Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I have a 2002 Dodge Durango that I purchased new.  It has the 5.9 liter engine, all-wheel drive, and the R/T package.  It was my daily driver for several years, then it was semi-retired and I used it primarily for vacation travels, sometimes pulling a trailer.  Then we started building a cabin in Colorado and the Durango became mostly a road truck, making several trips back and forth per year, again sometimes pulling a trailer.

Durango performed well and had few problems.  Early on, we had problems with the O2 sensors, but those were fixed with no recurring issues.

On the late Saturday afternoon before Labor Day, 2012, we were going to the cabin, pulling a lightly loaded 18' flat bed trailer.  When we got to Dalhart, TX, we stopped for gas.  When we headed out, the Durango died and would not start.  A code was showing in the odometer window reading "no buS."  I went in the gas station (actually a pizza restaurant attached to the station) and logged on to the internet.

Fairly quickly, I learned that the problem was related to the on-board computer control module, (sometimes called PCM, ECU. ECM, or TCM in the industry).  Certain sensors can cause the PCM to display the "no buS" code if shorted to ground.  Also, complete PCM failure can cause the code to display.  Intermittently, the "no buS" code would disappear and the Durango would start.  But it would soon die and the code would display again.

With no access to repair facilities until Tuesday and not willing to sit around Dalhart for 3 days, I had the Durango towed to Amarillo where I rented a box truck from U-Haul and unloaded my trailer into the box truck.  I then put the Durango on the flat-bed trailer and hauled the rig back home with the box truck.

I ran through the published diagnostic routines to rule out the sensors as probable causes of the problem.  I felt I had narrowed the problem down to a failed PCM.  Note that in the process, I cleaned the battery connections and checked all connections to the PCM and wiring to the various sensors know to be related to these symptoms.

Finding that the cost for a PCM replacement with programming (sometimes called flashing) by the dealer was almost a thousand dollars, I searched the internet and found that I could purchase a re-manufactured PCM from various sources.

Unfortunately, I did a poor job of background research on the company I selected.  More about that later.

I settled on Car Computer Exchange, found at  For search purposes, the company is sometimes call Imperial Auto Services and sometimes called Imperial Car Computer Exchange.  I ordered a PCM from the company at a cost of $219.95, plus $19.95 shipping and handling.  The PCM was to come with a 1 year warranty, but only to be activated if I did not return the PCM from my Durango as a core.  If it did not return the core I would also be charged a $100.00 core charge.  I should have smelled a fish at that point.

The company took the order and shipped promptly. 

To facilitate the reprogramming, the company needs the correct mileage.  However, I could not get the correct mileage because the “no buS” code was showing in the odometer.  I estimated the mileage and provided that to the company.

I received the PCM and installed it according to installation instructions.  The “no buS” code was gone but the Durango would not start.  I could then see that I had estimated the mileage “lower” than actual.  I contacted the company with that information:

>I installed the PCM for the 2002 dodge durango according to instructions. I am NOT getting the "no buS" message in the OD screen now.

>Won't start.

>When the "no buS" message was happening, it would reset from time to time and the car would start and run fine.

>I was unable to send you the exact mileage on the car because the "no buS" was at that time permanent. I made my best guess at 146,900. When I put the new PCM in, I found that I had under estimated the mileage. THE CORRECT MILEAGE IS 149,088. Does that make a difference?

>What is next step. Again, the car was starting and running fine before. It would start and run fine when the PCM had reset and was temporarily not showing the "no buS" message. Then the "no buS" message would come on and the car would die again.

>Thank you.
The company responded:
The mileage being this far off can definitely cause a "No Start" issue. 
When it comes to the 5.9L Duango's, other factors could play a part as 
well. The best thing to do for us to assist you quickly, send both 
Units to us with the Return Label we provided in the box. We will be 
able to correct the mileage and analyse thetwo Units against one 
another to see if the program coding is matching, or if there are other 
issues with the ECM causing this "No Start".

Let Us know what you are able to do. We will note the account with the 
issue you are having so the Tech Department will be aware of this on 
Monday when they are back in the office.

