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To Repair or To Replace: Module Repair Pros and Cons

To Repair or To Replace: Module Repair Pros and Cons

In this article, we will talk about Module Repair Pros and Cons in a vehicle. As we know, a variety of computer modules are spread across in a network especially for modern cars. These modules are in charge of monitoring and managing everything from the vehicle's most sensitive features, such as the brakes and ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System) and must be in good working condition at all times. Module repair instead of module replacement can save you money. But unless the module repair only entails a simple power supply issue it can be quite tricky and challenging.  

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Each of the vehicle computer modules is in charge of a huge number of circuits. To communicate data, mode, and status with the others on the segment/array, the network of modules must have fully working communication channels. To save time and stress, replacing the faulty module is the more practical thing to do as it is a very easy mechanical procedure. The ECM (Electronic Control Module), however, in itself is a costly item that must be coupled with the suitable vehicle in order to operate properly. 


Module Repair Pros: All About Electronic Control Modules


Before we learn about module repair pros, let us first learn about the different electronic control modules. As mentioned earlier, the automotive Electronic Control Module (ECM) is an embedded system that regulates the vehicle's systems and subsystems. Until the arrival of electronics in the automobile industry, car manufacturers controlled components in cars manually. To execute particular functions in the vehicle, modern automobile components are controlled by electronic control modules. Here are some of the electronic modules found in a vehicle:


  • Powertrain Control Module


The Powertrain Control Module (PCM) is in charge of the engine and its auxiliary systems. When the PCM is changed, it must be programmed and configured only by a skilled technician.


  • Body Control Module


The Body Control Module (BCM) is in charge of various operations within the cabin as well as the electrical control of auxiliary systems. When the BCM is changed, it must be programmed and configured by a skilled technician.


  • ABS/traction control/stability control module


A Traction Control System is utilized to avoid wheel spin caused by acceleration. Traction control and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are frequently combined because they increase vehicle stability by operating in unison.


  • Transmission Control Module (TCM)


TCM interacts with other modules in the vehicle to get the desired output. It improves shift quality by collaborating with the automatic transmission. It offers optimized driving performance and fuel economy. TCM also interacts with sensors including the throttle position sensor, wheel speed sensor,  Traction Control Module, cruise control and brake light switch.


  •  Passenger Door Module (PDM)


It is in charge of typical loads such as door lock motors and other electrical features. Power windows, locks, mirrors, and a few LED lights are among the features. PDM is found on the door panel.


  •  Suspension Control Module (SCM)


This module manages a vehicle's suspension. For a smoother ride, the Suspension Control Module individually changes the tension for each wheel.


  •  Airbag Control Module


The Airbag Module contributes to crash safety. It is also in charge of receiving data from the collision sensor. When there is a collision, information is transmitted to the airbag sensors, and the airbag is activated upon impact. Furthermore, it regulates supplementary restraint components. Vehicles without airbags can sustain serious damage in a crash.


  •  Battery Management System (BMS)


The Battery Management System (BMS) monitors the status of the battery and prevents it from functioning outside of its range. It also checks temperature, battery charge and health, and voltage supply.


  •  Sunroof Module


This is situated on the vehicle's top roof. The sunroof allows extra fresh air into the car. Sunroof modules also regulate the opening and closing of the sunroof as well as its functionality.


  •  Rain Sensor Module (RSM)


Moisture on the windscreen is detected by the Rain Sensor Module. The RSM activates the wiper blade, causing it to automatically wash away the wetness on the windshield. This connects with the BCM in order to take action.


  •  Heated Seat Module (HSM)


The Heated Seat Module (HSM) features are controlled by the Heated Seat Module. The HSM has a dual-zone or four-zone heating system. It also provides cooling and ventilation for the seats, as well as assistance for applications located in the rear seats.


  •  Sentry Key Immobilizer Module (SKIM)


It includes a Radio Frequency (RF) transmitter as well as a central processing unit. The Sentry Key Immobilizer Switch (SKIM) is also enabled by the Sentry Key Immobilizer Switch programming. This connects with the Powertrain Control Module via the Programmable Communication Interface (PCI) bus network (PCM).


Besides all these modules, there are many others, especially in modern cars with additional features, like alarm module (or chime module) for anti-theft system, Cruise control module (if it is not integrated within the PCM) and keyless entry module


One advantage of having so many modules is that today's automobiles are smarter than before. Not only do the modules regulate the engines, steering, suspension, brakes, temperature control system, and other subsystems, but they also govern communications, navigation, and safety (which can demand very high data rates).


Module Repair Pros & Cons


The engine control module is a vital component of your car. Some mechanics refer to it as the “brain” of your vehicle, which is not far off the mark. Other systems, such as the power control module, the ignition, the engine timing, and other critical engine operations, are controlled by it. When it breaks, you must address the issue as soon as possible.


These modules may be highly sophisticated but it also makes it a  complicated technology that is only wonderful as long as it is in good working order. When anything goes wrong, such as a module failure, communications bus failure, or sensor malfunction, it can create many of the issues in apparently unrelated systems. 


