Can't Start My Car Because of the Passlock Security System

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#electrical #engine

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Passlock is an immobilizer introduced by GM in many mid-to-late 1990’s vehicles. Immobilizers are “electronic security device fitted to an automobile that prevents the engine from running unless the correct key (or token) is present.”[1] Well, Passlock should be called the Great Immobilizer because not only does it stop thieves with no keys, it also stops owners with the right keys.

How do I know if my car has Passlock?

GM introduced many security systems – VATS, Passkey, Passlock, but if your GM has a key without a chip in it, chances are it’s passlock.

How is Passlock supposed to work?

Passlock uses a coded lock cylinder that essentially stops the engine from running until the proper key is detected. When the key is inserted into the ignition, a magnet on the cylinder creates a signal to the ECM (engine control module) that essentially says everything is ok to start and run.

What goes wrong with Passlock?

The short answer is there’s a problem with the sensor. Some have suggested that the pins in the system are “tin” plated and subject to oxidization over time. Others say their system is possessed by the devil and in need of an exorcist. I’ll let you decide which one sounds more accurate.

When the sensor defect starts, it usually presents itself as system fault code B2960. A red (or yellow) “security” warning light will stay illuminated and the engine will either a) never start or b) start for a moment and then shut down.

How to Fix Passlock for Oldsmobile Vehicles

A temporary fix is to leave your key in the ignition, at the “auxiliary” position for about 10-15 minutes until the security light shuts off. When the light shuts off you can try to start the engine again. Rinse, repeat, and cry.

A more permanent solution is to either replace the ignition lock cylinder or bypass the sensor.

Replacement cylinder with new sensors can cost, with labor, as much as $450.

Bypassing the sensor will void any warranty, but since most of these vehicles are out-of-warranty at this point that might not be of any concern. has a solution for how to fully bypass the PassLock system in GM cars.

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Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Oldsmobile generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 1st Generation Alero

    18th of 18

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA