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By: Jason Giacchino
Email: offthepegs @ atvsource.com

March 2009 - Off The Pegs

Fuel Injection Rejection

Fuel Injector Spray
Fuel Injector Spray

Dyno Jet Power Commander
Dyno Jet Power Commander

I’m constantly bombarded with conflicting emotions about the industry’s unofficial move away from carburetion and into fuel injection. For the most part, and being a tech-geek by nature, I welcome the digital age as it pertains to ATVs. After all, the carburetor has been around for a long, long time. The technology involved with its bobbing floats and ultra-sensitive jets dates back to a time when engines themselves were much less complicated and performed to much lower demands. I suppose the carb still had a honest chance for supremacy back in the two-stroke era of where tuning or making adjustments was still a fairly reasonable option and commonly took place at race tracks all across the globe, sometimes even between motos!

While the four-stroke revolution has been credited for rejuvenating the OEM race ATV effort, the non-oil-burning mills brought with them quite a bit of complexity. Racers and backyard mechanics alike can share tales of endless frustration in trying to dial in a modern four-stroke carburetor only to get everything back together before realizing the changes made were all wrong. The proverbial writing was on the wall through the sheer number of jets, circuits, and accelerator pumps required in an effort to mate the antiquated carburetor to the modern performance engine. In the two-stroke days, rejetting was not only simpler but it was more rewarding and certainly more instantaneous in letting the rider know whether or not what they did was in fact an improvement. EFI does away with almost all of the guesswork that separated the true tuners from the wannabes in the old days.

Of course, the technology required to bring fuel injection to the ATV scene isn’t exactly cutting edge either. In fact, for the most part, it’s been around for quite a while. The biggest hang up for engineers to overcome was the added weight of a generator, fuel pump, and battery. The four strokes managed to solve a big part of this issue without even trying through the use of electric starting, which already demanded a battery be present.
 
Arguably, perhaps the biggest negative to the switch is the increased cost associated with making changes to the fuel mixture. While tedious and imperfect by nature, carb jetting changes were typically cheap. These days EFI demands expensive software for laptop computers or a self-contained device (such as a Power Commander) to make alterations. The cost can often accumulate to several hundred dollars not counting the cost of the computer itself. This has many riders investing in universal programmers that can continue to be used even if the rider decides to switch brands or if the manufacturer completely obsoletes a past model with an updated one.
 
I bring all of this up because I’ve just recently attended a Kawasaki press meeting that pertained exclusively to the fuel injection technology being made standard on some of their 2009 models. Not only have the manufacturers mastered attaining fuel injection without the use of a battery (but rather through a capacitor which stores the electrical charge produced by the kickstarter) but they’ve also gone above and beyond with what was conceivably possible with the software packages accompanying the fuel injection system.
 
“Team Green’s” software will not only allow the rider to fine tune fuel maps and spark advance but it will also store telemetry from a ride for later analysis. Say what? Indeed, say on your third lap out, you happened to feel a bog while charging through the whoops or a slight hesitation on the face of the double; this new system can graph the entire ride out on your computer screen so that you can identify exactly why it happened and how to prevent it from happening again. Until now, this type of technology has been limited to factory riders and mechanics.
 
While I’m unbelievably excited about these innovations for the simple fact that this is truly the dawning of a whole new age of technology in the off-road arena. Computers may be able to remove what little guesswork remains in the equation of engine performance but one can’t help but wonder what this will do to the backyard mechanic or small-engine-tinker with a small workbench in the shed? The sad news is that as our ATVs become more complex, fewer individuals will have the skill, technology, or confidence to repair them. The foreign car tuner scene went through a similar dilemma a few years back. Like most industries, a compromise was eventually established where mechanics were forced to come to grips with electronics and computers in addition to wrenches and sockets. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt were left out in the cold.


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