It's no secret -- your car needs fuel. Everyone knows that you put fuel into the tank to keep the car running. But have you ever stopped to think about how the fuel gets from the fuel tank into your engine? Take our quiz to find out how much you know about fuel injection systems.
The 1990 Subaru Justy was the last car sold in the United States to have a carburetor; the following model year, the Justy had fuel injection.
As the automobile evolved, the carburetor got more and more complicated trying to handle all of the operating requirements. For instance, to handle some of these tasks, carburetors had five different circuits: the main circuit, idle circuit, accelerator pump, power enrichment circuit and the choke.
Oxygen sensors monitor the amount of oxygen in the exhaust, and the engine control unit (ECU) uses this information to adjust the air-to-fuel ratio in real-time. This is called closed loop control -- it was not feasible to achieve this control with carburetors. There was a brief period of electrically controlled carburetors before fuel injection systems took over, but these electrical carbs were even more complicated than the purely mechanical ones.
At first, carburetors were replaced with throttle body fuel injection systems (also known as single point or central fuel injection systems) that incorporated electrically controlled fuel-injector valves into the throttle body. These were almost a bolt-in replacement for the carburetor, so the automakers didn't have to make any drastic changes to their engine designs.
As new engines were designed, throttle body fuel injection was replaced by multi-port fuel injection (also known as port, multi-point or sequential fuel injection). These systems have a fuel injector for each cylinder, usually positioned so that they spray right at the intake valve. These systems provide more accurate fuel metering and quicker response.
A fuel injector is nothing but an electronically controlled valve. It is supplied with pressurized fuel by the fuel pump in your car, and it is capable of opening and closing many times per second. When the injector is energized, an electromagnet moves a plunger that opens the valve, allowing the pressurized fuel to squirt out through a tiny nozzle. The nozzle is designed to atomize the fuel -- to make as fine a mist as possible so that it can burn easily.
The amount of fuel supplied to the engine is determined by the amount of time the fuel injector stays open. This is called the pulse width, and it is controlled by the ECU.
The injectors are mounted in the intake manifold so that they spray fuel directly at the intake valves. A pipe called the fuel rail supplies pressurized fuel to all of the injectors.
The manifold absolute pressure sensor monitors the pressure of the air in the intake manifold. The amount of air being drawn into the engine is a good indication of how much power it is producing; and the more air that goes into the engine, the lower the manifold pressure, so this reading is used to gauge how much power is being produced.
There are two main types of control for multi-port systems: The fuel injectors can all open at the same time, or each one can open just before the intake valve for its cylinder opens (this is called sequential multi-port fuel injection). The advantage of sequential fuel injection is that if the driver makes a sudden change, the system can respond more quickly because from the time the change is made, it only has to wait until the next intake valve opens, not for the next complete revolution of the engine.