Dead modules

I have recently lost the ECU and the airbag module in one car. Even more worrisome is that a nearly new kitchen stove had the control module go bad. Since I soon plan to buy a new car, I am wondering about the failure modes of the entertainment systems. Do they fail in such a way that the car is undrivable? Do they have components that are integral to the basic function of the car? Are the systems approximately the same among the major manufacturers?

A car should still drive with just the ECU / TCU (combined in the powertrain control unit usually). The exception is if it has a theft system. The theft system might be intergrated in to the cluster. If a module makes the CAN bus unusable then the car won’t start.

If a body control unit goes bad it can cause a lot of problems. Like the windows might not work nor the turn signals or who knows what else is computerized now. Even the electric power steering connects to the CAN bus on Fords. On a certain Ford the wires going down to that broke and then the ECU got disconnected from the theft unit and the car wouldn’t start.

Electronics are usually several magnitudes more reliable than mechanical devices. It’s very rare an ECU will fail unless it’s a design problem or something like water damage. Many times a faulty ECU is misdiagnosed. Many times it’s a faulty sensor.

We have seen a number of posts about failed media devices. Radios integrated with information displays can and do fail over time. Usually a long time. But the cars still run. And every car maker does their own thing. Similar but not the same. I recently had to replace the ECU in my Mustang. It still ran OK but would not accept the programming for a transmission part replacement and the service instruction was to replace it if that happened.

My new stove had an interesting report. The repair service gave the warning never to use the self-cleaning function on the stove because of the high temp around the control unit. The damaged control unit allowed the oven to run, but without control it went to very high temps.

My car with two bad modules is a 1996 Miata. The ECU was repaired due to faulty capacitors. The car failed in an instant (no ground to the fuel pump) when that happened. I would presume that ECU design is much more sophisticated now, possibly with redundancy.

Those failed caps were probably electrolytic caps which tend to dry out and fail over time. Or, if they are subjected to high levels of ripple voltage over time, they can fail prematurely.

In most electronics, those have been replaced by capacitor technology that does not have that failure mode. Tantalum or more recently MLCC ceramic caps are increasingly replacing even the latest long life electrolytic caps for this reason.

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If you can still purchase a replacement control unit, suggest to do so now, while it is still available. It is nearly impossible to diagnose & repair that part w/out access to the pcb’s schematic, ask me how I know? … lol … My solution is to continue to use the stove for its cooktop, which works fine, and just use a small-countertop electric oven for baking. One thing is certain, I won’t be using that to cook the Thanksgiving turkey! I’ve given some consideration to designing my own controller for the oven, but it seems like a lot of work given the countertop oven handles 95% of what I need.

Mine was also an overheating problem. By leaving the broiler on too long.

If I had to sink another $500 into this oven soon, I would junk it and start over. I would be more lenient with my old Miata, however.