Cylinder deactivation is a feature found in many modern cars, especially larger American-built ones. Although this feature is designed to save fuel, it also cuts down on engine power.
So, it is understandable if you want to disable it. But the question is, can you turn off cylinder deactivation?
In this guide, we’re going to explain what cylinder deactivation is, how it works, and what steps you need to take to turn it off.
What is Cylinder Deactivation?
Cylinder deactivation is known in the industry by a few names. You may have also heard the terms active fuel management, displacement on demand, multi-displacement system, or dynamic fuel management being used. All of these refer to the same feature.
With cylinder deactivation, the engine automatically ‘turns off’ a few of the cylinders to save on fuel. During this process, the deactivated cylinder heads still move up and down with the shaft. However, the difference is that fuel is no longer injected into these cylinders. Thus, no combustion is taking place in them.
This feature leads to an obvious reduction in the power output of the engine. However, it also saves on fuel. Thanks to this, in situations where extra power is not needed, such as a casual drive on the highway, your car will be more cost-efficient to drive.
Why Do Cars Have Cylinder Deactivation?
The idea of cylinder deactivation in cars had been floating around since the 1980s, when the increases in gasoline prices made fuel efficiency a bigger concern for consumers and auto manufacturers alike.
More recently, the pressure of environmental regulation and emissions standards has made companies drastically reevaluate vehicular fuel usage. This has led to more radical methods of curtailing fuel inefficiency, one of them being cylinder deactivation.
Moreover, until recently, cylinder deactivation was not even a viable feature. This was due to relatively primitive computers and the fact that most cars were not computerized. Nowadays, however, not only has this feature become possible to implement, it has become relatively common too.
Why Turn Off Cylinder Deactivation?
As stated above, cylinder deactivation can bring about quite a few benefits in terms of fuel and cost savings. Thus, you may be wondering, why turn this feature off?
The answer comes down to a few different considerations.
1. Pick-up Response
Essentially, no cylinder deactivation system works instantly. They all have a slight delay in turning on or turning off.
As a result, when you’re trying to push the car to max power with the cylinder deactivation system turned on, the car will feel sluggish and take longer to reach full speed or power.
This is obviously not desirable, especially if you purchased a sports car or muscle car specifically for the torque and speed it brought to the table. In this case, you may want to turn it off.
2. Engine Oil Use
Another common problem faced by cylinder deactivation systems is the fact that they use an excessive amount of engine oil.
This happens because when a cylinder is deactivated, the seal keeping engine oil from entering the combustion chamber is not as effective. Due to this, a lot of oil is wasted and needs frequent replacement, which adds to the cost of maintenance.
It is perhaps the biggest issue – misfires and noises when driving with cylinder deactivation enabled. Essentially, there are a few factors that contribute to the problem; however, the root of it is that the transition between a cylinder turning on and off is not always smooth or flawless.
This can lead to the engine making sounds or even misfiring. A rather nerve-wracking experience when your car is brand new! You may consider turning off the cylinder deactivation to check whether that stops the noise.
How to Turn Off Cylinder Deactivation?
Unfortunately, most auto-manufacturers do not build in an easy way of toggling the cylinder deactivation system. Due to this, you have to be a bit creative with turning the feature off. Fortunately, this article exists to help you with just that!
Over the years, a lot of car enthusiasts have struggled with their cylinder deactivation feature. This has led to the invention of two methods to turn it off.
The first method is by installing a specifically designed chip that turns off the cylinder deactivation feature of your car. This can be purchased online or at specialized car stores. It essentially works in a way analogous to a bootable USB drive.
When you plug it in, the chip has some code that reprograms the car’s operating system to no longer run the cylinder deactivation feature. After a successful install, your vehicle should revert to running with all of its cylinders all the time.
The installation of the chip itself is relatively simple. All you need to do is locate an empty ODM-II port in your car. Once you find one, simply plug the chip in and preferably restart your car. After this, the cylinder deactivation feature should be gone for good.
The second method is arguably a bit more complex and time-consuming to use. However, it can be useful in the instance that your car does not have an available ODM-II port or the chip method, for some reason, does not work.
For this method, you will need to purchase and then install an active fuel management delete kit. The specifics of installation will vary depending on the kit itself and the model of the car. However, there are a few common things you need to keep in mind.
One thing you will have to do is to change to a non-AFM camshaft. In case you try using a delete kit without this step, it will lead to an error or even a misfire as the car’s operating system will sense that something is wrong with the vehicle.
Both the kit and the camshaft can be obtained online or at specialty car stores, although you will need to do some research to ensure that you get the right one for your make and model. When in doubt, you can also always consult your mechanic or online forums.
Overall, the cylinder deactivation feature is a solid addition to cars.
It reduces fuel costs and the individual carbon footprint of drivers. Most car owners don’t even notice it’s there. However, if it’s causing a specific issue for you, you need not worry. Simply follow the steps we’ve outlined and turn it off.