Understanding the Full Range Impact of Your Cummins ECM on Engine Performance



The first car production ECM to hit the markets was back in the 1980s. Since then, the ECM has significantly changed over the years and has grown to become a global standard. With that, so has the market perception changed.

To be precise, the global ECM market had hit 33.5 billion dollars by 2016. The growth margin is tremendously huge, with the market expected to hit a value of 48.3 billion dollars by 2020.

Why such tremendous growth?

Well, it's because of the numerous benefits you can get from installing an ECM. As we'll discuss, you should specifically consider picking a Cummins ECM.

If you have never installed one before, then you must probably have the following questions lingering in your head.

What is an ECM? What benefits do I get by installing one in my engine?

To get answers to these questions, plus more information on everything ECM, continue reading below.

What Is a Cummins ECM?

A Cummins ECM, fully known as an Engine Control Module or Engine Control Unit (ECU), is a device produced by Cummins Inc. that works in conjunction with a multitude of sensors and actuators to control the performance of the internal combustion engine in a vehicle.

The ECU does this by reading data sent it to it by sensors. These sensors are electric signal circuits which carry data on air flow rate, fuel flow rate, and engine temperature, among other data, that the ECM may need as input.

The Cummins ECM then takes this electronic data, interprets it using multidimensional performance maps and then uses a series of actuators to set the engine running at peak performance. It may do this by adjusting the air-fuel mixture ratio or adjusting the idle speed of the engine.

The end goal of the ECM is to ensure that your engine is running at optimum performance for the best fuel economy.

Apart from this goal, the ECM in modern vehicles is also used to control the infotainment system and a large array of other electronic systems that are vital within the vehicle but are not engine related.

Some of these systems include the traction control system and stability control system. Both these systems assist the driver control the vehicle.

Categories of ECM

There are two major categories of the ECM. We have the programmable and non-programmable ECMs.

Programmable ECM can be programmed to suit any aftermarket mods the engine owner may make. For instance, if the turbocharger gets changed, the programming of the Cummins ECM may need alterations.

This process is done via the use of a laptop where an ECM technician can load the program into the ECM and configure it to the new hardware.

Non-programmable ECM usually comes in with a stock program from the manufacturer that cannot be altered. This type of ECM is not preferred in the case where future mods are desirable to the vehicle's engine.

But from the manufacturer's point of view, this type of ECM is pivotal. It prevents unauthorized modifications in engine performance that may affect the desired fuel economy and emission values.

What Impact Does a Cummins ECM Have on Engine Performance?

The ECM uses its vast array of sensors and advanced algorithms to offer your engine the following benefits.

Better Fuel Economy

The basic Cummins ECM has been designed to optimize engine fuel economy. The ECM achieves this function by controlling the engine's idle speed, maximum RPM, and maximum road speeds.

In a study done by Transport Canada, it was found that these three factors bundled together were able to save truck companies up to 228 million liters of fuel per year. This culminated in a total trucking industry savings of about 200 million dollars.

How was the ECM used to achieve this?

According to the study, the ECM was programmed to limit the trucks to a maximum speed of 105km/hr. By reducing this speed further by 5km/hr, a fuel consumption reduction of 4-5% was seen.

In the ideal case, most trucks should drive at a maximum speed of 100km/hr for the most efficient operation.

Better Responsive Performance

A Cummins ECM improves the responsiveness of the engine, thus ensuring that its performance is at its peak under all conditions.

It does this by monitoring the engine's temperature, manifold absolute pressure, throttle position and engine speed. By obtaining data from these sensors, the ECM then adds more fuel to the fuel injection line when air flow mass increases, for a faster engine response.

The ECM may also add more fuel to the fuel injection system during cold weather, so as to warm up the engine and have it perform optimally.

Why would your engine need better responsive performance?

Better responsive performance means that your engine will be consuming fewer gallons of fuel to the mile. It also means that the car will be operating at higher performance values.

For instance, if you have your engine's ECM remapped, the horsepower can increase anywhere between 30 - 40hp. The torque can also ramp up by 80nm.

Fewer Emissions

Since the Cummins ECM is capable of controlling the air to fuel ration being fed to the engine, this gadget is capable of dictating the amount of tailpipe emissions that your engine produces.

A well-tuned ECM measures the air mass flow rate and calibrates the fuel injection system to the most appropriate air-fuel mixture ration. This ensures that optimum amount of fuel is burnt, thus fewer emissions are produced.

However, caution has to be taken when remapping an ECM. Poor remapping can lead to more harmful emissions. This is because, faulty or tampered software can affect the ECM readings, as it was the case in the infamous Volkswagen diesel scandal.

