Stories like this always make me wish I was one of those people who was more mechanically inclined. It's amazing how much money you can save by doing it yourself when it comes to thinks like fixing a vehicle, and how much you can get fleeced by a dealer or a mechanic's shop. This is not only a clever fix, it also sounds like it saved David from buying an entirely new truck.
I agree Elizabeth...for lack of a cap, the ECM was lost. Such a simple fix on the surface but like my Daddy used to say - if you do know, it's awfully simple...if you don't know, it's simply awful. David did a great job and saved big bucks doing it.
My husband told me a story about when he used to work in a T.V. repair shop many years ago. People would bring in their T.V. for repair and the old guy that owned the shop knew every make and model circuit board inside out and could locate the problem in minutes. Sometimes it was just a bad cap and the repair took just 15 minutes. He would have my husband tell the customer it wouldn't be ready until the next day...if people had to pay $50 for a repair and got it back in 15 minutes, they would feel as if they had been ripped off - never mind the years of experience and knowledge that allowed the guy to diagnose and fix the problem so quickly. So I think there needs to be a balance...people shouldn't fleece their customers, yet they should get paid a fair price for the knowledge they have worked to obtain. But charging someone $1400 for a $300 part is ridiculous. It reminds me of hay prices for our horses during drought. Charging $125 for a round bale is just flat taking advantage of people...for some reason people think that a limited supply gives them a right to huge profits rather than fair prices...okay - off my soapbox now...
Yes, Nancy, I suppose the whole idea of getting what you pay for is true...and if someone takes time to repair something and you have to pay a fair bit, you don't feel so bad if you think they earned the price tag.
I actually am a bit biased today on this topic, as I am waiting for my own vehicle to be fixed at the moment and am anticipating a really high price tag (it's nearly impossible here in southwest Portugal to get a used vehicle, which most of us have, that doesn't constantly need work!). The work that needs doing is somewhat simple if you're mechanically inclined, but for an auto luddite like me I'll be spending big bucks--and probably have to listen to an excuse, too, as to why either a) it cost so much or b) something couldn't quite get repaired properly. So I tip my hat to all the gearheads out there and read with interest their monkeying around stories.
Ouch, Elizabeth - as the owner of a 1997 Chevy Lumina, I feel your pain! Auto repair prices are among the worst for being over-inflated and it is hard to find a competent and honest mechanic. I believe in a fair wage for a competent job but unfortunately that is often not the case. I hope it is for you today!
I agree that overcharging for limited supply is morally questionable. But if the free market pricing has people willing to pay for admittedly limited resources, then why would the seller not sell at the higher price?
Now, on the other hand, you are being sold junk by a snake oil salesman, then outrage should be justifiable. If the product was of poor quality, then clearly selling a known bad part should be reprehensible and even prosecutable. However, the dealer is selling a new part gaurenteed to meet OEM. If $1100 is the price to get an ECM replacement because of limited-resources, then there must be buyers willing to pay. Just so happens this smart fellow was unwilling to pay this price and was able to fix his ECM. I know others would be unwilling to pay and unable to repair, but is that really the dealers fault (maybe the manufacturer)?
Hopefully, if you bought hay for $125 it was of high quality. Otherwise, your outrage is probably justifiable. But if the hay is limited and many want it and it is of good quality, is it the sellers fault that he has some to sell and others do not (he cannot control the weather)?
I don't begrudge anyone a profit GTOlover - We have a hay meadow ourselves. It is a lot of work and we don't irrigate while some folks do - which is of course an added expense that cuts away from the profit margin. And baling hay is hard work! My gripe is only with those folks that are taking advantage of the situation with ridiculous prices (that morally questionable issue you mentioned) rather than settling for a nice profit brought about by higher demand.
Nancy: Sorry, I can't disagree with you more! The fundamental law of Economics in a capitalist system is the Law of Supply & Demand. And, when there is a drought, then the supply is less, so the demand, and therefore, the price, rises to balance the see-saw. While I feel sorry for your situation, this is an everyday occurrence for every person on the face of the Earth who is part of this system. We all have to make decisions based on our ability to afford the item(s) we want!
