By on August 13, 2015

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TTAC commentator supremebrougham writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Sitting in my Grandma’s garage is her pristine 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, with a whopping 24,800 miles on the clock. Grandpa bought it right off of Mr. Sesi’s showroom floor not long after he retired.

About two months ago, my Mom and Grandma took the car out for the day to do some shopping. They stopped by my house, and when they went to leave, the car wouldn’t start. I got in and noticed that when I turned the key, the fuel pump was not making any noise.

I pushed the car into my garage where my uncle said he would come and look at it later in the week. A couple of days later, I decided to try it. Sure enough, the car started right up. I took it back to Grandma’s and put it in the garage. A couple of weeks later I went back and started the car — it ran perfectly — so I took it across town and washed it and brought it home, with no problems. Two weeks ago, my uncle and aunt took the car out for the day, and while they were out, the car wouldn’t start, so they had it towed home. A couple of days later, I went out to the garage, and it started right up! We have no idea why it’s doing this. Any suggestions? I want to take the car to the Woodward Dream Cruise to use as my Staff Car for The Brougham Society, so I need it fixed fast!

Sajeev answers:

Pretty easy one for a fanboi like myself, and it has little to do with Panther Love. This thread encapsulates the possible faults. Assuming the car will not crank when twisting the key, I doubt a shredded fuel pump (or frayed wiring) exists on such a low mile vehicle. The fuel pump relay? Maybe, but nah.

The last post on that thread (regarding the PATS key) is the culprit. PATS keys have a transponder in the head, and perhaps yours is damaged in a fall: kinda like smartphones, things happen when falling from a few feet to a solid surface. Check if the PATS warning light in the gauge cluster stays on longer than the normal (2-3 seconds upon startup) or if it flashes. If so, that’s why your Panther ain’t starting.

A new key (either a universal or a factory Mercury branded key) is easy to get at a locksmith, dealership or even eBay. The last link presented also has programming instructions for the new key, so its a cheap and easy fix.

[Image courtesy of Richard Bennett]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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58 Comments on “Piston Slap: PATS on the back for Panther Love?...”


  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Make sure the shifter is fully seated in park. The shifter in these is a direct descendent of the floppy shifters that prompted the enormous sticker recall, and are easy to accidentally put slightly over the line in reverse.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Yeah, Im sure in1997 it was exactly the same as in 1977. All the Panthers Ive driven had no “sloppy shifter”. Seeing as the car’s interior was redesigned significantly in 1992, Im quite sure it shares nothing with the 70s models. Give Ford some credit, I mean do you see new Explorers with Firestones or new compacts with gas tanks right behind the rear bumper? Geeze.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    Maybe I’m confused but it sounds like something stops working when the car gets hot. I’ve experienced a strange battery issue on my Grandmother’s 30,000 mile 1995 Mercury Sable that caused the same symptoms when the car was cold started right up when the car got warm the ignition would just click, let it sit for a while and it would start. I replaced the 4 year old battery and it hasn’t happened since. I had the battery tested at autozone and it was down a cell. They test for free so it is worth checking out

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I once had an 88 Prelude that behaved EXACTLY like this. Problem was the fuel pump relay. I pulled it out and it was full of calcium deposits.

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      Yeah, fuel pump relays seem to fail based on age, not on mileage.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Sensors and relays seem to be age related. My 02 Saturn has 39K but I’ve had to put several sensors in it because I knew from previous Saturns when things were a bit amiss and which sensors to change (bad mileage = coolant temp sensor, tranny downshifting weird = throttle pos sensor)

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Hondas of that era have crappy soldering on the main relay and they are known for that but this is a Ford and Bosch soldered the relays properly.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Do you have another key to take along to test and see if it is the PATS?
    I’ve seen this EXACT same problem on a 2000 Chrysler Concorde (I know, not a Panther, excuse me) and it ended up being the ECM. Just something to consider if it is not the fuel pump relay or PATS. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar

      LH cars, by traditional American Sedan standards of extinctness, do have some Panther Love in them. They were proper iron, even if the North/South engine drove the wrong wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        There was sooooo much room in the LH cars. I feel like they were twice as big on the inside as many of today’s cars. I miss mine, but I didn’t love it enough to try and keep one going. I can’t afford to go buy a 6-pack of Chrysler transmissions.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          My 96 Concorde LXi was a horribly unreliable car. It was a decent car to drive when it ran/drove properly (rarely). I shudder at the thousands I spent on it before the engine and trans failed and I ended up GIVING the thing away to a scrapper.

