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Buying a rebuilt / refurbished PCM

There are companies that advertise that if you send them your problematic PCM that they will rebuild , test & program it for your vehicle . When you get it back it’s a plug & play installation . Their prices are are quite a bit less expensive than going through a dealer . Some of them also offer a lifetime warranty . Has anyone gone this route & if so is there any company you got good service from & would recommend ?

I have… I didnt enjoy the results…and at this moment there is a 250 dollar box sitting in my VW that needs to go back to where I got it.

Sometimes this works just fine… It would be best if you got some stone clad guarantees with this idea though. It is also helpful to pull a PCM from the yard and send them that one … But also…maybe NOT…more on this later.

Let me guess…you own a Dodge Ram truck? I have a PCM for a 00’ Dodge Ram 2500 5.9 I believe. Worked as advertized but they mentioned that I “MIGHT” need to get the unit “Reflashed” at the dealer… HAHA…

Guess what happened when the guy went to the dealership to have it reflashed??? They FORCED him to buy a new $1200 PCM. This dealership put me in the WORST situation possible especially since the truck was 100 miles away at the beach. I installed this PCM that was supposed to be taylored to that year make and model… I plugged it in…the truck ran… ran poorly and had engine lights… They said it needs to be properly flashed for that truck at the dealer…a 150 cost.

The dealership calls and says they wont flash the unit because the VIN didnt match the truck…I said of course it doesnt match…its from another vehicle…as the orig PCM gave the ominous P0666 or something code… No remedy for the P 6 whatever code but direct swap.

So my customer…whom I told all about this reflash possibility brings the truck in for reflash…they force him to buy a new PCM…AND CONFISCATED the “New” Pcm I installed so he could drive to the dealership !!! They even wanted 250 to BUY HIS PCM BACK. Of course I told him to bring his original PCM with him…WHICH HE THREW IN THE TRASH… Here I was 100 miles away trying to fix this over the phone with my customer and the dealership… Needless to say I was absolutely FURIOUS.

What should have been a simple PCM swap taking literally 3 minutes to install…turned into a 1200+ dollar nightmare for my customer… All the things I told the guy went out the window because of that dealership… They wouldnt reflash that PCM because the VIN didnt match…and they can enter in ANY VIN they want upon reflash… the new PCM isnt supposed to have a VIN…you tell the PCM what vin to display. You should have heard me on the phone with this service guy…OH MY… He got into BS laws and rules and BS about he cant have another PCM out there with duplicate VINs on it… I said the original is SMOKED…and will never resurface… He quoted some sort of laws and other crap and when I heard all that I knew it was a lost cause. All they had to do was reflash the PCM…and he knew this…But hey…what a great time to sell a 1200 PCM to a guy who is now stuck in the service bay?? The troubles caused me I still to this day dont like to recount… The PCM is in my car right now…needs to go back to the salvage yard that told me all will be OK… Girl was cute too…shame I need to resort to profanity now.

The yard left out a lot of details and basically sold the PCM to me in a Refurb condition…supposedly plug n play for the year make model and all other info she asked me. She asked me the VIN…the P/N and S/N of the PCM and everything possible. Where I purchased this particular item is what cause all the trouble. They were not honest with me and I think fooled me into buying a unit that was basically out of another truck with little else done to it. This is where the havoc commenced. But this shouldnt have been the case, especially from a refurbished and taylored PCM.

So to answer your question finally? Yes these new PCMs work if you buy right from the rebuild company, they will provide the guarantee, and make sure there is one. If they do not…make sure the seller has a solution…because dealerships will see dollar signs when you ask them to reflash the new PCM to the exact code u need on your vehicle…they will tell you they cant flash it due to laws and VIN number issues… Even when you can enter any VIN you want when reflashing. Just go direct to the refurbisher of the new unit and you are covered.

I will never forget this situation as long as I live…I promise


You are going to send your PCM in to be repaired. There is an advantage to this. Most of the time, the people who do this figure out the common failure points and can do a repair that is better than the original.

For example, I had a 90 Dodge Colt that the PCM failed in. The failure was a broken ground run on the circuit board. This was a common problem with that particular PCM. When they repaired it, they beefed up the ground run so it would not fail again.

Another example I can give but is not car related was the early Apple Macintosh computers. They had a tendency to go through a power supply about every 6 months and the dealer would charge $240 to replace it with a new one. It turned out that the main culprit was a capacitor that would breakdown under the heat inside the computer. Just replacing the capacitor, which was rated for 85C with one rated for 105C would make the power supply almost bullet proof. The cap was $3, I installed it myself.

The pre OBDII PCMs didn’t have the VIN programmed in so you could just get a replacement reman off the shelf, today you have the VIN issue, but sending your in should get around that issue.

