Can I get my money back?
I took my 2006 Dodge Stratus to the shop to be fixed because the check engine light
kept popping up on the dashboard. The diagnostic result didn't indicate any particular
thing being wrong with the car, but they went ahead and replaced the pcm because the
shop where I previously took the car for the same reason for a total of four times told
them on the phone that the culprit in my car was probably a faulty computer. I
reluctantly agreed to have them replace the pcm and was charged $1,227.00 plus $250
for labor and reprogramming the pcm. After spending over $1,600 for this work,
including tax, I find that my car continues to have the same problem I took it there in the
first place. When the check engine light is on, the car runs rough, like it's having trouble
keeping up the normal speed and sometimes it skips a beat. The car only has 28,431
miles total, because I don't drive it much, still it's very frustrating to have spent so much
money and the car still isn't fixed. The manager tried replacing the pcm one more time,
just last week, but with my great disappointment, after a few minutes of driving it, I saw
the check engine light pop up again on the dashboard and the car started feeling rough.
The receipt says no refunds, but it's clear that these people don't know how to fix this
car. What should I do? What are my rights?
The correct way to approach this problem is to first scan the computer and pull the trouble code(s). Since the check engine light is on and comes on consistently there's a "hard" failure and the trouble code(s) will tell them where to look. Getting a second opinion on a high dollar repair is always a good idea. However, letting the first shop talk to the second, is not. The second shop replaced the PCM on the advice of the first shop. To me, this sounds silly. Especially since the first shop told the second shop that it's "probably" the PCM. Sounds like neither shop bothered to diagnose the problem to begin with. As far as a refund, I doubt it. Since you accepted the "no refunds" statement they actually did, in my opinion, do you a favor by replacing the PCM a second time at no charge. My advice at this point is to visit your local auto parts store and have the computer scanned for the trouble code(s). Post them here and we can help you further. Most auto parts stores will scan the computer for free. Yes, free! Now if you feel that the repair is not something that you can or want to do yourself, take it to your local Dodge Dealer. Explain to them you have the trouble code(s) and describe your engine symptoms. Don't bother going back to either of the two shops. Move on and consider it a life lesson learned. Unfortunately a very expensive one! HTH. -Jim
Thank you, Jim, there's a lot of wisdom and care in what you said, and I appreciate you taking the time very much. I'll take my car to Auto Zone first thing Monday morning. Should I ask for a general diagnostic or just the computer code(s)? Reason I ask is because with or without the new PCM the car is still behaving exactly as it did when I took it to be repaired in the first place, which makes me suspect it didn't need the PCM replaced at all. So I'm not sure the PCM is the reason of the problem and that's why I stopped taking the car to Firestone. The first time I took it to Samstone's I mentioned having taken the car to Firestone four times the year before because of this problem, so when they too couldn't find anything they called Firestone. I later chided them for doing that, but it was done. In my opinion they put in a new computer when it didn't really need one, and I had to pay the price for nothing. I will post here the Autozone diagnostic scan, tomorrow.
You're welcome. Glad to help. Thank you for the kind word and the best answer click. Just tell Autozone that your check engine light is on and the car isn't running right. Ask them to scan the computer for trouble codes to help you figure out what's wrong. I'm sure they'll be glad to do it. Yes, please post the codes you get. Then we can go from there. HTH. -Jim
Hi Jim, this morning I took the car to Autozone, but when the employee opened the car door the engine light on the dashboard happened to have been off. It had been on until I parked there! I explained that it goes on and off, in fact I printed what you told me to say to him and gave it to him to read. He took a long look under the steering wheel area but didn't hook up the car to anything to check the codes. I guess he did just a visual because the engine light was off. He said he could tell that none of the pcm codes looked corrupt. All he could do was ask that I don't go to Firestone or to Samstone anymore and he also recommend a good mechanic nearby, which I visited right away and who assured me that he will do his very best for my car. Out of curiosity I asked the Autozone people how much it costs to buy a new pcm for a 2006 Dodge Stratus and he quoted me less than $500, already programmed!! I paid Samstone $1600 for the same thing. Anyway, you have been so kind that I wanted to let you know where I am at. I don't know what else to do. I feel that I have been taken advantage of and, what's even worse, my car is none the better. In fact it's exactly in the same conditions as when all this started.
Thanks for the update and the kind words. Without plugging into the ALDL connector under the dash he can't really tell anything. Even though the check engine light happens to be off at the moment the trouble code(s) are still stored in the PCM's memory. Oh and the ALDL (Assembly Line Data Link) connector that I referred to is what he was looking for under your dash. Maybe he just couldn't find it. Many times "youngsters" start out at stores before actually getting their hands dirty in the auto mechanic field. That's what my Nephew did. He worked at a store for 4 years then moved on to being a mechanic. It's actually a good idea, I think. It gave Him a taste of it and allowed Him to get familiar with all different aspects of a car before actually doing the work. I'm sure the advice of the Autozone guy is good. I work for NAPA and we do that too. Recommend some of our better customers to people, like you, who are sometimes new to the area or looking for a change. Thanks again for the update. Please keep us posted. HTH. -Jim
Thankyou for the feedback, Jim. I still have the car, because the new mechanic told me to bring it to him when the engine light comes back on. I am going to a different Autozone today and specifically ask for the ALDL connection. Will keep you posted :)
You're welcome, please do. Here's what you're looking for. It should be under the dash on the driver's side to the right of the steering column. Some are located to the left of the steering column but most are on the right. HTH. - Jim
Thank you so much for the very clear explanation of what to look for. I went to another Autozone and they kindly did as I asked. The codes came back to "0", so nothing wrong with them, they told me. They also scanned a few other things and they also came back good. Two observations, and I don't know how relevant they are if at all: When I turn on the headlights, the odometer and clock lights go off. Also, when I drive with the windows down I keep smelling something burning coming from under the hood, but this has been going on for years. Since I have maintained the car regularly, I figured some of the pros that worked on it might have noticed if there had been something wrong. But then nobody can tell me why the check engine light keeps showing up and when it does the car feels rough and sluggish.
