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Anti Theft system won't allow me to start car

(2010 Ford Focus)
in Albany, NY on November 18, 2010
We had been away for 3 months, during which time we left our 2010 Ford Focus in the garage. When we arrived home our car failed to start. We tried both of our keys. No start. Waited 10 to 20 minutes tried again no start. When we tried to start the car the anti lock indicator flashed rapidly when in the on position. Called dealer, had car towed to dealer. When we picked the car up the dealer advised us that we needed to start the car every 13 to 14 days or we would have the same problem. This doesn't seem realistic to us. People go on vacation all the time for 2 weeks, so if they left their car in an airport it probably wouldn't start when they get home. Dealers would have to go around and start their entire inventory inorder to avoid similar problems. Any help is greatly appreciated
Displaying 5 answers & 10 comments
Popular Answer
on March 10, 2015
I know this is an old discussion, however there are no good answers on the internet so I wanted to add one. We just bought a certified 2013 Ford Focus SE and have experienced this problem immediately when we went to dinner then came back and the car won't start. Even in the mornings, the car will not start but then all of a sudden it will. The dash says, "Key not detected" and we are stuck wherever we are. We took it to the dealership who then worked with Ford engineers who finally found the problem and solution. The ignition itself is the culprit. The ignition reads the key fob and the sensor in the ignition is faulty. Ford replaced the ignition and re-programmed the keys and now the car hasn't had any more issues of the sort. If you're having this problem, it's not the smart junction box, it's the ignition. Hope this helps someone.
on March 29, 2015
Something else I saw that is another cause for a lot of problems on these Fords is that the ground wire from the battery is attached to a part of the frame that is painted and can't always ground out. So you take off the wire sand down that part and it should help with some of the problems. I found this solution on a you tube video when I got stuck and it started right up afterwards in my moms 2011 Ford Fiesta. Unfortunately the next day it was back at it again. I'm going to try out your ignition solution now otherwise I'll have to resort to the selling it solution.
on April 06, 2015
STLChampion, hopefully you get this message. It looks like you are in St. Louis. I am, too. Just curious, what dealership did you take your car to? We are having an issue similar to this with an f150. Took it to a local dealership and they were no help. $130 down the drain.
on November 18, 2010

I hear your concerns; here's my educated opinion, having been at a Ford dealer for many years.

The PATS system (passive anti theft system) utilizes the car's instrument cluster and a transceiver in conjunction with your key. Basically, the cluster (where your speedometer and gauges are) is a computer that interfaces with the transceiver that reads your key. If the instrument cluster loses its memory, as it can do with extreme terms of power loss, it will not allow starting of the car upon restoring power. When the key is not recognized, the cluster interrupts the starting circuit via data lines to the engine's processor and other components.

You are quite right that power would not be lost in 13-14 days. Batteries generally take a bit longer to lose their charge (more like 30 days). Nothing stays "awake" in the car after at most several hours, so there is no draw to the battery, other than normal loss and discharge over time. I would think that to lose even this memory it would take longer yet, as in your case, as it does not disasppear any time soon after battery discharge. It takes more time for memory loss.

If you should ever imagine a trip that is longer than a few weeks, rather than disconnecting the battery for any length of time, invest in a trickle charger. A trickle charger will maintain the battery charge as it deteriorates. Many folks use these for long term vehicle storage situations, mostly to keep the battery from needing replaced upon return. However, with today's technologies and electronics, it would even be suitable to maintain the memory of this PATS information.

I hope this helps explain it some. The dealership you are using is being a little ultra-conservative (slightly on the irrational side, honestly, as you've discovered...), and your query is dead on.
on November 19, 2010
Thank you so much for your input. I think I may have mislead you with the description of my problem. The battery never went dead. We were locked out by the anti theft system but there was battery power. The lights came on bright and all the electronics were working. The car just wouldn't start because of the anti theft system.
on November 19, 2010
Interesting; Thanks for the clarification. I would keep in touch with your dealership and see if they would be willing to escalate your concern to their "Technical Hotline". Your concern should never happen, unless there is some new illogical architecture in the 2010 model I don't know about. It sounds as if the instrument cluster may be intermittently losing power unintentially. It could be a result of a software issue, for example.

My recommendation is to NOT let it go until you get the Hotline involved. If your dealership does not seem willing to help, escalate your concern to the service manager or director, then the Ford Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-392-3673. And if nothing else, you will need to get another dealer's opinion.

My biggest concern is that the failure could occur anywhere and anytime, and may have nothing specifically to do with the vehicle being inactive, except that a period of time passed with no operation that made it more succeptable to occuring. I hope this all makes sense. Good luck; keep us posted on what you learn.
on November 19, 2010
Thank you for confirming that this is a much bigger issue than just starting the car every 14 days. The Service Writer, Service Manager were no help. They said that there was nothing they could do because it an engineering problem. We've called the hotline 2x's now and they've documented our concerns. We haven't heard back from them yet. We do not plan on letting this go. Our next steps are to contact the GM of the dealership and writing a certified letter to Ford. Thanks again for all your input.
on January 17, 2011
We have exactly the same problem with our 2010 Focus. Writing to Ford Customer Service was a complete waste of time since they simply referred us back to the dealer whose only recommendation is to start the car at least every two weeks. They say that's what they do with all the cars on their lot. Meanwhile, under the Ford warranty program when the car's anti-theft system locks it up, Ford needs to send a tow truck to drag the Focus back to the dealer to get it restarted. What a waste if everyone's time and money over a nonsenical engineering problem. We are considering selling the Focus since Ford doesn't seem able to understand let alone repair the problem.
on March 05, 2014
And I am a third person with a 2010 Focus with the same problem. Seems like a manufacturer defect to me! I never lost power, but the car sat for a couple weeks. Now the anti-theft system won't let it start-the little light just flashes. UGH!!!
on June 06, 2014
My 2009 Ford Focus just did this WHILE DRIVING. Was in the work place drive when it just died. Was able to crank it once and go a few yards till it died again. Got in a parking spot,tried to crank it and nothing.
The red padlock indicator was on,don't think it was flashing at all. Dangerous in my opinion and I work for Ford.

Will try the battery thing before calling AAA to tow it to dealership.
on January 09, 2015
I have a 2011 Fusion it is doing the same thing! Looks like they did not fix the problem they had with the 2010 Fusions.
on November 18, 2010
There is an easy solution for this, just disconnect your battery when you are gone. Or get a shut off switch installed, that is what people do who have a vacation home with a vehicle or a boat.
on November 18, 2010
Won't the programming be lost?
on April 02, 2017
for what is is worth, if the car will not start and the pats light is flashing rapidly and the dash is reading --miles to empty, the engine ecu is not powered up. There is a ground wire located on the left front shock tower that needs to be cleaned as it is a poor design. Clean it and or relocate it and the Engine ecu should power back up and the car should start. There are a lot of other possible problems but this is very common on these years of cars
on January 09, 2017
I know this is an old post, but I'm experiencing this same thing with my 2011 Fusion. Funny thing is, it did not start until AFTER I picked it up from the dealer after getting the power steering recall completed. It has happened twice, first time my wife was on the side of the road waiting for a tire change. After 10 or 15 minutes, it started and had been fine since. That was a few weeks ago. Today, she went to take our daughter to school and the car would not start. I got home from work and tried everything I could. Called the dealer and was told to jump it, still nothing. Now I'm waiting to have it towed. We are on a fixed income ands I'm being told that unless they can prove it was something they did, it could cost over $2k to repair. Why hasn't this been the subject of a recall??
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