Bad ECU? Should You Repair Your ECU or Replace It With a New One?

Refurbished ECM

In modern vehicles, electronic functions are not only a convenience, but these days are absolutely necessary for vehicle operation. Everything from your power windows and door locks, to your air conditioning system, to the engines Ignition and timing all run through an engine control unit somewhere along the line.

Your engine control unit (ECU) is the main computer which controls and directs the electrical power in your vehicle. Like a train conductor, your ECU directs your vehicle’s electrical traffic ensuring proper vehicle function. Additionally, your ECU oversees and reports on all of the various sensors in your vehicle. As an example, if the sensor controlling the air/fuel mixture sees an issue, your ECU will be the first to know. This is extremely helpful for your mechanic to diagnosis and repair the issue as your mechanic can read the computer and find the issue quickly.

What Can Go Wrong With an ECU?

Many things…As with any other electrical component, your ECU has a lot of electrical current passing through it. This results in heat which can potentially damage the circuitry or cause a short within your ECU. Additionally, other factors such as moisture, dust, power surges, and shorts can also lead to a malfunction of your ECU.

Identifying a problem with your ECU can be a bit tricky. The diagnostic tool that is used to read error codes on your car’s data port for relies on the information transmitted from the ECU. In the case of an ECU failure, this may result in the incorrect or incomplete information reported by the ECU, often times leading you down a rabbit hole in the wrong direction.

If however you are one of the unfortunate souls to discover that your ECU is bad, you’ll have to decide if you wish to replace it with a brand new unit or to have your existing unit repaired.

ECU Replacement

Depending on your vehicle type, a replacement ECU will cost you anywhere from a few hundred dollars, all the way up to a few thousand. For more common inexpensive vehicles I would expect the cost to be on the lower side ($300-$500), where luxury brands can exceed $2000. Additionally, you should also expect to see additional fees for diagnosis, programming, and installation of the new unit. The nice thing about replacing the unit is that it can generally be done at your local brand dealership in a short amount of time.

ECU Repair

If you are lucky, you may find someone local who specializes in ECU repairs. Unfortunately however, due to the specialization of this type of repair, not many automotive repair shops will provide this service. Because of this, it’s likely you will need to send your unit in for service at a specialized repair shop like ECU Repair Now. Repairs can cost a fraction of the price of replacement with the most common prices ranging from $150 to $600. This does not include shipping to the repair shop however. Because your unit will need to be sent in, you will be without a car for a few days. The good news is that most repairs can be done within 48 hours.

Whether you’re considering a replacement or repair, feel free to give us a call to learn more information or to get a free service quote.