Emily Chung: Mummy Mechanic


Updating Your Engine's Computer

Even your car might want an occasional flash

If you know anything about product testing, you'll know there's always the ideal world and then there's.... reality. Your car is no exception to this rule. When the vehicle is designed and manufactured, often faults aren't discovered until well after the car is on the road. Or what happens in the ideal world (at the design and testing stages) isn't a true reflection of the real world. 

Consider the recalls that come out from car manufacturers. They notice a problem with the car after it's hit the market despite all the product testing that was done previously. Many of you who use Microsoft Windows will know that there are always updates available to fix various bugs for even the newest release of Windows. 
It's becoming more common that your car's computer may need to have its software updated to correct driveability and emissions related issues. This is referred to as an ECU (engine control unit) flash or a PCM (powertrain control module) reprogram. Sometimes the parameters set at the factory level are too sensitive for real-world application so a simple flash will often correct that. With cars becoming more technologically advanced, the ECU constantly reads signals from various components to control systems such as power accessories, climate control and engine performance. 
Don't worry, an ECU flash isn't something that you need to keep on top of for maintenance. But if your technician ever says that they need to reprogram or flash the ECU/PCM, at least you'll know what that means!