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Auto Theft Prevention/1999 Ford Explorer not starting, no theft light


QUESTION: I have what began as a random problem with my '99 Explorer XLT.  Approximately once per week the vehicle would turn over, appearing to start but die immediately.  After a few tries, it would seem as if it was out of fuel.  After towing it to my mechanic, it immediately started and ran fine for days.  It would also seem to fix itself if left sitting for half a day or so.  I noticed that each time the failure occurred, that the theft light turned off and stayed off.  These intervals when it would start got shorter and shorter until now when it hasn't started for six days.  The theft light is off and never blinks or lights up with the other dash lights when turning on the ignition.  I wouldn't mind just disabling the theft system. Is there any was I can do this, or a systematic way to troubleshoot the problem?  The mechanics I have consulted are waiting for a code to come up on their computer to tell them what to do and I no longer think that will happen. I am pretty much out of ideas and seriously thinking about junking it.

ANSWER: Hello,

The fact the light does not come on at all the PATS is not functioning and will not start. I question if even my bypass which I did 10/10/2000 and was replicated by peers in many Ford trucks and SUVs (100% of the time) with a consensus my bypass of this junk was valid. The problem is that it will work on a fully functioning PATS with the light flashing rapidly.
My bypass was never meant for people to use to bypass for the system. The purpose was a court case to prove Ford deceived the public on the 1997-2004 security effectiveness of the PATS.

In your case, if bypassed, the minute the light does not work, the engine will not start because the light is part of the working PATS.

These had problems with instrument panel printed circuit boards and if you can find a used instrument cluster, it may take care of the problem.
You can also remove the connector between the fire wall and the engine area. Clean with brake cleaner or electrical contact cleaner and use die electric grease before putting the connecter together as well as check all dash grounds.

I wish you good luck and if I can help you further, let me know.

The bypass for this junk to a tremendous amount of research, but now I have it to a science which is very simple. Check the location of the PCM Power relay under the hood in the owners manual. Once the driver's side inner fender relay panel cover is lifted up, look for the relay (#4 or #5) don't remember anymore, you will see only one rely with a black diode in front of it. Remove the relay by pulling upward. Pry plastic cover up with small screwdriver. Take a plastic tie wrap and tighten the points together. Cut the excess of the tie wrap. Reinstall cover and then relay. Close cover. When you start, theft light will flash rapidly and system is bypassed as long as system is functioning. Take a piece of black electrical tape and put over theft light.

A Note as it Relates to the East Coast Sandy disaster

Look at what is happening in New York and New Jersey because of Sandy. No power-houses unlivable-no food- no vehicle, but possibly you see a 4x4 truck you can grab to get your family out. You can't take it though because you don't have the keys needed or knowledge of how to defeat the system and then the steering column. This is serious stuff! Think about it. No power, no protection against crime. Sure, maybe you have a gun or two, but chances of that in that area because of the gun laws is probably nil too, so you and you family has no police protection for gangs and bad guys to run rampant.

I am going to be placing information on how to steal these vehicles for emergencies such as this. I am an expert in theft and do tactical training.
Contact me at and we can set you up for the next time. No one ever thinks of times like Katrina, Joplin or now the East coast and we are seeing how many people don't even store water. They don't even know how to get gas for their generators only to wait until the station runs out of gas!

We will be selling this information to be easily memorized by model. If you were one of those people, wouldn't you have been glad if you planned ahead?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks very much for your fast and thoughtful response. I've been trying to remember the exact sequence that I experienced. As I recall, initially the theft light was blinking normally before trying to start the vehicle.  Then it went dark upon turning the key in the ignition. It would stay dark for some period, then come back on and then the vehicle would start.  The last time I tried it was the same except the theft light has not come back on.  I disconnected the battery this morning and will leave it all day in hopes that it may reboot the system and the light will come back on. I hope to check the electrical connections as you suggest if the rain stops later today. Do you have any ideas where to look for a used instrument cluster or what Ford's name for the part might be?


You cannot buy from dealer (or probably can't afford to if you add up all the components). You need an instrument cluster known also as an IP. A/K/A the speedo cluster assembly. Shouldn't cost too much. I can buy a door assembly for my 1999 Suburban for $75 to put things in context. The printed circuit for the light would fry, however I am looking more at a ground or power connection because you state it is intermittent. You could just bypass the thing and see if it still starts when the light does not go on. That would be cool and you can always undo the bypass.

Good Luck Buddy!


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Rob Painter, ASE, CFL, CFEI


My background in auto theft is extensive. I have been directly involved in the repair of over 10,000 theft recovered vehicles. I also do insurance investigation as to how a vehicle was last operated. My clients are insurance companies and attorneys. Was featured in the A & E auto theft documentary "Stealing Wheels" July 26, 2000. Has consulted with Daimler Chrysler steering column engineers to make their steering columns harder to defeat. Holds patent # 6,039,140 for 8 different variations to protect air bags from theft.


