Buying an ECU Upgrade Kit: Signs, Tips, and Price
The engine control unit (ECU) is the brain of a vehicle. From the coolant temperatures to the amount of oxygen in the exhaust, the ECU knows them all. Using this information, it calculates these results to ensure that the vehicle is producing the lowest emissions, gaining the best mileage, and obtaining the highest fuel efficiency. If the ECU becomes faulty or defective, then the entire vehicle is at risk. A defective ECU can cause inefficiency in the engine system and bad handling of the vehicle. However, only trained specialists are capable of fixing the ECU. The owner is required to buy the ECU upgrade kit and send it back to the manufacturer.
Symptoms of a failing ECU
Before buying an ECU upgrade kit, take note of the following signs and symptoms of a failing ECU to ensure that an upgrade is worth its price.
- The “check engine” light is on. If this particular red light on your dash wouldn’t turn off, then there might be a problem with the ECU. This is the most common symptom of a failing ECU, and it is advisable to have it checked right away.
- Starting the car is a struggle. If the car wouldn’t start, but its battery, starter, and other parts are in good condition, chances are, there is a problem with its ECU.
- Other symptoms. Since the ECU plays an important role in the overall performance of the car, there are many possible cases wherein it is to be blamed when something fails, such as fuel economy and poor engine performance.
Tips in buying an ECU upgrade kit
- Look for a trusted service center. When choosing a service center or brand where you will buy an ECU upgrade kit, make sure that it uses the latest computer diagnostic equipment. This is to ensure that your ECU is in good hands.
- Buy the kit that is specific for your vehicle. Since you are looking for a new part, it is best to purchase from a brand that offers an ECU upgrade kit that is specific to your car’s make, model, and year. This is to ensure that the engineers or mechanics will be able to repair your ECU accurately.
Average price of an ECU upgrade kit
Instead of bringing your vehicle to a service center, online, there are ECU upgrade kits that cost $250 to $300 that requires you to send them your defective ECU. The kit contains the instruction manual on how to remove the stock ECU. The repair will be done by the engineers and mechanics in the manufacturer’s laboratory, and will be returned to you on the next day. This is much cheaper and easier compared to taking your car to an able service center.
Five Steps to Install an ECU Upgrade Kit
If lately you have been experiencing problems with your car’s handling and control, then why don’t you consider upgrading your engine control unit (or ECU)? This upgrade will increase your car’s horsepower and improve its acceleration. When you buy an ECU upgrade kit, there is a step-by-step instruction manual on how you can remove the ECU and send it back so the manufacturer’s engineers will be able to upgrade it. Here’s how you can remove your car’s ECU and install the new one.
Difficulty level: Moderate
Tools that you’ll need:
- Wrench set
- Socket set
- Screwdriver set
- Utility knife
- Wire crimp tool
- Wire strippers
- Heat gun
Step 1: Disconnect the car battery. Now, work inside the car to remove the glove box and the metal plate under the steering column by unscrewing them. Inspect the wirings and later on they will be connected to the new ECU unit.
Step 2: Cut 20” of wire for later use. Detach the empty plastic connector from the plug on the ECU. You may now install the new ECU by connecting the wires in their proper position.
Step 3: In the engine bay, look for the four wire bundles. Next, locate the factory wire harness bundle between the cam cover and the intake manifold. Run the two black wires with ring terminals on the end and the grey plastic connectors through it. Remember that the two black wires with ring terminals are ground wires for the ECU.
Step 4: Tap into the factory wire harness for the ignition signals on top of the cam cover. This depends on your car’s make and model, so you may want to refer to your vehicle’s manual regarding this step.
Step 5: Secure the connections of the hoses using wire ties. Put the ECU into the passenger side of the vehicle. Plug the wire harness, vacuum hose, and the ribbon cable into the ECU. Mount the ECU to the glove box for reassembly. Test-drive the vehicle.
This DIY may be a bit complex due to the wirings involved, however, it is best to follow the instruction manual included in the ECU upgrade kit. An average DIYer can finish this installation in an hour or so.