"Check Engine" light still on after computer replaced--what's the dealership's responsibility

Hello everyone.

Over the past year, my check engine light has been coming on and going off intermittently–finally staying on for the last few months. The first few times the light came on I went in to the dealership for service (I use them because I’ve always liked them) and had them check the code and look for the problem. They never could find a problem and finally assured me that I had a bad computer. They told me the vehicle was safe to drive but at some point I’d have to spend $1600 (parts only) to have the computer replaced. Today I finally shelled out $1900 (parts and labor) to have the computer replaced. I drove exactly 15 miles before the “check engine” light was on again. Now what do I do? I assume I’m out the money I’ve spent, even though the problem was clearly not the very expensive computer. What should I expect from the dealership, apart from sheepish looks?

Warm Regards,


Heather, May We Have More Information ?

Could you state Make, Model, Model-year, and how many miles on the vehicle ?

Is that the only problem you had, the light coming on ? The car always ran well ?

Does your repair order indicate what DTCs (diagnostic trouble code(s)) they were dealing with ?

There are many, many reasons that the “check engine” light could come on, again. They may have screwed up or your gas cap could have been loose, for instance. There are hundreds of things that can turn on that light.

It is definitely coincidental at 15 miles.

I think you need to know what code or codes triggered the latest “check engine” light illumination. You could have them read at an auto parts store and post them here.

Before jumping to conclusions, you need to know the whole story and you owe it to the dealer to diagnose the problem and see how they plan to resolve it.


Sorry about that. It’s a 1997 Toyota Landcruiser with 143,000 miles. I have it serviced at the dealership on schedule and have never had any other problems. Each time the check engine light has come on the code has been different (and I’ll see whether they’re on the repair orders) but they have cleared the code after verifying there wasn’t actually a problem, and the light has come back on–like today–almost immediately after leaving the dealership. Last November they spent a full day going over everything and said they had verified it was just a bad computer. I’m actually not upset with the guys at the dealership; I’m just not sure how to handle this. Thank you again.


The base idea to spend 1900.00 on this vehicle for any item should have been analyzed throughly. I feel the Dealer took advantage of you because they advised you to purchase this part.

Since the reality is that you did by the part we must now make the best of it and find out if the computer is telling the truth now or is the original problem still hanging around.

Any mechanic that advises you to spend this much money for this part for this car is NOT your friend, time to lay down the law here.

Tell the service department to take out their new computer and put your perfectly fine old one back refund your $1,900. If you paid by credit card you can tell the credit card company that you want to dispute the charge and that can put some pressure on the dealer.

They likey threw your old computer in the dumpster, but the fact is they replaced a perfectly good part and didn’t solve your problem. Rather than diagnose the real reason for the check engine light they simply threw in the expensive part. Get your money back and take the car to someone who has a brain and can fix it.

You paid $1,900 to have a problem repaired, and it is still not fixed. They are on the hook to fix this problem now that they worked on the car and have accepted your money. Go back and demand they finish the job and don’t pay them another cent. They sold you a $1,600 part to replace a part that was not at fault. They still owe you that in continued work.

I’m Still Curious What DTCs They Were Dealing With. Some Early 97 Land Cruisers Had MIL Illumination For PO116, Coolant Temperature, When There Wasn’t A Temperature Problem.

The ECMs (Engine Control Module - “Brain”) were some how “hard-wired” to be too sensitive or some such thing and the “fix” according to Toyota was a revised, replacement ECM.

I wonder if any Repair Order talks about PO116 or if Heather recalls any discussion about coolant temperature ?


My reply is more of a question than an answer to the OP.

If the dealership put something in writing that the new computer/ECM would fix her engine light problem, then she definitely has a case she can push.

However, there was no such written guarantee, and assuming there was no intentional fraud, then the OP is dealing with:
1: A dealer who used their best educated judgment to solve the problem,
and got unexpected results (this happens to all of us all the time).
2: The dealer was incompetent, and may not have used the correct diagnostic
steps to analyze the problem (this happens all the time but isn’t against
the law).

