Cummins ECM | Top 3 Reasons for Failure

Cummins is one of the largest manufacturers of diesel engines for heavy equipment and automotive applications. Cummins currently sell in approximately 190 different countries and has over 6,000 dealers and distributors worldwide. With Cummins’ growing popularity, the odds of you owning a Cummins engine is fairly high. As a Cummins owner myself, our main concern is keeping these engines functioning at its peak optimal performance.

Top 3 Reasons for Cummins ECM Failure

Your Cummins ECM is arguably the most significant component of your engine. Without this module, your equipment or truck will not be able to run efficiently or, at all. There are several factors that can lead to Cummins ECM failure. Read below to find out the top 3 common causes of Cummins ECM failure.

1. Cummins ECM Component Failure

Think of your Cummins ECM as a standard electronic device, like your TV or laptop at home. Likely, your TV has been replaced over the past decade and so has your PC or laptop. Electronic components, such as those located in your Cummins ECM, have lifespans. Failure rates tend to occur at the end of the life expectancy of the component. There are several other factors involved with external environmental variables that can cause component failure that we’ll get into a little later, however, failure occurs regardless. In general, all things have finite lifespans. Electronic components were not designed to last forever. If you wait long enough, eventually, the components will fail. No exceptions.

2. Environmental Conditions Cause Cummins ECM Failure

The majority of electronic part failures are related to the components being susceptible to environmental factors. The ideal environment for electrical components is room temperature, stationary movement, with mild usage. Your Cummins ECM could not be in a worse environment. If your Cummins ECM is in a semi-truck, and you’re constantly on the road, you can agree that conditions can fluctuate. From sweltering deserts to sub-zero temperatures, the intense fluctuation your Cummins ECM is experiencing is extremely deficient. The winter’s and under-the-hood temperatures are a main cause of component failure but so is the continuous vibration. Cummins ECM modules are typically mounted on the side of the engine. The severe vibrations only worsen when the engine is pushed to the absolute limit of performance. The mechanical vibration can fatigue the component and shorten the life expectancy. It can also cause weak contact leading to poor solder joints and circuit failure.

3. Physical Conditions Cause Cummins ECM Failure

Another common factor that can cause your Cummins ECM to fail is external issues that can enter the circuit board. These conditions include water/moisture damage, short circuits and physical damage. A problem we see daily is water or moisture that damages the circuit board and electronic components. It’s not necessarily the water that damages the Cummins ECM, it’s the minerals, salts and ions that are ruinous to the circuit board. The tiny minerals and other elements infiltrate the circuits and create false connections. When the water or moisture, in combination with oxygen, come into contact with a metal component like a capacitor, it forms a chemical reaction that will cause corrosion and deterioration of the material. Short circuits will also damage a Cummins ECM. A short circuit is simply a problem in an electrical circuit where two or more wires that are not supposed to come into contact with each other touch. There are two types of short circuits.

  • Short to ground – A short to ground refers to a current flowing from the circuit to the automotive body.
  • Short to power – A short to power refers to two circuits with current flowing inadvertently touching one another.

With all the technology in modern trucks and equipment, it should come as no surprise the amount of electrical wiring and potential failure. Cummins ECM units have several connectors with hundreds of wiring leaving a huge risk for possible faults. If these problems occur, the damage it can cause in a Cummins ECM is immense. External shorts can damage components and if the voltages in current are high enough, they can damage the circuit board deeming the unit worthless. We recommend always checking for possible short or open circuits as a preventative measure when dealing with these sophisticated engines and modules. Lastly, a physical condition that can cause ECM failure is physical damage. We get modules in from all over the world that have been dropped or simply hit whether by a mechanic or from an accident. These modules are fragile components and a simple 2-foot drop can cause electromagnetic or mechanical shock. In some cases, physical damage externally can cause internal physical damage to the PCB. With some Cummins ECM modules like the Cummins ISX ECM, the circuit board is printed along the inside surface of the aluminum housing. Any small dent to the external housing can cause significant damage to the circuit board internally.


If you have determined that your Cummins ECM is experiencing some of these common causes of failure, avoid handling them on your own. Tinkering with electronics poses an inherent danger. It’s best to leave repair services to companies with experienced engineers that specialize in dealing with the common issues you have read.

Diesel ECM engineers are skilled and trained to remedy the failure of electronic components with your Cummins ECM. We have a 1-2 day turnaround to get you back on the road quickly and efficiently. We also have several hundred re-manufactured Cummins ECM in stock, ready to ship. Our dedicated team is standing by to assist you with any questions. If you want your Cummins ECM repaired or if you are looking for a high quality re-manufactured ECM product, contact us now!