Symptoms of a Faulty Auto Computer

by Lee Morgan
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Modern automobiles rely on technology to complete a number of standard driving tasks. The ECM, or engine control module, is a common name for the computer or computers found in cars and trucks that regulate everything from fuel to the engine to gauges on the dash. When something goes wrong with your car, it could be a failure in any one of many components of the vehicle, but it could also mean the computer itself is faulty. Look for symptoms that could mean the computer needs replacing.

Check-Engine Light

If your car is running, but does not seem to be running the way it should, or if it is stalling out, you should check your dash to see if there are any warning lights on. The check-engine light or malfunction indicator might be illuminated. It might not stay on all the time. Keep an eye on the dash and see if the light comes on occasionally or blinks.

Inconsistent illumination of the check-engine light might mean the computer is malfunctioning. A trip to the repair shop might be able to conclude the actual problem using a diagnostics machine. If a mechanic is getting false codes pointing to components that appear to be functioning normally, however, the computer might be faulty.


As is the case with any electronics, heat and overload can be the death of a car's computer. Refer to your driver's manual if you are experiencing unexplained problems with the way your car is running and locate the ECM. Either pull it out, if you are comfortable with being able to replace it, or have a mechanic do it. Look the computer over for burn marks or a burning smell. This would be a similar smell to other electrical fires. If there appears to be something burning inside, you obviously have a problem with the computer.

Car Won't Start

If your car won't start, the problem could be one of many things. Rule out all the obvious problems first, such as fuel level and having the car in park or neutral. Turn the key and look at the check-engine light to see if it comes on when the key turns. This light indicates that there is power to the computer.

If the light is not on, then it could be because the computer is not receiving any power. This could be the result of broken wiring, a bad fuse or possibly a faulty computer, according to the Samarins car repair website.

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