Warning lights blinking like crazy! Possessed car

Hi, My 2004 Honda Accord wouldn’t start this morning. Immobilization indicator was blinking. After a bit, it started just fine, as the indicator stopped blinking. My thinking at this time was that it had rained torrentially the previous night, maybe some moisture had got into the circuitry and caused a little ‘hiccup.’

Then, as I drove, about 5 minutes later, the car started trying to stall. The check engine light came on, then the battery light came on and flashed. The engine ran erratically. Both check engine and battery lights started blinking erratically. At one point the dash beeped at me, like the warning sound it makes when the emergency brake is on while the car is moving. This got worse as I drove.

I pulled over to the nearest shop. 2 hours of looking at the car, they said the camshaft sensor and the alternator needed to be replaced. They quoted me a total of about $750 for all parts and labor.

First off, this doesn’t seem to answer all of the cars symptoms in my mind (like the car immobilization issue I had at the start of the day), but I’m not all that car savvy. What else could cause my car to act ‘possessed’ like it did this morning?

Also, does this price seem fair? Seems a little high to me.


I think that the alternator failure was probably responsible for all of your symptoms and you may not really need the camshaft sensor.
When the electrical system voltage goes low, the electronics can all start to malfunction in strange ways. This is not at all unexpected.

A failing alternator could do this. Not sure about the camshaft position sensor.

What was the nearest shop? Was it a reputable independent, or some sort of chain shop?

Either the voltage may have been low as Tardis stated or some of the diodes gave out in the alternator and there was excessive AC ripple in the electrical system which can effect electrical accessories in different ways.

I don’t know if it’s a reputable shop. A little web research landed me little info on these guys. They have a website, nothing more, no reviews anywhere. Independent for sure.

Hello, me again. This story isn’t over yet. I was wondering if I could pose more questions about this to all of you. Here goes…

So the guys at the garage fixed the car: the alternator and the camshaft sensor, charged me $750. Got the car back, ran well…for a few days.

I was waiting at a crowded stoplight and the car just shut off. It was basically like just turning the engine off. The oil light came on when it happened. I tried to restart, didn’t work. I immediately pulled the keys out and put them back in and tried to start again, only now the immobilization light was back on. Fortunately I was on a hill so I rolled over to the side of the road. I tried a few more times to start the car, no go. Oil light on and immobilization light on.

Towed it back to the same garage thinking that possibly the alternator again died. After they looked at it a bit, the mechanic speculated that this this was some kind of issue with the security system, and that the issue with the alternator was completely separate. I asked him whether it seemed a little odd that both would go defective within a few days of one another, to which I got an “I don’t know.”

They called in a key/security/locksmith specialist and after that I was told that the ECM/ECU was bad, and I was now looking at an additional $1100 to replace. So in less than a week my car is going to cost me $1750.

OK, I have some questions about this:

  1. The computer is what registered the alternator and camshaft sensor issues in the first place. Could the ECM/ECU board have been responsible for the alternator going out? Or, the camshaft sensor indicating it needed replacing?
  2. Is it possible that my alternator never needed replacing in the first place?
  3. Is $1100 seem high?
  4. Do these guys sound like they know what they’re doing?
  5. Should I just go buy a new car? Is that even possible? would a dealer take my car with burnt out ECM board as a trade in?

Please help. I’m running out of funds…

  1. The PCM could have mislead the mechanics into thinking that the camshaft sensor and the alternator were bad, but if they followed proper troubleshooting, they should have been able to tell that it was the PCM and not the alternator or sensor.

  2. Yes.

  3. No.

5a. I don’t know, that’s up to you.

5b. Yes, if you can afford it.

5c. Yes, at a reduced trade-in value.

I think the alternator was bad so no waste of money there. If this new issue really is due to a faulty ECU then you should be able to purchase a refurbished unit at a lot lower cost than a new one. I suspect there may be a wiring problem somewhere with the security system but then I am not the one that has looked things over and to make the determination of a bad ECU.

Have you ever replaced the battery?

Run, Do Not Walk, away from this shop. You are not getting quality service from these folks. In fact the idea that they called in an EXPERT, to charge 1100 more is a serious problem. From your symptoms, voltage or damaged computer were the top two issues. Look you may be able to get a serious rebate out of these guys since their work did not fix the original issue, but I would not trust them. When properly fixed this should be really fixed. You just started with a bozo. You could try to get the cost of his non repair out of him or at least the labor cost and your “replaced” parts. If he even did those. The battery can play a role in this issue but would normally be masked by a good alternator.