Immobilizer failure/ vcd failure - Alfa Romeo Forum
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(Post Link) post #1 of 46 Old 26-09-16 Thread Starter
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Immobilizer failure/ vcd failure

Well, it was that time of the year again for the annual Octoberfest at a small coastal town here about 400 Km's away so I took the Alfa to drive down. Drive was amazing as always.

After festivities the next morning I want to start the Alfa but all I get is IMMOBILIZER FAILURE/VDC ERROR. So again, I am just sitting there like an idiot with no idea how to get back home. Again, the Alfa failed to start because of some stupid electronic error.

Anyway, after wiggling the steering wheel up and down a bit and disconnecting the battery and putting it back, .....nothing.

The next day, just for ****s and giggles I attempt to try again and voila, it starts up, no error no nothing so I am glad and drive home, no incidents. This now cost me again a sleepover at a hotel for the night and sleepless night googling what the hell I should do, obviously, no answer except take it to the dealer, connect the ECU blah blah which really dont help when you stuck in the middle of nowhwere and the Alfa locks you out.

Come home and read in the owners manual there is a CODE system that sends the signal from the small chip in the key to the inhibitor who then opens the connection to the engine to start. I memorize the code in case next time it won't start again EVEN THOUGH I HAVE THE CORRECT KEY and the battery is recently replaced inside the key.

This morning, Alfa starts up and as it is idling in the driveway it just dies. Guess what, IMMOBILIZ FAILURE, VDC FAILURE. Great, I think, now I can override the CODE system so I depress the pedal and wait for the flashing icon but nothing......nothing lfashes nothing changes and again I sit like an idiot, locked out of starting my own bloody car.

Then I removed the plastic cover around the steering column to see if the small wire is attached to the plastic antennae and it is. I wiggle cables, NOTHING.

Any suggestions? Please dont say take to dealer/hook up to laptop, we need answers here to help guys that are stuck and need a quick fix like myself this weekend. Why write something in the manual and then it doesn't even work? Key to MAR, depress accelerator pedal all the way down and wait for engine light to come on for 8 seconds then count the flashes corresponding to the code, this is not rocket science but the light doesnt begin to flash. Why always do this at the most inconvenient times, do something so unnecessary, just let me start the engine and drive home ffs.

Last edited by Aramis; 26-09-16 at 08:41.
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first the obvious:
Is your battery still in good condition ? All the earth straps, main fuses, battery connections etc clean and properly connected ?
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Give all of the connectors around the control hub a good wiggle. And the under dash fuse panel too.
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Yup, brand new battery, wiggled all wires, pulled all fuses/relays...nothing

Why does the emergency start procedure also not work, that's what gets me the most.
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It's a relative remark only, but have seen similar on a CitroŽn Xsara with blown fuse feeding some of the control hub items. Really does sound like there's not power where there should be.
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Yup, brand new battery, wiggled all wires, pulled all fuses/relays...nothing

Why does the emergency start procedure also not work, that's what gets me the most.
that's why my first guess was electrical power... if there is a problem there, obviously, also the emergency procedure won't work.
I know you don't want to hear this , but did you try reading out the OBD to see if there are any errors stored ?
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The electrical power is there on MAR but the little generator icon, the yellow one that is supposed to come on when you turn the key to MAR also does not come on so then it wont start flashing for the CODE entry. There is also absolutely no relation between IMMOBILIZER FAILURE and VDC FAILURE and my drivers side window also developed a mind of its own and goes up and down....it is some electrical connection but where?? When wires are wiggled and pulled it should either work again or not at all.

Hooking her up to the OBDII means dragging my home desktop with extension cable, putting my monitor on passengers seat etc. I dont have a laptop.

But then again, why did it start up and took me home 400Km's away the next day as if nothing happened?
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I can tell you right now (and hopefully this confidence will not come back to bite me) it will be one of the following:

A/ The first, and worst, is a fault in the engine ECU itself. The style of ECU you have is similar to other models of Alfa's and they all suffer the same manufacturing fault, a faulty solder joint of the main filter capacitor inside the engine ECU.
It is it simple to diagnose. At the moment you have just about every light on the dash on and the engine just turns over & over hard but won't fire.

Disconnect the Main Electrical Connector on the Throttle Body. Then try an start the car without touching the throttle. If it starts, the ECU is FUBAR. If it STILL doesn't start, go to step B.

B/ You mentioned that you took the cowling off to look at the IMMO aerial and the fly lead from it. Well at the very bottom of the steering wheel area, under that cowl, closest to the steering wheel itself is the Steering Sensor. A lead runs along the steering column up into the back of the sensor. It is quite common for these leads to get caught up on something in the column and it pulls the plug partially out of the sensor, causing it to go off at any time.

