The national cost for an engine control module replacement with CarAdvise in 2024 is between $140 and $1155 with an average of $210.

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What is an engine control module and how does it work?

An engine control module, or ECM, is a small computer that controls engine function. Also referred to as an engine control unit (ECU) or a powertrain control module (PCM), this electronic device receives and processes data from an array of sensors in and on your engine.

In fact, the ECM receives information from nearly every system in your vehicle - the transmission, traction control, anti-lock brakes, starting and charging, and more. It adjusts the amount of air and fuel that enters the combustion chambers. It controls the timing of the spark plugs. It talks to the anti-theft system to confirm that the right key is being used in the ignition so that your vehicle cannot be easily stolen. The ECM even communicates with other modules, such as the body control module (BCM). It then uses that data to calculate and control dozens of operations to ensure that your vehicle operates properly at peak power and efficiency.

When there is a problem with a vehicle system (such as a bad oxygen sensor, or engine overheating), the ECM stores a diagnostic trouble code that can be accessed and interpreted by a mechanic, and it turns on the check engine light to let you know there is a problem.


How is a an Engine Control Module Replacement done?

The engine control module is located in different places depending on the vehicle make and model. It might be found in a housing inside the engine compartment, underneath a seat, behind a kick panel, or underneath the floorboard. To replace the engine control module, a technician must first locate the device and then perform the following general tasks:

  • Disconnect the negative battery terminal to disengage the electrical system
  • Remove any shields, guards, covers, or trim necessary to gain access to the engine control module
  • Disconnect the electrical connector on the module
  • Remove any mounting screws or hardware
  • Extract the module from its mounting location
  • Insert and fasten the new module in place
  • Reconnect the electrical connector
  • Re install any shields, guards, covers, or trim components that were removed
  • Program the new engine control module with a scan-tool to ensure compatibility with the rest of the vehicle. (Due to the complexity associated with programming some ECMs, this step might need to be performed at a dealership)

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National average cost of a an Engine Control Module Replacement
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How do I know if my vehicle needs a new engine control module?

The main job of the engine control module is to ensure proper operation of your engine. And since the ECM is directly responsible for overseeing most of the electrical activity, if it malfunctions, your engine will likely show signs that it is in trouble. Many of the signs of a bad ECM mirror other issues. Still, your vehicle might need a new ECM if you notice any of the following:

Your check engine light comes on

The engine sputters, lacks power, stalls, or refuses to start

You hear backfiring or afterfiring (backfire after the engine is turned off)

Your vehicle fails an emissions test

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Other questions customers ask

Can I replace an ECM myself?
The procedure for replacing an ECM may appear simple - remove a few parts for access, unplug the unit, and replace it with a new one. However, in order to maintain the warranty of the new ECM and allow for proper programming after installation, the new ECM should be installed by a qualified technician. Installing a new ECM yourself could lead to invalidating the warranty. It could also lead to your vehicle being towed to a repair shop after your attempt if you do not possess the tools and training to complete the repair..
Can you drive with a failing ECM?
A failing ECM is very unpredictable. The engine might run well for a few minutes or even hours at a time. Or it might stall without warning and within seconds of starting. Your engine might not restart at all until the bad ECM is replaced with a new one. Driving with a failing ECM is not only dangerous enough to cause a crash, but can lead to even more costly repairs.
What happens if your ECM fails?
A failed engine control module (ECM) leaves your vehicle without an engine management system. Since nearly all of the functions of your engine are monitored and controlled by the ECM (not to mention most of the other systems on your vehicle), it is unlikely that your engine will run for long if the ECM goes bad. It is not uncommon for a bad ECM to lead to poor engine performance, stalling, and failure to start.

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