Are you absolutely sure the PCM is bad? Todays PCMs rarely fail.

I recently bought one online , it had a lifetime warranty if I returned my original PCM or paid an extra $100.00 . I returned my original . I gave them my vin # & mileage & they programmed the one I bought to work in my vehicle . It was a plug & play installation .
I got a P0204 code & the PCM pin for the ground signal wire for injector # 4 had a constant reading to PCM case / ground with all PCM connectors unplugged . None of the pins for other injectors read to ground so I returned it for repair . They sent me an email saying the issues with it couldn’t be resolved & issued me a full refund .
I asked about my original PCM I had sent them for a core & they replied that they would have to look through their cores & get back with me . I’m hesitant to deal with this company any further & hoping for input to a good company to deal with .
I have done a bunch of reading about PCM’s & it seems to be generally accepted that at least 50 % of PCM’s sent in for cores are good & the vehicle had other problems . I can’t help but wonder if some of these companies don’t just have the means to program one so they paint & program a core & send it out & hope for the best .

I strongly suspect a Dodge or other Mopar in the mix here. Keith is correct PCM failure SHOULD BE rare… I have found that Mopar in particular love to smoke PCMs …I dont know why but they do…and I especially hate to suspect any ECU of any car because they are usually so rock solid. But alas…in Mopar land…it is far more common. Keith is also correct that if you talk to whatever place is going to fix it …you can get certain assurances…be specific.

Make sure you dont need a reflash from any dealership…basically keep the problem and its solution with them…and you should be OK. What happened to me will never happen again…what a disaster that was… I also gave all funds back to the guy out of respect for the inconvenience… What should have been so simple…was complicated beyond belief by going anywhere near the Stealership. Me no likey most Stealerships…


I don’t care for stealerships either & yes you’re correct , it’s a mopar PCM .

As a shop owner I have purchased rebuilt PCMs or had them rebuilt many times. I have never had an issue like the one above. I really prefer though to send the PCM out to be rebuilt. That way you can have a confirmation that the PCM is truly bad. They will typically be able to tell you where the problem is at. The down side to sending it out is time. Turn around time will probably be 7-10 days.

@CarGuyPaul , Can you recommend a reliable place to send one to ? I bought another vehicle of the same year model , engine & transmission for a parts vehicle & I have the PCM out of it .

I have used a couple of times and they did a good job and the price was good. My favorite is Aussie out in Washington State. He does a fabulous job! I can get you his contact information on Monday when I am back in the office. BTW What kind of vehicle do you have?

@HondaBlackbird If the new PCM for that truck had the incorrect VIN in it you should have returned it to the supplier.

The DRBIII can’t rewrite VINs and if there is no software update available for that particular calibration there is no “reflash” available. A software update also is not a fix for a misapplication, a flash can only over-write the same PCM calibration.

@CarGuyPaul , It’s a 2005 Jeep Liberty 3.7 V6 automatic transmission .

The PCM had the VIN of the vehicle it was removed from in a salvage yard… Supposedly the salvage yard provided the PCM to a rebuilder…the rebuilder prepped it for a truck of same year make model engine and trans…should have been plug n play. It was…sort of… It functioned but poorly…the engine was very sluggish and the engine light was on for various codes. I was then instructed to have it “Flashed” when they hooked this Salvage yard PCM up…they saw the other trucks VIN…naturally… and all hell broke loose at this point.

A rebuilder…can and will put the correct code onto a new or newer PCM…and alter the VIN simply by entering it. This situation…none of that occured…the girl was ensured by whomever at whatever rebuilders…that it would work in the truck in question.

So the moral is basically not to use someones word from a salvage yard…but I felt like I was going upon the rebuilder since she refused to sell it to me if it would not work…based on the info I gave her…and she gave to the rebuilder. The way to go is direct with the PCM rebuilder…My issue stemmed from Philthadelphia Salvage yard. I thought Id give it a shot…and turned out to prove my suspicions correct. I knew something was going to go wrong. The salvage yard doesnt know all the stuff dealers try to pull either. Neither did I until now.

This person should be OK if dealing directly with the PCM supplier…cant see why not.


@“Honda Blackbird” I think you may be mistaken about what happened at the dealer in your story. The way I read it, here’s what happened:

Your customer brought his truck to the dealer and requested a “flash” programming. Once the dealer tech had the truck and hooked up to the system he found that the PCM in the car was either wrong or broken. Broken insofar as it had a VIN programmed into it that didn’t match the VIN of the vehicle it was in. The dealer then performed a proper repair, installing a factory reman PCM and proceeded to program it as needed.

They never “confiscated” his old part, they simply kept it to return for rebuild, as they would with a reman alternator, starter, transmission, or any other rebuildable core for resale. The customer always has the option to retain his old parts for the core charge, in this case $250. Apparently the customer saw no need for his old part so he opted to turn it in for rebuild instead of keeping the core.