Make sure the plug is pushed in all the way.

C/ A faulty Body Computer. The circuit boards in these can be a bit fragile. Part of the Body computer id the socket for the OBDII Adapter, give the whole unit a bit of a push and wiggle and see if things start lighting up all over the place. The results are self explanatory.

If it's not one of these I will be pleasantly surprised.

Good luck.
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Thanks bazzbazz, can I just remove the ecu and open it up, looks similar to the ballasts in the Xenon headlights, right but is connected at the back of the plenum with two big black electrical connections held by silver clips?

I suspect the ecu because as soon as I rev over 6,000 rpm I also get the ecu failure warning.....

It is almost as a loose connection yeah, because the immobiliz failure and VDC failure displays seem to somehow not light up properly, if that makes sense, like there is not enough power going to the display to illuminate and the two erros mesh together?

Also, it is not a chaos of lights but a blunt: IMMOBILIZER FAILURE with the little car and the key and the nono sign, it is the Alfa CODE system but could be the throttle body as me depressing it completely does not register to put me into the emergency manual entry for the CODE system...hmmmmm
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wouldn't expect it to be the ECU, as you don't have problems with the throttle body....

People have also reported almost undetectable cracks in the midi fuses on top of the battery..... I'd replace those, just in case.
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so what you are saying is once I get the warning with the lock from the CODE system I should disconnect the throttle body actuator motor and the warning should dissapear and I can start? And if it then starts my ecu is buggered?
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so what you are saying is once I get the warning with the lock from the CODE system I should disconnect the throttle body actuator motor and the warning should dissapear and I can start? And if it then starts my ecu is buggered?
if you're referring to me, no, that's not what I'm saying.....
What I said is that normally if you have the "standard" fault on the ECU, you will get different symptoms from what you get.... namely buzzing throttlebody etc. and not a CODE notification etc
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hmmm it is buzzing softly humming on MAR...but now that you mention it there was something new and odd, when car was accelerating there was this clack clack clack sound coming from the cubbyhole, I first thought it was the fan moving from the wind when it is off but then I closed the external intake and fans off and still clack clack clack from passenger side under the cubbyhole...same place my alarm beeps from, maybe connected? It's different to CV joint clack clack and only from start, slwo acceleration, could this be linked?
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wouldn't expect it to be the ECU, as you don't have problems with the throttle body....

People have also reported almost undetectable cracks in the midi fuses on top of the battery..... I'd replace those, just in case.
I'm with you on this, I had the same thing happen to me twice, immobiliser failure vcd failure, the dashboard started flashing the when I stopped the car it wouldn't start, it's the brown 70 amp midi fuse on top of the battery.
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I want to start the Alfa but all I get is IMMOBILIZER FAILURE/VDC ERROR.

The next day, just for ****s and giggles I attempt to try again and voila, it starts up, no error no nothing so I am glad and drive home, no incidents.

This morning, Alfa starts up and as it is idling in the driveway it just dies. Guess what, IMMOBILIZ FAILURE, VDC FAILURE. Great, I think, now I can override the CODE system so I depress the pedal and wait for the flashing icon but nothing......nothing lfashes nothing changes and again I sit like an idiot, locked out of starting my own bloody car.

Then I removed the plastic cover around the steering column to see if the small wire is attached to the plastic antennae and it is. I wiggle cables, NOTHING.
Ok, First of all you KEEP saying you get the Immobiliser AS WELL as the VDC/ABS failure lights.

These are the tell tail indicators of the ECU failure.
BUT! It is also the same indicators of the faulty steering sensor connector, and last and worst, loose faulty connections in the Body computer.

May I make a suggestion or two. I do not mean any disrespect, nor do I believe I know more than the local sewer rat, but I DID spend 10 years of my life keeping F-111s in the air, one of my core specialties was Diagnostic fault finding.

The first thing you learn is that its sometimes faster to find what its NOT, than search endlessly for what it might be.

1/ Disconnect Throttle Body Main Electrical Connector, try and start the car, if it DOES start you know 100% its the ECU. If it still doesn't start, its not likely the ECU

2/ Take the cowl from under the steering wheel housing off and check the cable and plug is securely plugged into the back of the steering sensor.

After those 2 checks, follow any of the sage advice given above, in any order, choice you see fit.

And again, I feel for you, good luck.

Check Six

Baz
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Morning guys

When I came home last night I put the key in and no more warning, she started with no problems. So I think, ok fine nothing I can fix if there is no fault so I go to bed. This morning taking my son to school and in the middle of the highway...beep beep beep, IMMOBILIZ failure vdc failure, refused to start. Now, you cant even turn the wheel without power assist running so I left it there on the side of the road.

