The Engine Control Unit (ECU) or Engine Control Module (ECM) is the main electronic module that controls most functions in modern cars. The ECU receives signals or data from different parts of the car, interprets the data, and sends back feedback for controlling the car's functions. Below are some of the signs that should tell you the ECU is acting up.

Check Engine Light

The ECU controls many functions of the engine, so it makes sense that engine functions might malfunction if the ECU is malfunctioning. Engine malfunctions will then light up the "Check Engine" warning light. The ECU can also light up the engine warning light the minute it senses problems with the electronics or sensors, such as oxygen sensors.

Car Not Starting

The ECU also plays a role when it comes to starting the car. For example, some engines are designed to only run if they are receiving adequate engine oil. The ECU monitors the level of oil pressure to prevent engine damage due to low pressure. Unfortunately, an ECU malfunction can send incorrect signals of low oil pressure, preventing the engine from starting and functioning as usual.

Erratic Engine Behavior

In many cases, your car's engine will just start up with its ECU problems, but the engine functions will suffer. For example, the engine might stall because it is not getting enough power (for example, if the fuel supply is low). The engine can also stall or emit more exhaust than usual. Needless to say, your car won't be as powerful as it usually is.

Shifting Problems

The ECU also handles the shifting of gears in automatic cars. The computer uses acceleration, braking, and deceleration feedback to determine the correct timings for different gears. Thus, it's no surprise that a malfunctioning ECU can trigger shifting problems. Don't be surprised if your car is jerking or delaying gears, just as it would do if it had gear problems, even without gear problems.

Reduced Efficiency

All the above problems are likely to reduce your car's efficiency. As mentioned above, the car will be struggling to run because of the reduced power. The car will experience reduced gas mileage without any other valid explanation for the same.

As you can see, the ECU is a pretty big deal as far as car components are concerned. At the same time, ECU problems can also mimic problems in other parts of the car. Thus, it's critical to get a professional diagnosis if you suspect ECU problems; that way, you will be able to deal with the real problem.

To learn more about your car's ECU, contact a mechanic offering auto services in your area.