The fact that after you installed a PCM the truck ran poorly and had warning lights means that there was something wrong with the install you did. Had you written the VIN to the PCM yourself when you installed it and gone on with diagnosis, the trip to the dealer never would have needed to happen and everyone would have been happy.

I’m taking away something else from this whole story . . .

It’s better to contact the pcm rebuilder and INSIST they repair your own pcm, and send it back to you, without altering any of the programming. And tell them, if your pcm is too far gone for a repair, then contact you first.

If there’s a bad solder joint, or some electrical component needs to be replaced, do it

That way, the vin and programming hasn’t changed

And if that bad solder joint was indeed the cause of why the engine was running poorly, or whatever, then the truck is fixed, and there’s no need to visit the dealer

By installing a junkyard pcm with a different vin, a can of worms was opened

That’s how I see it

And I agree with @asemaster . . . I think lack of communication plays a gigantic role in this whole sad story. Meaning the customer may not have told you everything that happened at the dealer. At least not in the amount of detail that a mechanic would have liked. He probably forgot to mention the core charge. he may not even have understood the concept of a core charge. Perhaps the customer didn’t even understand what a vin is.

I also think the mechanics at that dealership were specifically prohibited from “overwriting” any mismatching vin on a pcm. Especially if they weren’t the ones to install the mystery pcm. This goes back to the whole thing about the customer installing his own parts, and/or going to the shop and asking them to make the truck work correctly, after his own parts apparently didn’t resolve the problem

There’s a lot of different things going on here

The salvage yard doesnt know all the stuff dealers try to pull either. Neither did I until now.

What did the dealer try to pull? The dealer offered to fix the vehicle and the customer chose to have them repair it rather than return to you.

If the vehicle had problems after the PCM was replace it should have been corrected or the original PCM installed, not driven to the beach.

Buying a salvage yard PCM and expecting a rebuilder to transform it into the correct PCM is a mistake. The part # and calibration # must match. I don’t believe there was a rebuilder involved with this, if there was the VIN would have been corrected during the process. It sound like you installed this PCM in the parking lot of the salvage yard and assumed a dealer could correct the problem.

The DRBIII and Starscan (dealer scan tools) verify module calibration numbers and will only flash the matching software for that module. Dealer scan tools lack the ability to rewrite VINs, this prevents people from exchanging modules from car to car and causing mismatch problems like this.

In this case the dealer was able to prove it was the wrong PCM by reading the VIN in the module.


Ooops… I just read why the dealer cannot alter the VIN…and why it wont flash. I see… again…info I needed.

I was told this was plug n play… MY install consited of plugging in 3 plugs and bolting into the factory bracket…thats what I intended from the start. I dont have the interface…to interface with the PCM…nor do I want it…ever. ASE is absolutely correct about what the dealer discovered on that day…when my guy…completely ignored me detailing that they need the old PCM…they will take it… Trust me…I was Explicit. How or why he threw it out? My God I will never understand. He repeated the entire issue back to me…as it wasnt hard to grasp.

In the end…Yard lady got me into trouble… I believed I was installing a Plug n Play good to go PCM. It had stickers on it from the programmer…they asked all the pertinent info… Why should I have worried?

Wait till I Yard lady this story and return it !!! Its STILL IN MY CAR…from this summer !!! hahahah… not happening

NONE of this would have occurred going direct to Refurb place…none of it…I sure would have knowing what I know now and with time allowed.

There was a chain of missing and incorrect info…all over the place… Again…lesson learned.

Perhaps the dealer did what they were supposed to do with an incorrect VIN… If the refurb had the correct VIN…perhaps they would have flashed it? Too many details for me to trouble over or be troubled with…this was the point of buying it refurbed in the first place…from this yard.

It wasnt done like I thought it was…the trouble starts at the yard. She shouldnt have told me it was a simple plug n play…“youre good to go”. Then I got the customer in the middle of all of this !!! UNREAL Man…seriously… Thanks Yard Lady…in fact Im going to polish my boots before I ram one of them where the sun dont shine with that lady… LOL…OH the trouble!!! Oh the PCM may need to be reflashed… I’m like …HUH? I’m 100 miles away here !!! LOL Enough for me…again…go direct…I should never have trusted this reseller and neither should YOU. I didnt know what was and was not being altered or put onto the unit I was given…why or what can and can not be changed…why would I think any of this with the motto of…Its “Plug n Play” You arent supposed to suspect issues with Plug n Play.

Maybe I should refrain on some of my War Stories…it only seems to attract blame and suspicion of my abilities… I get into xxxx that I shouldnt sometimes… but…its how I have learned, so …oh well. I told the OP to go direct from the get go…so…Im blameless if he screws it up


By the way Nevada… You are quite confused about who the customer was…what he wanted and where he went, what he definitely knew and how he feels about all this. You also made some hasty conclusions about my work ethic…which I didnt quite appreciate.

