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GM anti theft systems overview

GM anti theft systems

GM has used a variety of anti-theft systems on their vehicles. When you get a no start, intermittent start, or start then die, you should diagnose the anti-theft system before you start replacing starting components. A tell-tale sign that you’ve got an anti-theft problem is a flashing “Theft” light. Here’s a brief primer on each system and what to look for.passkey, passlock, GM, anti-theft, alarm system

Each GM anti-theft system disables different components. Some disable the engine starter, while others enable the starter but disable fuel injectors. None of them disable spark. So, first understand the difference between vehicle theft deterrent systems.

VAT

The VAT, or vehicle anti-theft was used primarily on 1986-88 Corvettes. The key had a pellet that was married to the vehicle anti-theft module at the factory. If the lock cylinder was turned or bypassed with the proper key installed, the system would disable the starter and kill the injectors. You could NOT perform a system “relearn.”

PassKey I, and II

Similar to the VATS system, these vehicles also used a pellet key. You can identify this system by looking at the key. It has a black resistor pellet with a thin metal edge running along the key. The system enables the starter, but shuts down the injectors after initial startup. So the vehicle would start, then die. This system has a “relearn” feature. It was used on these vehicles

Buick
Century 97-01
Park Avenue 91-96
LeSabre 92-99
Riviera/Reatta 90-01
Regal 94-99
Roadmaster 94-96

Cadillac
Eldorado 89-01
Seville 89-97
Fleetwood 92-96
Deville 90-99
Allante 89-93

Chevrolet
Camero 89-01
Corvette 89-01
Caprice/Impala 94-96
Lumina/Monte Carlo 95-97

Oldsmobile
Cutlass Supreme 94-97
Aurora 95-00
Regency/88 91-99
Toronado 90-93
Pontiac
Firebird 89-01
Grand Prix 94-96
Bonneville 92-99

PassKey III
This system uses a special key (PK3 stamped on the shoulder of the key) with a transponder under the rubber cover. The receiver module is located next to the lock cylinder. When the key is positioned next to the lock cylinder receiver module, it energizes the transponder which sends a coded signal to the receiver. The receiver module checks its memory to see if the signal is correct. If it is, the module sends a signal to the PCM to enable the engine. If the value is valid, the indicator light will remain steady for 2 seconds. You cannot test this system with an ohmmeter. You need a scan tool. If the signal is not correct, the PCM disables the injector and the starter and flashes the light once per second. If an illegitimate key is used or a system problem exists, the light flashes twice per second.

The system is used on:

Buick
Lesabre 2000-on
Park Avenue 97-on

Cadillac
Seville 98-on
Deville 2000-on

Oldsmobile
Aurora 01-on

Pontiac
Bonneville 2000-on

GM Minivans
Venture, Montana, Silhouette

Passlock
This system allows starter operation, then kills the injectors 1-2 seconds after startup. This is a “Hall-Effect” system. The key cylinder housing has a small magnet that rotates past the Passlock sensor. The sensor is powered and detects the rotation. The voltage on the sensor then drops to a specified value (there are 10 different values). There’s no pellet in the key. So basically this system is checking to see that a thief has not popped the lock cylinder to steal the vehicle. you have to perform a Powertrain Control Module (PCM) relearn procedure (need a programming scan tool). The Passlock system was used on:

Buick
Skylark 96-98

Chevrolet
Cavalier 95-on
Impala 2000-on
Malibu 97-on
Monte Carlo 2000-on

Oldsmobile
Achieva 96-on
Cutlass 97-on
Intrigue 98-on

All GM trucks 98-0n

SYSTEM DIAGNOSTICS

PassKey I and II System Diagnostics

There are 15 different key codes. Measure the resistance of the key pellet by connecting an ohmmeter to each side of the key pellet. Once you find the resistance value, remove the lower dash panels and locate two small wires (both white) that run down the base of the steering column. Disconnect the electrical connector where those wires terminate. Then connect an ohmmeter to that electrical connector and insert the key. The reading you get at the end of the two white wires should match the resistance value you got from the key. Next, turn the key. The value on your meter should NOT change or drop out. If it does, you will have to replace the key cylinder. It is COMMON for the wires to break from the key cylinder.

If you have the PassKey system and the engine cranks, runs, and quits AND the THEFT light is on (for about 5 seconds), here are the tests you should perform:

1) Disconnect the electrical connector at the deterrent module. Then turn the ignition switch to RUN while you test the voltage between the dark blue wire in the theft deterrent electrical connector (the one you just disconnected) and a ground point. You should see 5 volts. If you don’t get that voltage, check for an open or short between the dark blue wire and the PCM that supplies the voltage to the module.

If you DO get the 5 volts, turn the ignition off and reconnect the electrical connector. Pierce the insulation on the same wire (with a pin) or back-probe the wire in the connector. Turn the ignition to RUN. The voltage should now read 2.5 volts. If not, replace the theft module. THAT assumes you have already conducted the key pellet test (explained above) and that it passes the test. If you see 2.5 volts and the vehicle still won’t stay running, check the fuel pump relay.

Here’s how it works, The lock cylinder reads the resistance of the pellet in the key and transmits that data to the theft module. Meanwhile, the PCM provides 5 volts on the dark blue wire. When the theft module determines that the proper key has been inserted, it partially grounds the voltage on the dark blue wire. The PCM initially provides fuel injector pulse, but if it doesn’t sees a voltage drop on that dark blue wire, it cuts off the fuel injectors. That’s why you get a crank, start, engine shut down.

So, if the vehicle starts and then dies, AND THE THEFT LIGHT FLASHES, the module is not getting the proper signal from the lock cylinder or the module is bad.

Passlock
Testing this system is similar to the Passkey I and II systems. You want to check the voltage at the bottom of the steering column as you insert the key and rotate it check the yellow signal wire (should be 5 volts before you start the testing). Turn the key.

The value should drop. If it does not, you will have to replace the key cylinder. The “control module” for this system is built into the instrument panel control (IPC) in early years. In later years, the system is controlled by the Body Control Module (BCM), the Electronically Controlled Orifice-steering Assist (EVO), IPC and other systems. If you have to replace the lock cylinder or any of the control modules,

Passkey III

You cannot check this system with an ohmmeter. You will need a scan tool to watch the operation of the system and find the trouble code. Once you get the trouble code, follow the diagnostic procedure based on the specific code.

Some companies make PASSLOCK OVERRIDE SYSTEMS. I don’t have any experience with them. But if you want more information, click HERE

For more information on this repair or any others for your vehicle, buy an online subscription to either Alldatadiy.com or eautorepair.net. Click on this link to compare the two services: Compare Alldata and Eautorepair.

You need a professional shop manual to work on a late model vehicle. And you need access to the latest technical service bulletins so you don’t waste time and money replacing parts that may misbehave due to a manufacturer’s software glitch. Forget about those cheap manuals you find at the auto parts store. They will just lead you astray. Here are the two best online shop manuals around.

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© 2012 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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