You're welcome. Glad to help. I'm not sure why, since the check engine light has been coming on, there's no codes stored in the computer. That doesn't seem right to me. Check for fuses marked "ECM" see if any are blown. If they are it may cause the PCM to be cleared each time you turn off the car. As for the dash displays, check the dimmer adjustment wheel near the headlight switch. It may be turned down. The odometer and radio displays are supposed to dim when you switch on headlights. If the dimmer wheel is turned down they'll go out. The burning smell could be seeping valve cover gaskets. Cars tend to do that with age and mileage. Since this has been going on for some time and nothing's burst into flames or quit working I wouldn't worry too much about it. I don't drive my 2000 Grand Prix that often but when I do sometimes I get a little smoke and (burning) odor from the hot exhaust manifolds. This is from those seeping valve cover gaskets. I'll run this by a few guys at work and see if we can come up with an answer as to why the PCM isn't storing trouble codes. HTH. - Jim
Jim, you have a gift for simplifying things. I am neither technically nor mechanically minded, but strangely enough, I understand what you are saying. And I am very grateful for your taking the time to help me with my car trouble. The PCM in question is new because they changed it twice, the last time was just last week. Could it be the reason why it isn't storing any trouble codes? Maybe the check engine light comes up because of some PCM unrelated problem and the mechanics may not have looked in every place where there trouble could be brooding . I was never convinced that the PCM needed replacing in the first place, and even one of the Autozone people I went to the other day told me it's rare to see a 2006 Dodge Stratus needing a new PCM.
Thank you. That could be. But I'd hope that the new PCMs would be storing any trouble codes just like the original one. One thing that has been in the back of my mind is something I was told many years ago. That is "the computer never tells on itself." I can believe that to a degree. The PCM monitors the engine and transmission. So it is possible to get a transmission code with the check engine light on. I once changed the ECM (OBD I computer) in a '92 Buick for a friend at work. His computer had been fried when the battery shifted and the positive battery cable touched the radiator support. The car never presented a computer failure code. It took some doing but I finally figured it out. It's also possible that the wire going to the check engine light bulb is bad. Or the printed circuit behind the instrument cluster is shorted. The check engine light comes on when the computer grounds the bulb. The only way to test that is with a professional's scan tool. With the check engine light on it can be commanded off using a scan tool. That actually occurred to me after you mentioned about the displays on the dash going off with the headlights on. I haven't been able to get a definitive answer from anyone at work on this either. Perhaps the service department of your local Dodge Dealer can shed some light and free advice on this. HTH. -Jim
Yes, I thought about taking it to the Dodge Dealer, but the engine light has been off for some days now, so people don't know what to tell me, since it works fine when the engine light is off. This can last days or weeks or even months, but eventually it comes back. I was extremely worried at first that the car wouldn't pass inspection with that check engine light on, because inspection was due this month, but I was told they changed the rules and now I'm OK until February, when I have to pay for registration. Nevertheless, I paid a lot of money for getting it fixed and it wasn't fixed at all, so now I am looking for anyone that can give me a clue so I can help them look in some places where perhaps they haven't looked before. I will suggest they check for fuses marked "ECM" to see if any are blown, as you suggested earlier, explaining that, if they are it may cause the PCM to be cleared each time the car is turned off.
Ok, that's good. We definitely want to cover all the bases. I talked to my Manager a short time ago this morning about this issue. He's of the belief that it's an intermittent bad ground/short to ground with the check engine light circuit. Especially since you're having an issue with the odometer and radio displays. He asked if the new PCMs were programmed to the car. I told him they were. He also pointed out that a bad PCM ground or PCM circuit ground will make the car run poorly. Signals from the sensors will be skewed as a result. HTH. - Jim
Jim, the car is back in the shop. I gave the manager the printouts of some of your observations because there are some good clues and he promised me that he will read them and fix the car. When the check engine light came back on the panel yesterday, it felt as if I were driving on small rocks and I had to put on the flashers because I thought it was going to stall at any time. I was afraid that someone was going to hit me from behind. Anyway I'm keeping you posted and I hope I can give you good news when I get my car back, whenever that will be.
Thank you for the update. That's great news. I'm sure it wasn't much fun for you but I'm glad the light came back on. Yes, please keep us posted. -Jim
Jim, today I got my car back and I thought you'd appreciate knowing that your manager was right to suggest checking the sensor. They found that one was melted and had to be replaced. So far the car seems to be doing fine, but then I haven't had the chance to do much driving, but somehow I feel that this time they hit the nail on the head. Thank you so much for your help. You guys do a fantastic job. I'm truly grateful.
That's awesome! Thanks for letting us know! So glad it's fixed! You're welcome. Glad to help. -Jim
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