Detonation can devastate a car engine in a relatively short period of time. Detonation happens when the air-fuel mixture inside of your cylinders combusts prematurely - in other words, before the piston has finished compressing it. The pressure generated in this manner works against the motion of the piston, causing potentially serious damage in the process.
Unfortunately, detonation commonly affects a majority of cars, thanks to the variety of factors that can contribute to it. If you would like to learn more about what it takes to keep detonation from damaging your engine, please read on. This article takes a closer look at three effective ways to prevent engine detonation.
1. Check Your Oxygen Sensor
Few factors influence your car's efficiency quite as much as the air-fuel ratio. This ratio expresses the relative amounts of air and gasoline that enter your engine. If the ratio skews too far in either direction, overall efficiency plummets. Not only that, but performance problems may also ensue.
A strong link exists between deformation and the problem known as lean fuel. Lean fuel contains more air than it should, relative to the amount of gasoline. As the piston compresses the lean fuel mixture, the extra air causes its temperature to rise above normal levels. In some cases, the fuel mixture becomes so superheated that it spontaneously combusts, causing detonation.
Most modern cars contain computers that closely monitor engine conditions such as the air-fuel ratio, using information provided by various sensors. The oxygen sensor, in particular, provides vital information for regulating the air-fuel ratio. Yet if an oxygen sensor goes bad or becomes covered by engine deposits, it may no longer provide useful information.
In other words, your car's computer may not be able to prevent detonation if something happens to be wrong with the oxygen sensor. For this reason, experienced mechanics often inspect and/or test the oxygen sensor when attempting to diagnose the cause of detonation.
2. Clean Out Carbon Deposits
Even if your air-fuel ratio remains within safe limits, the compressive forces in your engine's cylinders may still cause detonation. Of course, to do so, the compression must be much greater than usual. Such an increase in compression often stems from the buildup of carbon deposits inside of the engine and on the pistons themselves.
As deposits accumulate on a piston, they increase its size. At first, this change may not have any huge effect. Yet it will subtly increase the maximum amount of compression. Simply put, the size of the cylinder will be slightly smaller due to the carbon deposits. Once the compression has increased enough, it may lead to detonation.
3. Have Your Knock Sensor Replaced
As you surely know, automotive engines move at very high speeds. Even when at idle, an engine experiences between 600 and 1000 revolutions per minute. Such speeds mean that many hundreds of individual detonation events may be happening every minute. These detonations create a cumulative vibration inside of your engine.
Detonation produces a very specific vibration frequency. Most cars utilize a component known as a knock sensor to monitor for such vibration frequencies. If detected, your car's computer knows that detonation has become a problem and can attempt to eliminate it by making various changes.
Yet if your knock sensor has become damaged or has ceased to produce reliable measurements, detonation may be occurring without your computer's knowledge. In many cases, the problem can be eliminated simply by having the knock sensor replaced. This allows your car's computer to do its job and regulate engine conditions to promote detonation-free performance.
For more information about what it takes to keep detonation from damaging your engine, or affecting your car's performance, please contact our repair pros at Anderson Road Alignment.