ECU Hardware

ECU Hardware

The term "hardware" refers to the electronic circuitry that the ECU uses to do its job. Some products make it really difficult to figure out what the hardware is doing, like modern phones that are designed to be assembled (but not repaired) by using glue and tamper-proof screws. Other products will take it a step further and do things like cover the electronics with a layer of epoxy making it very difficult to see what is underneath. Fortunately, the Aprilia ECU is kind of old-school and is just a circuit board in a metal box. The circuit board is covered with a layer of conformal coat to keep moisture off the electronic goodies contained within, but the coating is clear and easy to see through or probe with multimeter leads.

Once you can see the circuit board, the task is to figure out what it does. It is not simple, but it can be done.

Reverse Engineering

Some products are released with a complete set of schematics and perhaps even repair manuals. That really helps figure out what is going on. However, doing that costs the manufacturer time and money, and perhaps gives their competitors ideas about how to copy some interesting circuitry that the product might contain. As a result, most products don't ever explain how they work. So if you really want to know, what are you to do? The process of figuring out how something works by taking it apart and looking at the pieces is known as "reverse engineering". To reverse engineer the Aprilia/Rotax ECU (or any other embedded computer system for that matter), you perform the following set of steps:

Once the ECU hardware is understood, you can finally move into the ECU software world:

If you get that far, then you can really start messing with things: see the UltraMod project for more details.