2004 Dodge Caravan REPLACING THE COMPUTER

Tiny
DUGSTER
  • MEMBER
  • 2004 DODGE CARAVAN
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 78,000 MILES
I WAS TOLD MY COMPUTER LOCKED UP AND HAD TO BE REPLACED. THE COMPUTER IS COVERED BY A WARRENTY. BUT NOT THE LABOR. THEY ARE CHARGING APX $900 FOR THE LABOR. DOES THIS SEEM HIGH. IT IS BEING DONE AT A DEALER SHIP.
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Friday, March 27th, 2009 AT 2:46 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
$900.00 will buy you two new computers and the labor! Get an itemized estimate and tell them you're going to get a second opinion. There are many complicated, unreliable, expensive, unnecessary computers on all newer vehicles. (This is why I drive a 1988 Grand Caravan). I'm assuming they want to sell you the engine computer because it's the only one I can think of that might be under a federally-mandated emission system warranty after five years and 78,000 miles.

Even if it's not under warranty, $900.00 is WAY too much. The engine computer is a high-failure item, but it only takes about 30 minutes to replace it. Somewhere around 2002, GM started ripping their customers off by using computers that have to have the software installed after the computer is replaced or it won't work. You also can not use a good used one from the salvage yard because they are programmed to the one specific vehicle. Just another way to suck more money out of their customers. (Too many people have been bitten by these business practices and high repair bills, so now they're having trouble selling their cars. And they can't figure out why)! Unfortunately, whatever GM does to bleed money from owners of their products, Ford is doing too and Chrysler follows within a few years. I'm mentioning this because you might have a computer that must have the software installed too. If that's the case, and the computer is indeed under warranty, the software installation will be included in the warranty.

Don't hold me to this, but I seem to recall that when parts are replaced under warranty, the warranty covered labor too.

What exactly is the symptom or reason they want to replace the computer. And, which computer is it? There's Engine, Transmission, Body, Air Bag, Heater / AC control, and Instrument Cluster computers. You could also have Remote Keyless Entry, Anti-Lock Brakes, Vehicle Anti-Theft, Automatic Load Leveling, Power Sliding Doors, Power Liftgate, and Memory Power Seat computers. All of these computers talk back and forth on two wires called the "Data Buss". Any one of these computers can short the data buss and prevent the engine from starting.

Many shops are charging close to $100.00 per hour for labor. I can't fault them for that because of all the special tools and equipment they're forced to buy, and for the HUGE list of expenses they have. Even so, $900.00 will cover the labor to replace an engine or transmission or to repaint the body. There must be something else in that estimate.

Do you have one of those expensive third-party extended warranties? If so, you might have to pay the dealer for the repair, then submit the bill to the warranty company. Repair shops do this because these warranty companies come up with every imaginable excuse to avoid paying. Shop owners don't have the time to fight for every reimbursement. I ran into this when I worked for a tv repair shop. RCA and Magnavox were by far the worst at paying bills. But if we didn't give the tv back to the customer until we got paid, the companies really sprang to action when the customer called them to complain. The tv manufacturers put a lot of repair shops out of business. Making you pay for repairs, then letting YOU fight with the warranty company, is just good business practices that keep the shops in business. By the way, $900.00 is still too much unless we're missing something.

Holler back with answers to my questions after you talk with the people at the dealership. Also, if you bought the van from them, especially if you bought it new, find the salesman you bought it from. Part of his job is to be your advocate. At the very nice family-owned dealership I used to work at, many people came in not asking for a salesman; they came in asking for "Bill". Most of his sales are to repeat customers. You will rarely find the same person at a GM dealership for more than a year because they are extremely high-pressure, and if they don't sell cars, they're gone. "Bill" has been at my dealership since the 1970s. His job, (any good salesman's job), is just getting started AFTER you sign the paperwork to buy a car. He schedules cleanup, delivery, and installation of dealer-installed accessories. He shows you how to operate and maintain it, explains how the service department works, gets you to the right people for financing and other paperwork, and handles any other questions or concerns. A good salesman will take care of scheduling repair appointments for you too. He also knows you will hunt him down the next time you want to buy a car. High cost of repairs is one reason you might not buy another car of the same brand, (again, that's one reason GM sales are declining), so when you're at the dealership that sells that brand, they have an interest in making their product as desirable as possible. I worked with a number of service advisors who tried very hard to sell all the work possible that your vehicle really needed, but they also looked for ways to save their customers money.

That brings up another point. If you take your vehicle to a different shop every time it needs repairs, it's only a matter of time before you hit one that will take you for whatever they can. There really aren't that many unscrupulous shops, but the bad ones give them all a bad reputation. In my city, we are blessed with dozens of quality shops. The Chevy dealer is the biggest crook in the county, but the Pontiac and Cadillac dealers are very good. The shady used car dealers don't last more than a few years. If you always take your van to the same shop, you will develop a relationship with them that they will not want to risk ruining. It costs them more to get one new customer than to keep ten customers happy and coming back. My service advisor knew most of his customers by name, and he did whatever he could to make them happy.

I know this is a lot of information. I'd like to know why the estimate is so high and what the problem is with your van. From the information you provided, $900.00 sounds too high.

Caradiodoc
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Saturday, March 28th, 2009 AT 4:07 AM

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