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Car Electronics: Explained

In any branch of motorsport or performance car driving, two of the things drivers most want from their vehicles are reliability and consistency. When you’re pushing hard, you need to be as confident in your car as you are in your own driving ability. In recent years, many parts that were once driven mechanically have been replaced by high-precision electronic components. These are generally lighter, more reliable and more accurate than their older equivalents. They can help you to keep your car running at its full potential, warn you of possible failures before they happen and give you feedback while you’re out on the track. With some of the latest components, you can control things such as pumps, fans and fuel mixture controls from the steering wheel. Not having to remove your hands from the wheel means no loss of concentration, and that can be the difference between success and failure in motorsport.

Types of motorsport electronics

In modern competition, no car is likely to run successfully unless it has high-quality electronics on board. Some of them provide feedback, ranging from basic facts such as oil pressure and fuel levels, through details of your car’s battery condition, to more complex information such as turbo boost levels or even programmable computers that will compare your desired parameters with those currently in effect and change engine or transmission settings accordingly. Another class of motorsport electronics provides control, such as CTEK battery chargers which help to prevent your vehicle’s battery from deteriorating when stored off-road for long periods – perfect for a car that’s raced in the summer but kept in storage in the winter months. At the high end of the scale, fully-featured ECUs (Engine Control Units) allow you to tweak multiple settings to produce substantial increases in performance.

How can using these components help me?

Whether you’re an occasional track-day driver or a committed racer looking to make your hobby into a full-time career, it’s important that you get the full potential out of your car on each and every occasion. Think about the awkwardness of hunting for individual switches in the cockpit, then compare that with the ease of having them all neatly provided in a single switch panel. Starter motors are often put under great pressure, especially when racing in series with standing starts, so replacing a standard unit with a lightweight, high-quality starter motor can be worth its weight in gold. So can choosing the right gauges: although digital gauges are highly configurable, many drivers find a traditional analogue gauge easier to read at a glance. Many are available in both black-on-white and white-on-black versions; deciding can come down simply to personal preference.It’s important that you don’t overlook smaller electronic components, either. While the big-ticket items like starters and data-logging computers inevitably grab the attention, a competitive car is a complete package. That means that if you want to fit an on-board dash camera, it’s important to make sure that the mount and bracket are the right shape and will not come loose in the thick of the action. Similarly, gauges will not work properly if they are not securely wired. Don’t be tempted to skimp on these little things, as the most high-end motorsport electronics in the world will be useless if you can’t rely on them to work exactly when and how you want them to. A perfect example of this is fitting the right warning lights. A prompt warning from a lamp costing a couple of pounds can save you hundreds or even thousands down the line.

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