A lot of people say that a car engine gets accustomed to the driver style and in particular to specific RPM gear changing and it will perform into those "learned" parameters.

I must mention that I am NOT speaking of the first 1000 km of car, the grinding period (called "rodaj" in Romanian).

In my opinion this is a myth, as an engine and the gearbox are designed and build to stand specific RPMs and to make internal combustion at specific rates per minute and there is no AI component to it, that can learn and adapt in any way. Is just a machine and a pretty plain one.

What the experts are saying on the matter?

  • when you first connect the battery, in the first 5 KMs the ECU records each parameter of your car, your throttle position , your fuel needs, your profile is stored and the ECU will have this data until the next time you disconnect the battery. It also does a minor version of this recording evey time you start the car.
    – Shobin P
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 10:57

2 Answers 2


Modern ECU units and transmission computers store an increasing amount of persistent data between starts, which was virtually nonexistent in the 1970's and early 1980's. Usually this can be cleared by disconnecting the battery for an extended period, which is necessary in some rare instances.

For the engine computer:

  • recent and long term fuel characteristics: Every time you refuel, there are slight variances, such as additives or lack thereof, ethanol percentage (which requires longer duty cycles), octane, etc. and is typically refined through the use of oxygen sensors which have made great strides in accuracy improvements with wideband technology.
  • timing vs. knock parameters: if you fuel your modern premium-only car with regular octane fuel, the car will not blindly predetonate until it breaks, it will 'learn' to pull timing based on inputs from the knock sensor, and occasionally push forward until some knock is discovered.
  • various sensor trims: many sensors vary from the factory and over time, and the ECU will sometimes 'trim' them into expected ranges, such as the throttle position sensor (TPS), O2 sensors, fuel level sensor, and many others.

For the transmission computer (automatics only):

  • shift points: as various issues affect the engine power output, including sensor trims and driving style, some parameters are stored to assist in shifting at ideal conditions.

(I don't drive or service or care about automatic transmissions, so there are perhaps others?)

In any case, as storage and computation power increase and also continue on a trend of decreasing price, and we now have self-driving vehicles and witlessly controlled vehicles, I expect that more and more parameters will be stored and utilized to optimize the driving experience.

The self-driving is hardly yet what I would call 'AI', but this along with the rest of the learned parameters are veritably non-mythical and every OBDII vehicle (1994+) is performing at least the fuel characteristics and timing calculations based on persistent data storage.


In older cars with carburettors driving a car gently and never exceeding certain revs could cause some jets to become clogged causing the car to run poorly at speed.

Wear and friction will also be different at different RPM due to the forces involved. A piston is pushed down with a weaker force at lower revs and therefore wears differently from one that is driven at higher revs.

Newer cars can actually "learn" how you drive and adapt the ECU parameters to that. VAG DSG gearboxes now have a controller that "Learns" the way you are driving and changes the way the gears should change - i.e. faster more aggressive driving will change the revs at which the gear change would happen..

  • how much wear of a piston shaft is needed in order to affect the actual force of the engine? Anybody did an experiment or is everything based on feelings? In my opinion is more of a psychological thing. Think about a locomotive engine that did 30 years on a slow route and after is changed on a faster route. Nobody will say is "slowish". The cars on the other hand are antropomorphised. Commented May 14, 2012 at 8:22
  • I didnt mean to say that it will definitely but driving a car slowly can have negative effects in certain situations (see the carb jets clogging bit).
    – Mauro
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 9:08
  • I saw that part, and I think it makes sense. Thanks Commented May 14, 2012 at 9:17
  • 1
    Indeed, this then leads to the concept of the 'Italian tune-up' - giving an under-used car a good blast to clear out all the deposits that have built up. This is especially true of a car that does lots of short journeys, as deposits build up more if the engine does not have a chance to warm up properly.
    – Nick C
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 9:19
  • Being Italian I resemble that remark, you'd be amazed at what it can achieve come MOT time in the UK - lol
    – Mauro
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 9:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .