Automotive Electronics Repair
Many customers are surprised to find we can repair their automotive electronics rather than just installing new parts. As you may know, some automotive electronics are very expensive.
If we can fix it and you don’t need to buy a new part, it’s a win win. You win because you may pay hundreds or even thousands less. We win because we can bill for our labor instead of getting a tiny markup on a part from a dealership.
So, what electrical components can we fix? It depends. Some issues are well known to us, and we can quote an exact price up front. The Prius combination meter is a good example of that type of repair. Other times we’ve never seen a failure before and we don’t know what’s causing it. In those cases it’s 50/50, and sometimes less. To be clear, if you have a Toyota, Subaru, Honda, or Mazda we can always fix your problem. However, sometimes you’ll need to buy a new part.
It would be great if we could always fix every broken component, but that’s not the case. There is no manufacturer support for electronics repair. No service information. No diagrams. No parts availability. They sell parts and they’d like you to buy one. This means that sometimes we can’t figure it out, can’t source the needed part, or can’t program the needed part even if we find it. However, keep in mind that 99% of auto repair shops do no electronic repair at all, so their success rate is 0%. Your odds are way better with us.
How much do we charge for electronics repair?
What we charge for electrical component repair depends on a lot of factors. As mentioned, some jobs are a fixed price. Fixed price jobs are based on the time is takes to do the work, any overhead associated with the repair, as well as some of the cost of the time we originally put into diagnosing the issue. That’s one of the great things about specializing. There are pattern failures. If you invest time into solving an issue, and it turns out to be a common issue, you can recover the time invested plus additional profit and still do the job cheaper than any of the competition.
Unknown electronic problems
So, what if we don’t know what the problem is already? How much does it cost? Here’s some good news. Many times we’ll be willing to take on a challenge on a contingency basis. Now to be clear, this depends on you committing to a traditional repair.
What I mean by traditional repair is you pay for diagnosis, removal and replacement, and a new part, just like you would at any other shop. I will then attempt to diagnose and repair the failed component. I might spend 3 hours testing, trying to source electronic components, soldering, etc.
What if we can’t fix it?
If in the end I can’t fix it, I won’t bill you for my time or purchases. However, you will need to pay for the traditional repair.
I don’t know exactly how long I spent finding out how to repair the Prius onboard charger, but it was well over 8 hours over two separate attempts. No customers have been billed so far, but I’m hoping we’ll see another failed charger soon and I’ll be able to recoup some of my losses, and then start making a profit since I now know how they fail and how to fix them.
Repair attempt fee
Other times we may want to share some of the cost. A modest repair attempt fee whether we fix it or not, and a good profit if we are able to fix it.
It really depends on the situation. It makes sense to tackle a problem on a newer car where we’ll have an opportunity to recover our R&D work, but it doesn’t when looking at an older car where parts are no longer available and not many are still on the road.
Another case where we’d want you to agree to a repair attempt fee would be a water damaged component. That’s not going to be a pattern problem first off, and secondly it’s impossible to predict success until you’re already there.
What typically happens with water damage is that vias (small passages from one side of the circuit board to the other) corrode away and break the circuit.
Water damaged vias can be repaired if the board is two sided, but sometimes there are more layers sandwiched between. I won’t know until I repair what I see, and that can take a long time. The risk is too high and there’s no chance of future profit doing the same repair. In this case you’d need to be willing to pay my costs, even if the board doesn’t end up fixed.
Whether this makes sense will depend on the cost and availability of the component. Used parts are also an excellent option in some cases. Regardless, we’ll let you know about all of your choices and you’ll be able to decide what you want to do.
Time is one potential downside. Let’s say you bring a car in for diagnosis and we find a faulty component. We think we may be able to fix it and give you our best guess at a repair price and a replacement price and you say go for it. It’s going to take some time to look at the part. If we determine we can’t fix it, it may be too late for that day’s order.
However, this can work out the other way at times. Lately we’ve had a lot of trouble getting electronic components. Backorders for weeks or months at times. We also sometimes fix an issue on the same day but would have need to wait a couple days for the part to arrive. Sometimes repair is a much faster option.
Good as new?
As far as reliability goes, I think that most of the time repairs are as good as new, and in some cases I’m able to improve on the area of failure. Buying a higher value capacitor or higher wattage MOSFET is no big deal since they’re so cheap. Car companies buy these in the millions, so a 25 cent price difference is a big deal to them. To me, especially after finding the component was underrated and failed, buying the best possible replacement makes a lot of sense.
Having said that, components do age, and we’re not replacing everything, so I supposed a different type of failure is more likely. However, all electronic designs usually have some weak point, and it’s common to see one fault over and over.
Finally, some components are so cheap that it’s not worth trying to fix them. Honda keys are a good example. It might just have a broken lock button but if Honda is selling a new key for $48, why bother.
We’ll warranty our electronic component repairs just like all of our repairs. 1 year, unlimited mileage unless we say differently before the repair and on the paperwork. The warranty is limited to the cost of the original repair. For instance, if we repair your $2500 control unit for $350 and it fails 6 months later, and we’re unable to fix it the second time, we’re not buying you a new control unit, we’re giving you $350 back.
Local electronics repair only
We don’t do any mail order repairs at all. We mostly work on components for cars that are in for diagnosis and repair. Occasionally we’ll take a project for another shop or someone doing a DIY project, but mostly we repair whole cars.
If you have an electronic problem with a Toyota, Subaru, Honda, or Mazda, give us a call. We’re always willing to talk about it and if it’s not a job for us, we may have some referrals to other electronics repair shops in the area.