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Author Topic: Automotive Computer Question  (Read 948 times)
KA5ROW
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« on: January 04, 2008, 11:33:57 PM »

Automotive Computer Question

Not really ham radio related but I do not know who to ask.

No ham equipment has ever been installed in this Car.  Car is a 2001 Toyota Prius.


The Toyota dealership said my computer was bad.  In all examples I will give, it is the exact same warning lights.
The History  at about 36 K miles I got warning lights took it to Toyota, they said we don't know. They turned them off and said the computer did not really say why. It then Ran Ok.

At 40 K miles same thing. There answer we don't know same thing.

AT about 60 K Same thing. But this time they said  just drive it until it just quits.

At about 95 K Same thing.

At 102 K  now out of warranty.  In 10 minutes time they said oxygen sincere $800.

At 120 K,  135K, 150K, same warning lights.

Now at 177 K same thing. They said may need a new Coil.  Coil & plugs  $300.

A week later maybe it is the computer $1153.05 + $90 labor. I asked for the old computer. If I see any warning lights any time soon I will be P/Oed.  So my question is How and Who can I get to test the old computer. My concern is that it may well have been the computer all along. Or it may be something else. And I just bought a unnecessary part.   I do not want to buy a part and if that is not it then buy another and another and so on. I could do that and eventually replace what is bad over time.
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WA9SVD
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2008, 12:04:29 AM »

Hopefully you still have the original work order receipts from the vatious "repairs."  You will need to look through the warantee fine print that came with the car, and probably contact the corporate Headquarters of Toyota, as well as your Bureau of Automotive Repair (or equivalent.)

    It seems there MAY be an issue, or it could be an unfortunate coincidence, but supposedly the Prius model is supposed to have an extraordinary warrantee period, but it's hard to tell what is covered and what isn't without seeing the exact warrantee document that came with your vehicle.

    Good luck.
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KA5N
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2008, 02:25:44 AM »

Sounds like a piece of vinyl tape over the "check engine soon" light would have cost less.
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AC5E
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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2008, 02:39:04 AM »

I suppose it is information overload - but somewhere on the Internet there is a site with information on recalls and persistent problems for automobiles. I thought I would remember it, but I do not. Perhaps this will jog someone's memory who can post that information.  

Anyway, I had a problem the dealers had never heard of. I was referred to the site; the problem was listed, along with a cure and what the dealer should do to get the manufacturer to pay for fixing it. The problem was promptly taken care of and I am a happy driver. As are a couple of friends I referred to the site while I still remembered it.

Next, if your dealer ever tells you to ignore a warning light, find the best independent repair shop in your area and talk to the head mechanic. NOT to the person writing the work orders - talk to someone who actually does the repairs. Even if the tech has not run into the problem; somewhere, someone has almost certainly had the same problem and the shop will have a tech note on it.

73  Pete Allen  AC5E


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W5ONV
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2008, 05:06:04 AM »

 Try a different brand and grade of fuel. I had the same problem with a Ford Ranger. 7-11 gas would always cause the light to come on. It took awhile to realize that was the problem. A Ford mechanic told me that. After switching brands, the light has never come on again. 73, Jim
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K0BG
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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2008, 05:06:43 AM »

I'm with Pete on this one. Some cars and light trucks have a high incidence of repair. As a result, the factories issue what it commonly referred to as a 'Hidden Warranty', and the Prius is among them.

What's more, the Prius has an extended OBD II computer system, and the error codes are very robust. If it was an oxygen sensor, they would have known by reading the code. When a dealer says they don't know what the problem is, they lie!

If I were you, the next step is to contact the Toyota regional office. If that doesn't help, call your state's consumer protection department.

Based on nothing more than my inbox, it is worth your time to investigate the issue.

Alan, KØBG
www.k0bg.com
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KA1MDA
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2008, 07:41:36 AM »

Have you tried contacting the zone office? Ask the dealer for the phone number of the nearest Toyota zone office and give them a call.