With regard to the ECU module. IF my memory serves me (not sure nowadays!), the MAZDA pick-em-up truck is really a FORD RANGER vehicle, and as such, it shared the same platform & drive train components as the FORD BRONCO II / early EXPLORER models. We had a 1989 BRONCO II w/ the ESP plan (Ford's Extended Service Plan). The ECU failed on that vehicle about 100 miles BEFORE the expiration of the warranty. Although it cost us a very small "co-payment", the invoice showed that this module was priced at that "$1,000 level. Since it was a warranty issue, I made no attempt to diagnose and/or repair it myself. I would NOT be surprised IF the failure was also due to a substandard electrolytic capacitor.
Well, Old_Curmudgeon - it looks like this part of the conversation really belongs in a forum about ethics, so I won't go there ;) Suffice it to say, I see your point, but I believe that there is some point where upper limits should be set. Situations are often more complicated then they seem on the surface...and we can have a whole other conversation about the difference between "want" and "need" :)
When we got to SWEET TOMATOES restaurant, I WANT to eat EVERYTHING on their long line of items, BUT I know that I NEED only a fraction of these items to satisfy my hunger AND supply the nutrition that my body requires for proper nourishment.
Unfortunately, the simple Law of Supply & Demand, is NOT so simple in its implementation, and that's where "Big Brother" (government!!!) steps in to throttle back some of the unintended consequences. And, we all know that many times their answers don't work either...... The see-saw continues to oscillate.....
Call me crazy but I think there should be a different criteria for pricing "want" versus "need." Staying home and eating homemade spaghetti satisfies "need" but eating out satisfies "want" so of course you expect to pay more. Unless of course your personal chef called in sick and eating out is a neccesity LOL
What a great story. How many consumers would end up changing a capacitor on the ECM? Even among engineers, I would think the percentage would be very small. The kicker is that the truck is still running well 12 years after the fix.
@Charles Murray, I agree the percentage of even engineers tackling this would be small, but for some people it's just the sheer challenge of trying to what everybody says can't be done. I have met many engineers who would have made great farmers with this sort of approach. Or maybe it was the farmers that I met that would have made great engineers. . . :-)
This "capacitor story " happened on equipment old enough to escape the great "Mid-2000 electrolytic capacitor scandal. It seems that some incomplete industrial espionage data was sold to a far eastern wannabe electrolytic capacitor manufacturer. The new electrolyte had higher water content and required buffering or passivation/protection of the aluminum electrodes. The "new" capacitor line was sold cheaper due to the lower cost electrolyte and was purchased and installed in a large number of electronic devices, especially LCD Monitor Power Supplies andLCD Televisions. Visio was one of the brands that was hit. My Visio 32" LCD TV died without warning and a quick google revealed the common nature of this failure. Sources of the offending Power Supply were identified as well. Except nobody had the Power Supplies in stock.
Further googling revealed on-line refurbishers, who had no Power Supplies in stock and did the repairsdirectly to your power supply.
Still further googling revealed a company selling kits of new capacitors AND instructions for a half dozen of the most popular power supplies. The on-line photos of failed power supplies looked just like mine with the handful of bulging caps in my power supply. This kit even included a length of solder wick. At $15 for the kit I figured that this old BSEE ought to be able to handle it. I had built Heathkits and the skills were the same. Two days later, with solder wick and soldering iron in hand, I set out to remove the bad and install the good. I put the bulged caps on a Capacitor Tester and all read less than 1% of the nominal capacitance. So with two hours of work, the LCD TV that has cost $1,100 in 2007 was back in service. Often, we engineers have all the knowledge and skills needed to fix many things all by ourselves. I have to admit the satisfaction of the screen coming to life again after the repairs sent goosebumps up my back.
A friend bought me a T shirt with the logo "I void warranties". If one has a good grasp of the principles on which systems work, the possibilities are almost endless. Engine injector pumps are supposed to require specialist servicing, but there is no magic about them. Just use a very clean bench, and a gentle touch.
Manufacturers should take far more responsibility for defects though, even far beyond warranty.
