What causes Engine Control Monitor (ECM) failures? Who is liable when an ECM fails and causes a motor vehicle collision? ECM's are supposed to make driving safer by providing greater control over a vehicle's speed. Specifically, the rate of acceleration and deceleration. However, they can and do fail. When an ECM fails, it can lead to unintended acceleration or deceleration. Depending on the cause of the failure, vehicle manufacturers, mechanics, or parts suppliers can be liable for the personal injuries, property damage, and wrongful deaths that a faulty ECM causes.
Causes of ECM failures include corrosion that occurs gradually over time. Poor design or damage during maintenance can expose the wiring harness to moisture. This damage often occurs over a period of years, during which the exposure can critically damage the unit's components, which will lead to failure. In particular, it can cause an electrical short to pass through the solenoid. Corrosion may also affect the ECM's grounding or injector wiring harness. This can break crucial connections and cause the unit to fail.
Over the past twenty years, Toyota, Tesla, and Honda drivers have reported potentially life-threatening problems with the ECM's installed on their vehicles. From 2000 through 2010, Toyota recalled 8.1 million vehicles over concerns over unintended acceleration that may have been caused by faulty ECM's. The company maintains that the causes of the problem were sticky pedals and floormats. While these were factors in some crashes, numerous incidents and accidents pointed to faulty ECM design and software installation.
In 2014, Honda recalled more than 175,000 vehicles in Japan when it was discovered that an electrical fault within the ECM could cause unintended acceleration. This was followed by a recall of 2.5 million vehicles in 2014 when a defect within the software was discovered. This defect damaged transmissions and negatively impacted driver's ability to control the vehicle's acceleration and deceleration.
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