          I didnt think a 97 Grand Marquis would have PATS. Our 1997 Mercury Sable didnt. If anything, Id expect it after the 1998 redesign (or at least what Toyota would consider a redesign: same old car, new front and rear facias).

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Mine made it 128K miles before it was sold to a manager of a Chrysler dealership for his kid.

            2nd gen cars were better. Did you have the 3.3L or the 3.5L? I think LXi would be the 3.5L.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Yes, the 3.5L. It lost oil pressure and self destructed hours after the trans had “incorrect gear ratio, gear 3” and “incorrect gear ratio, gear 4”.

      • 0 avatar
        Halftruth

        Glad you give the LH props.. I had three of them and none lost a tranny or an engine.. All with well over 100k. I know others have had mixed results but mine were solid and super reliable. Guess I got lucky. I kinda liked the N/S orientation thing.. a little quirk aint all bad!

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Did you avoid the V6 of liters less than 3 that shall not be named?

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Must have, or the story wouldve sounded a lot more like mine. From what I hear (and have read), the 2.7L shared a lot with the first 3.5L (that my 96 had). I hear 3.3L Interpids and lesser Concordes had less trouble, but I found the 3.5L acceptable power wise, the one 3.3L Intrepid I drove felt pretty gutless. Given the choice, Id have selected a Duratec Taurus/Sable, and in retrospect, I certainly should have. The way I maintain cars (especially 4spd Tauruses), Im sure Id have been much better off.

  • avatar
    Garagezone

    Might be the CCRM. Hosed me on my 2002 Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Yes, Ive had it produce the same symptoms the op described on my 1993 Taurus. Luckily I had a nearly-free junk Sable I was parting out, so swapping it out was a no-brainer and it solved the issue. Very easy to get to on the Taurus, bolted to the core support under the warning label plackard. Dont know about a Panther.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No such animal on the Panthers, all separate old school relays on them.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Yes, so its like my Audi 100.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Oh God. All the relays! And they will go bad!

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            @bball40dtw Perhaps, but my 97 GM GS is approaching 200K, with nary a relay failure on my watch, or in the service records of the Original Owner(c). :-)

            And while I have come around to seeing some of your points about how some of the new Ford products are improvements in some areas over the Panthers, I still love mine, from stem to stern, in a way that no “modern” car can evoke. (Alright, if I wanted to part with the money for a new Mustang GT…but that’s a different story and a whole different financial commitment.)

            For an admitted Old Geezer who is alos a dedicated Gearhead, the Mercury is a true joy to own and drive. Though my son and I are now in search for a good used F150 or Explorer for his new lawnmowing business.

            The only other vehicle we are possibly considering that is in his current price range, starting out, would be a decent Jeep Cherokee with the 4.0L inline six. But the Fords look like some good choices for an older truck or SUV that needs to be a 4×4 and reliable.

            And as much as I like the Panthers, I don’t think they wold be a good choice for his purposes.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Ahh, so its all controlled by the PCM. PCM failure wouldnt cause the op’s issue, at least not in my experience. When the PCM failed on my Taurus, it caused all sorts of issues, like the fuel pump continiously priming and the cooling fan to run all the time (and the transaxle to stay in “limp home mode” (2nd gear)). The engine was difficult to start, but it wasnt from lack of action from the fuel pump. Probably the opposite: too much fuel, as it ran pig rich when it was running. A remaned PCM was only $100 for that car, but I do not think it’s the OP’s issue. My friend had a 96 Grand Marquis that also had PCM issues and they presented themselves much the same way as they did with my Taurus.

        Sounds like a bad relay to me.

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    One small problem. Ford didn’t start putting PATS keys in the Grand Marquis until 1998. Of course maybe they’re wrong about the year model.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The 1st thing I did was bypass the PATS system of my F-150 when I got it new. Surprisingly there’s a spot for an original key to lay right under the ignition switch, just behind its rubber trim/grommet.

    I’m a scatter brain, so it helps to have 10 dummy keys that’ll start it, scattered all over, and a few hidden in and on the truck. Both of the original keys would’ve been lost by now. Or damaged or simply worn out.

    The other original key, I keep taped to the owners manual. Except it won’t start the truck, since 2 original keys can’t be in close proximity to the ignition, as they’ll cancel each other out.

