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2004 Tribute Starting Issues

ES V6 Auto 84,000 miles

Five times since the summer of 2010 my 2004 Tribute has left me sit. In each occasion it attempted to start but choked out as though it wasn’t getting gas. It will then crank and crank (new battery a year ago), but it just will not turn over. Every time but one, it fired right up on the first attempt the next day. The one time it didn’t, it fired up for the tow truck driver on his first attempt after I had tried multiple times before he showed up.

It runs perfectly other than this problem. It fires up strong. It runs strong. No hesitation. No misfires.

I changed the Idle Air Control Valve back in January when it died on me, but that wasn’t it. Once again, I came back the next morning and it fired right up.

I did notice this last time that I didn’t hear the fuel pump prime when I turned the key (before turning the key to start). I’m not sure if I noticed that previously. Does this sound like a fuel pump issue given that it only occurs when I go to start it?

The dealer and a local garage say the same thing… They would need to keep it until they can duplicate the problem. I don’t see this as an option since the problem doesn’t happen that often.

I’ve never had it in for diagnostics but I’ve heard that the codes are deleted once it starts. Is this true?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Is The Fuel Pump Relay Exactly The Same Part (Identical Part Number) As Another Relay In The Car ? You Could Try Swapping Relays If There’s An Indentical One, Not Critical To Starting And Running.


I’ll second common sense answer. The symptoms you describe are generally electrical. Fuel pump relay is the cheapest and easiest but if not that than the pump itself may be the culprit.
A neighbor of mine had an old caddy with the same problem and the a/c relay was the exact same relay as the fuel pump. Swapped relays and bingo.

Thanks neburex.

I’ll give this a shot (once I locate the relay) and then see how it goes.

From what I see, the Fuel Pump ISO relay is the same part number as the Rear Defroster ISO relay. This looks like the best switch.

Thanks for your help!

More Food For Thought:

You are also describing a situation that cars from most car manufacturers can develop. Your Tribute may sometimes wrongly think that you are trying to steal it.

I believe you have the Mazda PATS (Passive Anti-Theft System). Some vehicles with this must send an “enable message” to the PCM (powertrain control module) when proper conditions are met. On some of these vehicles (There are a couple of different PATS) a malfunction and no enable message being sent can result in the car’s fuel injectors and fuel pump being disabled (so it can’t be stolen). However, on some vehicles the engine will still crank when the key is turned, anyhow.

Some add-on aftermarket remote start kits and some aftermarket audio devices have been known to screw up the PATS and should be disconnected before trying to diagnose the starting problem.

What could be happening is that when your Tribute thinks you are trying to steal it, it goes into a hibernation state for a certain period of time (10 minutes ?). Because of the intermittent nature of the “no start” condition, the vehicle may fire right up after waiting past the theft prevention time period.

Have you noticed anything unusual regarding a security system light illumination, especially when attempting starting ?

Have you timed out ten minutes when it won’t start and tried again ?

Have you tried a different key ?

Mazda dealers (and some other mechanics) have access to an 18 page PATS diagnostic service tips Technical Service Bulletin.

I’ve never had it in for diagnostics but I’ve heard that the codes are deleted once it starts. Is this true?

No. They should remain for a while.

Shortly after an “episode” have a counterperson from an Advance or Autozone come out to your car in the parking lot and see if they can retrieve any Diagnostic Trouble Codes for you. Most do this free of charge. Write them down exactly as given and post them here.


Most cars have them on the fuse panel. I’m not familiar with Tributes. Look under the hood on the fender wells, under the dashboard or in the dashboard. Try your owners manual.
A google search found a 2001 Tribute which had 2 fuse/relay panels, one on the driver’s side fender under the hood, of course, and one by the driver’s left leg under the dash. Bon courage!

I have read about the Anti-theft possibility. I have read LOTS of ideas about what it could be. HAHA!

There is no after-market remote start kit so that’s out.

