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Data Analysis Fundamentals: Engine Health

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Engine Health

06.14

00:00 - While this course is focused mainly on improving your driving with the aid of data analysis, it doesn't really matter how late you're braking or whether you're taking the perfect lines if the engine lets go during your first lap because you've got a problem that you could have picked up and acted on to prevent it.
00:16 For this reason, it's still valuable to have a basic understanding of the engine and what red flags you should be looking for.
00:23 There's a lot going on inside our race engines and many potential ways of failure can occur.
00:29 There are however a few key elements we can keep an eye on to help prevent a potential failure or at least notice that something isn't right.
00:38 With this in mind, a quick glance at the engine health data should be done after every track session prior to diving into any driver analysis.
00:47 Of course to be able to do this, you're going to need to have a way of analysing the engine channels and this won't be possible with the simplest of our entry level options.
00:56 In my experience, easily the most common cause of engine failure on a racetrack is due to oil starvation.
01:02 This is particularly common on production road cars that are modified for racing use as their wet sump design just can't do a good enough job of controlling oil under the higher G forces experienced while braking and cornering.
01:16 As long as you're logging oil pressure though, this is easy to notice.
01:21 We can do this by looking at a time/distance graph of the oil pressure and scrolling through each lap of the session noting the minimum oil pressure.
01:29 This is made easier by displaying the minimum and maximum values on the graph and simply jumping through each lap while noting the minimum value.
01:38 Another option is to use a channel report which can show us which lap the minimum oil pressure was recorded and if the value is alarming we can choose to investigate further.
01:48 It's hard to be specific about oil pressure as it will vary with RPM and oil temperature, not to mention oil viscosity.
01:55 The general rule of thumb has always been that we should have approximately 10 psi per 1000 RPM.
02:02 As an example if we were at 6000 RPM we should have around 60 psi.
02:08 Another quick way to damage your engine is to overheat it and this goes for the water temperature as well as the oil.
02:14 The water temperature should be a channel that the driver can watch on the dash but that's not to say you're always going to notice it spiralling out of control so we should never assume.
02:24 Analysing oil and water temp can be done in the same way as the oil pressure.
02:28 Analysing the max values in a time graph while cycling through the laps.
02:33 Or in a channel report which will show your max and min values.
02:38 This leaves the question of what is the correct temperature and again there aren't too many absolutes.
02:44 Personally I try to run my water temperature between 80 and 90°C and would be concerned if I was seeing the coolant running consistently above 100°C.
02:53 That's not necessarily to say that damage is going to occur at 100°C but at best the performance is likely to start to drop away.
03:02 A safe oil temperature will depend on your oil and a modern full synthetic will be safer at a higher temperature than a mineral based oil.
03:10 We also need to consider that running the oil too cold is also bad for the engine.
03:15 Generally, I'd like to see the oil sitting between about 100 and 115°C.
03:21 If the oil gets much over 130 then I'd be considering a better cooling solution.
03:26 With the core basics covered, we also need to consider two more aspects.
03:30 Fuel pressure and battery voltage which can often end up being tied together.
03:35 While our automotive battery systems are generically referred to as 12 volt, the reality is that when the car is running the alternator will be charging the battery and the actual voltage in the system is going to be about 13.8 to 14.2 volts.
03:51 If this voltage drops then it can affect the operation of the ECU controlling the engine in an EFI application and this may result in problems with fuel delivery or ignition control.
04:01 One of the big problems with low battery voltage is that an electric fuel pump may no longer be able to pump enough fuel which can result in the fuel pressure dropping and in turn the engine may run lean which can be dangerous.
04:15 Monitoring battery voltage is easy with a time graph or a channel report.
04:19 But it's worth understanding that a minor drop in voltage as the RPM climbs is quite normal and may be nothing to worry about.
04:26 What would be more concerning would be the voltage dropping constantly lap after lap.
04:32 And this is where having some historic idea of what's normal for that car can be helpful.
04:37 The fuel pressure is a little trickier to monitor because the correct fuel pressure will depend on the type of engine and fuel system.
04:44 For example a carburettor may require a consistent 5 to 8 psi but an EFI engine may require anything from 45 to 60 psi or more.
04:55 To make matters a little trickier again, the fuel pressure in an EFI engine may also fluctuate as manifold pressure changes or it may stay fixed, depending on the type of fuel system.
05:07 Again, this is an area where some historic data can be helpful to know what's normal.
05:12 If you're using a professional tuner for the engine tuning then they will also be able to offer advice on what's normal and when you should be worried.
05:20 If your engine runs a fixed fuel pressure, then a channel report is a great way to spot a low fuel pressure anomaly.
05:26 However if your fuel pressure varies with manifold pressure then the time graph makes it easier to spot trends associated with the fuel pressure dropping.
05:34 If you want to get fancy then this is a great place to incorporate a math channel to create a differential fuel pressure channel.
05:40 This is simply the fuel pressure minus the manifold pressure and this channel should remain relatively static irrespective of throttle position or RPM.
05:49 With a forced induction engine we also want to take note of the boost pressure since excessive boost can easily stress or damage the internal engine components.