CCEx Customer Service
I sent the PCM back to the company.  It “re-programmed” the PCM and returned it.  I reinstalled, again following the installation instructions from the company.  This time, the “no buS” code was back and the Durango would not start.  So I contacted the company:
>I received the PCM after it was reprogrammed when I sent in my original computer. I re-installed following directions.
>Immediately got the "no buS" code in od. window and will not start.
>Can you help?
The company responded:
It sound like there my be other issues playing a factor in the 
situation. Please review the notes below to make sure we are 
understanding the situation properly;
- Org Unit was giving "No Buss" on Odometer
- Unit we sent would crank, but not start
- Getting "No Buss" again

When you sent the Units back did you provide the Correct mileage to be 
programmed into this Unit you just received? We still have 146900 on 
The company researched and found that it had not properly noted the account with the correct mileage:
Just read previous message with mileage, sorry. It was not noted on the account so there is a
chance the Mileage paper had fallen out during the travels. The account was
noted the box was re-sealed by the Post Office when we received it.

CCEx Customer Service
I returned the PCM to company, this time at my cost.  Before I shipped I noted that there were distinct markings around the screw holes where the black paint that the company puts on its units was scraped.  The company said that it re-programmed again, this time with the correct mileage.  When I installed the PCM I noted first that the scratches on the screw holes matched the unit that I had returned.  The “no buSS” code was gone but the Durango would not start.  The engine would crank (turn-over) but was making no effort to start.  I could smell gas and I could hear the fuel pump engaging.  

I began to investigate and determined that there was no switching code coming to the coil.  As a result, there was no spark coming from the coil to the distributor and no spark to fire the engine.  I researched and determined that a faulty crankshaft sensor can cause that problem.  At a cost of $49.99 plus tax, I decided to replace that sensor on the chance that it was causing the fault.  After replacement, I had the same no-start problem and the same lack of a switching signal to the coil from the PCM.  Clearly this was a no-spark problem and not a fuel system problem.  

I consulted with Dodge experts and found that a faulty camshaft position sensor/magnetic pickup in the distributor can cause the same symptoms.  I replaced that component at a cost of $30.00.  While there, I also replaced the distributor cap and rotor.  The distributor cap and rotor would not cause the no-switching signal to the PCM, but I replaced them anyway.  Again no switching signal was coming from the PCM to the coil.  I consulted again with Dodge experts and they agreed that I had ruled out all other known causes for the fault.  In the words of Sherlock Holmes, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

I notified the company of my efforts, fully expecting that it would accept the obvious and give instructions to return the PCM for another programming effort.  After all, it's published warranty says it will do so for 1 year after the original purchase.  Not only that, it makes express written GUARANTEES on its website on which purchasers/consumers rely:

We are a Full Service Auto repair shop located in Raleigh, North Carolina. We are a staff of highly trained ASE certified techs and Master Techs.
Our technicians are highly trained in dealing with automobile computers, and we offer FREE technical support for our customers to help you any way we can.
Our  technology allows us to test, program, flash, and update your part with all the OEM updates before we ship it to guarantee that you get a perfectly working part from us.
We GUARANTEE to you that when you purchase a computer from us it will work perfectly! When you get the computer from us, you simply just plug it in and drive! We eliminate the need for you to go to the dealer or mechanic.

On 10/06 I wrote the company:

I reinstalled the PCM.  the "no buS" code is gone.  Car cranks but will not start.  No spark from coil.  There is 12 volts going into coil but no switching signal.  I replaced the Crankshaft Postition Sensor.  Still no spark.  Appears the PCM is not sending a switching signal to the coil.  

On 10/11 after two reminders from me, the company responded:

With the "NO BUSS" message gone and the car trying to crank, but not, there is most likely another issue within the vehicle. We suggest taking the vehicle to a reputable shope to have it looked at, as we are unable to diagnose the vehicle. All our Units are tested before they are released to the customer and it is unlikely 3 Units would not solve your issue.
CCEx Tech Department

Sensing a problem,  I wrote back:

I don't buy that.  The car is not "trying to crank"--the engine is turning over but there is no switching signal going to the coil.  When the original unit was failing, the "no bus" code would periodically not appear and the car would start and run fine for short periods of time.  But then it would die and the "no bus" code would come on.  The no bus code from the PCM was causing the no start issue, period.  BTW the first unit was flashed with the wrong mileage--my fault but the no bus code was not showing.  The second was flashed with wrong mileage--your fault and the "no bus" code was showing.  So was the wrong mileage even the cause of the no start? 
Are you saying you sent 3 separate units.  I don't buy that either.  When you sent the 3rd unit, the paint was scraped around the mounting screw holes just the same as it was when I sent it back.  
If you think I don't know what I'm doing, you're wrong.  And I have consulted with experts in the area, The PCM is not sending the switching signal to the crankshaft position sensor and camshaft position sensor and thus no switching signal to the coil.  Both he crankshaft position sensor and the camshaft position sensor are new.  We have ruled out everything but a faulty PCM.  
I am getting a PCM from the dealer and having it flashed there.  You haven't heard the last from me and you can send this up your chain of command, whatever that is.

The company did not offer its world "renowned" FREE technical support for our customers.  It did not offer to stand behind its statement that it will GUARANTEE to you that when you purchase a computer from us it will work perfectly! When you get the computer from us, you simply just plug it in and drive! We eliminate the need for you to go to the dealer or mechanic.

Not at all.  It stopped responding.  

I called the Dodge dealer nearby and inquired about the cost of a new PCM from it.  The cost was about $800 and an additional $150.00 for flashing.  I found that the dealer does not sell a new PCM for this vehicle but that it offers a MOPAR re-manufactured PCM.

I went online to an OEM Dodge/MOPAR parts supplier and obtained a MOPAR re-manufactured PCM at the cost of $605.43 which includes a core charge, plus shipping.  I installed the PCM but did not plug in the connections and I did not reconnect the batter cables.  I had the Durango towed to the dealer, which flashed the computer in less than 30 minutes.  The Durango started and ran fine.

I wrote to the company:

  I installed the MOPAR re-manufactured PCM (cost $605.43 which includes a core charge) and had it flashed by the Dodge dealer (cost $159.00).  Durango started immediately--runs fine.  Either your PCM was faulty or it was flashed wrong.  I will return for full money back.  I will not pay a re-program fee and I won't ask for my core back. 

The company did not respond.

I filed a complaint with the NC BBB and a complaint with the NC Attorney General.  I sent courtesy copies of the complaints to the company.  Below is the complaint process with the BBB.  Note that I have deleted copies of the e-mails in the complaint to avoid unnecessary repetition:

