Car Computer Damage Signs

August 22, 2022
Posted by: Ramee M

Vehicles are equipped with a computer also known as Engine Control Unit (ECU) that controls a lot of major functions. Initially, automobiles used to be purely mechanical – but computers became a prominent feature during the 1980s. This computer is responsible for automatically regulating and controlling systems and subsystems to support efficient driving.

Car computers can malfunction due to a lot of reasons. Since they control so many other parts and functions, malfunctioning in the car computer can cause serious problems that may affect the drivability.

Here are a few signs that indicate an issue in a car’s computer.


Malfunctioning in a car computer can be recognized by many symptoms. In this guide, we have listed the most common symptoms that reflect car computer damage.


Early symptoms of car computer damage are stalling when idle and engine misfires. This happens when the ECU fails to maintain the fuel to air ratio in the engine. However, the stalling or misfire is not consistent. It will happen occasionally but should be a cause of concern.


The car computer is responsible for providing an ignition pulse to the engine. The data for ignition pulse is collected from the crankshaft or camshaft position sensor. When an ECU is not working properly, it will not be able to process the accurate data and fails to provide an ignition pulse.


Increased fuel mileage is also one of the symptoms of a bad car computer. Disruption in air-to-fuel ratio caused by malfunctioning car computers results in increased mileage. Car computers start sending more fuel for combustion and hence utilize extra fuel to generate the same amount of energy.


The ‘Engine Check’ warning light on dashboard is the most frequent way to notify malfunctioning under the hood. Generally, it illuminates to report defects in a car computer’s electric circuit, sensors and electronic components. You have to use specific trouble codes on your car to detect defects in the car computer.


ECU components can wear out and burn due to excessive load or resistance. This causes a burning smell from the engine control unit. In the worst cases, burn marks are also visible in the ECU.


If the car computer fails to maintain the air-to-fuel ratio and timing belt, the car will not start. A bad car computer will make a car stall or require more than ten attempts to start the engine. If you are facing these issues, it is a faulty car computer which left unfixed can lead to no engine start at all.


The transmission control unit and car computer work together to maintain smooth transition and acceleration. When the car computer malfunctions, it fails to send adequate or timely data required by the transmission. This wrong data hurdles the coordination between the systems and results in rough transition or complete loss of acceleration while driving.


Car computer is prone to different internal and external threats that can cause it to malfunction. We have enlisted the most common reasons that result in improperly functioning car computers.

  • Short-Circuit: Wirings and other electronic components in the computer can be short-circuited due to excessive voltage. This generally happens when the alternator is not working properly or you jump start your car.
  • Vibrations: The car computer has to bear vibrations caused by an engine. There is a protective covering over the computer, but it deteriorates with time. Vibrations can loosen up the connections or disconnect wires from circuits.
  • Temperature: The excessive temperature under the hood can cause computer wires to melt. The impact of temperature is dependent upon the location of the car computer.
  • Corrosion: The covering over the car computer is sealed to protect the computer from moisture or water. However, with time this seal is worn out, and moisture penetrates the computer, causing it to corrode and malfunction.
  • Irregular Voltage: The car computer requires a minimum of 9 volts and a maximum of 12 volts. If the voltage is more or less than this optimum limit, it will negatively impact the computer.

This was all about the causes and symptoms of a bad car computer. Ensure that you follow all the precautionary measures to avoid common reasons that cause a bad car computer.

Stay tuned to Qatar’s top auto blog for more information on car computers.

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