Alternator / Computer, or am I being scammed?

My son’s 2007 Ford Edge lost power driving down interstate in another state. Afterward, when trying to start it he only got the familiar clicking sound, so I assumed it was the alternator. I found a repair shop online where he lives and we had it taken there. They just called to say it needs the main computer replaced along with all new spark plugs and other stuff (coils?) for a total of over $3,000. Does this make any sense at all?

It’s very rare for “the computer” to go bad. Usually it’s a sign the mechanic can’t determine a solution, or doesn’t want to work on the car.

Have the car towed somewhere else for a second opinion.


First suspect would be the battery, then the alternator.


Thanks for the reply. Battery was replaced within the past year so that led me to think alternator. Thanks.

Car is dead.
Check battery voltage.
Jump car
Check voltage with running motor.

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Why would they be looking at the secondary ignition components in a car that lost power?

Get it outta there!



That was your first mistake.

What did the roadside assist (tow truck ) driver say or do? Did it start with a jump? If not, where was it towed and what did this shop say? Or if it started, did your son take it to an auto parts store for a free battery and alternator test?
How long were the various warning lights, CEL, ALT, or other on?
Did he have the codes read, again for free?

The only thing I could say, spark plugs, unlikely, but if >100,000 miles, overdue.
Otherwise, without hands diagnosis, who can say.

If any of the above missing data is reported, someone may be able to give you some advice.


Purebred - Tow driver said fuel pump. Why wouldn’t it at least turn over if fuel pump? It all happened suddenly, so warning lights just happened all at once. The car would not start at all, and I didn’t have him try to get it jumped because battery is < 1 year old (yeah, dumb move on my part). My son has a code scanner that I got him but it requires the engine to be running. Thanks.

Follow up to my reply to Purebred…another reason I didn’t have him try to jump it is because I had an alternator go on a Camry a few years ago and everything he described matched my experience back then.

If I had this problem I’d ask shop to install new fully charged battery. If engine then cranks and starts ok, I’d ask them to measure battery voltage when engine idling. Should be in the 13.5-15.5 volt range.

If the computer actually got zonked in this process, most likely suspect is jump-starting attempts. Were there any attempts to jump start the engine?

My own instances of car/truck engines stopping running when driving, 3 separate times

  • Faulty fuel pump relay & associated wiring
  • Cracked ignition coil
  • Oxidization build-up on ignition points

I had a faulty alternator instance too, alternator warning light, but was able to make it back to home-base before battery ran out of juice so engine didn’t stop… Did your son say the alternator warning light turned on well before the engine stopped working?

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I’m not saying they never go bad but for the car that made it to 520k, I used to carry a spare computer from the junkyard for $25. In order to rule the computer out, I would swap them to see if that was the problem. Never had a computer problem. Plugs woul not cause a stall, nor generally would a coil although it could be a very rough ride. A bad crank sensor could show up as everything being dead. So yeah a tow and second opinion. I’m not necessarily saying all dealers are honest or trustworthy, but if I were out of town, I would head to a dealer

Sorry I missed the click part which suggests a dead battery or connections. The alternator recharges the battery. So yeah get it out of there.


George - if it were fuel pump wouldn’t it at least turn over when trying to start?

George was giving examples, not a diagnosis. In your case I’d have the current battery fully charged, then test the battery. If the battery is good, then see if it will start. If it starts, then test the alternator.


A failed fuel pump wouldn’t usually cause a fails to crank symptom.

Your phrase “turn over” is ambiguous. Suggest when speaking to mechanics, if the engine doesn’t crank (that rrr rrrr sound w/key in start"), refer to that symptom as fails to crank. If engine cranks ok , but doesn’t catch and run on its own, refer to that symptom as “engine cranks ok but doesn’t start”.

A problem with the car’s electornics could of course cause both a fails to crank and the fuel pump to not run.

It gives a click click click click sound when trying to start, which I have always thought was an electrical problem not allowing the starter to get the engine cranked over. Rather than the rrr rrr rrr sound of when the engine at least cranks. Heck if I know, I’m just an engineer that designs automotive seals! That electrical stuff is voodoo magic stuff to me!

Since you don’t hear the rrr rrr rrr sound w/key in “start”, that’s a fails to crank problem. Several failure modes for that symptom. The clicking sound suggests the ignition switch is actuating the starter selenoid ok, but not enough electrical power is getting to starter motor windings to turn it. Or the engine could be seized. Most likely reason for a the click symtom is the battery charge is too low, the battery has failed, or the battery connection resistances at the posts are too high.

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Find another mechanic. This guy is looking to score big for the holidays.


Unfortunately some out there are always looking for a “bigger, better, boat” holiday or not.

Far more then there should be.


not heard of one of those. Key has to be on, yes. Engine running? That’s a new one on me. Having said that, if this is a battery or alternator issue, that may not throw a code detectable by a OBDII scanner.