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Powertrain Control Module – What Is It And Why Is It Important?

Powertrain Control Module

Although numerous parts of your vehicle are important to the running and the efficient workings of the car, the powertrain control module is especially crucial. The powertrain control module is a component and control unit that exists in all motor vehicles. Combined with a control unit, called the engine control unit, and the transmission control unit, this powertrain control module plays a huge part in the inner systems of your car.

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The system that uses the powertrain control module is an integrated, and computerized system. This system is in charge of controlling a vehicle’s engine, transmission, and other driveline components that are dependent on the make and model of your car. 


What Is The Powertrain Control Module?


The powertrain control module, which is generally abbreviated PCM, is an automotive component that combines the engine control unit and the transmission control unit. The transmission is a huge part of the powertrain, including the engine. Let’s go into depth about what these two parts of your vehicle are.


Engine Control Unit


The engine control unit, also known as the engine control module, is a type of electronic control unit that controls actuators within the internal combustion engine. This is the brain of an engine and handles various performance and driveability functions. Its job is to do this by reading the values produced by various sensors located inside the engine bay. The engine control unit interprets the data using performance maps, and adjusts the engine actuators. Before engine control units were used, idle speed and ignition timing had to be mechanically programmed. 


Actuators & Internal Combustion Engine 


The parts of the engine control unit, the actuators, and the internal combustion engine, are crucial to the functioning of the powertrain control module. The actuators are components of a machine that are responsible for the moving of the mechanics within the system. The internal combustion engine uses the combustion of fuel within a combustion chamber, to aid in the fluid flow circuit. The expansion of high-temperature and high-pressure gasses fuel the vehicle, and aid in the working of the powertrain control module. 


What Does The Powertrain Control Module Do?


The PCM is a powerful computer that is in charge of managing or monitoring the engine’s ignition system. It also has to monitor the fuel injection, emission systems, positioning of the rotating assembly, transmission, and exhaust system. In most cars, it has to monitor any other functions related to the engine and transmission systems. Also, in some vehicles, the powertrain control module might have to operate the traction control system and the anti-lock brake system. The anti-lock brake system is designed to prevent your car from skidding. 


Fuel Injection


The powertrain control module is in charge of the fuel injection in the vehicle. Fuel injection is the introduction of fuel into an internal combustion engine via an injector. An injector is a mechanical piece that can place the fuel into the engine. 


Emission systems


A failure in the powertrain control module would cause error lights on your dashboard to turn on. You might also have another symptom of poor emissions due to an emission systems fault. This shows how the emission system is directly related to the powertrain control module, and how a faulty powertrain control module can negatively affect the emissions. 


Drivers & The Powertrain Control Module


The main interaction that drivers will have with the powertrain control module is when the check engine light comes on your dashboard. In addition, the powertrain control module can influence other warning lights on the instrument panel as well. The powertrain control module is programmed from the factory to use these lights as a warning to drivers that a failure has occurred, or certain conditions are not met.


If the check engine light illuminates, the coolant temperature could be the incorrect temperature. These lights will let the driver know of any issues that their car is having. In addition, the powertrain control module sends off lights and signals that alert technicians of the diagnostic trouble codes that are stored in the PCM for diagnosis. 


A powertrain control module is a helpful tool in diagnosing problems within your vehicle, due to the trouble codes sent for mechanics to see.


Symptoms of Wear of the Powertrain Control Module


There are various symptoms that show that a powertrain control module has been worn-down and is now faulty, damaged, or completely broken. Let’s go over the main symptoms of wear or failure of the PCM. If you find that these symptoms apply to your powertrain control module, then you should look into a powertrain warranty. 


Check Engine Light Comes On


The first symptom that the powertrain control module has been damaged is that the check engine light comes on. If the check engine light illuminates with codes, sometimes these codes can’t be repaired. If the PCM detects a problem, but no problem actually is present, then the PCM is reading incorrectly, showing that the powertrain control module has an issue with the reading sensor.


Unrelated Trouble Codes


The second symptom of a powertrain control module acting incorrectly is that several unrelated trouble codes are programmed and set at the same time. If these trouble codes are stored from unrelated bases, then the powertrain control module may be at fault. This is especially true if the components are unrelated and there is no fault found from a technician.


Vehicle Will Not Turn On


The third symptom of a powertrain control module having issues is that the vehicle may not turn on or run properly. A bad PCM can cause the vehicle to not have any engine management control. Without any control, the engine won’t be able to start at all. The engine might still be able to crank, which shows that the engine is working fine, but the computer is not sending the correct signals to start the engine. 


Poor Fuel Economy


The fourth symptom of the powertrain control module acting incorrectly is poor fuel economy. A faulty ECM within the powertrain control module can disallow your engine from correctly reading how much fuel to burn during the combustion process. If a vehicle consumes more fuel than it should, this is a sign of the powertrain control module and the ECM having issues. 


Engine Stalling


If your engine is behaving erratically, like misfiring or stalling, then this could be an indication of a faulty powertrain control module or electronic control module. A faulty computer can cause your car to stall at random times. The symptoms might be erratic, and not have any consistent pattern, oftentimes changing in their frequency and severity of issues. 


Repair Advice


Regarding the powertrain control module, there are some key facts to know when determining what to do about the repair process.


First, many modern vehicles have software in their powertrain control modules. Fortunately for you, the software can be upgraded, so be sure to check for any software-related issues that are causing your car problems.


Second, if a replacement of your powertrain control module is required, then you should use a new powertrain control module. Be sure to install the latest software on the new PCM you just purchased. Using an older PCM isn’t the best solution to properly restoring your vehicle to working order. 


Third, a powertrain control module might be replaced accidentally in certain situations. If your engine sensor is defective, then this could be overlooked by initially thinking that the problem lies within the PCM. Be sure to check the engine sensors before replacing a PCM, and ensure that a technician diagnoses a trouble code correctly.


Fourth, it is important to know the key terms when talking with your technician about what parts need to replace or service. The terms ‘powertrain control module’ and ‘engine control module’ can sometimes be used interchangeably. However, it is important to know that the electronic control module controls just engine-related functions, and the powertrain control module is in charge of engine and transmission systems. 


Next, the powertrain control module and other components shouldn't be removed while the battery is connected. If your powertrain control module is actually functioning correctly, this could then cause the PCM to fail – which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid. 


Last, regarding the repairs of the powertrain control module, you should avoid using jumper cables to recharge the battery. This process can jumpstart your car in a tough situation, but it can be very dangerous to the PCM and other electronic pieces of your vehicle. 


Is The Powertrain Control Module Worth The Repair?


Regarding repairs and if the powertrain control module is worth replacing, we have to say no. The PCM failure is the mother of all repairs. The power control module acts as your vehicle’s brain, so if this fails – everything else does too.


If your powertrain control module has issues, you will need intense reprogramming. If you don’t want to go through this tedious process, it could be best to just sell your car for junk to a reputable dealer. 


How Do I Save Money On A Powertrain Control Module Replacement?


Although you may want to save money by doing this task yourself, this is a tough job that is really only recommended for qualified professionals to tackle. If you try to do it yourself, you should have ample experience and scanning tools to check the module. Without the experience and the tools, you could misdiagnose the problem and replace the wrong part of your car. 


To save costs, you can save money by comparing car parts and various mechanic labor costs to try and get the best deal for you. 


What Are Some Sample Replacement Costs?


Regarding sample costs of replacing a powertrain control module, there is a wide range in pricing. One of the lowest-priced options is the Honda Accord. The labor costs for this is $80-$103, while the parts are between $568-$747. The total replacement cost of the Honda Accord powertrain control module is $648-$850. 


The middle-of-the-road pricing option is for the Chevrolet Silverado or Ford Focus. Both of these cars run at the same labor costs, with it averaging between $80-$103. The parts run at about $711-$1623 for both makes and models, bringing the total cost to an average of $791-$1726. This is a big range in price, so you might need to check with a specific mechanic to see what price spectrum you will fall on.


The most expensive replacement for the powertrain control module is for the Nissan Altima. The labor costs for this car is between $197-$252, and the price of the parts is a whopping $813. The total cost for replacing a powertrain control module in a Nissan Altima is $1010-$1065. Of course, the Nissan Altima has numerous transmission problems that plague this make and model too. 


What If I Don’t Want To Pay For The Repair Of The Powertrain Control Module?


If you are not in the financial state to pay for a repair of the powertrain control module, then you might need another option on what to do with your vehicle. Luckily for you, there are great choices that you can choose to earn you some extra cash. 


First, you need to remove all non-metal components from your vehicle. This allows you to make some extra money on those valuable parts. Try and sell your audio system and electrical components within your vehicle to sites that buy parts. After removing the non-metal components from your car, you can clean your vehicle and find a reputable spot to sell your junk car. Luckily for you, we have just the place. 


Bring your vehicle to CashCarsBuyer to obtain a fair quote, great customer service, and earn some money to put towards a new vehicle with a working powertrain control module. By bringing your junk car into a trustworthy location like CashCars, you will be able to save some money, and stop driving an unsafe vehicle. 


Since the powertrain control module is so crucial to the smooth running of your car, you can’t drive your vehicle without this working properly. By turning in your junk car, you can keep yourself and your passengers safe.  


Head to CashCarsBuyer to see a professional junk-car buying service. You won’t be disappointed!


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