Different Ways of Handling Changes in Temperature on Modular ECUs

Like it or not, engines need to operate over a range of temperatures, both ambient and the temperature of the engine itself. The engine has to be above the ambient temperature because it generates heat, and the only way to get rid of the heat is to have it above the ambient temperature. The higher the temperature, the faster the heat rejection by Newton’s Law of Cooling, so most engines are designed from the factory to run a bit under the boiling point of water.

However we want the air temperature going into the engine to be as cold as possible to maximise its density, subject to other considerations such as fuel condensing out of suspension and so on.

Fuel can also change in temperature, although that’s discussed in the injector model video, not in this one.

Because of all these factors, what ECUs have traditionally done is to have a set of coolant temperature based fuel trims and air temperature based fuel trims. Often these tend to interact and produce unexpected results. So this article describes the different ways in which the Modular ECU can handle changes in temperature.

The first way is our preferred method which is called Charge Temperature Estimation. This is selected in the main tuning modes page. Rather than having separate corrections for air temperature and coolant temperature, the ECU estimates the charge temperature and uses this single variable instead to calculate the air density.

The charge temperature is estimated using the heat soak percentage map, which can be found under fuel tuning -> temperature corrections.

This percentage relates to how severe the heat soak effect is. Normally the intake manifold will heat up to the engine’s operating temperature, so the temperature of the air going into the engine will be some where in between the temperature of the incoming air and the coolant temperature. A value of 100% in this map means that the ECU only looks at the coolant temperature – so this would be an extreme case where the temperature of the incoming air, measured by the air temperature sensor, is irrelevant because the heat soak effect is so strong that the air is at engine temperature when it goes into the cylinder. A value of 0% would mean that there’s no heatsoak at all, and that the air temperature sensor gives you the actual temperature of the air going into the cylinder. The closest case to this I can think of would be a naturally aspirated, individual throttle engine with an extremely short inlet tract and no plenum, but even that would have some heat soak effect.

In practice the heat soak effect is greater at low engine speeds, and at low manifold pressures. So at idle it might be as high as 70%, but at higher engine speeds on boost it might be as low as 20%. These are the starting points that I use and then adjust them manually if I notice a temperature compensation problem.

If the mixture gets richer as the air temperature increases but coolant temperature remains the same, that means that the heat soak value is too low and the ECU needs to weight the value from the air temperature sensor more heavily. If the mixture gets leaner as the air temperature increases but coolant temperature remains the same, then that means the ECU is giving too much weight to the air temperature sensor and the heat soak percentage should be reduced.

Because the charge temperature is used as part of the air mass calculation, there should be no need for any additional correction, and therefore the charge temperature fuel trim table should be left at zero. However if you do want to many any changes manually, this is where it is done. You can trim the value differently at different loads as well if you only want to make the difference on vacuum or on boost.

If you want to do the temperature trims manually instead, then you can disable the manifold heat soak system in the tuning modes setup page.

Then the ECU will use the air temperature as the variable in the air mass calculation, and any trims that you want to apply on top of this must be placed in the separate air temp and coolant temp trim tables.

Setting up engines so they behave correctly over a wide range of temperatures can be fiddly if you have to do it all manually, but we find that with the charge temperature model, the theory actually gets the fuel calculation pretty close and very little adjustment is required on top of this.

Thank you very much!