1997 Chevy Lumina - sometimes won't start

I'm writing this for my elderly father who has no idea what more to do about his car. Any replies or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. His car is a 1997 Chevy Lumina and sometimes it won't
start. If he waits five minutes or so and tries again, it starts just fine. It happens every other day or so. He's replaced the battery, the alternator, and the starter each time thinking that it would solve the problem, but it hasn't. He thought maybe it was the chip on the key, but it does the same thing with two different keys, so it's not that. It is driving him nuts and he, in turn, is driving me nuts, so I hope someone has a suggestion because I certainly could use one.
thanks, kathryn
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Lots of info missing here, does it crank over and not start or no action from the starter, is the security lite on when this occurs?

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Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it. No, it doesn't turn over, it just does nothing - no clicking like the battery is dead, doesn't try to start, it just does nothing. But if he waits a few minutes and tries again it works just fine. I don't know about the security light, but the rest of the lights go on when the key is turned in the ignition.
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If the security lite stays on during the event, the VATS system is the root of problem.

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I'll have him check that tomorrow. Thank you very much for the information.
take care, kathryn
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My Grandparents have the same car, and had the same problem. It turned out to be an aftermarket remote starter they had installed years ago when they bought the car. The remote starter was keeping the car from starting. We took the remote starter out, and the car has worked fine ever since. If I were you, I would still check out the VATS system by looking for the Security light, like Shep said, but if that doesn't turn out to be the problem, check to see if the car has a Remote Starter on it. I have had at least 2 cars where the owners have told me the cars don't have remote start, but I found the remote start box under the dash.

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I've been doing some reading about that VATS system, and you guys are right, that sounds like it's exactly what the problem is. Thank you guys very much for leading me in the right direction. Now I know what to do about it, I just have to talk my father into letting my friend disable the thing instead of having it replaced, which I think would be a huge waste of money.
Thanks again.
take care, kathryn
80 Knight wrote:

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Kathryn,
If the VATS module is bad you will have to replace it. Just unplugging it will NOT work! The PCM (engine/transmission computer) expects a digital pulse code from the VATS module to enable the fuel injection. No pulse, no fuel injection (this is done so thiefs can't just "hot wire" around the VATS system)..
If, however, the problem is the ignition cylinder or the wiring from there to the VATS module, you can disconnect the cable from the cylinder and splice in a resistor of the same value as the resistor key pellet. The VATS module will then think the key is present with the proper resistor and work correctly.
Regards, Bill Bowen Sacramento, CA

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Uh-oh, looks like I'll have to figure that out, then. Thanks, William. I thought from what I'd read that I could have a friend splice in the resistor for me and it would cure the problem. I will have the person check the module first since I really have no clue about this stuff and how to determine if it's a bad module or not. Hopefully he will know.
Thanks again!
take care, Kathryn
William H. Bowen wrote:

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kathryn wrote:

replaced the ignition switch, which meant new keys also, still have same problem. When I am trying to start it, the "security" light flashes. What is a "VTS"? Thanks! Renee
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renee wrote:

I'm sorry, I meant VATS. Thanks! Renee
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Renee,
VATS stands for "Vehicle Anti Theft System". This was the original name for the system that GM first put on the mid-80s Corvettes and has rolled out to most of the remainder of its line. The current name for that system is called "PASS" (Personal Auto Security System).
The idea is that a thief would not be able to start your car unless they have an ignition key that matches both the physical key cut (so the ignition lock will physically operate) but also that the key has to match electrically as well. The VATS/PASS module controls a relay in line with the starter solenoid feed - when that relay is not enabled by the module, the starter will not turn. In addition, the VATS/PASS module sends a digital data stream to the ECM (engine computer): without that data stream the ECM will not enable the fuel injection for the engine. No fuel and no crank = no start.
Since the VATS keys have an embedded resistor slug that can have any one of 15 different resistor values, you have increased by a factor of 15 the possible combinations. Also, the VATS/PASS system will disable starting even with the correct key for 3 minutes if an attempt to start is made with an incorrect key. This will slow down an attempted theft (and the longer the thief is exposed the less likely he/she is to actually steal your car).
The newest versions of the PassKey system don't use a resistor pellet in the key: it instead uses a transponder that communicates with some embedded electronics within the key - similar to the RFID systems being used to tag store merchandise.
If the ignition cylinder has been replaced and the VATS/PASSKEY system is still acting up, check the wiring from the base of the steering column to the VATS/PASSKEY module. Any intermittent connections will cause the problem you describe. It is also possible that the VATS/PASSKEY module itself is bad. If that is the case, you will need to replace it. You can "hotwire" around a bad igintion cylinder but you cannot easily bypass the VATS/PASSKEY module itself (since the ECM requires the pulse train from the module for the ECM to enable fuel injection).
Regards, Bill Bowen Sacramento, CA
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William H. Bowen wrote:

Bill,
Thank you so very much for your information. Hopefully I can get this taken care of. I already have quite a bit in the car, just had to replace the catalytic converter fo pass emissions and I really do like the car. Bless you! Sencerely, Renee
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renee wrote:

I'm sorry, I meant VATS. Thanks! Renee
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