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Paying for technology

It’s no secret that as our vehicles become more complex and technologically advanced, the parts that are in our cars, trucks and SUVs become more expensive. We love the technological advances but they come with a price.

For example, in years past if you lost a car key and needed another, you would take your spare key and get a copy made for a few dollars. However, today with locking mechanisms and other extras like remote starters programmed on your key fob, getting a new key cut and programmed can cost $200 or more.

Read on to learn how much some common car parts could cost you if you need to replace them – some of the items might surprise you. Please note that the prices given are just estimates and your actual cost could be lower or higher.

Engine control unit – $500-$1,500

Computers have made their way into every area of our lives including our vehicles. Your vehicle’s engine control unit (ECU) not only manages the electronics in your car but also gathers and interprets information from all the sensors. The ECU is responsible for a host of functions including setting the air/fuel ratio, idle speed and ignition.

If your ECU fails, it can result in all vehicle functions being disabled. Symptoms of a failing ECU unit include: check engine light coming on, engine stalling or misfiring and the car not starting. A new ECU unit can cost $500-$1,500 while it could cost $550-$1,700 to have it installed by a mechanic.

Water damage and internal damage are the main reason an ECU unit fails. Be sure to have any error codes or warning lights checked out by your mechanic and avoid any situation where the engine may come in contact with water.

Turbocharger – $500-$2,500

Not just for sports cars, turbochargers can be found in cars, SUVs and trucks. Designed to provide power while conserving fuel, turbochargers also deliver more torque to the engine. With a turbocharger, it is possible to put a smaller engine in a vehicle with no loss of power – example: turbocharged V6 instead of a traditional V8.

Signs that your turbocharger may be failing include: power loss when accelerating, smoking exhaust and a loud whining noise coming from your engine. It can cost $500-$2,500 for a new turbocharger and an additional $250-$700 to have it replaced by a professional.

To keep your turbocharger in tip-top condition, check your oil regularly to make sure it is clean and at the proper level. Always use quality oil of the appropriate viscosity – check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation. Also make sure that your air filter is clean.

Hybrid or electric car battery – $1,000-$4,000

The heart of any electric or hybrid vehicle is its battery pack. For many of these cars, replacing it can be a pricy proposition. You might be surprised to learn that a new battery pack can cost $1,000-$4,000.

Just as the rechargeable batteries that you use in electronic devices lose their ability to hold a charge, the same is true for battery packs in hybrid and electric vehicles. Over time, these batteries will slowly lose their charging power and need to be replaced.

Each manufacturer of hybrid and electric vehicles provides a warranty on the battery which can serve as a guide to the life expectancy of the battery pack. Some provide an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty while other manufacturers offer an 8-year/unlimited miles guarantee. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for your specific warranty.

While some people will claim that they have tricks to extend a battery pack’s life, most of these are unsubstantiated. Keeping up on routine maintenance is the best way to ensure that your electric or hybrid vehicle goes the distance.

Air bags – $1,700-$2,500

Designed to help you survive an accident, air bags are one of your vehicle’s most important safety systems. If your air bags are deployed during an accident or collision, getting them replaced is imperative before putting the car back on the road.

Besides driver-side and passenger-side air bags, many of today’s vehicles also have side-curtain and/or knee-level air bags. The number of air bags in your vehicle will have a direct effect on the total cost of this repair, but you can expect to pay $1,700-$2,500 for the parts and $3,000-$5,000 to have them professionally replaced.

For the safety of you and your passengers, this is a repair that should be professionally done. Also be aware that during deployment, air bags can cause damage to the windshield, dashboard and other components. The price estimate is only for the air bags and not these other parts that could be damaged.


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