If you’re having issues with the power train system, those problems could be in any part of the vehicle responsible for propulsion.
This includes the engine, transmission, drive train, and the suspension.
But, if your vehicle is giving you a power train readout warning, the issue is probably the control module or PCM – otherwise, you’d be directed to a specific problem such as the transmission, drive train, etc.
In many vehicles, the power train system unit takes the place of the engine control module and transmission control module, giving your vehicle central control and management of its full power train.
If that’s your issue, the average cost for power train system repair is $850-$1,600. Here, you’ll most likely have to actually replace the unit – as these electronics can mostly only be repaired by specialists.
Most of the costs are for the part, as even remanufactured models can cost over $400 each. New, you’ll typically pay $500-$1,200. In addition, you’ll have to pay for a specialist to reprogram your PCM after installation.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of power train system repair costs from reputable suppliers:
|Autozone||NA||$101-$499 (Remanufactured only)|
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How Much Does Power Train System Repair Cost?*
The cost of power train system repair depends on the actual problem. For example, a power train issue can be literally any part of the engine or the transmission or suspension.
However, assuming that the issue is with the power control module, you can expect the following costs shown in the table below.
In addition, if you can get away with just resetting your power train control module, you should only pay the labor costs listed.
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (June 2023). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
What Is The Power Train System?
The power train system is often used to refer to the power train control module (PCM).
This electronic box is required by law to regulate the performance of the power train including the engine and the transmission to regulate power, reduce energy usage, and reduce emissions. You cannot legally drive without one.
In addition, a faulty one can result in misalignment of the engine or the transmission, meaning that your car does not operate as expected.
“Power Train System” can also refer to the full power train, meaning the engine, the transmission, the drive train, and the suspension. In this case, the issue could be at any part in this system.
However, if you have a power train system error or your mechanic is telling you there’s an issue with the power train system, it’s very likely to be the power train control module or a combination of engine control module or transmission control module, depending on the vehicle you have.
Power Train System Repair Pricing Factors
If you opt for secondhand parts and you have a vehicle that allows for quick programming of the system, you could get away with minimum costs to replace the power train system.
On the other hand, if you opt for a new one and you go to a dealer, you could pay close to $2,000 for the same job.
Work to Be Done
If you have power train control module issues, you’ll likely find that you have three options:
- Replace the PCM with a new unit at a dealership
- Use a secondhand unit or order a new unit and replace the PCM after 1-3 weeks of wait-time
- Remove your PCM and send it in to an electronics repair shop and then have it re-fitted after 2-4 weeks
In each case, the longer the wait time, the cheaper the actual job.
For example, you can typically have a power control module repaired for around $160. On the other hand, timelines can be in the weeks – without considering when your mechanic or dealer can re-fit the unit and reprogram it.
Cost of Parts
The actual cost of parts for a PCM unit can be considerable. For example, it’s not uncommon to pay up to $1,500 in parts alone.
That’s because power train control modules are complex electronics. They also don’t normally go out, so sales volume is low, which means pricing has to be high to keep them profitable for the manufacturer.
A new unit at the dealership will cost you $1,100-$1,800 on average with parts and labor. A secondhand unit costs about $200-$400. A remanufactured unit costs about $250-$500.
And, you’ll usually pay for about an hour of labor for the job – although that depends on the make of the vehicle.
Cost to Reset and Program the System
In most cases, replacing a power control unit is a simple matter of finding the power train control unit, unplugging it, and plugging a new one in. Worst case scenario, you might have to remove a panel on your dash first.
The large part of the work is typically plugging the module into a computer and reprogramming it – which can normally only be done with dealership/manufacturer-approved software.
This limits the number of locations where you can have the work done. In addition, it means you can’t do the work yourself.
Local Cost of Labor
The local cost of labor can range from about $50 to over $200 for an hour of work. Often, you’ll pay for about an hour of labor when resetting a PCM or replacing one. However, some shops will need more time.
For example, if your car has to sit in the shop for 3 hours while a program loads, the car is still taking up space that would allow the mechanic to service another vehicle and earn more money – so chances are high that you’ll be charged for that time anyway.
A power train issue almost always means going to a certified dealer with access to official manufacturer software. That may mean going to a dealer.
For example, if you have a Tesla, you’ll almost certainly have to go to the dealer. That will typically mean paying $150-$200+ for labor.
7 Symptoms Of A Bad Power Train System
If your power train system is going out, you’ll probably notice symptoms that are a lot like an exhaust or transmission issue.
Therefore, you’ll actually have to inspect the vehicle and run diagnostics to see what’s really wrong.