What Should I Do to Take Care of My Engine's ECM?

The ECM of your engine should be well-taken care off to avoid any fatal errors from occurring. Basically, your Cummins ECM should not be exposed to excessive heat and vibrations. Additionally, corrosions on the connections and metal parts can be harmful to the ECM.

As part of good maintenance practice, make sure your ECM is not in open contact with water at all times. Even shorts in the sensors can cause damage to the device. The sensors should also be regularly checked to ensure they have no clogs that may affect their readings.

This is important because most of the times, an ECM may provide faulty readings not because it is faulty, but because one of its sensors is malfunctioning. Since the work of the electronic unit is to only process data, any faulty data passed on to it will be processed and thus provide erroneous results.

Detecting Problems in the ECM

The ECM is supposed to log diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) when faulty. These codes help pinpoint where the fault is coming from. However, this is not the usual case in some Cummins ECM.

To help you figure out your ECM when it's faulty, here are a few symptoms you should look out for.

Check Engine Light Is On

Whenever an ECM runs into a fault in either one of its sensors or its circuitry, it illuminates the check engine light. However, sometimes the ECM may illuminate the check engine light mistakenly, with no apparent problem within the system.

The best way to diagnose your Cummins ECM at this stage is by going through the trouble codes logged in by the computer.

The Engine Is Underperforming

An underperforming engine can be a telltale sign of a faulty Cummins ECM. When an ECM gets faulty, its fuel injection timing gets thrown off.

The air-fuel ratio may also be affected. This may lead to reduced engine horsepower and torque output. The overall effect may be reduced fuel efficiency and acceleration.

Engine Misfiring or Stalling

A faulty ECM usually exhibits erratic behavior. This is reflected in engine performance where the engine erratically misfires or stalls. Most of the time, this is caused by mistiming by the ECM.

For instance, fuel injection may happen at the incorrect engine stroke, which may cause an engine misfire or a stall. The frequency of this behavior varies for an ECM at this state, since it exhibits this behavior in no specific pattern.

The Engine Is Not Starting

A Cummins ECM that is completely faulty may fail to start the car engine. This is because the vital inputs that the computer may require are not present or the computer chip that should process these inputs is completely dead.

In this case, the engine may still be able to crank, though it is not operational. It is advisable to seek full technician support once the ECM hits this stage.

Intermittent Loss of Spark

For a petrol engine, intermittent loss of Spark can be a telltale sign of a faulty ECM. This is because the ECM in this type of engine is responsible for timing the firing of the sparks.

In particular, a loss of spark can be a sign of a misfire or mistiming on the Cummins ECM's end.

Where Do Most ECM Faults Come From

Most ECM faults are usually blamed on the sensors that provide input to the computer. At other times, the Cummins ECM may be misbehaving because of a faulty wiring, voltage issue or power relay issue.

Also, a fault in the ECM memory can cause the ECM module to fail. The ECM memory is responsible for holding code and data that the computer chip uses to process all inputs being sent to it.

If the entire ECM has not failed, most of the common errors attributed to the ECM can be solved by replacing parts such as the ignition module or ignition coils, the idle control plugs, fuel injectors or faulty spark plugs.

In some instances, the power supply to the ECM may be the triggering cause and replacing it can bring the ECM back to top working conditions.

In the rare case where the whole ECM module has failed, an immediate replacement is unavoidable. In that case, continue reading to learn what you should do.

Replacing an Entire Cummins ECM

Before the entire ECM computer can be replaced in an engine, the engine information has to be keyed into the computer. In most instances, the information required is the year, model, make and VIN numbers of the engine.

Most of the time, the technician doing the replacement may key in this data, using a J2534 device or scanning tool. However, some manufacturers prefer doing this procedure on their own, provided you have given them the relevant information required.

If this installation is being done on newer vehicles, a relearn procedure is needed. This is to ensure the vehicle's anti-theft system recognizes the new ECM and integrates well with it.

The Cost of Replacing an ECM

In most local garages, inspection and testing of the ECM cost anywhere between $150 to $300. If the ECM is faulty, reprogramming or repairing it should cost anywhere between $300 to $500.

In the unfortunate scenario where the entire ECM has to be replaced, a labor cost ranging between $500 to $600 should be added on top of the replacement costs of the entire ECM.

Get an ECM and Enjoy Better Engine Performance Today

A Cummins ECU is exactly what you need to install on your vehicle's engine.

This ECM will not only guarantee you improved fuel economy, better engine responsiveness, and fewer greenhouse emissions but also it will add a lot of savings in your day to day operations.

The best way to get the best ECM is by visiting the ECM experts and receiving a quote.

Posted On: 27/04/2018

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