Electrical repair-dealer or not?



Troubleshooting an electrical problem can be time consuming (expensive), so I’m thinking maybe the dealer has more experience and will be cheaper. Anyone care to comment?


Much depends on who is doing the troubleshooting. If the dealership has an electrical specific guy then that may be the best bet. A good independent shop that specializes in electrical repairs is a possibility but if they don’t have a factory wiring schematic this could mean they’re wandering in the desert while looking for the problem.

Just being curious, how about some details as to what problem the truck is having along with the truck mileage, etc.
Many times what is perceived to a be a major problem often turns out to be minor.


You are correct, it can take time and be expensive at times though most of the common problems vehicles have are pretty easy to fix and don’t take a lot of time in my opinion. Intermittent problems are an exception though. A person with reasonable troubleshooting skills, using a factory wiring guide (but not absolutely), along with a DVM or test light probe can pin down most troubles fairly quickly. Experience is the best help of course but even a beginner can do it in a reasonable time with a little help. I think there are a number of dealer service shops that lack techs who are really savy when it comes to fixing electrical problems so time is wasted in the hunt for the trouble. With all the electricals in vehicals today there are shops that do have the skilled techs to work on these problems and there are also specialized shops that focus on electrical repairs. Having a factory wiring manual is also important since it shows details in the wiring other manuals don’t, which can help the tech find the location of things like modules, connectors, and splices. That can be a very significant help in saving repair time. Usually the actual repair doesn’t take long when the trouble is found. It is the hunt for the trouble that can take up the techs time, which makes the repair manual so important.

So, are you ready to tackle this? LOL


The problem is there is no power going to the stereo (factory), overhead (courtesy) lights, power mirrors, and the jack for the computer. There are dash lights including the stereo. All of the fuses seem to be OK. It is a 2001 with 220,000 miles on it. Diesel.


Since the radio and mirrors aren’t working I would assume they are tied to a common fuse. Fuses can be fine but you need to make sure power is getting to them and using a simple test light probe on the fuse to check for power is all you need to test it using the small test slots provided on top of each side of the fuse. One other clue to this problem is your mention of the lack of power to the ECU connector. The power to that point, along with the others, may be from the power distribution panel under the hood. Make sure all the fuses are getting power through them in there.

The trouble you are having is a simple power connection problem and you should be able to find the trouble yourself if you want to tackle it and also use the help provided here. You would be wise to order a factory manual for the vehicle as it is a good investment for problems like this that can show up over time.


I found a local older guy auto electrical specialist who has been in business for over 35 years. He charges $55 and hour [less than people with 1/3 his experience] and has computer access to diagrams etc. for specific models which he prints out and gives to the customer. He can usually give a pretty accurate estimate over the phone. To have the problem fixed in an hour and prints of your specific model is a good deal. Not so sure that parts come cheap however and he charges for tracking them down.


If you can unbolt the fuse block, do so and turn it over and check to be sure there are no “melt-downs” behind the fuse block…


These are the type of problems that I made a reputation for myself where ever I worked (I have to blow my own horn these days as there is no one else to do it). This means I agree with OK4450 is it is so dependant upon the man that gets the job.

One example is a tech that spent hours on a heated seat issue but did not realise the seat belt needed to be connected to make it work. Guys saw that I was always managing to stay busy and they wanted in (until they got stumped). You need to make a logical approach to the problem, this comes from knowing the system.

I have been burned though, I spent some hours trying to figure out why the trip odometer on a S-10 pickup did not light up. It turned out the customer had removed he fuse labled “cruise” because he blew one putting a trailer harness on. Well I saw the missing fuse but since the truck did not have cruise I passed this idea up. I presented a 3 hr flag sheet to the manager and he said “you want 3 hrs to replace a fuse”? I got paid .6. GM felt .6 was good enough to diagnois any electrical problem, unless you have a real good story (warranty mindset here)


If it is a competent dealer, and you don’t mind a possibly higher price, I would check there first. If there was a TSB (technical Service Bulletin) the dealer should be aware of it, or recall for a part failure the dealer will fix it for free, not an option at a local mechanic.


The wiring diagrams for today’s cars are just as complex as the schematic diagrams for the old tube type radio and television sets. In those days we often ran down the problem by following the schematic and using a volt meter, or applying a signal and using a signal tracer. If a modern electronic device is repaired at all, it is usually done by swapping in a different printed circuit board.
A good automotive electric man is much like the old tv and radio repairman. You can’t always fix a problem by just substituting parts. My suggestion is find the best automotive electrical specialist you can find no matter where he is employed.


I do not have a wiring schematic for this vehicle but it could be theorized that the items you mention may have a common power source.

You’ve checked fuses but what about fusible links? These may be short lengths of wire or small plastic boxes (end of thumb size) and are usually located at the battery positive terminal or in the underhood fuse/relay box.
Most are rated for heavier amperage. (30,50,100 amp etc.)

You should consider the link possibility before wading into an unknown electrical repair.


While Triedag is correct that troubleshooting modern car electrical systems can be very complex, anything that affects as many diverse systems as this is likely to be a wiring or fuse problem. If you can find a wiring diagram, you can probably isolate the problem to a few wires or components just on the basis of what has power and what doesn’t. Knowing in advance what’s probably wrong might give you some ideas on who to take the problem to even if you lack the tools, dexterity, or desire to fix it yourself.