This 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe came in with the SES light on and complaints of poor fuel economy and a “strange feel to the engine”. I checked codes and found a code P0178 stored along with misfire and lean codes. P0178 is set if the frequency reading in the fuel composition sensor is below 45 Hz for 12.5 seconds or more. The normal frequency readings should be between 50Hz and 150Hz. The frequency reading indicates the ethanol percentage and the pulse width indicates the fuel temperature. The FCS is located near the driver’s frame rail, in front of the fuel filter.
There is a three wire harness connector.
The white wire, terminal “A” has a five volt reference signal sent from the ECM. The FCS job is to cycle the five volts to ground and create a varying square wave as it relates to both ethanol content and fuel temperature. With one lead of my multimeter attached to ground, I lightly touched the terminal for the white wire. The correct signal was present. Notice I stress “lightly touched the terminal”. Anything other than a light touch could damage the spring tension of the terminal.
Next I checked for 12 volts across the pink(terminal “B”) wire and the black(terminal”C”) wire. Again I used a light touch and I also used a fused jumper wire, with the correct terminal end, as part of my test set up.
The full picture to show how the parts are connected for testing.
This is one of my favorite tests for testing current carrying capabilities of a circuit. I have read about people using sealed beam headlights, small motors and other items to place a load on a circuit see see if it is okay or weak. Those are okay but seem too cumbersome to me. I simply do this. First I look at wiring diagrams and determine that I am at the correct terminals and wire colors. Next using diagrams again, I make sure that I am only testing a directly fused circuit and a direct ground. I DO NOT USE THIS TEST FOR CIRCUITS COMING OUT OF SOLID STATE DEVICES, such as computers. Actually, I do but it is with a deep understanding of automotive electronics and intensive studying of a particular circuit to make sure that I will not damage anything. This is what I do: I install a fused jumper wire with the correct sized terminal ends for what I am working on. I remove the factory fuse for the circuit and go up to a larger fuse. I then place a fuse with the original fuse rating in the in line fuse holder and in this case I turned the ignition on. The fuse blew immediately. This quick test, tells me that the power and ground side of the circuit will both handle to factory load rating. I put the original factory fuse back in its place and my testing is done.
Of course I also have the luxury of using a Tech 2 scan tool. This coupled with the tests that I had already shown indicates that the fuel composition sensor is faulty. 42 HZ is below the minimum 50 Hz.
The sensor is pretty easy to change. Disconnect the two fuel lines. Of course after relieving pressure at the service port according to manufactures instructions. Remove three bolts and of course disconnect the electrical connector.
The tool needed to disconnect the fuel lines.
Another view of the tool.
The new unit installed along with a new fuel filter. One trick that I have learned, since it is almost impossible to get the forward fuel line off of the fuel filter is this. I remove the rear line from the filter and trace the front filter line around to the FCS. I disconnect the line there and the pull the line and filter out together. Once at the bench I cut the fuel filter tube and then I can use my tool to remove the remaining fuel filter tube from the fuel line.
The sensor is installed and the FCS frequency reading is now within specifications. Also notice that the fuel alcohol content is now at 8%. Earlier it was at 38% and had gone as high as 42% while I monitored the data.