
resistance tire technology, the ECM has contributed to
raising the average mileage of vehicles from 15mpg in
1975 to 21mpg in 2004 [13].
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[] P. Roberts, The End of Oil, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2005, pg 68.
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[] cycle_compression.jpg, 20 June 2006.
[], 20 June 2006.
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[], 15 June 2006
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[] W.H. Crouse & D.L. Anglin, Automotive Mechanics 10th Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1993, pg 226.
[] W.H. Crouse & D.L. Anglin, Automotive Mechanics 10th Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1993, pg 227.
[] C. Lave, A New CAFÉ, University of California – Berkeley, 2001, pg 2.