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Term Definition
Absolute Total or true pressure. Gauge pressure plus atmospheric pressure.
Absolute Sensor Sensor that includes the atmospheric pressure in its reading. This sensor
provides a reading of approximately 14.7psi at sea level when reading
atmospheric pressure.
AC Alternating Current
Accelerator Sensor used to determine the relative position of the accelerator pedal.
Position Sensor
Actuator A solenoid that positions a valve as needed to provide the control commanded
by the ECM.
Advanced Injection that occurs earlier in the compression stroke when compared to base
Injection Timing timing. With advanced timing the start of injection occurs more crank angle
degrees before top dead center (BTDC).
Algorithm Software stored in the ECM that is used to establish a step-by-step procedure
to determine a value based on inputs from engine sensors. This value is used
to provide output to various devices on the engine.
Alternating The electrons flow first in one direction in the circuit and then in the opposite
Current direction at regular time intervals.
Alternator A power source that supplies electrical force necessary to cause electrical
current flow in a circuit.
Ammeter A tool used to measure current flow in a circuit.
Ampere The unit of measure for current flow.
Assembly A type of diagram that shows the physical relationship of components for the
Diagram purpose of manufacture or repair without including electrical information
related to the function or troubleshooting of the system.
Atom The building blocks that create all matter. Atoms are made up of three basic
particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons.
Backlash The amount a shaft is allowed to move in a rotational direction or the
clearance between the teeth of two gears in mesh.
Bar A unit of pressure equal to 14.5 psi.
Battery A common source of Direct Current voltage.
bHp Brake Horsepower
Bore The diameter of an engine cylinder.
Brake The amount of power available for useful work
Butt Splice Used to repair damaged wires. The butt splice uses a soft collar and an
Connector insulating sleeve to make the connection between the new wire section and
the existing wiring harness.
Capacitor A device for storing electrical energy.
Circuit Breaker A circuit protection device. Excess current will cause the circuit breaker to trip,
the circuit is opened, and current can no longer flow.
Closed Circuit A complete path through which current can flow.
Combination Sensors that contain both pressure and temperature sensors in one housing.
Compression The ratio of cylinder volume with the piston at bottom dead center and the
Ratio cylinder volume with the piston at top dead center.
Compressor The portion of the turbocharger that is driven by the turbine.
Conductor Provides a path for the electrons to move between the power source and the
Conventional The apparent movement of the positive charges from the positive battery post
Flow to the negative battery post.
Corrosion A buildup on a connector, caused by chemical reaction that can prevent good
contact. This has the effect of insulating the connector.
Crankpin The cylindrical piece to which a connecting rod is attached
Current The measure of the number of electrons passing a point in a circuit.
DC Direct Current
De-aeration The removal, bleeding or purging of air
De-aeration A self bleeding type of cooling system that fills from the bottom up. The
System incoming coolant pushes the air out of passages at the top of the engine,
purging air from the system
Digital Multi- One tool combining the capabilities of a voltmeter, ammeter, and ohmmeter in
meter one piece of test equipment.
Diode An electrical one way check-valve. A rectifier.
Direct Current The flow of electrons is in one direction from a source, through the circuit, and
back to the source.
Displacement The volume marked out by a piston as it travels from the top of its stroke to the
bottom. For a multicylinder engine the total engine displacement is the
displacement of one cylinder multiplied by the number of cylinders in the
ECM (Electronic A computer portion of the electronic control system that is responsible for
Control Module) engine control, diagnostics, and user features. This component receives
signals from engine sensors and OEM switches. It contains software based
control algorithms and diagnostic algorithms. These algorithms process the
input signals and transmit signals to the appropriate output devices.
Electron A basic particle of an atom. Electrons have a negative charge or polarity. The
electrons orbit around the nucleus in layers.
Electron Current Electron movement flowing from the negative terminal of the source, through
Flow the conductors to the load, and back to the positive terminal.
Emissions The various chemical compounds released into the atmosphere after
combustion has taken place.
End Play The amount a shaft can travel in a fore and aft direction.
Engine Speed The sensor that is used to determine engine speed and crankshaft position
Sensor based on the position of the SIR (Signal Indicator Ring) on the crankshaft.
Environmental A federal agency with the responsibility for regulating exhaust emissions,
Protection among many other things pertaining to the environment.
Fault Code A digital code representing a specific type of control system failure or
Fixed Resistor A resistor that does not have the ability to have its resistance value changed.
Fuse A circuit protection device. The protective element in the fuse melts. When the
metal melts, the circuit is opened, and current can no longer flow.
Fusible Link A circuit protection device. Works by melting a specific portion of its wiring
when current exceeds a certain amperage level, the circuit is opened, and
current can no longer flow.
Gauge Number Wire diameters are measured using the American Wire Gauge. Each diameter
of wire is assigned a gauge number. The larger the gauge number, the smaller
the wire.
Gauge Pressure Pressure sensor that reads relative pressure that does not include
Sensor atmospheric pressure in the reading.
Gauge Sensor Sensor that does not include the atmospheric pressure in its reading. This
sensor provides a reading of 0 when it is reading atmospheric pressure.
Generator A power source that supplies electrical force necessary to cause electrical
current flow in a circuit.