Another point here is that capacitors degrade fairly predictably over on time. Many electrolytics will overheat slightly and push their lids out to a slight dome. I have fixed many older machines just by looking for this.
I think you may have that reversed. My recollection is that Ford decided to OEM Mazda small trucks instead of developing their own small truck. Instead, Ford put their development money into their popular F-150/F-250/F-350 medium size utility trucks.
dsm: Are you sure about that? In the Fall of 1982, Chevrolet introduced the "little" BLAZER SUV. The following year, FORD introduced the BRONCO II SUV. I know since I picked mine up from the dealer on 10 Oct 1983. It was a 1984 model vehicle. The FORD BRONCO II & RANGER pick-em-up trucks shared the same platform & drive train, an arrangement that existed until the BRONCO II was discontinued for the 1990 model year to become the EXPLORER vehicle. It wasn't until sometime during this production lifetime that MAZDA also introduced their B2000 pick-em-up truck AND the TRIBUTE, which was a rebranded BRONCO II, since FoMoCo held a large financial stake in MAZDA. Now, that stake has been dissolved, and MAZDA has closed most of their manufacturing operations within the U.S. mainland.
First the easy one. The 1991 Mazda Pickup (up to 1992, which I owned) was an import from Japan. I absolutely loved my B2600i, but my boys got too big to sit in the back of the cab. The Ford Ranger merger did not happen until 1994 (there were no 1993 versions of the Mazda pickup sold in the US). Big Brother put huge tariffs on imported pickup trucks, so it was no longer advantagious to sell them here.
Fact #1 actually brings up the next point. Since Mazda stopped importing the truck in 1992, they probably stopped supporting the spare parts shortly thereafter. There is no data in this post one way or the other whether this was a manufacturer's known problem, but it is ludicrous to think that we would have to pay outragious markups on what was determined to be a design failure. There should have been a service bulletin on the failed ECU, but as a minimum, the spare ECU is probably still had the poorer quality capacitors, which is why there was a shortage of spare parts (manufacturers only produce a specific number of each type of spare parts).
In this case, the manufacturer was (probably) still selling the crap cap, but at the elevated price. So, shame on them.
Al Klu: SORRY to you! I AM NOT wrong. In fact, I saw the MAZDA B2300 pick-em-up truck yesterday on the lane next to me on the highway. It was red, with a simple camper-type top over the bed, and it had a FLA tag. The vehicle looked IDENTICAL to the FORD RANGER pick-em-p truck that was recently dropped from the FoMoCo line-up!!!! NOTICE above I referenced the MAZDA model as the B300, NOT the B2600i, as you referenced!!!!!
In my ORIGINAL post, I was NOT referring to the original Japanese import MAZDA trucks. In fact, in the early 1970s, I had a DATSUN 510 station wagon, and a good buddy of mine bought a MAZDA station wagon w/ the WANKEL engine. Unfortunately for him, he SHOULD have bought a Ferrari or FORMULA 1 vehicle, since he proceeded to burn up the rotary engine in less than 50K miles. He delighted in see the tachometer needle almost constantly @ the 8K position on the dial!!!!!
Furthermore, I did NOT reference any specific year of the FORD/MAZDA dual marketing campaign. Therefore, I would suggest that in the future you carefully read the text, so that your facts are aligned w/ other's facts!
Hi OC, FIRST, let me say...THANK YOU for replying to my post. That was a first, and it is very nice to know that my comment was read! I always wondered if these comments were mostly written between a small group of folks. I've read many of your posts and agree with the vast majority of them.
Anyway, the article was originally written about a 1991 Mazda B2600i pick-up truck. Your first post was a reply to Nancy that the "MAZDA pick-em-up truck is really a FORD RANGER" with the same platform as the FORD BRONCO II/EXPLORER" and then went on to discuss your 1989 BRONCO II whose ECU failed. And then you tied your ECU to the MAZDA ECU by stating that it would not be surprising that your ECU's failure was also due to a substandard capacitor.
