Expensive cars are built with expensive parts. Well, at least that used to be the saying. Today cars are built with a lot of unnecessary, complicated, unreliable, expensive computers to provide all the toys and gimmicks customers demand but have nothing to do with basic transportation. It's also why I refuse to give up my trusty '88 Grand Caravan. Just one Engine Computer. Your question depends on which computer is needed and what else is required. GM is the master at separating owners from their money after the sale. It's why they have been losing their repeat customers for many years. It's their business practices and how they treat their customers that keeps them profitable. Volvo isn't nearly as bad but if you want to deal with a customer-friendly company you have to consider Chrysler, Toyota, or Hyundai. Part of what I'm referring to is the need to program replacement computers to your car before they will work. GM figured out how to make used computers from the salvage yard not work in any other car so you MUST go back to the dealer to buy new ones and have them programmed. If you lose your keys for your Lexus, you MUST buy a new Body Computer and lock cylinders from Japan for $1500.00, but they DO come with a pair of keys. If you disconnect the battery on a Volkswagen you're done for until it is towed to the dealer to reprogram "minimum throttle". That is done on a Chrysler by simply driving the car. I've written entire pages of these Got'chas that surprise and frustrate owners but I doubt you're interested in reading all that. For your car, first you have to know which computer is needed. 2003 is right about the time when they were changing to a new electrical system that makes everything a computer module. The head light switch is a computer; the wiper switch, ... Everything on the car that worked fine for a hundred years without computers is now controlled by one or IS a computer. If the new computer has to be programmed to your car, GM ties that all up so the independent repair shops can't do it for you except for three computers as mandated by the government. Chrysler and Toyota allow any shop to do that for a very low cost. Only Hyundai allows anyone to download their software for free. Who do you think has their customers' best interest in mind? It is not uncommon to spend $500.00 to $800.00 for a replacement computer. Cadillac computers will cost more. Import cars typically have higher cost computers than the domestic equivalents but they fail much less often. GM has a much higher computer failure rate than other brands. Volvo seems to have very little trouble. Very often the only way to tell if a computer is causing a problem is to just replace it. The advantage to having the dealer do that is if it doesn't solve the problem they can take the new one back out and not charge you for it. A reputable independent shop will do that too but they can't return it to the dealer so it sits on their shelf as unsold expensive inventory. Very often independent shops can successfully diagnose a problem and install a new computer but they still have to tow the car to the dealer to have it programmed by them. They get a bill which they have to pass on to you. Someone familiar with Volvos would be the person to ask. I had to share my opinion because I saw you were waiting for a few days for a reply. Keep in mind that if this is the first major electrical repair you've needed in seven years, you're doing much better than most people.
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 AT 9:44 PM