Fuel Economy Technology Systems: Grill Shutters

2013 Dodge Dart with active grille shutters.

Tightening regulations on fuel economy along with rising awareness about pollution have influenced vehicle design and function in recent years. However, most consumers are not willing to sacrifice comfort, vehicle size, of power, so auto makers needed to use different methods to boost the fuel economy numbers. For the most part, aerodynamics can be directly related to fuel efficiently. The smoother air flows over the vehicle, the less power is required to make the vehicle move, leading to higher fuel economy. Unfortunately, a vehicle that has excellent aerodynamics may not be a functional vehicle for every consumer. So, other measures needed to be taken. In this series we’ll break down some of the methods used to boost aerodynamics and fuel economy along with any special cautions on how to repair them. Let’s check out active grille shutters.

Active grille shutters sit in the font of the vehicle ahead of the vehicle coolers. They are essentially a series of doors that close to improve aerodynamics when cooling is not required. Normally the shutters work off input from the powertrain control module. If all of the right conditions are met, the shutters will close and direct air around the vehicle instead of through it, improving fuel economy. When the engine needs more cooling or the air conditioner need to dump heat, the shutters will open returning the airflow.

When repairing a vehicle with front end damage make sure to identify if the vehicle was originally equipped with the air shutters, because many times they can be destroyed on a front hit. Many grille shutters will run self-calibrations when the vehicle is started. This is a good time to verify that the shutters are operating as intended. It is important to note that many shutter systems pay attention to the ambient air temperature and may not work the same in freezing temps. Due to the location of the shutters, ice and snow can build up and cause the shutters to freeze up which may prevent them from functioning. If the shutters attempt to move more than a few times and are stuck, it can set a DTC. Other systems realize the temperature is freezing and will temporarily disable the system without recording a DTC.

Always research repair procedures to make sure that all repairs are being performed according to the manufacturer. If these systems that are not properly functioning after a collision, the vehicles fuel economy will be sacrificed, which leads to a unsatisfied customer. Though some of the systems may not pose a safety concern, it will cause a problem with fuel efficiency and emissions.

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