Then in your reply to dsm, you spoke about the B2000 pick-up truck. In reality, the B2000 MAZDA pick-up was the carbureted version of the Mazda line (2.0 liter), the B2000 was enlarged to B2200 in 1987. The B2600i pick-up was the fuel injected version of the same truck (2.6 liter). When the MAZDA pick-ups were just re-badged FORD RANGERS in 1994, they became the B2300 (2.3 liter 4 cyl) and the B3000 (3.0 liter 6 cylinder). In the response to dsm, you noted that "during this production lifetime" the B2000 was introduced, and the MAZDA TRIBUTE was a rebranded BRONCO II. Note, earlier on, the MAZDA pick-up was a FORD COURIER, but the FORD/MAZDA partnership was dissolved in the 1983 model year, when the FORD RANGER debuted as a small truck, fully built in the US.
So, bottom line, I did read your posts. Yes, FORD and MAZDA have merged and separated their small pick-up truck lines several times in the past several decades, but in the time frame being spoken about here , the FORD RANGER of the 1980's and early 1990's were separate vehicles from the MAZDA B-Series.
And the conclusion I reached from Dave's original post is that the root cause of the ECU failure was probably a design issue (wrong temperature range capacitor specified), which was not supported properly by MAZDA, hence the short supply of replacement ECU's.
Well, I *am* mechanically inclined (mechanical engineering runs in my family), pretty handy with basic tools, and at least some car systems make a lot of intuitive sense to me (although not electrical!). But--I can't fix most of the simple mechanical stuff on my car anymore because it's no longer mechanical: it's become an electronic module. And an expensive one, at that.
True enough, Ann, even the most mechanical folks can't figure out the electronic and computerized wonder that are modern automobiles, I reckon. It's interesting--while the internal bits and bobs have gotten more complex, it seems the external parts like bumpers and panels are often more frail than they used to be. Go figure.
It's not so much a question of figuring out the electronics--it's more a question of replacing a sealed, can't-mess-with-it electronic module at high cost, instead of being able to tinker with a mechanical subsystem. Broken wires are no problem, but failed chips and sealed modules that bust the warranty if you tinker with them are something else entirely.
Now that's a very good observation about how tinkering can affect the warranty, Ann. That unfortunate fact has stopped me on more than one occasion - at least until after the product in question was out-of-warranty...
I must submit a comment about the automotive ECUs. My hobby is to restore a particular car, the Toyota MR2. I actually have seven of these cars in the family. most with over 200K miles on the ECU. I have never had a CPU go bad. I think the major fact the ECU keeps going is the location of the ECU. As you probably already know the MR2 is a mid-engine car. Toyota puts the ECU in the rear trunk where the temperture is much lower than the engine compartment. I have dissassembled a couple of these ECUs to check the types of componets used. Of course the CPU is not that advanced, 8-bit. My oldest MR2 is a 1987 and the newest is a '93. One has over 320K miles. Again CPU location is a very important item that determines reliability. Of course component choice is also an important factor since a trunk with a dark color is also very hot.
Working on a control module in a car shouldn't be daunting. It should be unnecessary. Pick a better brand if your plan to drive a vehicle until the wheels fall off. Mazda, Kia, Nissan, Hyundai and similar priced cars are not built for longevity. GMC, Ford, Cadillac, VW and most tough truck brands are built to be repaired. There are always exceptions. I've kept a Porsche alive but it wasn't cost effective. I've owned a GMC and a BMW and with proper preventive maintenance, they would live to be 30 easily. I owned a Toyota truck in the 80's that was fine but not exactly robust. It was repairable like a Subaru. Finding a bloated electrolytic is a clear indicator that there are parts in there that will betray you. More and more, I've found power supplies that typically operate at 60 degrees over ambient and their caps are simply under-specified and under-built. Some systems like A/C and exhaust and brakes I leave to the professionals as they require special diagnostics and tools. Late models of cars and trucks should either be rated as built to last or disposable. Honda, Lexus and VW are on the fence in this regard as are Ford products these days with all the creature comforts and amenities that have short shelf life. I understand the logic of holding a repaired item hostage to justify the repair charges. I don't like it but I understand it. People who have experience should be duly compensated for their skill. $5 for the hammer. $500 for knowing the right place and force to apply.
