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Automotive Computer Diagnostics & Repair

Computer Diagnostics & Repair

Repair or replace a malfunctioning Engine Control Modules to factory specifications.

As vehicles have developed and changed over the years, parts and systems have grown increasingly computerized and progammable. In many newer vehicles, small computers control many functions like power steering and transmissions control. The primary computer in your car or truck is called the ECM, or Electronic Control Module.

When your vehicle is being manufacturered, it is equipped with the latest and greatest available technology which has to be programmed to the fit the requirements of that specific make and model, and is specified by the VIN number of your car or truck. If your Electronic Control Module is replaced, it must be flashed and reprogrammed to the exact application and specifications of the VIN, including the newest software updates issued by the vehicle manufacturer. Not all repair facilities have the equipment to replace ECM units and perform OEM Module Programming.

The very first vehicle to every have the PCM flash reprogrammed was the 1990 Geo Storm, sparking a generation of faster, more capable, and easily reprogrammable PCMs. This made it possible for vehicles to be "retuned" to fix emissions issues and enhance performance ability - also paving the way to allow original factory programming to be flash updated if bugs are discovered or updates are released. Many vehicle manufacturers have used the flash reprogram to fix numerous factory flaws in the computer systems in the last 26 years.

Doing your own flash reprogramming is not without risk. Occasionally a flash update procedure may not complete properly and/or the diagnostic equipment may lock up during the procedure. Common causes of flash errors include poor cable connections between the PC, scan tool and vehicle, loss of power to the diagnostic equipment while the flash procedure is underway, turning off the vehicle ignition switch before the flash procedure is complete, unfamiliarity with the procedure (pushing the wrong buttons), or low vehicle battery voltage. If the process crashes, the connections can be checked and attempted again. It's best to leave flash reprogramming to a trusted repair shop or dealer.

Have your ECM scanned for Manufacturer Software Updates annually.

Many of the newest cars on the markets have more several computer systems working together to operate your vehicle at peak performance. Failing computer systems can easily be misdiagnosed due to the wide array of common symptoms. Batteries, TPS switches, distributors, injectors, and various other sensor failures can be mistaken as the issue for an underlying ECM problem. It's important to have your computer systems scanned and inspected to prevent overspending on part replacement.

ECMs rarely fail by themselves. Most ECM failures occur due to overloaded circuits caused by shorted solenoids and/or relaysOne of the most common sources of failure in engine management systems is heat. Extremely hot conditions, from engine compartment or even the cabin of the vehicle ruin components of the ECM. Tire Pressure problems, failing engine sensors, alternators, and dead batteries can all have a bad affect on the performance and wear-and-tear of the computer systems.

If the ECM must be replaced, all ECM controlled components have to be examined for proper resistence before installing the new unit or it will prematurely fail. Improper voltage and bad ground circuits can damage and ruin the Electronic Control Module.

Vehicle Stability Control has been found on vehicles as far back as 1987 by Toyota and Mercedes-Benz in the form of traction control. Vehicle stability control is a combination of antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability program combining the two. If your vehicle has ESP or a VSC on board, it always provides you wiht two furether safety systems: the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and the Traction Control System (TCS). ABS prevents the wheels from lokcing during braking; TCS prevents the wheels from spinnign when starting off and accelerating.


A bad ECU unit can manifest in several symptoms that may be signalling that you need to have your computer serviced. If you've had your Check Engine Light scanned and reset and it continues to return, this can be a sign of ECU failure. Sometimes the engine may shut off for no reason or there is visible water or fire damage to the ECU are of the vehicle. Loss of spark in the engine and the alternabtor overcharing the battery are also signs of ECU problems.

If the vehicle's ECU cannot communicate with the plug-in scanner, has broken pins, or is actively overheating, this unit likely needs to be replaced and reprogrammed right away.


The first computer systems in cars were used to control the ignition and fuel systems, and was implemented by the Federal Government of the United States. They added these automated systems to cars and trucks in an effort to make them safer to operate for drivers, to better combust and consume fuel, and to reduce the emissions released into the environment.