Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE Master
Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1
certification, and has an associates degree in business
Too Many Questions?
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
It all started innocently enough with a trip out for lunch. I had ran out for a sandwich at a local chain sub shop. While walking out to my car with my food, a woman approached me and asked for help. The frantic lady stated that her daughter's car had ran out of gas and would not start. I agreed and while approaching the mid 1990's Ford Explorer with her, noticed a small red gas jug on the ground. The woman stated that her daughter had ran out of gas and although she just added a few gallons, the Explorer would still not start.
While sitting in the driver's seat I cranked over the Ford. The vehicle cranked well but would not start. Having my share of faulty ECM relays I made sure that the check engine light came on while cranking and it did. The only thing odd was that the factory red "Theft" lamp would flash quickly when cranking. Knowing that this may be related to a faulty VATS ignition key, I took the key out for a quick examination. Much to my surprise, I noticed that the ignition key was the simple plain metal blank type. This seemed strange to me as Ford's with the VATS system have a large black key head which encases the anti-theft microchip.
I questioned the woman as to where this key came from. The woman stated that it was her spare key and not the original one her daughter normally uses. I asked the woman if she knew which key was used when the car ran out of gas. She replied that the truck was being driven by her daughter yesterday when it died out and that her daughter has the other key that was being used at that time. I advised the woman that this spare key was never going to start the vehicle since it did not have the VATS chip and that it would only unlock the doors. I also advised the woman that the car probably had run out if gas yesterday and now that she has added some fuel the car should start as long as a correctly programmed VATS key is used. The woman thanked me for the advice but stated that it might be a while since she could get her daughters key. When I asked why this was so the woman went on to state that when her daughter ran out of gas yesterday she waved down a passing police cruiser for help. The officer agreed to help and during the course of his assistance ran the daughter's name in the local system and discovered she had an open warrant for her arrest. The daughter was subsequently taken to the local police station, booked then transported to the county jail, with the other key and her belongings.
Sometimes I have the annoying habit of asking too many questions. Nevertheless, the questioning did prove to find a resolve to the Fords starting problems.