Having worked with OEM and Tier 2 suppliers in the 90's, the drive for them was (and still is) reducing costs. I am sure that the supplier of the Mazda ECM was trying to reduce costs and may have been mandated by hte OEM to 'find' a certain percentage of savings to 'keep' the business. At least that has been my experience in that time frame.
In fairness, the original caps may have met the testing requirements and was not seen as an issue. Afterall, they did last 10 years for you. Read the latest Boeing report here at DN and you can appreciate the need for better testing/certification specifications. Had Mazda thought of the temperature issues you point out, they may have tested more stringently.
Oh, please tell me that they weren't using standard temperature parts under the hood!
One company I worked for needed a 12-24V DC/DC converter and found an automotive device that was 6-12V (old Volkswagons were 6V). The decision was to burn in the 6-12V converter at full load for 24 hours and if it survived we used it. In all my years there I think only one ever failed, and the only field failures were in units that were abused and had the fuses defeated.
"a whole circuit board should not actually cost more than a few $" Well, it depends how few dollars you are talking about. Even in significant volumes, a quality blank PCB with 2 or more copper layer by itself costs more than a few $. Add to that the number of individual parts, some of them priced at a few cents and others several $. Then you have the assembly time, the testing and qualification time, the amortization of the often pricy test equipment and of the development time. Then add a bit of profit and you'll soon find that tab can realistically exceed a $100 at the production level. With the additional shipping cost, dealer inventory management and mark-up,you can reasonably expect that the complete, operational PCB assembly will in turn cost you significantly" more than just a few $".
You are forgetting the economy of scale you get with volume. Sure a high quality blank cost a couple of bucks, but when you make your own in volume, they cost a few pennies. I was surprized to learn that with some game machines, the production costs were actually down to a grand total of 75 cents. Auto ecu's are in huge volume, and yet do not require anything expensive, such as speed, storage, graphics, etc.
I have fixed many electronic devices by replacing the leaking or bulging capacitors. This includes PC motherboards, PC power supplies, control PCB in my furnace, DVD player, and LCD clock. If you read the electrolytic capacitor specifications, many are rated at 1000 hours (41 days). It is hard to find an electrolytic capacitor rated for more than 10,000 hours (416 days).
Remember that the lifetime rating is at the specified maximum rated ripple current and the rated temperature. By properly derating an aluminum electrolytic capacitor, which means using it in an environment where the average temperature is well below the rating, and with low ripple current, a 1000 hour cap can and does last many years. Of course, in high reliability applications, caps with longer lifetimes should be specified. Should, but aren't always. As a power supply designer that has worked in both the consumer and telecommunications industries, I know that products can be designed for cost, or for a long lifetime under extreme conditions. There are many different series of caps for just that reason.
David Moberly wrote: "With nothing to lose, I opened up the ECM and immediately noticed that one of the electrolytic capacitors had failed and burst open. I replaced the obviously failed electrolytic capacitor and the other electrolytic capacitors in the ECU with extended-temperature-range electrolytic capacitors."
Yeah, I had to replace the electrolytic capacitors in the ECM of my 1992 Mitsubishi Expo, too. This was a trickier job though. Mitsubishi (or its supplier, probably Nippon Denso) had used radial lead electolytics (standing up, not flat on the circuit card). To minimize mechanical failure due to shock and vibration they had bonded the base of each capacitor to the board with a silicone- or RTV-like adhesive.
They had not realized that the adhesive was corrosive under the stimulus of electrical bias--and the capacitors were directly across 12 Vdc or 5 Vdc. The failure mode was sudden death as a card trace or plated-through hole was completely eaten away. (The more copper is eroded, the higher the current density through the remaining portion and the faster the erosion occurred. For a period the gap would heal. The car would stall, but after a few minutes it would restart and be fine. Then it failed completely.)
