Motorhome Air Bag ECU’s

One of the lovely little gotcha’s that come with a Motorhome is the occasional failure of the Air Bag ECU. They’re only small, about a size of a fat CD Case and they’re usually easily accessible. In a Fiat Ducato, they’re just under the cover with the Starter battery but they’re an absolute bugger when they go wrong!

They’re also very essential for getting a WOF or a COF as if the error light shows for the airbags, you won’t get a certificate.

Click on any Image to enlarge

The ECU unit

I had one go in Rafe when it was just over a year old(six years ago) and fortunately it was in the middle of a COF period and while there were no spares in the country at the time (par for the course so it seems), Andrew Simms told me to come back in a month while another one came here from Italy. The cost if I was paying for it I believe then was about $1050 including fitting. Luckily it was covered by warranty.

Fast forward 6 or 7 years to October ’21.. After provisioning Rafe for a trip away in the Countdown supermarket carpark, I started Rafe and there were the dreaded lights on the dashboard.

Right next to the start battery

With more Fiats now in the country and the parts situation just as chaotic, there is a chronic shortage of these units and they were now $1100-1200 depending on where you went.

The bottom cowl below the glovebox needs to come off first
The ECU with one plug removed for access to the second bolt .. 3 bolts. Slide over the green clips to unplug.

On trawling through Facebook, I came across Shayne Cooper, The Circuit Specialist who works in Manukau repairing these units for anywhere between $300-500 depending on the unit and the fault.

I took my unit out to Shayne and he cheerily said “a couple of days” but also said he was busy so I left it for over a week before I rang back and it was ready.

Shayne working on an Airbag ECU

Talking to Shayne afterwards, the most common problem seems to be the data in the Eeprom getting corrupted. Shayne gets in there with a Hex editor and manually tidies it up so it can work again as advertised.

According to Shayne, although there are faults in other ECU’s apart from Fiat Ducato’s it does seem to be a lot more common in Motorhome installations which is interesting.

Shayne thought it might have something to do with Solar panels or something like that.

A Dodge ECU on the bench

He’d spent a bit of time on it finding some issues on the PCB as well (sounds to me a bit like dry joints). I rushed home to put it in and it was great.

Day two I had to move Rafe and there was the error again so out it came and back to Shayne… a few more days and I had it in my hands again and reinstalled it.. this time perfecto.. and it seemed a lot more of a solid start. I was encouraged and started it a few more times just for good measure 🙂

In place ready to go

Shayne had said that he found some muck in there sitting under a capacitor pulling down the voltage to 2 volts! .. easy fix.

Shayne has just been frantic with these things and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better…. Its a big disappointment for Fiat owners especially.

I know of several people who are waiting on these units to arrive but they aren’t expecting anything much before April and there are a lot of them.. think 100 plus!  That’s a lot of Motorhomes without certification for many months..

The dealers need to look at making an effort to get these units repaired as most of them can easily be repaired for less than $400 instead of being replaced at $1200 odd. .. such a waste of money.

I’m just so pleased we’ve got Shayne here to fix them. There is someone in Wellington too I believe who can do this as well.  A friend of mine  who had this issue a while ago put me onto as well in the UK.  He found them really good so that’s an option too.

Update: There’s a chap in Taupo,  who’s sorting these out too.  Wayne Frost of Car Computers NZ Ltd. Phone 027 288 4837