The TRUTH about Lexus and Toyota ECU Repairs and Rebuilds

Preventative maintenance is key. You don’t decide to change your diet after you just had a heart attack. The same concept applies to Toyota and Lexus ECU’s from the 1990’s. They all need a rebuild. They all have really bad components inside that melt and destroy the rest of your ECU. If you say your car is running perfect then that’s exactly the right time to send your ECU to us for a rebuild. If you wait until your car is missing two cylinders and dies while driving down the road you’re already at the worst possible point to want a rebuild.

One shelf of our backlog of crippled core and bad ECU’s awaiting free time and manpower.

Diagnostic charges, “free” diagnosis, part-time ECU rebuilders

“The car is missing a little bit.” Then we open the ECU, find this disaster and have to explain to the customer their unfortunate situation

We do not work in a basement, a kitchen, a home office, or a bedroom where there is zero overhead and no employees. If we did then we wouldn’t charge anything to look at your ECU. We also wouldn’t even waste your time doing this and tell you up front that we aren’t going to be able to help, but that’s another discussion.

We have a full fledged shop, business, and employees that endure constant and demanding circuit board repairs and restoration every minute of every day and there are many costs associated with running a business and dealing with customers.

We know many “shops” and “rebuilders” do NOT physically plug your ECU into a vehicle, start the car, run the vehicle, drive the vehicle through the gears to ensure everything is working properly and the transmission is shifting nicely. We do this to every ECU before and after we open it and begin diagnosis. These rebuilders simply repair and rebuild the ECU to a known set of self-made schematics or wiring diagrams which are always reverse engineered by the technician. What happens if they forget something? Miss a connection, a solder joint, etc? The car won’t run correctly for you and you will need to send it back to them again.

Denso and Toyota do not have or provide or have any schematics for ECU’s. This is all proprietary, sealed information. Reverse engineering a circuit board can take 100’s of hours to do. This is something everyone rebuilding ECU’s needs to do ahead of time.

The main comment and complaint we receive is:

  1. Why do I have to pay anything if you didn’t fix the ECU / Why do I have to pay a diagnosis fee?

“The car was running fine. I just need capacitors replaced.”

Why do you need to pay a doctor for a visit if they don’t find anything wrong or prescribe anything? Why do auto repair shops charge hourly rates? It’s the exact same concept. We have no idea what is wrong with your ECU, how bad it is, if anyone touched it before, and what other issues we might find inside. We receive your ECU, unpack it, interact with various CRM and ticketing programs, let you know via email the ECU has arrived, move it to queue, the technicians walk it out to our test vehicle, plug it in, let it run for 5-15 minutes, drive it through the gears, remove the ECU, take it apart, begin cleaning, repairing and rebuilding to determine if the ECU is even fixable. After this, we reach out to you and let you know what we found and what the options are to proceed.

Typically there are two outcomes. First, the ECU can be easily repaired and rebuilt, the damage is known and typical, and your car started and ran fairly well at the onset. You pay the ECU repair fee and everyone is happy. Your car runs perfectly once again.

Second, our vehicle didn’t start at all or has severe problems, we inspected the ECU and potentially even started some cleaning and installation of new components in an attempt to improve the vehicle starting or conditions. At this point we are already 1-2 (or more) hours deep into your ECU. In typical shop labor rates this is already over $300. We cannot just send it back free of charge for obvious reasons. We typically will roll the time and labor lost and the diagnosis fee into your new replacement ECU and discount the total. We certainly could charge the labor for fiddling with your ECU and also full price for our replacement ECU. This is not unheard of in the industry.

If you send us a photo and detailed description of your problems we can likely tell you immediately if the ECU is repairable or not.

“Repairable” doesn’t mean no one on the planet can fix it. It means that there is no way our $199 charge is going to cover the amount of time, labor, and effort into restoring that ECU back to like-new condition. We will simply default to a replacement ECU. This saves everyone an enormous amount of time and money in the long run. This also gets your car back on the road immediately without any downtime. Yes, replacement ECU’s used to cost $249 back in 2010 and have skyrocketed to almost $1000 in 2024 because they are becoming extinct and impossible to locate. Try finding a 1992 ES300 manual transmission ECU anywhere on the planet.

We hope this educates everyone out there on the complexity of ECU repair and the wide range of people charging various prices or declining work entirely.

Let us know your Lexus and Toyota ECU problems at our 1992 – 1996 Lexus SC300, SC400, GS300, and Toyota ECU Repair Inquiry page and hopefully we can get your ECU and car running back to perfect order.

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