PCM in Cars – What Is It And How Does It Work?
Cars available nowadays in the market are mostly automatic and complicated machinery equipped with computers and other electrical components. However, these computers and electrical components have made car owners' lives easier as one does not have to keep an eye on every part of his or her car.
The powertrain control module (PCM) in cars controls these computer systems and alerts a vehicle’s driver by illuminating the check engine light on a car's dashboard. PCM is an essential component in modern vehicles, and this blog aims to explain what it is and how it works.
What Is a PCM in Cars?
A car’s PCM refers to the powertrain control module, which functions in a similar way to a person’s brain. Most modern cars and even some trucks are equipped with features requiring a certain amount of computerisation. The PCM is an essential computerised module, and it controls 2 primary components of a vehicle's powertrain, and they are:
Usually, a PCM performs and automates over 100 functions for a single vehicle. It is connected to several sensors which are placed throughout your vehicle. The PCM receives information from sensors in every part of your vehicle and takes decisions based on this information.
In simpler terms, it is among the many microprocessors we see in modern cars. These control everything from power windows to climate control systems of a car. This module uses these processors to control and coordinate the functions of various components. For example, it can turn down the throttle to smoothly transition a car’s gears.
You may have heard of terms like ECM or Engine Control Module and TCM or Transmission Control Module. In most cars, these two are an integral part of the PCM. However, in certain cars, the ECM may not be a part of the PCM, but together with TCM, they ensure that a vehicle runs smoothly.
How Does PCM in Cars Work?
The Engine Control Module in your car takes the information from various sensors that are fitted inside the vehicle and, based on it, adjusts your car's engine accordingly. This allows your car to move smoothly while driving.
Additionally, this ECM takes information from other components like the cooling system, air intake, exhaust system and other components. It can also change a car's engine later based on the information it has received from the many sensors.
On the other hand, a TCM also controls numerous other components in a vehicle. Like ECM, the TCM also collects data from these sensors and manages transmission. Additionally, the TCM is only present in automatic cars alongside ECM, but manual transmission only consists of an ECM.
In modern cars with automatic transmission, the PCM controls both these modules as well as the vehicle’s powertrain. In other words, it does the functions of both the ECM and TCM.
What Does the PCM in a Car Do?
The PCM is a vehicle’s main on-board computer and works like its brain. The following is a list of some of the functions of a vehicle’s PCM:
- Air to Fuel Ratio- It uses information from ECM and adjusts the air to fuel ratio in a car's engine. These ratios differ from one model to another. However, the PCM works its best to bring it to an optimal ratio as set by a vehicle’s manufacturer.
- Transmission Control: In cars lacking a separate TCM, the PCM controls all the transmission-related functions. It monitors and controls the electronic steering, Body Control Module, ABS module, traction control module, lighting modules, etc.
- Error Monitoring- PCM finds errors in a car and tries to rectify these errors. If it cannot rectify the error on its own, it will alert the driver in time.
- Ignition Timing- This unit also controls the time at which spark plugs fire. Moreover, it will adjust fuel economy and performance based on drivers' throttle control.
- Idle Speed- It also controls a vehicle's engine's idle RPM, so if a car is parked and the driver switches on the car's AC, the engine starts accelerating to provide the energy demand. PCM's job is to keep the engine in check, so it does not spend unnecessary fuel.
PCM is essential in modern vehicles and can be located in different parts in different makes and models of cars. The engine bay is the most common location where one can find PCM in cars. However, in some models, you can find these covered and situated near a car's windshield. Keeping this module well-maintained is extremely important for road safety.