When Electronic Control Modules Can Still Be Repaired


Simple Issues Can Be a Simple Fix & DIY Can Save You Money


Sometimes there is an issue with the engine control unit that is easily repaired. So a module repair pros in this instance is being saved from the astronomical cost of purchasing a whole new machine. 


One instance when a repair work can be done is if the computer has a configuration issue. Another easy way to repair an ECM is if there’s a problem with the power supply. Oftentimes, these can be repaired by a skilled mechanic or electrician, by rectifying any shorts or bad connections.


However, the majority of ECM issues are caused by a flaw in the software itself. Power surges, lightning strikes, and short circuits can all cause damage to the circuit board, but they can cause physical harm to the hardware. In such instances, the ECM must be changed.


The fact remains that the ECU or the actual part itself also costs a lot. The average cost of the ECM itself can be as expensive as $830, and can cost up to a $1,000+ repair at a dealership when you add up the labor, taxes, and other misc fees dealers can charge. 


Plug and Play Options


Module repair pros include the availability of plug & play options. There are other options available, like if you repair your module through ECM Repair 1 where all you have to do is send your parts. They claim that they are able to repair it in 1-2 business days and send it back repaired without requiring any further programming.


Also if your engine control module (ECM), for instance, came from CarComputerExchange.com, an online company of experienced automotive technicians you may be able to consider repairing and replacing your ECM as a DIY. All of their engine computers are “plug and play” and assured to operate with your specific model. They ask for your VIN following the checkout procedure to ensure you obtain the most up-to-date software directly from the manufacturer of your vehicle.


Module Repair Con’s


A module repair pros is that if it’s a simple fix, it can save you money. But in the majority of situations, the unit will need to be replaced. Water, vibration, heat, and age may all contribute to a module failing, which might be tough to avoid depending on where the unit is installed in your car. We have already discussed a few of module repair pros and here are the cons:


  • Diagnostic Difficultés 


A low-cost DIY scan tool that can read OBD powertrain codes (“P”) and CAN communication faults (“U”) generally cannot access body codes (“B”) and other subsystem codes (though a few can read ABS and airbag codes). A factory scan tool (which is costly and only works on one make of car) or a professional level scan tool are generally necessary (which is expensive but assures to be able to cover a broad range of makes and models).


Also most modules, like the PCM, include some form of self-diagnostics that should identify and notify problems. The error will prompt a diagnostic trouble code (DTC), which will be stored someplace (the PCM or BCM) and may be recovered later using a scan tool.


However, as many professionals have learned, even expert scan programs do not have access to everything. There are frequent gaps in the tool's database that prohibit it from reading specific subsystems and codes or conducting particular system self-tests. In such instances, the only method to obtain the information is through the use of a special factory scan tool.


With that, and many other factors, diagnostics has become a big problem even for today's car experts, and it follows that it is completely beyond the capabilities of the majority of do-it-yourselfers. Diagnosing many module-related issues requires sophisticated diagnostic equipment, knowledge on how to utilize such equipment, and a high level of competence.


A faulty module is generally identified by a process of elimination if there is no code that indicates the module has failed. Everything else is ruled out first (such as poor grounds, wiring problems, low voltage, faulty sensor inputs, and so on) until the module itself is the sole remaining reason.


Because the module is the most difficult component in the system or circuit, many DIYers (and even some professionals) don't want to take the time (or don't know how) to conduct the appropriate diagnostics, so they believe the problem must be a faulty module. This explains why electronic module returns are so prevalent, and why so many modules returned under warranty have no faults discovered when checked by the supplier or remanufacturer.


Many modules are unnecessarily replaced because the true problem was misdiagnosed (things like loose or corroded wiring connections, bad grounds or low voltage).


  • Unavailability of Modules of Older Cars


The availability of modules is also a big concern, particularly for older cars for which auto dealerships no longer sell components. Various aftermarket vendors can frequently supply refurbished modules for a wide range of applications, but there are numerous gaps in coverage – and certain modules may not be found anyplace other than a scrap yard.


If a replacement module for a specific application is unavailable from aftermarket suppliers or a vehicle dealer, an aftermarket company that specializes in fixing various types of electronic modules may be a repair alternative. The main disadvantage here is that certain modules may be so rusted or broken that they cannot be fixed. There is also the time lag of sending the module in to be fixed and waiting for it to be returned (plus the added cost of shipping it).


Furthermore, unless there is clear evidence of corrosion or damage, the exterior look of a module cannot tell you much about its status or capacity to perform.


Although replacing the ECM is relatively simple, saving you from all the difficulties and stress of repairing the electronic control module, always take note that an ECM is a very expensive part. So make sure that you are not replacing an ECM that could still be working.


The wire harness is the most visible. A short in your wiring might cause your ECM to fail or give a false readout from one or more of its sensors. Checking every wire on your wiring harness might be time-consuming, but it is considerably less expensive than replacing your ECM entirely.


Check the inputs and outputs on linked devices, as well as the fuses for those linked devices, in addition to the wire harness. Examine the inputs to the ECM on your battery, ignition switch, and tire sensors. Examine the outputs of your injectors, fuel pump, spark plugs, and starter before you conclude the problem is in the ECM.