ROB PAINTER, ASE, CFL, CFEI Forensic Vehicle Component Analyst Diplomate, Board Certified Forensic Examiner ASE Certified Auto, Collision, Med/Hvy/Duty Truck Technician Certified Forensic Locksmith Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator Certified Forensic Auto Theft Examiner Certified Auto Theft and Fraud Expert P.O. Box 190 Big Bend, WI 53103 Phone (414) 698-9696 Fax (262) 662-1352 As per federal court rules of evidence (702) (Daubert) my testimony has qualified me as: Auto Theft and Fraud Expert Forensic Vehicle Analyst Fire Origin and Cause Expert In the trial transcript of Holiday vs Progressive Insurance Company (March 12, 2002?Eugene, Oregon) with Holiday being my client-named ?the expert for experts.? BUSINESS EXPERIENCE Founder of the ?Forensic Institute of Auto Theft Analysis? (January 2002). This is the training school that will set the standards in determining the last operation of a reported stolen vehicle-burned or unburned. Much of my testing and procedures have been accepted as the guide for the forensic community. 1986 opened Auto Recovery Specialists Inc., providing exclusive repair of theft recovered and vandalized vehicles. The initial concept of the business was to return vehicles to their original shape before the theft, vandalism or fire. In 1987 bought the rights to the theft deterrent known as the ?Chicago Collar?. Duties include complete component replacement: dash, stereo system, interior, locks and coding, rebuilding steering columns, repairing and installing vehicle security system components (factory and after market), engine components, body repair, glass replacement, repair and service of air conditioning components, brake and suspension repair, and replacement, wiring harnesses etc. to return vehicle to pre-theft condition Complete reconstruction. During the past 17 years directly involved in the repair of over 10,000 theft-recovered and fire damaged Personally examined and rebuilt thousands of steering columns on both import and domestic vehicles Internationally acknowledged as expert in auto theft including court, consulting with insurance companies, attorneys and law enforcement. Consultant on steering columns, locks, stereo systems and vehicle security for Special Investigation Units for many large insurance carriers during the past eight years. Consulting services include but not limited to: How a vehicle was last operated (with or without keys in burned or unburned vehicles), Origin and Cause of vehicle fires, and vehicle defects. Provides services as a consultant and researcher to attorneys and insurance companies, and private industry throughout the US in cases related to vehicles. Has worked with crime prevention officers throughout the US establishing training programs designed to protect the public from becoming victims of auto theft. PATENT: 3/21/00 issued patent# 6,039,140 for 8 different variations of airbag anti-theft devices. PUBLICATIONS Currently authors articles and test reports on an ongoing basis for SIUs and the forensic/vehicle fire industry. Published author: (1,297 slide training course) Auto Theft/ Fraud Training Course) ?The Modern Forensic Approach to Auto Theft Investigation.? (January, 2001) Author: ?Variables to Be Considered In Vehicle Fire Investigation after Suppression.? (Insurance publication-November 2001) Author: ?Ford Magnesium Steering Columns and the Results to Ignition Components after a Fire?. Article for peer review from the fire and forensic community. (November 2001) Author: ?The Truth About GM VATS.? (Article) (November 2001) Author: ?The Truth About GM PASSLOCK TM? (Article) (November 2001) Author:? Auto Theft Investigation: Hollywood vs. Reality? (Article) (February 2001) For the John Cooke Fraud Report. Published author: (Manual) ?Forensic Vehicle Fire/ Arson and Auto Theft Investigation? (October 2000) Published author: (Article) ?Petty Claims? for the John Cooke Fraud Report (October, 1998) Published author (Manual) ?AUTO THEFT: LET THE TRUTH BE KNOWN!? (1998) (Previously distributed by Barnes & Nobel) Co-authored the investigation manual, ?Surreptitious Entry & Auto Theft & Burn & the Investigator.? (1999) Authored test questions on the subject of steering columns and vehicle security for CFL designation to be given by the International Association of Investigative Locksmiths. January, 2000 Published author: (Manual) ?Saginaw Steering Columns-What Has Not Been Told? Training manual for fire investigators. (March 2000) Published (Article) ?Beyond The Lock? (May 2000) Published Author: (Article) Fraud Defense Network-August, 2000 Edition-?Melting Steering Column Tests.? Published author: (Test Report) ?Burned Toyota Steering Column Testing to Determine How Last Operated?. Tool marks and procedures. (December 1999) Currently at the FBI Crime Lab in Washington DC and the US Army Crime Lab in Atlanta, GA for peer review. ACCOMPLISHMENTS Defeated the ?unstealable? Ford Securilock transponder system for a court case 10/10/00. They said it could not be done! Primary designer of a state of the art ?bait? car for a police department to catch car thieves. Worked with The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration and discovered a potential fire hazard on a vehicle and determined origin and cause of under hood fires on this type of vehicle. Featured as ?Auto Theft Expert? in the A & E auto theft documentary ?Stealing Wheels? that aired July 26, 2000. Contacted by Sears and Edelman Marketing to be a national spokesman for an anti theft device for vehicles. (November 1999) Invited to provide evaluation and consulting to steering column engineers at Daimler Chrysler Corporation in Auburn Hills, MI (10/19/99-10/22/99). The purpose of this project was to demonstrate how steering column locking mechanisms could be defeated without the use of a key and how to reinforce the columns against theft. Court Qualified as an Auto Theft Expert and my videos of defeating columns were also accepted by a Cleveland, Ohio Court in October 1999 as a valid piece of evidence. Contacted by Disney Touchstone Pictures for technical assistance in making the movie ?Gone in 60 Seconds? (March 1999) CONSULTANT FOR FOLLOWING ORGANIZATIONS ? Former contributor for The Insurance News Network (Auto theft and prevention) includes heading a forum for the public on how to protect their vehicles for 3+ years. ? Former editor and consultant for the public on matters involving auto theft and prevention 2000-2001 on the web at ? The Insurance Career Center (Auto theft and fraud). ? National Association of Investigative Specialists (Auto theft and fraud) ? Expert Find (Auto theft and fraud} TECHNICAL EXPERIENCE ? ASE (National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence) Certified in Auto: brakes, steering and suspension, engine repair, manual drive train and axles, air conditioning. Med/Heavy duty truck: gasoline engine repair, electrical/electronic components. Collision: elec.....

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