Sunday, May 31, 2009

Of Mice and Toyotas

The car saga continues, and has completely usurped my inspirational piece on the Pennwriters conference, which I still intend to post eventually.
So...After walking home from the repair shop a second time, I realized I’d left my cell phone in my car, which was last seen being towed to the repair shop, and since the repair shop usually calls me on my cell phone to let me know the car is ready…

I thought I should go and retrieve my phone. As it turned out, that is exactly what happened—the repair shop had called the cell phone in my car to let me know I could come and get the car—and I didn’t get the message.
So when I stopped by the following day to pick up my cell phone, the mechanic said, “I’m sorry, but we’ve taken it as far as we can, and we can’t find the problem. It appears to be in your computer, and we aren’t equipped to do computer work here.”

He said he’d spent six hours the day before trying to trace the problem and was unable to do so. He told me he would refund my $263 since the problem had not been corrected, and recommended that I take the car to the Toyota dealership, as it appeared the car’s own computer was sending the car signals to misfire and stop without warning.

I called the dealership for an appointment and was able to get in right away. My ex then kindly followed me across town, as I stalled out three times and nearly a fourth, but the good news was now the computer had new information to provide to the dealership, since I had inadvertently wiped out the malfunction information by replacing the battery.

The car was doing the exact same thing it had the week before. It also cooperated by doing it for the people at the dealership when they moved the car into the service bay.

The dealership called four hours later to say that the computer had to be replaced, but it was covered under an extended warranty. A search on the internet comes up with the information that Toyota knows these ECM’s (computers) are defective, but refuses to recall them, instead accepting them on this “extended warranty” basis when they come in for repair. Technical Service Bulletin in reference to 2005-2007 Toyota Corolla & Matrix ECMs, TSB EG042-07, was issued September 20th 2007. They say not enough people have reported problems to warrant a recall.

Could it be possible those people aren’t around any more to report the problem? Think about it—what might have happened had I been moving down the highway at 60 mph (as has happened to many people already) and my car shut off without warning? I was fortunate enough to be in a residential neighborhood and the worst thing that happened to me was I was in my PJs at the time.

So that was the good news, sort of. But then came the bad news. The dealership lady tells me the car has “other issues.” She said it appears that “rodents may have chewed on your engine wire harness assembly and caused the short which shorted out the computer.”** And while she has been gracious enough to “squeak me in” under this extended warranty, if I do not get the wire harness assembly repaired, and the computer goes bad again, it won’t be covered under warranty and I will have to pay for a new computer, which runs at least $1000. (her price quote, not mine)

However, for only $355, I can forestall this potential problem.

I said, “Thank you, but I don’t want you to do any more work right now. I will take your information back to my mechanics and if they agree with you I will be back.” Because I know my mechanics looked that car over and over trying to find the problem, and it was deemed mechanically sound.

“Please, ma’am,” the woman says, “You don’t want anybody but certified Toyota technicians working on your car. If anyone else works on that harness, the warranty will be invalidated.”

“I understand that,” I said. “But I have been going to my guys for twenty years. I just want to consult with them first. I have my annual inspection scheduled for Wednesday. I’ll ask them to look at it and I’ll get back to you if they agree with your assessment.”

“I’m just trying to save you some money down the road,” she insisted, then invoked the fear factor. Something along the lines of God forbid it should happen again and you didn’t get it taken care of here and now.

To which I said, “I appreciate that, but I don’t think the car is going to give out in another week (at least I would hope it wouldn’t, considering they just put a new computer in it), and I need to check with my guys. They’re the ones who sent me to you in the first place, so if they think I should come back, they will have no trouble telling me so.”

“Well.” A disgruntled pause. “Then you’ll have to pay the diagnostic fee of $69.90.”

“I understand that.” Unlike my regular guy, who spent six hours looking for the problem the day before, and didn’t charge me a penny for it, from the dealership I expected no less. “I’ll be by to pick up the car on Monday.”

I then hopped on the internet to see what an engine wire harness assembly is, because it sounded kind of scary the way she was talking. Turns out it’s the hose and cable system that connects everything in the engine. See picture above.

To replace it, one place listed a price of 558.35. Another listed a price of 645.00. Or, the genuine Toyota model for $1156,58.

Since it’s all connected, I’m not sure how one would “repair” it, short of duct tape. Something I will definitely have to ask my mechanics.

When I find out, I will let you know. In the meantime, if you know anybody who owns a 2005-2007 Toyota Corolla, please let them know of this potential ECM computer problem in their cars, and that their car could suddenly shut off without warning.

Thank you and God Bless.

**I do live in the country, but I have three cats. I seriously doubt they are going to let any rodents close enough to my car to feast on the wiring, and I doubt my mechanic would have let that pass unremarked upon, but we will see...

Update, February 2014 (almost five years later)....My car runs just fine, with no problems at all.


Mary Ricksen said...

You gotta be careful, these places will always try to take advantage of a woman. Good luck with the car. This is so typical.

jodi said...

that's so true. You did the right thing in backing away from a hard sell. Rodents? How would you get rodents in your car?

But, thank God, it's over for now. :)

Celia Yeary said...

Liana--Oh, lands, I hope this comes out all right.I had an Astro van years ago, and it did stop running on a divided state highway--out in the middle of nowhere. It's a very odd feeling, driving along, and suddenly everything goes quiet, nothing works, and the power steering goes out, too. I kept coasting down the highway--I was by myself--wondering what to do. The traffic was only moderately heavy, but cars just whizzed by by. I stayed in the right lane, and just as the van was slowing to a stop, a small pull-off area with trees appeared. I struggled with the steering, but got over there,and just hoped it would stop. And it did.We had just learned how to use new cell phones! I called dh, and he quesitoned me, and after a while, suggested I try starting it. I did, and it started. The culprit? I had stopped for gas, and the theory was that there was a little water in the line, or bubbles--something. ??? Celia

Vaxholm said...

I also have a 2007 Toyota Corolla LE. The car stalled yesterday as I was leaving work and I thought it was because the gas was low. Then I filled up the tank and went home. On the way to work the next day the car stalled as I was turning a corner and I coasted over to the right lane and could not start the car. I called the dealership and the mechanic recognised the symptoms and said that it was probably a faulty computer. The dealership offered me a rental car and I told them I was not going to pay for a rental then they gave me a loaner car. I am still waiting to hear back from them today.

It sounds like this is a common problem that many people have had. Refer to this buliten.

Check out TC015-07 and EG042-07. It is a common problem with the ECM engine computer.

jack said...

Rodents are indeed a problem. We just took a dead one (saw him alive two days ago) out of the AC filter along with tons of his nest. This is a 2008 Toyota van; same problem has happened with 2001 Dodge Caravan. Years ago had a rabbit in the engine of a Chevy and it ate wiring up. I am still trying to figure out how the mice get into the car as all the air vents I have found have grills on them.

liana laverentz said...

It may be a common problem, but it was not my problem. Five years later the car still runs with no problems at all, from rodents or otherwise.