Piston Slap: Bad ECU, Cowboy? This Ain't My First Rodeo!

TTAC Commentator Tree Trunk writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I comment on TTAC as Tree Trunk from the frozen tundra in interior Alaska and am looking for advice on how to deal with an out of control repair of an old beater. I have a ’95 Isuzu Rodeo with 130K that until recently had been a pretty low maintenance, reliable ride.

Out of the blue the check engine light came on and the engine stalled. A handy friend checked all obvious things to get it running again without success. It would start up run for a few min before reving wildly and then die. Luckily I thought, it broke down close to a reputable shop (NAPA certified) so we towed it there.

Seven weeks and two thousand dollars, not to mention the rental car cost I am back at square one. First they diagnosed bad PCM, a rebuild unit was in five weeks later, two weeks behind schedule. I made it half a mile down the road before it stalled again.

This time around it was supposedly a slack timing belt hitting the crankshaft sensor causing the engine to stall. Week and another thousand dollars later, after first ordering the wrong parts and then not all the needed parts the engine started up, but wouldn’t you know it stalled again.

In hindsight, I should have scrapped it the moment it broke down. But short of finding a time machine that is not an option.

Now I am waiting the next call from the shop and need advice from you and the best and brightest. It seems obvious that the one or both of the diagnostics were faulty and some third thing is causing the stalling.

What do I do, keep paying with a smile, demand a full repair free of charge or something in-between?

Sajeev answers:

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Could Someone Hack Into Your Car?

Most car enthusiasts bemoan the rise of electronic systems in automobiles because they create a layer of interference between ourselves and the direct, mechanical control of our cars. Sure, electronic controls are cheaper, lighter and allow for easier diagnostics, but they rob automobiles of the elemental simplicity which is so often fundamental to their appeal. And, as a study by researchers from the Universities of Washington and San Diego [in PDF format here, via ArsTechnica] shows, the various electronic systems in your car actually makes it vulnerable to hackers who could disable key systems remotely. Titled Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile, the study explains that the electronic complexity of modern cars actually leaves them extremely vulnerable to all kinds of attack, raising serious concerns about how safe we really are in our cars (especially if we happen to have an enemy or two).

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