The tricky part was finding the breaks. An inexpensive ohmmeter is useless because all the electronic parts are connected in parallel between Vcc and ground. Measuring across a break in the Vcc line reads a few milliohms because of all the shunt paths available. This problem was solved by about six hours of tedious study of the board, tracing from front to back, mostly by by visual inspection, and isolated the problem to an eroded plated-through hole carrying 12Vdc. I applied a jumper of 18 or 20 ga. wire between pins on either side of the break. And I used NO adhesive when installing the new military-grade capacitors: around $4.50 with shipping.
Had to replace the electrolytic capacitors on my heat pump controller card too, but didn't have to mend card traces.
Along these lines, have other hobbyists noticed that all (but one) of the big supply firms that advertise here and want your business sock it to the hobbyists with their $50 minimum orders and excessive shipping/handling fees? There is only one firm I can do business with.
Seems auto manufacturers have a history of underestimating the underhood temperature of their constructs. Early Model-T's would boil the gasoline and vapor lock when hot and the carburators would ice up on a foggy day. These issues plagues cars until the late 70's. When alternators first came out all the manufacturers used diodes rated at the commercial range of 85 degrees C. max (probably still do). So many of the early diodes leaked so badly when hot that the battery would go dead in a couple of days. I bought the most beautiful car I have ever owned, a 70's Jaguar XJ-6 which had the alternator diodes leak so badly when they were hot that they drew over 1.5A, and they met factory specifications! Unfortunately the car could not seem to run for six weeks without something electrical failing (insert comments about Lucas here). Looked pretty sitting there though! I used to moonlight with a local Japanese car dealer doing electrical troubleshooting and it was amazing the number and nature of electrical problems found even on well engineered Japanese cars. I'd say 80% of "ECU" issues were connector, and replacable component issues that did not warrant complete replacement of the module.
I am most impressed that you were able to replace the failed caps. My experience with the Chrysler brand has been that things were encased un a urethane-type potting filled with sand. Very hard to remove and impossible to see through. But they may have changed things by now. The very hard, sand filled potting certainly did make both alteration and repair very challenging.
ECMs were new technology in 1991 and the lesson of potting ECMs (presumably to reduce component lead flexing, to reduce moisture infiltration, to distribute heat better, to make it harder to change the microprocessor firmware, and to keep fingertip electrostatic generators away from the ECM circuitry) had yet to be learned. The electrolytic capacitors in my 1991 Mazda B2600i ECM were radial-lead parts and vibration might have contributed to the component failure I described.
For my case, I don't make a lot of money so most of my cars are the used one. I often tried to fix myself if the job doesn't make my hands so dirty, like changing oil or relating to safety issues, like changing the brake pads.
10 years ago, I had 1992 Mazda Protege. This car was broken because of water leaking into the ECM box. A shop mechanic inspected the car and showed me the water leak with his yellow colored flash light. He told me I had to call an auto wrecker to pick up the car. It's not worth it to repair or keep the car. But I was still curious about the computer box so I called Mazda dealer and looked up on internet for a refurbished one. Finally, I decided to search for a used one from several auto wreckers. I bought a used ECM box of 60 dollars at an auto wrecker and replaced the broken one. The car worked well after replacing the computer box. I let my high school son drove the car to school until he graduated and sold the car (still running) afterwards.
Later on, my son 2000 Acura Integra had a broken power window. It took me a few months searching for information on internet and watching YouTube to decide replacing it. I paid 20 dollars for a used power window regulator. To make sure, the man working at that auto wrecker also tested the operation of that part in front of me. It took me half of a day during Saturday to install the window regulator but that was a very enjoyable success.
I also have a 2002 Kia Spectra. It got a check engine error light on. I searched from Google and found out the error code. From there I also successful located the area of failure. I just went to auto wrecker and bought that used part. I paid 20 dollars for that part. I also opened the failed module and found out that the coil was burnt out. The coil was similar to the one I often saw at Radio Shack. Replacing that module took me only 15 minutes. After replacing the failed part, I used a 50 dollars INNOVA 3030 Diagnostic Code Reader to reset. The check engine error light doesn't turn on after that. If I let a mechanic do it, I would spend at least 500 dollars for the service.
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