1. Rough or No Start
The Engine Control Module or Power Train Control Module controls every aspect of the engine’s power usage including timing, and the lean/rich ratio. If the module is going out, that could start to have problems, meaning you have a rough or no start.
Your ignition might turn over several times before you can start your car. And, you might not be able to start at all.
2. Reduction in Power
If you’re having trouble maintaining speed, slow down going up hills, or has trouble pulling loads, you might have a power train issue. However, this is also a fuel injection or an exhaust issue.
Often, it means that the control module is not properly regulating lean/rich mixture, the engine timing is off, or the exhaust and emissions are off.
3. Failed Emissions Test
PCM regulates the backflow of exhaust into the engine to burn off harmful emissions. If the module is going out, it could mean that your vehicle will fail an emissions test.
When that happens, it could be a number of issues, including the EPK system. Therefore, you’ll want to inspect more than the PCM. However, if you’re having other PCM-related issues, the PCM is likely.
4. Increased Fuel Usage
If the lean-rich mixture of air to fuel goes too far up or too far down, your engine will need more fuel to achieve the same power. This could mean your fuel usage skyrockets for no apparent reason.
Like the other issues on this list, increased fuel usage can be from a number of other causes as well.
5. Engine Stuttering/Stalling
If engine timing is off it could be a mechanical error such as timing that is off. It can also be an issue with the lean-rich mixture.
Here, you’ll get stutters and stalls if the fuel injection is too fast or too slow (meaning a misfire), or if the engine is not getting enough fuel or is flooding the combustion chamber with too much fuel.
6. Erratic or Random Shifting
Faulty PCM sensors mean that your transmission won’t be able to properly shift – which can mean erratic and random shifting, especially if you have an automatic vehicle.
For example, if your vehicle starts randomly shifting gear for no apparent reason, it’s likely a sensor or a PCM issue. This is a very serious issue as it can be a serious safety problem.
In addition, driving while shifting gears randomly can result in major transmission damage that can cost thousands to repair.
7. Error Codes or Check Engine Light
Your vehicle will typically alert you when things go wrong. And, there are plenty of error codes that indicate a control module issue.
If that’s the case, take your vehicle in for a checkup.
How Do You Repair the Power Train System? (Video)
You can always choose to replace a power train system on your own. However, it’s unlikely that you’d have the tools to program the software.
Therefore, it is not recommended to do so. It is unsafe to drive with a PCM that has not been programmed.
Things You’ll Need
- Wrench Set (To match your car’s imperial or metric system)
- Ratchet and socket set
- Vehicle service manual
- Replacement PCM (Optional)
- Flat screwdrivers
- Every vehicle has the PCM in a slightly different location. Under the dash, behind a fender, against the engine compartment, and behind the battery are all common locations. Check your service manual for the location.
- Check for a well cover or access panel before removing parts. Most PCMs have access panels.
- The PCM is a silver or black box.
- Remove the Throttle Actuator Control Module from the front of the PCM.
- Disconnect the electrical harness. This either uses clips or small bolts. You should loosen each one before taking them out as they can be quite tight.
- Remove the module.
- Re-fit the new module.
- Tighten the bolts.
- Connect the harness.
- Have a professional reprogram the system so that your car drives normally when you start it up.
If you still have questions about repairing or replacing your power train system, these answers may help.
How serious is a power train issue?
A power train issue is very serious and could be a safety hazard if you choose to drive. However, the severity of the problem depends on what the issue actually is.
On the other hand, even failing sensors can result in catastrophic damage to your vehicle if you continue driving with it.
Does power train mean engine?
The power train includes the engine, the transmission, and the drive train. Therefore, it can mean the engine.
On the other hand, when people refer to power train issues, it’s usually about the power train control module (PCM) which is attached to the engine.
Can you drive with a bad power train?
It is not recommended to drive with a bad power train. You could put yourself, your vehicle, and other drivers at risk.
However, the severity of the risk depends on the specific issue.
Can you repair the power train?
It’s not always possible to repair the power train control module. However, there are plenty of electronics services that will do the work for you – often for as little as $180.
However, that’s about the same cost as buying a replacement secondhand module, which you’ll have to wait less for.
If you have a power train system issue, repairing it will be expensive. In fact, on average, you can expect those costs to exceed $800. Secondhand power train control modules start from about $200 plus about 1-3 hours of labor to put in. And, a new PCM will typically run $800-$1,600, although some manufacturers can go as low as $650. Finally, you’ll need to have the system programmed before you can actually drive.
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