He was a friend of the family… he went to the dealer I told him to go to when I was told it "might need a re-flash ?. He basically had no choice by the time the dealership got a hold of the issue he also had no time to properly go thru a rebuilder directly…or else we would have. He was well aware of the options… Buy a rebuilt from a company with a 7-10 day turnaround, Buy new from dealer… OR…the third option… Buy from a Philly yard that only sells refurb PCM/ECU’s. We thought we found the quick solution without turn around time. How were we to know? We do now…

He asked me to supply the useable PCM on a budget and quick… I told him what questions I was asked by Philly yard lady and what I was told…we were both comfortable with that…who wouldn’t have been? Again I only bought it because it was supposed to be “plug n play”. The vehicle wasnt driven anywhere…it was at the beach the entire time.

You commented

**Buying a salvage yard PCM and expecting a rebuilder to transform it into the correct PCM is a mistake=== that didnt happen… it was sold FROM the yard…AS REFURB…WITH Refurb company logo stickers on it, yard lady said this is how she supplies good ecu’s to customers, that she sells a lot and has NEVER not once had one fail or return with issues. Not salvage but refurbed…how was I to know the info I provided wasnt utilized, how was I to know she was full of Shite…if she was in fact? She seemed cool and knowledgeable and helpful. Why would I have been suspicious? Seemed Great…

**The part # and calibration # must match=== That info was demanded by yard and supposedly by rebuilder / programmer.

**I don’t believe there was a rebuilder involved with this=== There was or I was told there was…or I wouldnt have purchased it, what would have been the point?

**if there was the VIN would have been corrected during the process=== cool why wasnt it? I was asked to provide it…forced to actually. Also the P/N and S/N and build date…basically every digit off of old PCM was requested. In my head all this info is being used for something… Made me feel warm n fuzzy.

**It sound like you installed this PCM in the parking lot of the salvage yard and assumed a dealer could correct the problem=== It was installed at the guys house…at the beach…2 miles from dealership…100 miles from my home, out of the box…under the hood, pretty ez. The yard/refurb lady told me about the possible reflash scenario after I mentioned issues…which i didnt like to hear… It also sounds to me like you dont know who you are talking to honestly. I dont play games or take what I do lightly… Im not that sloppy. I dont endanger customers to drive hundreds of miles on suspect anything, EVER. Ive been doing this over 25 yrs with a MASSIVE and very happy customer base. In fact I dont think ive ever had a dissatisfied customer…ever…even after this. Dont jump the gun too quickly son. Im pretty good at this stuff and enjoy it.

My troubles begin and end at the Yard / Miss PCM rebuilder lady, and her programmer guy and company werent utilized as advertized, especially with all the questions and info I was literally FORCED to provide. What would you have thought with all that? The PCM has warranty stickers…rebuilder stickers and Do not cut seal stickers on it… Again…what would you have thought?

You seem a little to quick to jump to sloppy conclusions about my work ethic, skills and knowledge…that is undoubtedly your mistake. But whatever…its cool. I honestly thought that the yard was just a hub for this rebuilder guy to source useable parts and a good place to sell them from WTF do I know…it honestly SHOULD be able to be done…and I think it IS done out there to be honest. I dunno…was I supposed to think all this that far ahead at the moment? I will now! How could I have known none of the info I was forced to give would neither be applied…nor used in any way? Its easy to point the finger…and even I point it at myself sometimes…but in this instance…its not pointing in my direction…but thank you for the support…its nice to know you give me the benefit of the doubt. Oh wait this is the internet afterall…My bad

This is one I wish to forget but thought I’d share, my mistake yet again… I learned a bit…but from the most unexpected places… What else is new? Moving forward…keep learnin.


Originally you stated that the PCM was from a salvage yard and sent to a rebuilder but you didn’t state that is was rebuilt for a different vehicle. You bought a used PCM from a salvage yard with a “remanufactured” label on it, how could it possibly have the correct VIN in it?

What offended me was your criticism of other technicians for not responding to your commands. A software flash is not a solution to a misapplication.

Computer application is not as simple as a box that will plug in. For example the VIN is broadcast over the Bus (vehicle communication line) to the other modules, the airbag control module reads the 4th position of the VIN to determine the vehicles configuration. An airbag control module will adapt to the vehicle after it identifies if it should have multi-stage airbags and/or side curtain airbags.

No ,HB , I trust you explicitly ,what needs to be done is that Mopar should be made to stand behind their wares ,a PCM should warranted forever ,if there was no tampering .When the OP said ,Jeep 05 ,thats all I needed to hear .