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05, 06, 07, Corolla Check Engine

This is just an FYI about my own experience with my '07 Corolla. Hopefully it will save others some frustration. The problem was a check engine light with sputtering and unresponsive gas pedal. The code was PO353 indicating bad coil on 3rd cylinder. We replaced the coil and issue persisted. We swapped #3 and #4 coils and issues persisted. I took it to the dealership and tried to get them to replace the recalled ECU but they refused and wanted to replace the perfectly good coil. I insisted they replace the recalled ECU first but they said the recall could not be done because the PO353 code was not included in the list of codes that would qualify the ECU for replacement. I took the car home unrepaired and researched A+ rated dealers with the Better Business Bureau. I took it to the new dealer and they replaced the ECU without any issues. The car has been great for two months now. If you have an issue with your Corolla that is difficult to diagnose then don’t wait to receive the ‘official’ recall notice. Insist that the dealership replace the ECU first before they try to diagnose any other issues. I hope this helps

I for one want to thank you for reaching out with this information to help us and others. I will put this in my bag of “things to know”.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Any chance you’re confused a bit on this issue?
I can find no information on an ECU recall for Corollas. The only thing showing is a TSB for an ECU reflash which may or may not have anything at all to do with the problem your car had.

There is no law on the books that says a car maker has to notify a car owner of a Recall and certainly not a TSB so no one should hold their breath while waiting for the postman.

You should also be aware that code you used as justification for replacing the coil in the first place was for a primary circuit malfunction. This does not necessarily mean a circuit malfunction inside the coil.
It could be corroded or scaled wire connectors and the simple act of disconnecting and reconnecting the plugs cleared the problem up.

The notice I received by mail on my car was a notification of intent to recall certain Corollas, Matrices, and Pontiac Vibes for weak solder points on the ECU board. I can assure you that the recall on these cars is open. The dispute was not whether or not a recall exists. The first dealership recognized the recall existed and that my VIN was eligible but would not perform the work “early” unless the codes matched a list specified by Toyota. My independent technician, who has worked 20+ years in a dealership advised me to pursue action with a Toyota dealership based on his opinion that the issue was ECU related.

I can find no record of a mandated Recall so probably what you have going on here is a voluntary Recall (Feds not involved) based on a TSB. (Technical Service Bulletin)
These are generally PR moves and sometimes the lawsuit potential is given a bit of weight when deciding to perform this or not.

However, I would not rip the first dealer just yet as there are often things behind the scenes the public is not aware of.
One is that this voluntary Recall is subject to strict interpretation of how the TSB is worded. The same applies to Federally mandated Recalls. If the TSB states that the ECU will be replaced/reflashed because of codes X, Y, Z, etc. then this does not mean that the ECU will be replaced/reflashed because of codes A, B, or C.

If a dealer changes something under warranty that does not fit the guidelines then they could very well wind up eating the entire cost later on. The dealer could have been nervous over this happening, and especially so if your car has 80k or more miles on it.

I’m not familiar with Toyota’s MO but sometimes if dealers perform too much warranty work or get too deep into it the car makers step in and put them on a short leash. Bottom line is that car makers really do not to perform one warranty repair on anyone’s car and they could care less, all PR excepted.
If Dealer 1 balked because of codes not spelled out in the TSB then they were legitimately in the right to hesitate or refuse to perform the repair. The exception would be if the car has less than 80k miles and has a legitimate ECU fault.

Now as to why Dealer 2 was at odds with Dealer 1.
Dealer 2 is pulling a fast one on Toyota corporate and may or may not get stuck later. Much depends on how deep the warranty BS is laid down.
Dealer 2 may have actually not replaced or reflashed anything and your car running well is coincidence due to the aforementioned corroded or scaled wire connections which were cleaned by the simple act of unplugging them and plugging them back in.

Two questions. How many miles on the car and did you get a paper copy of the repair order stating what the problem was, what was done, etc.?

There are laws requiring recall notices, check the federal consumer protection act. Moreover there are class action lawsuits for not notifying owners of a recall. TSB’s are optional. So we are left with the primary diag code which by experience does point to the coil. Since the coil is fed the low side by the ecu the failure of a spark can be due to either, but most experience says try the coil first. NOT the ecu.

OK, yes there is an active Corolla recall. I recently had the service done on my '06 Corolla.

Answers to your questions: The car had 85k miles at the time of service and yes I have a paper copy of the part and service order.

Now to address your defense of dealer number one: I do not doubt that you know what you are talking about but what you are missing is the customer’s point of view. I had already spent money on a coil and labor which did not fix the problem. I understand that the problem could have been something other than an ECU but that is not the point. The point is that according to Toyota, my VIN was manufactured with a faulty ECU which was going to be replaced under a recall anyway (this fact is not in dispute with Dealer 1). Trying to get a customer to pay for parts and labor before replacing a potentially related part under recall is simply unreasonable no matter how you explain it.