I had a 1992 Honda Accord which I bought new. It came with a 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty. When it was 5 years old, I took it to the dealer to have the timing belt, accessory belts, and water pump replaced as part of regular preventive maintenance at 100,000 miles. A week after having work done, I'm driving to work and oil light comes on. I kill the engine and coast to side of road, open hood, and entire engine compartment is covered in oil.

I have car towed back to dealer, and they say it blew out the balance shaft front oil seal. Will cost over $480 to repair, as the oil leak had contaminated the new timing belt, drive belts, and radiator hoses, and all will need to be replaced again.

I call the zone office and tell them I find it an unusual coincidence that all this happened a week after dealer serviced my vehicle. I mention that the work the dealer perfomed was in the immediate vicinity of the failed part, and that the oil seal was obviously in tact and not leaking during the repair, as the mechanic would have noticed it and surely brought it to my attention before installing new timing belt.

They call me back a few hours later, and state that they have investigated, and don't feel dealer did anything wrong. However, since it's such an unusual failure, they have negotiated with dealer to drop price of repair from $480 to $380, and Honda America will pick up half the cost of the $380 repair, leaving me with out of pocket expense of $160. I thought that was fair.

That year, I also got a card for Thanksgiving and Christmas from American Honda.

If you are going to call the zone office, be sure to remain calm. don't yell or get emotional. Have all your service records for the problem ready and by the phone. You may be surprised at results.

73 and good luck, de Tom, KA1MDA
www.ka1mda.org
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KA1MDA
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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2008, 07:47:01 AM »

Just out of curiosity- are you sure you are tightening the gas cap securely? You should keep tightening it until it makes that ratcheting sound. A loose gas cap will cause the check engine light to come on, and is probably the single most common cause of check engine lights.

tom, ka1mda
www.ka1mda.org
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W5GNB
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2008, 08:41:03 AM »

Go down to Checker Auto or Autozone in your area and have them read your system with THIER computer reader.  Most of these stores will do it for free or you can buy your own computer reader for just a little over $100 bucks.

I went through the same fieasco here with a GEO TRACKER a few years back and was told it was the computer as well as the Mass Air Flow Detector.  Both of these units were going to exceed the value of the car.

I fixed it myself by buying my own computer reader and getting on the internet and finding folks in the know with the problems I was having.  It turned out to be a clogged sensor line going from the intake manifold to the PCV valve.

After I discovered the problem, it took me about 30-minutes to fix it with a can of carborator cleaner and a coathanger as a tool.

DON'T believe ANYTHING the dealer tells you, they are in the business of ripping off the warranty services and your pocketbook as well.

I also had a LOT of hash noise when I installed my HF rig for 40-meter CW.  I finally discovered the computer was the culprit and installed some snap-on ferrite cores I got from Radio shack around the wiring entering the computer box.  That problem went away with that simple fix.

Good Luck!

73's
Gary - W5GNB


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K3JVB
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2008, 10:48:40 AM »

Being with a Toyota dealer for 20 years, I agree...call the zone office. If the dealer would have pursued your claim, they would have made some sort of "good will" adjustment.

Remember...they want to sell you and your friends another Toyota ! Being in retail for the 20 years with Toyota, I found that the manufacture will help.
Good luck
73
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AA4PB
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« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2008, 11:46:52 AM »

When a dealer says they don't know what the problem is, they lie!
----------------------------------------------------
I don't think that is necessarily so. I've seen times when the check engine light would come on but the code, if it was thrown at all, would clear before I could get it to the dealer. The dealer tech really didn't know what the problem was although an experience tech in an independent garage recognized the problem from experience and was able to comfirm it with some other instrumentation. The computer codes are nice but they don't always tell the whole story. It still takes experience and know-how sometimes.

I have since purchased a reader so at least I can get the code myself when it happens. Problem is that the dealer won't do anything under warrenty unless his tech sees the code personally.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2008, 11:48:03 AM »

*Which* warning lights?

