"Crank" and "turn over" are exactly the same thing, so we still don't know if the starter is working. The engine computer will not prevent the starter from working; that is a separate issue.
Diagnostic fault codes are stored in the computer. Disconnecting the battery or replacing the computer will erase those codes and that valuable information. Once the new computer is installed, you will have to hope whatever original problem caused the Check Engine light to come on will do so again so you can find the original problem.
Still don't know what was bypassed and what the symptom was. It sounds like there are multiple problems, and some information is getting lost in translation. As I mentioned in my first reply, the pickup assembly in the distributor has been a real common problem that will cause a no-start condition but the engine will crank normally. The pickup coil is not part of the engine computer and is not very expensive. I rarely second-guess mechanics, especially when they aren't here to defend their diagnosis, but when you apparently drove the car to their shop and now it doesn't run, it might be time to seek a second opinion from someone who can see and hear the car. It is indeed possible to have a defective computer. It's real common on newer cars, but it is so uncommon on your car. That's partly why I'm skeptical of the diagnosis. Plus the fact it was running when you took it there. Either your very reliable computer failed while they were working on your car, or they made a mis-diagnosis.
Cost on a new computer is impossible to say. You will not find a new one anywhere and if you did, expect to pay over $600.00. Remanufactured / rebuilt computers typically run $200.00 to $400.00, but because these are so trouble free, I would be comfortable finding a used one from a salvage yard. You can't do that either with new cars since they have to be programmed to the individual car by the dealer. Just another silly way to bleed money from customers.
The hourly labor rate will also affect your total bill. A reputable shop will not charge for mid-diagnosed parts but will likely charge for the time to come up with a correct diagnosis. This is no different than a doctor making a mis-diagnosis the first time. Often the mechanic can believe in good faith he has found the problem, but won't be proven right or wrong until the new part is installed. In the case of the computer and the pickup coil, there is no easy way to test either part. You must simply install the replacement and see if it solved the problem.
The lowest hourly labor rate isn't always the cheapest in the long run. Shops with more experienced mechanics will charge you more per hour but find the problem in less time. Shops with relatively inexperienced people might charge less per hour but will take longer to come up with a proper diagnosis. This is why you will often end up with a lower final bill from the dealership where the people are highly trained on only your brand of car.
Still, keep in mind it sounds like you're describing two or more different problems. A Check Engine light with a running engine, an engine that won't run, and possibly an engine that won't crank. Be sure anyone you go to for a second opinion has all the correct information, otherwise it will be your fault if they overlook an intermittent problem that doesn't act up while they're diagnosing it.
It's also a good idea to stick with one reputable shop when you find them. The intentionally dishonest shops are few but they give the entire industry a bad name. Every time you go to a second, third, or fourth shop for the same problem, new hands were involved with testing, moving, unplugging, adjusting, twisting, poking, or cleaning something. This introduces a whole bunch of new variables that can add additional problems. One mechanic will never know for sure if a symptom or observation is related to the original problem he's trying to diagnose or if it is something that was done at a previous shop in their attempt to fix something.
Friday, January 8th, 2010 AT 4:05 PM