I own a 07 corolla and my ECU went out with 5k on the odometer.

Actually, I do understand your point of view very well but I’m not so sure that you see the flip side of this.

The Feds do not show a mandated Recall for this problem. This means it’s a voluntary one.

After reading the TSB verbatim, it states that this voluntary Recall only applies to ECUs that set any 1 of 3 600 series codes. Your car set a PO353 and the Federal Emissions warranty had expired 5k miles before. As to warranty issue claims, you would have none.

Now to address the issue of the dealer wanting to replace the coil. Apparently the diagnosis and repair was done by yourself. One thing a shop (dealer or independent) should never do is rely on someone’s word about any diagnosis, how a repair was done, or the quality of any part that was replaced or allegedly replaced.

As to the second dealer replacing the ECU while the first did not that opens up a story that neither your or I are privy to.
Based on what you stated the first one legitimately denied your claim. The second one may have pushed it through (assuming it was even pushed through) fraudulently or may have gotten lucky and got a Free Pass for some odd reason.

As I stated, this could very well have been an intermittent problem that was cured by simply disconnecting and reconnecting an ECU wire harness. So if the ECU was changed does this mean the ECU was really faulty or was it the plug?
Note the TSB also states "BEFORE condemning the ECU, yada, yada, yada, check tail light, brake light operation, blah, blah, blah."
A fault here could include a wobbly brake light switch…

See where this goes?

Yes, in fact I do see where this goes. If I were to have followed your contrarian point of view, I would have paid for another coil, service fees, etc… (because the dealership " should never rely on someone’s word…") to probably still end up having the ECU replaced. Yes, I suppose it could have been a number of other things but the ECU was implicated by Toyota and my technician and replacing it was the least expensive option for me and it fixed the problem. Besides, IT WAS DUE TO BE REPLACED IN THE FUTURE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RECALL ANYWAY. Furthermore, your statement that dealer number two, who has excellent ratings by the BBB with no complaints and a ton of positive feedback is somehow fraudulent is a quite a large assumption. I have cut and pasted the the recall notice from the Toyota website for your viewing below. You will notice that nothing is mentioned about the conditionality of codes or symptoms:

Recall Number: 10V384000 Owner Notification Date: November 29, 2010 Record Creation Date: August 26, 2010
Defect Description:
Toyota is recalling certain model year 2005-2008 corolla and corolla matrix vehicles. The engine control module (ecm) for the subject models equipped with the 1zz-fe engine and two-wheel drive may have been improperly manufactured. There is a possibility that a crack may develop at certain solder points or on varistors on the circuit board.
Defect Consequence:
There are a variety of warnings and consequences associated with the defect. The engine warning lamp could be illuminated, harsh shifting could result, the engine may not start, or the engine could shut off while the vehicle is being driven. An engine shutoff while the vehicle is being driven increases the risk of a crash.
Corrective Action:
Dealers will inspect the production number of the ecm and replace the ecm if necessary. This service will be performed free of charge. Toyota will mail an interim owner notification the middle of september 2010 to advise owners of this defect and recall. This interim notification will inform owners that they will receive a future notification when parts become available to have the free remedy performed on their vehicle. The safety recall began on november 29, 2010. Owners may contact toyota at 1-800-331-4331.

My initial comment was intended to help those who may experience the same issue, not to argue with someone about dealership procedure. I STILL STAND BY MY DECISION TO GET A SECOND OPINION and I recommend anyone who is told that a recall repair cannot be performed on their vehicle do the same. To do otherwise is simply naive.

You are correct. The Recall you show is a mandated one and the one I was looking at is apparently a voluntary one with different symptoms and circumstances leading to the repair.

Question though. Since you and I weren’t on the same page is it possible that you and the people at Dealer 1 were also not on the same page? This does not mean for one second that you were the cause of this. On the contrary, the entire misstep was quite likely on their end.

Just theorizing for a moment, I could pose the following. The Recall I was referring to is several years old and the one you show was just recently issued (end of 2010) although I have no idea why the NHTSA site did not show it when I checked.
Could it be that the service writer or even the tech at Dealer 1 who looked at your car was unaware of the latest Recall and since your car did not meet the criteria for the earlier Recall this is what led to the refusal to replace the ECU?
In a perfect world, the mechanics will be up to speed on Recall notices and TSBs but it’s never a given that the person who has their hands on your vehicle will be aware of the latest info. Mechanic work is mind-numbing at times and it’s easy for something to slip by.

It’s also possible that the tech who was involved with your car at Dealer 1 may not be as mechanically astute as one would prefer. It can be a real grab bag when it comes to mechanical expertise and this situation can be made worse (MUCH worse) when a service writer is inserted into the middle of the customer/mechanic relationship.

Anyhoo, glad Dealer 2 got it sorted out for you.