If this is just a fuse, then the fault should always be present, not just intermittent like this, it's redilulous this refusal to do anything. Then I tried to take off the connector to the throttle body actuator motor but I cant reach it without having to take off the whole intake hose.

Is there no bypass for this, I need to get the car home to at least start and drive home then I can check, surely there must be something to at least start the damn thing.

Something I noticed as well, when I reversed out of the driveway, the rearward sensor that alerts you if something is in the way got stuck and beeped away as well in reverse gear, then, as we were driving along, I noticed something is gonna happen because as soon as I depressed the accelerator pedal just a little bit it cut out as soon as I wanted to accelerate. But it was 100% fine the first couple of km's so there is definately a link to the throttle body and accelerator pedal.

Yes, I get both failure warnings, VDC and then IMMOBILIZ. I know already when I get back to the car later today after work it will start fine - until I am again at an impossible place on the road this is driving me crazy.

If it is the ECU, how to I take it out and maybe blow it out with air or check electrical components, is it under the steering wheel where I plug my cable in or does it sit on top of the plenum? She also used to cut out and give me motor control unit failure warnings once I rev'ed over 6,000 rpm, I always thought it is the limiter cutting in, could be one and the same problem? Where is the ECU located and can it be removed quick quick to open it and check it my dad is pretty clued up about electronics and he might be able to fix it.

I am not sure where the steering sensor is supposed to be located, if I remove the steering cover will I be able to access it and check connections?

Is the ECU part of the body computer unit or are they separate? Can both be taken out and opened up and possibly repaired? I was under the impression the body computer is where I plug my OBD cable in, under the steering column and the ECU sits on top of the plenum with 2x big black cables coming out, that one seems easy to remove.

One last thing I also noticed, once key is turned to MAR, all lights should come on and as the self test progresses they should go out, well, I noticed the yellow engine light, the one that looks like a little compressor, doesn't come on anymore hence why I cant do the emergency manual override procedure.

Thank you so much for everyones help and suggestions this far, you guys are awesome!

Last edited by Aramis; 27-09-16 at 07:05.
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.....

If this is just a fuse, then the fault should always be present, not just intermittent like this, it's redilulous this refusal to do anything. Then I tried to take off the connector to the throttle body actuator motor but I cant reach it without having to take off the whole intake hose.
......
If it's a cracked main fuse, it can be an intermittant contact dependant on vibration, temperature etc...
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If it's a cracked main fuse, it can be an intermittant contact dependant on vibration, temperature etc...
Good point, you mean the fuses connected to the positive terminal on the battery?
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Good point, you mean the fuses connected to the positive terminal on the battery?
yep. I'd at minimum remove them to check, preferably just replace the fuses. It's not a big expense to replace, just for peace of mind and eliminate one possible error source
Also check metal connection strips at bottom/underneath the black fuse box on top of battery, they've also been known to crack.
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And yes, the engine ECU is bolted to the back of the plenum, with the 2 large electrical connectors. Easy to remove and have a look, but it's not something you can just open up and 'blow out'.
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any quick fixes to at least get her started up and drive her home?
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Clutching at straws but: Have you tried the second key or taking the transponder out of the key and taping it as close to the ignition barrel as possible?
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Clutching at straws but: Have you tried the second key or taking the transponder out of the key and taping it as close to the ignition barrel as possible?
I replaced the 2032 battery in the key, no change, checked wires in the steering column antennae, no fault.

What is strange though, when it started this morning it worked for some minutes and then the engine cut-off, VDC failure and when I try to start it locks me out with the CODE system, the immobilizer should not be able to cut-off the engine once it has been verified and the inhibitor giving the greenlight to the engines?

Will I be able to start and drive home if I remove the wire going to the throttle body butterfly actuator motor?
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I'm with you on this, I had the same thing happen to me twice, immobiliser failure vcd failure, the dashboard started flashing the when I stopped the car it wouldn't start, it's the brown 70 amp midi fuse on top of the battery.
There are only two midi fuses, right? one is 70A the other 50A?

If that might be all then that's great but how the hell do I get her home? I swear, girls are easier than the Alfa to get home I tell ya...

I cant even be towed because power steering is off...
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There are only two midi fuses, right? one is 70A the other 50A?

If that might be all then that's great but how the hell do I get her home? I swear, girls are easier than the Alfa to get home I tell ya...

I cant even be towed because power steering is off...
The steering still works but will be very heavy when stationary, should be a lot less heavy when moving. Certainly OK for a short tow back home. Your bigger problem might be that the tow eye screw hole in the front is totally rusted and useless ... as I discovered the other day !

Try checking the voltages downstream of the battery fuses using a multimeter, any bad connections should be obvious from the voltage drop.
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