Electronic Control Units (ECUs) and their issues

Computer 'chips' are now a vital part of any modern vehicle and there are numerous computer-controlled ECUs fitted to cars and commercial vehicles. These units are small boxes that incorporate circuitry of varied complexity and include hardware and software to, as the name suggests, control various functions. The first ECUs simply governed engine management, adjusting ignition timing and fuel injection to ensure proper running, performance and fuel economy. However, the latest cars have control systems for a vast range of functions, overseeing everything from safety equipment down to even things like the interior lights. Often, many of these functions are incorporated in one unit, meaning that faults can be complicated and cause unexpected problems. Something as simple as faulty switch can cause a multi-function ECU in some cases to display various faults, and even put the vehicle into 'limp home' mode, with a dramatic loss of performance.

interior picture of a typical vehicle ECUAdvances in the miniaturisation of electronic circuits, and the expansion of the functions possible in computer chips have resulted in manufacturers being able to incorporate control units throughout vehicles, all of which usually communicate with each other to ensure all systems function correctly. Overall, reliability is surprising good, however, units in a vehicle have to deal with relatively extreme conditions in terms of temperature changes, moisture and vibration, and it is inevitable that faults can and do arise. Problems are wide and varied, but inevitably start with a dashboard light illuminating, often accompanied by an evident fault, such as poor running or something simply not working. Under any circumstances, it is absolutely vital to get any fault investigated sooner rather than later. Something as minor as a small engine misfire could actually be a symptom of something more fundamental, and leaving it could turn a small issue into potentially serious engine damage. On the other hand, something that appears to be a major fault may have a relatively very minor cause.

At MK T and B Centre, we have all the necessary equipment (both up-to-date hardware and the relevant software), together with the experience and training, to be able to identify and rectify any ECU problem, no matter how large or small. Quite often, simply 'reading' the fault and appropriate reprogramming can remedy an issue. Even in the worst-case scenario, we can obtain and fit a replacement ECU or have your original unit repaired and reconditioned to proper standards. One word of caution in this regard, people often believe that if an ECU fails, it is possible to buy a second-hand unit from the Internet and fit it. This is very often not the case. Most ECUs are 'coded' to work only on a specific vehicle and fitting one to another car, even one that appears otherwise identical, will often result in the unit either not working, or worse will cause damage to other units.

If you have any ECU fault or other electrical problem with your car, please contact us. We will be able to look at your vehicle quickly, establish what the problem is, and provide the best value solution.

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