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How to Tell If You Have a Faulty Engine Control Unit (ECU)

Find out what you can expect to pay for ECU repair, the 5 symptoms of a faulty ECU, and the technology of ECU diagnostics.

The ECU, or engine control unit, is a major component of your car’s onboard computer. It’s used to regulate many systems and subsystems in your car’s engine, drive train and other major components. There are many symptoms that can be associated with a faulty ECU. Here are some ways to tell if yours is damaged or faulty.

The Check Engine Light Is On

If you vehicle’s check engine light remains on constantly, and never goes off, there’s a good chance that your vehicle has a faulty engine control unit. There are numerous reasons why a car’s check engine light will remain on. The most common reason is a problem with the ECU. If you notice that your check engine light is always on, take your in vehicle in for service and request that they check the engine control unit.

The Car Won’t Start

If your vehicle fails to start for no apparent reason, this is also a good indicator that there may be a problem with the ECU. If you check the car battery, starter and other common electrical components, and the vehicle still does not start, a faulty engine control unit should be the next logical thing to consider.

Other Common Symptoms

Many other symptoms can be associated with a faulty ECU. For example, poor performance or unexplained drops in fuel economy or efficiency are often related to onboard car computer problems, or faulty ECU issues.

A damaged ECU can cause problems when shifting gears in an automatic transmission, or cause sudden jerking or stopping that’s similar to transmission problems. If you experience jerking or stopping, you regularly maintain your transmission properly, and the vehicle has adequate levels of transmission fluid, then a faulty ECU should be suspect.

ECU Computer Diagnostics

If you suspect that the electronic control unit in your vehicle is damaged, or is going bad, you should immediately take your vehicle to the nearest dealership, repair shop or service center. When choosing a service center to check for a faulty ECU, make sure that you visit one that uses the latest computer diagnostic equipment for checking your car’s onboard computer.

While there are many excellent repair shops and service centers that have the required equipment to diagnose a faulty ECU, if you want to be absolutely certain that your car is correctly diagnosed, consider taking your vehicle to a dealership that sells your particular vehicle. By visiting an authorized dealership, you will always be assured that the equipment used to diagnose it provides the most accurate readings and results. This will help the mechanic or technician best repair your vehicle. At Daks Toyota, we are the authorised dealers in Toyota parts and servicing in Uganda.

How Much Should You Pay for ECU Repairs?

ECU repairs can be very expensive. The part alone can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Fortunately, an ECU can be repaired or reprogrammed in many cases—thus preventing the need to actually replace an ECU. Daks Toyota engineers are highly trained computer programmers.

Average Cost at a Garage

You should expect to pay between $150 and $300 at a local repair shop or service center just to have the ECU inspected and tested. In many cases, the faulty ECU can be repaired or reprogrammed, and this type of repair will usually run between $300 to $750, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. In the unfortunate event that you need to actually replace the ECU, you should add about $500 to $600 to the cost of the part for labor to install and program the new ECU.

Online Repair Services

These days, there are many online companies that provide ECU repair services also. These companies allow you to send your faulty ECU to their location for repair. They do the work and then ship it back to you. For many models of vehicles you can find online repair services for between $300 and $400 for a complete repair or reprogram of the ECU. However, there are service providers that auction their services on sites like eBay that can perform the work for as little as $50. You can always contact Daks Toyota if you need to transport your parts and through our partners at Daks Couriers, you stand to gain more for less.

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5 COMMENTS

  • Dario Bongiovanni
    August 11, 2016, 8:46 am REPLY

    I own a Toyota Kluger GRANDE 2005.
    Do you have experience in problems with the ECU due to vibration or a sudden shock? For instance a strong hit to the curb. Can this be a cause of the sudden failure of the ECU?

  • Eng Michael
    September 2, 2016, 9:20 am REPLY

    Thanks guys for the great ideas
    Just keep it up

  • Engine Control Unit
    February 12, 2018, 6:02 am REPLY

    Thanks for sharing this great information. Yes, engine control unit of a vehicle is an electronic module that controls the function of the engine. If your vehicle has a bad engine control unit, then it can cause all kinds of problems with how the engine functions. I want to share some some more Bad ECU symptoms i.e. Overheating ECU, ECU has Broken Pins, Intermittent starting problems, Engine turning off for no reason, A control module memory checksum error.

  • Engine Control Unit
    February 12, 2018, 6:03 am REPLY

    Thanks for sharing this great information. Yes, engine control unit of a vehicle is an electronic module that controls the function of the engine. If your vehicle has a bad engine control unit, then it can cause all kinds of problems with how the engine functions. I want to share some some more Bad ECU symptoms i.e. Overheating ECU, ECU has Broken Pins, Intermittent starting problems, Engine turning off for no reason, A control module memory checksum error.

  • Dean Love
    July 26, 2018, 12:53 pm REPLY

    Here, in the following, I would like to reveal some of the signs that represent a bad ECU in a car.
    1)Engine light ON after resetting.
    2)The car starts jump starting on reverse polarity.
    3)Water damage on the ECU.
    4)Apparent loss of spark and fuel pump.
    5)Presence of broken pins in the ECU.
    6)Occurrence of communication between the scanner and the ECU.
    Stalling and excessive fuel usage can lead to an ECU failure.
    Servicing the electrical stuffs- https://smiky.com/auto-electrical-repair/ will help to find the issue and take the necessary measures to resolve the complication.

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