Consumer's Original Complaint :
Purchased a re-manufactured PCM for my 2002 Dodge Durango.  After three reprogramming efforts by company, it never worked.  Company not responding.
09/03/2012--I purchased PCM from company due to car not starting and getting "no bus" code in odometer window.  I had to estimate mileage on Durango and my estimate was 2089 miles too low.  I installed the PCM and "no bus" problem was cured but car would not start.  I could then get the accurate mileage from the odometer screen though.  I returned PCM to company and it was reprogrammed and returned.  I installed replacement and was getting "no bus" code again and car would not start.  Company discovered it had not used the correct mileage when reprogramming, so I returned the PCM AGAIN.  In the meantime I had already returned my core (the original PCM) in order to activate warranty.  Company returned PCM and again car would not start but "no bus" code was gone.  Company said there must be other issues with car causing it not to start. I investigated and found no "switching signal" to the coil.  This can be caused by a bad PCM, a bad crankshaft position sensor, or a bad camshaft position sensor.  To cover bases, I replaced the crankshaft position sensor and the camshaft position sensor but car still would not start.
response this time was that I should take it to a "reputable shope" to have it looked at.  Company felt it was unlikely that 3 units would not solve my problem. 
So I
purchased a MOPAR re manufactured PCM (cost $561.80 plus shipping.  I had the Durango towed to a Dodge dealer who flashed (programmed) the MOPAR PCM and the car started immediately. Note that
the labels that the Company puts on its PCM warns that its PCM cannot be reprogrammed or the warranty is voided. 
I purchased the "re-manufactured" PCM from CarComputerExchange/Imperial Auto Sales on its express representation in its advertising that this was a "plug-and-play" replacement PCM for my vehicle.  Clearly it was not.  Either it was not even re-manufactured as represented or the programming was faulty.  The company's delays and mistakes caused the expiration of the return date. 
Company has
stopped responding.
11/22/2012                WEB      BBB        RECEIVE BUSINESS RESPONSE : We sent the customer a working computer everytime we test everything before we send them out.We actually have a 2002 dodge durango 5.9 here in our shop and we put the customers computer he sent back in it and it cranked up and runs fine no codes or anything.Because the dodge dealer views our company as a threat they are never truthful with the customer as to the real problems with the car many times its just a short in the wiring and not the computer as is likely the problem in this case but the dealer wants to sell them a computer even though they have a good working computer.We have a 14 day return policy that the customer agreed to in our terms and conditions the customer here ordered the product almost 90 days ago he would not be eligible for any sort of refund.Also please caution the consumer to not use extortion or threats in emails to our company as we will take appropriate legal action if it continues.
11/28/2012                             BBB        MORE INFO RECEIVED FROM THE CONSUMER : For the record, the company made express mis-representations, as shown here in the Company's statement from its website.
11/28/2012                AB         BBB        RECEIVED CONSUMER REBUTTAL : The company's response is both inaccurate and mis-representative.
                              1. Company did not send working computer for my vehicle every time it sent one, or ever. The first computer was not programmed with my correct mileage.  When I was able to get the correct mileage and convey that information to the company, it said: "The mileage being this far off can definitely cause a "No Start" issue."  I sent that computer back and the company reprogrammed, but with the wrong mileage due to its admitted error.  It says:  "Just read previous message with mileage, sorry. It was not noted on the account so there is a chance the Mileage paper had fallen out during the travels. The account was noted the box was re-sealed by the Post Office when we received it."  I returned that computer , which the company reprogrammed and returned to me.  I know it is the same computer because it has the scratches that I put on the paint.  It did not and does not work. I still have that computer in my possession
                              2.  Company claims it has installed that computer in a 2002 Dodge Durango that it happens to have in the shop and that the car starts and runs fine with that computer.  So what is the mileage of that Durango and does it have the same vin number?  According to the company and Dodge/Mopar, you need to have the computer flashed/programmed to the vehicle mileage and vin number to work.  So how is it that the company has put the non-working computer that I have in my possession in a different Durango with different mileage and different vin number and the computer works in that Durango? 
                              3. The company accuses the dealer cheating and lying me by selling me a computer I don't need because I really have a wiring short.  The dealer did not sell me the computer.  I bought it from an online Dodge OEM site. The dealer I towed the car to simply flashed/programmed the computer to my car and it starts and runs fine again. The dealer knew nothing about my experiences with the company.  The dealer would have no reason whatsoever to secretly find a wiring short, secretly repair it without charging me for the repair, and lie to me that the car started and ran fine after the MOPAR computer was programmed to my car.
                              4. This is the kicker!  Recall that I still have the non-working computer from the company in my possession. When I got the company's response above, I took the MOPAR computer out of my car and put the company's computer back in.  Guess what?  The car would not start.  Surprise, surprise.  Then I put the MOPAR computer back in my car, started my car, and drove it.  I have this all documented on video by the way. 
                              Finally, the company accuses me of extortion and threats. Disagreeing with the company about its false assumptions and mis-representations is not extortion. When it claimed that the car had other problems keeping it from starting, I consulted with Dodge experts and eliminated all other known causes for not getting a switching signal to the coil from the car computer.  I advised the company of my efforts.  Company stopped responding.
                               I hardly see a threat or extortion in advising company of facts, telling it what I am going to do, and doing it.  Sending the company copies of complaints filed with the BBB and the attorney general is proper business conduct and does not constitute extortion or threatening conduct either. The only threat I know of is the company's threat to take legal action against me, which is hardly appropriate in response to complaints lawfully filed with the BBB and the attorney general's office.
11/28/2012                AB         EMAIL     Forward Consumer Rebuttal to Business
12/04/2012                WEB      BBB        RECEIVED FINAL RESPONSE FROM BUSINESS : We showed good faith to the customer by providing multiple units to fix his problem.We determined that the customer had misdiagnosed his vehicle.We test every unit before it leaves including make sure it will start a vehicle.Again we sent the customer a good working unit . We cannot guarantee that there vehicle will be fixed if the computer is in fact not the issue.