General Question

2davidc8's avatar

Question about cars, computers, and heat (please see details inside).

Asked by 2davidc8 (9701points) September 26th, 2016

I know that computers hate heat. It’s why we have cooling fans in our laptops and desktops.
But I also know that many of the functions in today’s cars are governed by computers (the transmission control module, for example). It’s also very hot in there under hood, and on some days, it’s hot everywhere, like today in the San Francisco Bay Area where it’s around 100 degrees in the East Bay. How come the computers in cars still work?

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7 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Much different kind of computer. A car’s computer or computers are what we call embedded systems. They are purpose built but still programmable. They run at much lower clock rates, have smaller architectures and at most may require a small heatsink. Computing in a car is also much more distributed. Think of your car as a big appliance.

LuckyGuy's avatar

All electronic circuits have an operating temperature range and a storage range.
There are 4 main types of temperature ranges.
“Commercial” which covers 0 to 70°C
“Industrial” which covers -40 to 85°C
“Military” which covers -70 to 100+°C
“Aerospace” which can be anything.
Silicon carbide SiC circuits can operate at 600°C
It is all a matter of cost. Commercial stuff is cheap.
The higher temperature technologies are more expensive.

Automotive circuits are built to survive full loads while in the desert. You can call it “industrial”

Cruiser's avatar

Car computers or not asked to run an operating system so much different demand for on board car comptuer modules than laptop or handhelds that have to run OS ‘s and other ad laden bs.

2davidc8's avatar

OK, thanks for all your replies. But is it possible for a computer-like car part to temporarily fail on a very hot day, yet work perfectly fine during milder weather?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Yes it is, a poorly designed or damaged one

LuckyGuy's avatar

@2davidc8 Yes it is possible You can have a “cold solder joint”(even if you are talking about hot). That is a condition where a connection is not secure and board expansion and contraction temporarily opens the circuit.
We used to look for those by spraying the circuit with cold spray. I’m sure it is still sold.

2davidc8's avatar

Thank you, @ARE_you_kidding_me and @LuckyGuy, for your replies!

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