Glow Plugs Electrical resistance heaters installed in the prechambers to assist in cold
Ground An electrical reference point, such as the engine block, used to make electrical
measurements with a multimeter.
Hall-Effect A type of electronic sensor used to determine motion and proximity. From this
Sensor signal, the ECM calculates engine speed and position.
Horsepower The unit of power in mechanical systems. One horsepower is equal to
approximately 750 watts.
Idler Gear Gear used to transfer motion from a drive gear to a driven gear. Idler gears are
typically mounted on a stationary shaft.
Inputs Electrical devices, such as sensors and switches, that provide signals that
indicate engine operating conditions and switches that provide operator input
to determine desired operation.
Insulation Used to prevent the flow of electricity, such as the coating on an electrical
wire. Examples of good insulators include: plastic, rubber, glass.
kiloPascal A unit of pressure equal to approximately 0.145 psi
Kilowatt One thousand watts.
kW Abbreviation for kilowatt.
Liner Protrusion The amount the cylinder liner protrudes above the engine block.
Load Converts the energy of the moving electrons to a more useful form.
mB The abbreviation for milliBar. One milliBar equals .001 Bar
Micron Unit of measurement equal to one thousandth of a millimeter.
Neutron A basic particle of an atom. Neutrons have no charge or polarity. Protons and
neutrons bond together to form the nucleus of the atom.
Nox Emissions that form when combustion temperatures increase to the point
where nitrogen is oxidized along with the fuel. NOx emissions are one
component of photochemical smog.
Nucleus The center of the atom. Protons and neutrons bond together to form the
nucleus of the atom.
OEM Original Equipment Manufacturer.
Ohm Measurement of electrical resistance. An Ohm is the amount of resistance to
flow that will allow an Ampere of current to flow with 1 Volt of electrical
Ohm's law A mathematical formula which shows the relationship between voltage,
resistance, and current.
Open Circuit The electrical current path is broken
Parallel Circuit A circuit with the multiple current flow paths available.
Poles The number of electrically independent switch contacts that are switched
Potential Difference of electrical pressure between two points measured in volts.
Potentiometer A type of variable resistor used to control voltage.
Power Source A source of electrons.
Prechamber A small chamber into which the fuel injector feeds fuel. The prechamber is
external to but connected with the main chamber.
Proton A basic particle of an atom. Protons have a positive charge or polarity. Protons
and neutrons bond together to form the nucleus of the atom.
PSI Pounds per Square Inch
PWM Pulse Width Modulated
Rectifier An electrical one way check-valve.
Relay A device that uses electrical current to open and close a circuit upon demand.
Resistance The opposition to current flow.
Resistor Devices that limit current flow due to the type of material from which they are
Retarded Injection that occurs later in the compression stroke when compared to base
Injection Timing timing. With retarded timing the start of injection occurs less crank angle
degrees before top dead center (BTDC).
Rheostat A type of variable resistor.
Schematic A diagram that shows the functional relationship of components and the signal
flow between them.
Semi-conductor Materials whose atoms are neither especially good or poor at giving up
electrons. Semi-conductors are important in electronics because they are used
to make transistors and integrated circuits. Silicon is an example.
Series circuit A circuit in which the current flows in only one path from the source to the load
and from the load back to the source to complete the circuit.
Series/parallel A circuit in which part of the circuit is connected in series and part of the circuit
circuit is connected in parallel with the source.
Short Circuit A current flow through a path with very little resistance. This can be intentional
such as with a closed switch or an unintentional path such as physical damage
to connectors or wiring or defective electrical components.
Stroke The distance from the top of a piston's travel to the bottom or the distance a
piston travels during one half turn of the crankshaft.
Switch A device that intentionally breaks the electrical path. A switches is used to
open and a close circuit.
Tappets Camshaft followers or Lifters.
TDC Top-Dead-Center
Thermistor Type of material used in temperature sensors used on Cummins' engines.
Thermostat An automatic temperature sensing device utilizing a mechanical valve to
regulate the flow path of a fluid.
Throws The number of switch positions in a single switch.
Thrust Bearing A bearing that controls the amount of endplay of a shaft.
Top-Dead-Center The absolute upward limit to the pistons travel in the cylinder
Torque A turning or twisting force
Turbine The portion of the turbocharge that is driven by the exhaust gases.
Turbocharger Centrifugal air pump or blower driven by exhaust gas turbine. It fills the engine
cylinders with fresh air at a higher pressure than atmospheric.
Variable resistor A resistor with the ability to have its resistance value changed.
Viscosity A fluid's resistance to flow.
Voltage Electrical pressure.
Voltmeter Used to measure the difference in voltage between two points in an electrical
VR Sensors Variable reluctance sensors (also known as magnetic pickup style sensors)
VSS (Vehicle The sensor typically mounted on the transmission tailshaft used by the ECM to
Speed Sensor) calculate the current vehicle speed.
Wastegate A mechanical device that allows exhaust to bypass the turbocharger turbine,
regulating boost.
Watt The unit of measure for electrical power.
Wiring Diagram A diagram that shows the wire routing between components. Wiring diagrams
include connector numbers, wire numbers and signal names. These diagrams
associate the electrical with the physical to the replaceable component level.
Wiring harness Distributes power to engine electrical components. The wiring harness also
routes signals to and from equipment associated with the engine and its