    But it could be the the PATS relay keeping this Panther from starting. Corrosion for example. It can drive a mechanic insane trying to find it. No fuel pump or crank.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      For about $10 you can get a spare key on ebay. Have it cut at the local hardware store and you can program it yourself if you have 2 keys that the vehicle recognizes. Put one programmed key in turn it to on and back off, take the second key and do the same thing. Then put the new key in and turn it to on. Repeat with as many extra keys as you have up to 8. You do have to do the first 2 within about 10 seconds and you only get about 10 seconds between the subsequent extra keys. All keys that you want to work need to be done as this will erase any keys not present at that time.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        That sounds like a hassle, when my dummy keys do the same job. I don’t have an alarm either, but prefer a simple fuel-cutoff on a key fob that sets itself passively when I go to start it. Just cranks or starts for a few seconds if I fail to click the fob. $20 4 channel relay box and remote from Auto Zone for added ‘accessories’.

        I like that I can leave it running, detach the fob and can kill it from up to 200 ft away. I have it set to kill the parking light with the fuel pump, so I have the signal it’s armed or not.

        • 0 avatar
          mike1dog

          The big if is if you have two keys to start it. Most people don’t. At lowes they can duplicate the chip in the key, and cut it for you.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            @Mike1dog, he states he bought the truck new, so I certainly hope they gave him both keys.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          Really? Doesnt seem like a huge hassel to me, just putting a few keys in the ignition and turning them. Youd have to buy and have any key cut. eBay items are delivered right to your home, so only the same trip (to have the key cut) would be required.

          The only extra steps wouldnt be more work than bypassing PATS and/or engineering a remote-controlled fuel cut off system for security. Without PATS, installing a “kill switch” is my best option (for my 95) for what is pretty much a passive theft prevention system (in so much as Id have to flip a hidden switch to activate/deactivate it). I could pull the fuse for a vital function to prevent theft as I did with my Honda Accord, but that is time consuming. I currently live in a low crime area, so it isnt worth it right now.

          Sounds like youre more than willing to do lots of extra steps so long as it isnt within established procedures. Your way of “sticking it to the man” because you know the system better than those who designed it? Or, you assumed that only a dealer could program a key (at great cost) and/or the keys were expensive?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            A chipped key is totally unnecessary anyway since every thief thinks your car has one. There’s zero point in ‘dent pulling’ the ignition, that’s not how newer cars are stolen.

            Today, a chipped key is just a ‘key’. Even if someone gets ahold of my keys they won’t know how, when or if to fire fob. Or which number on the little pad. The remote/fob, self-arming kill switch is just the next logical step in kill switches. I like the extra layer of protection. So what? I can wire kill switch in my sleep so everything I drive gets one. Plus I like to leave my truck running when I jump out for a couple minutes, several times a day, so I unclip the fob/kill switch and take it with me into the store.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I’ve experienced the same thing with three different Fords – two were Panthers. Of the Panthers one was my 97 Crown Vic with 79K miles and the other was my mother’s 2003 CV with 23K. The third was a 2000 Taurus with over 150K on it.
    The symptoms were exactly the same as you wrote. The cars would run fine, but occasionally fail to start. Usually the fail to start episodes happened after the car was driven a few miles.
    I had three different places misdiagnose the Taurus problem. The Ford dealer where my mother bought her Crown Vic also muffed the job several times then replaced the starter for $800. When this didn’t fix the problem they replaced the fuel pump the problem disappeared. So when my 97 CV started to act the same way, I didn’t waste time and just ordered a new fuel pump from Rock Auto for about $70. Into my garage it went and the next day I was ready to go after a little cursing and grunting.
    It’s been about two years since my mother’s and over one year since my CV had the fuel pumps replaced, and both cars have run perfectly since.
    For reasons I can’t explain, it seems like the fuel pumps Ford uses have timers on them. They fail on age and not mileage. I was always told that electric fuel pumps are binary critters in that they work of they don’t,but these last three episodes have taught me otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Don’t really buy the “fail on age” thing. My 92 Sable has its original fuel pump as does my 95 Probe. The only pump I replaced due to actual failure was on my old K car and that gave me a some ability to drive home. And it lasted almost 200K before I had to replace it.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    If the motor cranks over, I’ll bet its the fuel pump. Get a fuel pressure gauge and attempt to replicate the problem. Or the quick and dirty way is when its not starting, spray some carb clean or starting fluid in the air intake and see if it tries to start. Another test is to beat on the bottom of the gas tank with a rubber mallet (or something similar) with the key on. If the pump turns on, its bad and has a sticky spot.