There are codes which will activate warnings and some that don't, and codes that are emission related and some that aren't.  The fact that any light was activated at all means at least one emission or safety related error was detected and recorded, and I (as an owner) would be very interested in knowing what those were.  Every time the dealer reset those warnings, those codes were lost along with any potential troubleshooting clues they might have held.  I would find a new dealer or independant shop and forward a letter to the "zone office" and express my disconent with the competency of this dealer.  Shotgunning expensive components is not a service I would pay good money for.  They see these cars every day and are presumably "factory trained" and have the factory diagnostic equipment.  There is *no excuse* for "we don't know".

You can buy your own OBD software and interface and diagnose these troubles yourself.  I've been doing it since my first OBD equipped car in 1985.  It's simple and can save you a lot of money.  I also can tell a story like W5GNB, how a "skilled mechanic" was ready to replace a computer when it amounted to be a blocked passage in the EGR circuit.  That's what prompted me to do my own diagnostics back then, and I'm still doing it 20 years later.  There was no better feeling of satisfaction than seeing the expression on the dealer's face when we received our last used car, and I jacked in my laptop to the OBD port and took it for a test drive.  After the ride I declined their extended warranty.  I suspect there aren't too many people who do that.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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K5LXP
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« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2008, 11:52:15 AM »

> I've seen times when the check engine light would
> come on but the code, if it was thrown at all, would
> clear before I could get it to the dealer.

That means whatever set the code initially had cleared itself, and stayed cleared for three engine warming/cooling cycles.  A warming/cooling cycle is when the engine comes up to operating temperature, then after shutting off has cooled to below 120F (or thereabouts).  Something like a loose gas cap can set the MIL, then after retightening it and a subsequent 3 temperature cycles the MIL will clear and the code will be erased from memory.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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KA5ROW
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« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2008, 01:01:49 PM »

The light that came on was the one with he question / exclamation mark the gas part of died and I only had the battery power to drive the car. I re started the car 6 or 7 times and the gas side of the hybrid started and I drove home.  Got home killed the engine re started and all lights went off.
Drove it for a day or two every thing was fine but gas mileage dropped to about 20 MPG. made a appointment with Toyota, that's when they replaced spark plugs and coil.. Turned light off worked fine for about 5 or 6 days.  Started car to warm it up one morning when it was 13 dg. Started fine went out to go to work engine was not running but car would still run on battery power. You could push foot on gas petal engine would run sounded rough. Gas back down to 20 MPG at best.  Made appointment to bring car in they replaced computer. Now it is a just and wait and see.  I kept the old computer so if light come on I will have a third party check the old computer out.  Sense the prius is a hybrid you can not just take it anywhere no body will touch them.

Thanks for the replies.
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W5RKL
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« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2008, 02:03:27 PM »

First, never ever accept "There's nothing wrong"
when you know darn good and well there is.

If you still have the repair documents, contact the
manufacturer and request to speak with someone
who will listen to you. Don't accept "He's out of
the office today", that's a typical "I don't want to
talk to you" message. Keep calling, don't stop until
they talk with you.

I had a very similar problem with an S10 pickup where
the "CHECK ENGINE SOON" light kept coming on. The
warranty back then was only 12 months. Of course the
problem kept coming back no matter how many times I
took it to the dealer and they did nothing to fix it.
It showed a code in the computer but they didn't fix it.
I ended up, after the 3rd time it happened, calling
General Motors and demanding they fix it. They finally
found a bad exhaust sensor, replaced it, and the
problem never happened again. It was free even though
the truck was out of warranty.

Check your state's "Lemon Laws" to see what recourse
you have. Yes, I know Lemon Laws are what the
phrase/title says, not worth anything. But, it's a
means at which to get the vehicle fixed, just don't
stop until you get satisfaction.

73
Mike
W5RKL
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