About That Lincoln’s No-Start Problem

May 1, 2013 | By Staff

IN THE NOVEMBER issue a reader said he took his 1997 Lincoln Town Car to his local dealership because of an intermittent no-start problem.

At first the dealership said it was the passive anti-theft (PAT) module and replaced that…without solving the problem. Then the dealer said the dash cluster needed to be rebuilt and talked about replacing the PCM (power train control module). However, the dealership later said it couldn’t make those repairs because the parts weren’t available from the factory or the aftermarket. Several readers then responded with their experiences and solutions, and we’re printing some of them here.

I am writing to supplement the advice and observations offered up by Auto Restorer’s Mechanic on Duty (in the November issue), regarding the problems Mr. Warmuth was experiencing with his ’97 Lincoln Town Car. I agree with everything in the response, but would add this: when dealing with problems with a computer controlled vehicle it is often best to “fight fire with fire.” Use a computer to research the problems with the computer! There are on-line forums for just about any vehicle, where other owners are usually happy to share their experiences with similar problems. It is also possible to search for the factory Technical Service Bulletins (I easily found many TSBs for the ’97 Town Car), and they can pinpoint possible problems that many technicians are unaware of. I did not quickly find an answer to Mr. Warmuth’s problem, but I bet it is out there in the ether somewhere.

An example from my experience may be of interest. I had a similar intermittent “no-start” condition with my 2004 Ford Freestyle, in 2009 and 2010.

Three trips to the dealer mechanic (one which involved a tow) turned up nothing—they could not replicate the problem. With less than an hour of internet searching I found others who had the problem under similar conditions, and a TSB that described how to fix it. It was a PCM issue—basically a bug in the code—and it was solvable with a dealer re-flash. I presented this information to the service department at the dealer, they checked by VIN and determined that could be the issue, and performed the re-flash for a moderate fee ($50, if I recall). No parts were needed, the factory warranty was retained, and I have not had a recurrence of the problem since.

Which brings me to the closing of Auto Restorer’s response. I totally agree that Mr. Warmuth needs to find another dealer for his service. The dealer I use for service is reputable and also knows (through long experience) they can’t “snow” me. But that is not universally true. Dealers don’t make enough of a profit selling cars these days to stay in business. They rely on the service department to generate the profits. Some service managers are under a lot of pressure to do something they can bill for every time you bring the car to them, if it is indicated or not. This sounds like what has happened to Mr. Warmuth.

Kenneth Hawkins Sammamish, Washington

Regarding Brian Warmuth’s Lincoln Town Car, I had a similar issue with my son’s ’94 Crown Victoria.

I found a used PCM on eBay for under a hundred dollars, and I found rebuilt, guaranteed PCMs in the aftermarket for anywhere from $140 to $230. O’Reilly’s, Autozone, etc. had them, special order, but they were three days out.

He’ll need the number off of the PCM, which is on a white sticker visible on the aluminum case, just to the left of the steering column, above his left knee.

The PCM removes easily. Further, it’s quite likely that the PCM isn’t actually at fault, unless he opens up the case and confirms that there is a burned circuit board. There could just as likely be a bad connection to the PCM or any number of other sensors feeding into the PCM.

I’d start by removing the PCM, opening it up, and smelling it. (and Google is your friend. There is a vast amount of information out there for vehicles of all kinds).

Tom Sherry Via email

With regard to your November 2012 issue, Brian Warmuth would benefit from the following regarding his 1997 Lincoln Town Car.

My similar problem was handled in the same way by the local dealership.

So, I decided to spend one afternoon with a spray bottle of corrosion treatment, a piece of sandpaper, and a screwdriver and pliers looking for a bad ground.

I found it and with that the car was fixed. It involved some hard-to-reach places, but I’m used to that, being involved in the field of medicine.

On a related topic, Town Cars often are disposed of prematurely because the rear air suspension goes bad. This can lead to an expensive dealer fix.

However, TRW makes a spring conversion kit for less than $200 that is not too difficult a project or will cost about $200 if it’s done at a repair shop. A dealership will not do it.

Curt Clayman, MD Ashburnham, Massachusetts

For more on an air suspension conversion, you might want to visit the Strutmasters LLC web site, strutmasters.com. They offer kits and have diagrams of the suspension system.

The company says it got into the business after its founder purchased a 10-year-old 1989 Lincoln Continental…and shortly thereafter the car’s air suspension system failed.

Not wanting to give up on a car he truly enjoyed, he called salvage yards looking for used air struts but couldn’t locate any. Then he found a wrecked Lincoln with a regular set of struts on it. With that, he figured out what would be necessary for a conversion and started his own company.

Strutmasters is located in Roxboro, North Carolina, and also can be reached at .