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Drive By Wire

Also known as Electronic throttle.

Electronic throttle control (ETC) is a technology which electronically "connects" the accelerator pedal to the throttle, replacing a mechanical linkage. A typical ETC/DBW system consists of three major components:

  1. an accelerator pedal module (ideally with two or more independent sensors),
  2. a throttle valve that can be opened and closed by an electric motor and
  3. an engine control unit (ECU/PCM/ECM).

The ECU determines the required throttle position by calculations from data measured by other sensors, including the accelerator pedal position sensors, engine speed sensor, vehicle speed sensor, antilag request switch etc. The electric motor is then used to open the throttle valve to the desired angle via a closed-loop control algorithm within the ECU.

The benefits of electronic throttle control are largely unnoticed by most drivers because the aim is to make the vehicle power-train characteristics seamlessly consistent irrespective of prevailing conditions, such as engine temperature, altitude, and accessory loads. Electronic throttle control is also working 'behind the scenes' to dramatically improve the ease with which the driver can execute gear changes and deal with the dramatic torque changes associated with rapid accelerations and decelerations.

Electronic throttle control facilitates the integration of features such as traction and boost control, gear change blipping, antilag/over run boost and others that require torque management, since the throttle can be moved irrespective of the position of the driver's.

Most vehicle manufacturers began introducing Drive by wire/Electronic throttles in the early 2000’s and virtually every car produced today now has at least one.

If you are unsure if your engine has DBW consult your vehicle dealer.

Do I need  DBW control?

If your engine is in its original host vehicle and has DBW factory then it is difficult to not use it.
If your engine has DBW but is in something like an Off road buggy or boat then the DBW throttle can be replaced by a conventional cable driven one.

Cam Control (VCT)

Variable Camshaft Timing allows for more optimum engine performance, reduced emissions, and increased fuel efficiency compared to engines with fixed camshafts. It uses electronically controlled hydraulic valves that direct high pressure engine oil into the camshaft phaser cavity. These oil control solenoids are bolted into the cylinder heads towards the front of the engine near the camshaft phasers. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) transmits a signal to the solenoids to move a valve spool that regulates the flow of oil to the phaser cavity. The phaser cavity changes the valve timing by rotating the camshaft slightly from its initial orientation, which results in the camshaft timing being advanced or retarded. The ECU adjusts the camshaft timing depending on factors such as engine load and RPM.

Most vehicle manufacturers began introducing VCT in the early to Mid 2000’s and virtually every car produced today now has at least one fully variable camshaft.

If you are unsure if your engine has VCT consult your vehicle dealer.

Do I need cam control?

If your engine has it standard then usually yes.

In some cases where an engine is naturally aspirated and has highly modified cams designed for racing in a narrow engine speed range then the camshaft phasers can be locked up negating the requirement of cam control.

Knock Control

Knocking (also called detonation) in engines, occurs when combustion of the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder does not start off correctly in response to ignition by the spark plug. In most cases one or more pockets of air/fuel mixture explode outside the envelope of the normal combustion front and these explosions can lead to serious engine damage.

Most racing engine failures are caused by knock or detonation with the main reason for this being  that to extract maximum power from the engine the tuner often has to calibrate the ECU with settings that are close to causing knock. If the calibration is not done thoroughly or unexpected conditions occur, severe detonation can result with the likely catastrophic failure of the engine to follow. It is for this reason that racing fuel were developed with better fuels having higher octane ratings which prevent the onset of detonation.

Most Turbocharged engines in vehicles have run knock control since the nineties to manage the possibility of the incorrect octane fuel being added to the vehicle but as the demand for more power from smaller engines increased, higher compression ratio’s in Naturally aspirated engines meant that knock control was utilised in these applications also.

Virtually every new car engine has it today.

Do I need knock on my older engine?

It's always a good insurance policy to have the feature there but if the engine doesn’t have a sensor factory and you are not lifting the compression ratio or adding forced induction then it may not be an essential feature. If the rules allow a high octane fuel to be used and the the compression ratio or boost are not more than 10% higher than standard then detonation is unlikely on a well tuned engine.