    • 0 avatar
      AlfaRomasochist

      +1 on the fuel pump. I’ve got a low mile older Ford Chassis RV, with the submerged pump. I had the intermittent no-start-so-club-the-fuel-tank-with-a-2×4 issue with only 19k miles on the thing. After a certain age internal bits swell up on these and keep it from turning. Most often the shock from the hit is enough vibration to free things up.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    Fuel pump just quit one day on my father-in-law’s 1998 Town Car without warning. It was 15 years old but just had 71,000 miles on it.

    Maybe they really do have a life timer on them.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’ll post the obligatory:

    Okay I admit it! I’m 19 and I own a 2003 Crown Vic with 300k miles on it! It hasnt needed any work, engine popped a plug but I can run it on 7 cylinders! Still smokes riced out Hondas at the light! It still corners on rails like a BMW 7 series!

    Obviously your Crown Vic was wrecked at one point and patched together by a shady awful badguy dealer! I’m sorry about your trouble.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    It’s the fuel pump and it is bad from all that sitting with stale fuel in the tank. Just have it replaced.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I think PATS is probably overthinking this. If the fuel pump isn’t running when the key turns on, the most logical suspects are the fuel pump and the fuel pump relay.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Especially since this car doesn’t have PATS. Even if it did have PATS they symptoms do not indicate PATS causing a no start. PATS will not prevent the fuel pump prime that will still occur even if there is no valid key. The pump won’t come on after that but it will still do the prime routine. Plus if an invalid key was being used the Anti-theft light would be flashing.

  • avatar
    hawox

    my car had a problem wich sounds similar. one day decided not to start, i thought was the battery wich was effectively very low. but no.

    some times later i gave another try and started 100% fine, no antithefth code problem. it simply was a rpm sensor wich was giving error messages randomly.

  • avatar
    50merc

    May I point out that my Model A with gravity feed gas delivery has never experienced any fuel pump problems? Old ways are the best. (Apart from having the gas tank in your lap.)

  • avatar

    It’s a little after 9 PM here, and I just returned home from Grandma’s where I have been touching up the wax job and getting it all shined up for the weekend.

    We took the car to Mr. Sesi’s lot last week. It ran perfectly fine till I drove it into the service bay and turned it off. That was it then…They kept the car for almost a week, and tried their best to replicate the symptom, but the darn car would start every time! So they told me to take it home. They said it could likely be the fuel pump, or, where the car had sat for so long (pretty much all winter), there could have been some varnishing of the gas, and maybe my driving it to Ann Arbor, and their driving it and letting it run could have cleaned it out. I drove it home without incident, getting it up to 85 on the freeway. When I got it into the the garage and turned it off, I attempted to restart it, and it started right up!

    I took it out today for a little ride, and again, no problems. I’m planning on still taking it to the Dream Cruise, where I will be parking it with the Lincoln and Continental Owners Club, as I was invited to do so.

    A couple of things…1997 was the last year for the regular keys, so no PATS I am afraid…

    The photo at the top is indeed the car in question! I took that last summer.

    I’m going to share this with my uncle, as he will be interested in hearing what may be the problem, and try to fix it, as the dealer said it would cost $1100.00 to replace the pump!

    Thanks everyone for your input, and thanks to Sajeev, I know I can always count on you for a favor :)

    If you haven’t yet, come look up The Brougham Society on Facebook…

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Wow that is some serious highway robbery charging $1100 to change the fuel pump on a 97 Panther. Yes I understand that they will want to replace the fuel pump “module” and charge probably $500~$600 for it but it is less than an hour job is the fuel is less than 1/4 tank. If it has more fuel in it then that then they will need to siphon some out until it gets low enough to pull the pump w/o gas spilling all over the place.

  • avatar
    Exfordtech

    There are two different types of no starts, they require different diagnostic procedures, and this information is critical in trying to diagnose such an intermittent issue. Is this a no crank, no start; or a crank no start? If the latter, observe the check engine light while the vehicle is cranking but not starting. If it remains on during this time, it means that the PCM is not seeing a crank sensor signal, and since it is unaware that the vehicle is cranking, as far as it is concerned, the key is simply in the on position, and it sees no need to fire the plugs, power the injectors or engage the fuel pump. If the light goes off while cranking, the crank sensor and circuitry are good, and you’d need to look at for fuel and or ignition issues. If it is the former, I’d be inclined to check grounds, wiggle test the harnesses and take a good look at the starter circuit.

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