Help me! Car Repair Advice

My car has been running a little rough at idle when cold. It would sometimes cut out for a moment and almost stall. The “Check Engine” light came on. It was due for a Test-Only smog check so I took it in for a smog test. The smog guy said the car passed except for the Check Engine light. He handed me a paper describing a $500 repair credit for smog-related repairs from the State.

I took my car to the mechanic at 400 Guerrero. He said, “I looked for a few hours. Maybe it’s the throttle sensor, maybe the computer. I don’t have the equipment to check the computer. Take it somewhere else. I won’t charge you.”

I took my car to a dealer in Walnut Creek, Michael Stead (because all the local Chrysler dealers are closed because of effing General Motors going into the shitter). They replaced the throttle sensor for $500. Before I got home, the problem manifested itself again.

I took the car to the dealer again and now they say it’s an intermittent open connection in the electrical system. They want to charge me $1,800 to replace the entire wiring harness. Is this reasonable?

The dealer will reimburse me the $500 for the mistaken throttle sensor problem. And I should get $500 free money from the state.

If I get a second opinion, might a mechanic be able to find and replace the one bad wire in the electrical system for less than $1,800? Do I dare try cutting and soldering wires myself? I mean, if it’s broken copper in a wire, it’s $1 of wire that’s gone bad.


  1. Ruddy says:

    Hi, if your check engine lite comes on your mechanic has to retrieve the code to review the circuit of that component and only then change the part is broken.

    check the iac valve and the vacuum hoses, air filter , intake manifold hoses.

    send me a mail if it doesnt work, by the way whath car is it?

  2. lee says:

    Ruddy, thanks for the comment.

    The smog test computer code report said the problem was with the throttle sensor. The dealer replaced the throttle sensor and that didn’t fix it.

    The car is a 1998 Chrysler Sebring JX, 6 cylinder 2.5 liter.

    I’ll ask the mechanic if he checked the bits you mention: iac valve and the vacuum hoses, air filter, intake manifold hoses.

    Ruddy, if it’s a bad wire in the harness, might a mechanic be able to find and replace the one bad wire in the electrical system for less than $1,800? That seems like an awful lot of money for a bundle of wires.

  3. lee says:

    I put this question to the SomethingAwful crowd at Marnia’s suggestion. I got some good comments. Read them on

  4. lee says:

    Worse comes to worse, I might buy a used main engine harness from Looks like I can get one there for $200 instead of $700 new. Hmmm.

  5. lee says:

    Here’s how this issue concluded:
    I brought the car to the dealer a second time. They said it would cost $1,800 to fix. I turned down the offer. When I got the car back, it was miraculously fixed! I took it for smog inspection and it passed.

    At the recommendation of a friend, I brought my issue to Automotive Insanity on The Awful Forums. They gave a couple good suggestions. Ultimately I didn’t go by their advice but here are some snippets from the conversation.

    from me:

    Thanks very much for the responses. It certainly looks like the right thing to do is dive in with a multimeter, wire cutters, and spade connectors. This will be my first attempt at a makeshift car repair… I’m telling myself that it will be fun.

    It’ll be a nice accomplishment saving my car from the forces of the dealership.

    Thanks! And of course, any other feedback is welcome.

    from me 1-29-10

    I spoke with a new mechanic, call him mechanic #3. He suggested going around the faulty wiring harness and installing new throttle position sensor electronics. I asked about the difference between “throttle position sensor electronics” and “throttle position sensor” and he’s saying they are different parts… ok, whatever.

    It took 2 days for the dealer to to come back and say, “Ok, yeah, your car is only worth $2,100. We can replace the wiring harness for $1,100 instead of our original $1,800, because we like you.”

    I just spoke to the dealer and they won’t try the workaround. “Doing the work for going around the wiring harness will cost almost the same as just replacing it. Our mechanic doesn’t know what he’ll find when he goes in there (implying that fiddling with the harness might break other parts)”

    So now I’m going to pick up the car and try working on it myself. And then maybe take it to mechanic #3.

    And mechanic #3 says that I might be able to get $500 smog car-repair credit for my first repair AND the second repair (total $1000), even though it’s the same problem. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you informed.

    I thank each of you that has offered constructive comments! To those that have offered nasty comments, please, they are not helpful.

    from me 1-31-10

    I got the car back today. Here is what’s written from the mechanic. This is the dealer mechanic writing. Recall that I brought the car in earlier this month and when I left the dealer with the car after the first repair, the Check Engine light came on within 20 minutes.

    —- Start of Snippet —-
    cust state was just in for ck engine light on as soon as he picked up light came back on ck and advise (ro#49486 1.11.10 #59)
    verified compliant, found code p0122 set in pcm. same code reset from previous repairs. verified intermittantly tps voltage dripping to 0 volts while transmission is in reverse. verified movement of engine in reverse causing intermittent open circuit in wiring. unable to iosolate point of failure in wiring harness. recommend replace engine wiring harness and recheck
    declind repairs
    —- End of Snippet —-

    The dealer refunded me about 1/2 of the amount of the previous work. I had paid about $500 to replace the throttle position sensor. They gave me back about $250 since the problem isn’t fixed. That makes me as happy as I can be with them.

    The next action I will take is looking under the hood myself. Then I might take it to my “mechanic #3” that I previously mentioned.

    I drove it 30 miles today and the Check Engine light hasn’t come on yet. We’ll see!

    I’ll be away on business/pleasure from Feb 4-19th so all this may have to wait.

    from me 3-4-10

    You’re gonna love how this resolved…

    After getting the car back from the dealer, the engine light never came back on. I got the car inspected and it passed. Evidently, when the dealer took it apart to test it and then reassembled it, that fixed it, at least for the last 20 hrs of driving anyway!

    Or maybe the mechanic cleaned a contact or straightened a pin or similar. I’ll never know because I never spoke directly to the mechanic at the dealer and I’m afraid if I tell the person at the service desk and I might get response from the mechanic like “Oh yeah, I straightened a pin and saved you $1500” and then the mechanic will get in trouble with the dealer for not overcharging me.

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