Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician
and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification,
and has an associates degree in business
Say Bye, Bye - Part 2
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
For those of you who don't remember my original article: "Say Bye, Bye," it was about my frustration with the automotive industry regarding information access and repair lockout. In that past article I was unable to repair a 1999 Mercury Sable. The repair (updated engine computer software reprogramming) could only be done with the "Ford Worldwide Diagnostic System." Or as we say: "Take it to the dealer."
Well, here goes part two of the non-serviceable car saga. This week I found myself under the hood of a 2000 Honda Accord. The customer had brought in the car because the check engine light was on. A quick connect of a Scan-Tool revealed the lone code P1149. According to the Honda Service Manual, code P1149 is defined as an "Air/fuel ratio sensor range/performance problem." Just as I was about to print out the trouble chart for that code, I realized that I had forgot to check for Honda Service Bulletins. As it turns out, it's a good thing I checked. I found Honda Bulletin # 01-031 quite amusing. The bulletin states that if code P1149 is found on a 1998 thru 2000 Accord, the vehicle's ECM/PCM (computer) must be replaced. Seems like the original computer's program is too fussy about the performance of the air/fuel sensor. Now, how much could that little black box be? How does $667.00 plus labor sound? I knew that breaking this bad news to the customer would be difficult. After I helped the customer pick her jaw up off the ground, she reminded me that she had purchased an aftermarket-extended warranty. That's when I realized that I would have to give her the rest of the bad news. Talk about adding insult to injury. Now I had to tell her that her aftermarket warranty, like most, does not pay for repairs called out in a manufacturer's technical service bulletin. The warranty provider views a service bulletin as an admission of design fault by the vehicle manufacturer. After a little more discussion the customer decided to continue with the repair. Before I called the dealer to order the computer, I decided to find out exactly where the computer is on the Accord. Before I found that information, I stumbled across a little note at the bottom of the procedure to replace the computer. The note stated: "The ECM/PCM is part of the immobilizer system. If you replace the ECM/PCM, it will have a different immobilizer code. In order for the engine to start, you must rewrite the immobilizer code with the Honda PGM Tester." Another words, the new computer will not recognize the special Immobilizer ignition key that prevents the car from being stolen. Well, that was enough nonsense reading for me for one day. Knowing that we did not own a "Honda PGM Tester" what was I supposed to do? Install the new computer then explain to the customer that she also has to pay for a tow job to the dealer so they can finish my repair job. Right, like that makes me look really professional. Thanks Honda. Once again, I was left advising another customer to take the car to the dealer. Once again, the manufacturer has taken the control away from the customer as to where their car can be serviced. As the customer drove away I remembered one of Sean Connery's lines in the movie: The Hunt For Red October... "And once more, we play our dangerous game. A game of chess...against our old adversary..."
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