I have tried waiting different lengths of time…15 minutes, 30 minutes, 2 hours. In all occasions I had to wait until the next morning.

I have tried a different key. I even had a spare with me a couple times just to try it. No go.

That’s great to hear that the codes don’t get removed. And I will go to Autozone if and when it happens again.

Thank you for the suggestions!

Found it! Under the hood next to the battery.

I switched the Fuel Pump and Defroster relays (identical part numbers).

I’ve even reset my clock and radio stations since I unhooked the battery before I made the switch! HAHA!

Thanks! ANd I’m crossing my fingers!

You’re Welcome. Good Luck. I Know It’s Frustrating.


How Long Do You Anticipate This Experiment To Take ? Will You Let Us Know The Results ?

I guess you could keep checking the rear defogger too when you get a chance.


CSA, I’m not sure. I wish I knew this was going to fix the problem, but it’s a “wait and see” kind of thing.

However, I’m going to stop at AutoZone this Saturday and have them check the codes, if any show. I’ll post them as soon as I get them. Will AutoZone know what the codes mean? Or is that something I’ll need your help with?

Autozone Can Give You A Rough Translation. Here’s A Good Link. Also, There Are Some Good Mechanics That Frequent This Site That Can Probably Offer Some More Advice If You Post Them Here.

Click “Trouble Codes” in the bar at the top of the home page. That will take you to the next page where many codes link to some help. At the top of that page, codes specific or unique to certain makes are available. Scroll down the page and there are codes that are used industry wide. Ones in color and underlined, link to additional information.

Trouble codes will clear themselves after a certain amount of time if the car remains trouble free. Also, many people wrongly think that codes will tell them what part to replace. It’s not always that simple. The codes tell you what system or circuit has reported a fault and a part may or may not fix the problem. It could be a wiring issue, reprogramming issue, etcetera, a bad part, etcetera.

Some trouble codes are saved as “body” codes and must be read by a scanner or code reader capable of retrieving those. I think the auto parts store readers only do the “powertrain” codes, but I think that’s where your codes are or will be.

Let us know.


Autozone tech shows ZERO codes on the board.

My last “incident” was about 10 days ago. I’m not sure how long a code would stay logged, if it ever existed, but there are none now.

I guess I’m back to “wait and see” mode.

I will be on vacation for the next week so the Tribute will be at home.

I will update with the next incident, or (crossing my fingers) every couple weeks that all is okay.

Thanks for all the help.

Nothing to report. Back from vacation on Friday and all seems well. Wait and see.

Still nothing to report. No starting issues.

Back to square one!

I had just returned from a 2 day trip to the beach and ran to the grocery store a mile from my house. Came out of the store and although it fired right up, it slowly stalled out. I tried three more times to start it and each time it “tried” to run but then stalled. Just doesn’t seem to be getting gas. I waited 2 hours and went back and now it’s in the “crank and crank and crank but just won’t turn over” mode.

My only option is to wait until tomorrow morning and go see if it starts. Very frustrating.

I returned one more time yesterday, about 6 hours after the initial non-start, and it still had no intentions of starting. As always, it would crank but wouldn’t turn over.

I walked up to the store this morning and it fired right up.

I’m glad it runs but frustrated that I never know when it’s going to not start for me.

I may have to revisit CSA’s idea about the Passive Anti-Theft System. How would I go about checking this though?

I’m on vacation next week so I guess I’m going to break down and take it to the Mazda dealer and see if they can diagnose the problem. Ugh!

Wheeeee! Dropped the Tribute off at the dealer this morning. Just like I thought, and had been told, they couldn’t duplicate the problem so therefore they can’t diagnose the problem. And they have no idea why it would do what I say it does!

Seriously, the person I spoke to at the dealer said she can’t imagine driving a car that you never know when it’s going to leave you sit. She suggested that I get a new car!!!

Back to the drawing board.