While I hate to see people like Heather (the OP) get taken like this, what legal ground does she have to push for a refund?

Thank you Oldschool. I love my Landcruiser and plan on driving it until it can’t go any further, so I wouldn’t have minded paying that money for a necessary part.

I’d be happy with that solution if they’ll go for it.

I wish I would have thought to ask for the original part. : (

CSA–Coolant temperature was definitely not one of the codes. Whenever it happened I would stop by, they’d check the code, and tell me whether or not it was safe to keep driving. They told me that if the code was related to oil or coolant, it wouldn’t be safe to keep driving until they checked the vehicle out. That never happened. I know it was the O2 sensor at least once.

I go to school 7 hours away and come home once every 4 or 5 weeks, and I have determined that all of my repair orders are in a file 7 hours away so I don’t have the codes right now.

I think #1 is more likely than #2. They were just so adamant, though, that it was the computer and said they had ruled out the other possibilities. I’m not sure that it says in any of the serve orders, however, that the new ECM would fix the problem.

I’ve had a good relationship with the service department at the dealership for the past four years–they know me by name. I would feel better knowing I had legal grounds to push for a refund, but I really hope they’ll just want to do what they can to keep a loyal customer satisfied. We are in a small and somewhat geographically isolated city–hopefully they won’t want to risk negative word-of-mouth.

You need to be straight forward: obviously problem is not repaired. Let them rediagnose and propose a solution. If it involves additional money on your part, politely reject the offer. Tell them that the initial issues you came in with have not been resolved, and that is what you paid for. Make them show you there are additional, unrelated problems involved.

I live in a retirement community, my retirement was mandated due to physical health issues and even may turn the other way. I will make a connection here, I have a lot of contact with people 10 or more years older than me and it has turned out that I am going to various Dealers with someone at least once a week to “lay down the law” and make sure my friends are treated well. You don’t know how many more cases I wish I could get my hands into but even myself, very well known in my town, still has to fight to keep the Dealers from taking advantage of my friends (you would think they would know better after seeing me in action as an employee, a royal PITA). I know the tricks and I also know how to be "sweet’ and get the people what they deserve. Your case is one I wish I could tag along on.

Heather, fill us in a little please…Was the car (truck) running okay?/ Were there any drivability problems? Why would you EVER bring a vehicle with 147K miles to a dealership except to trade it in?/(they would give you NOTHING for it)…

These problems can be avoided very simply. “We feel $1900 will make the light go off”…You respond: “Do you guarantee this repair will make the light go off and keep it off for at least 6 months, no ifs, ands or buts???” They will of course say no. You should then be smart enough to keep the $1900 in your pocket and find a competent mechanic who can find the real problem, if there is a problem…

Are you required to have this vehicle emissions tested? If not, and it runs OK, why worry about the silly light?? Drive On!!

There were no drivability issues; I am in California and required to have the vehicle emissions tested. Also, I’m a female driving over 350 miles back and forth across the middle of California every 4 or 5 weeks. I do whatever I can to minimize the possibility of having to pull over on the freeway and I would feel more comfortable having a functional check engine light.

I purchased the vehicle used in 2005 and initially took it to the dealership for service because I had a friend who was a mechanic there. After he moved out of state, I just continued to go to the dealership for service because I knew the mechanics and trusted them by then.

The conversation you propose is the one I had with them except for the guarantee. It just never occurred to me.

Take it back…Say "Listen boys, I just spent $1900 here and I am NOT happy… There has to something we can do to resolve this problem fairly…

See what happens. This could still have a happy ending…Give them a chance to make it right before we offer advice on how to put serious heat on the dealer…

It seems like a happy ending so far. I left the vehicle at the dealership last night so they’d have it first thing in the morning along with a polite but firm note about how I disappointed I was. They feel really badly. They still had the old computer so they’re putting it back in, removing the new computer, refunding my money, and trying to re-diagnose the problem. They’re also paying for a rental vehicle so I can get back to school today.

I also checked out my receipt from last week. The part was $1460 and there was $180 worth of labor. The rest of the total was related to routine maintenance procedures.

Thank you all for your advice! Best, Heather