Help on mismatched VIN and misfiring issue

Ok, I’ll TRY to make this as brief as possible… But im at my wits end and need help . This is regarding a 2003 ford escape 3.0 v6 that I purchased in 2014 with 72,000 miles on it from a large Ford dealership here in L. A.

About 2 years ago in a huff, I pulled out of my driveway in reverse and then popped it into drive and floored it… My car backfired which scared me to death. It drove a little strange on my way to the gas station about a mile away. When I opened my gas tank door I noticed a bunch of dirt there which I shrugged off… I got on the freeway but it started stuttering and the check engine light lit up… so I exited and drove home and had to deal with the drama I was trying to run from… Which then got me wondering if “someone” who didn’t want me to leave in the first place had put dirt in my gas tank. Still an outstanding mystery.

I left the car un-driven for 6 months or so until I finally got a code reader and showed codes P0205 P0305 and P0316. I decided to replace the 3 front coils and plugs which would be for injectors 4, 5 and 6 hoping that would solve the problem. I started it up and took it for a ride and everything seemed great… For about 10 miles and then the dreaded check engine light came on. Plugged in the OBD and the same codes came up.

I don’t drive the car often as proven my milage which stands at just over 74,000. Because i couldnt afford to bring it in to get it fixed it just sat in the driveway and maybe driven 2-5 miles a week to the grocery store… With the occasional longer trip but never more than 30 miles … Car honestly runs fine… Occasionally when it hits a certain speed (usually around 50mph) it might start vibrating but lifting my foot off the gas and then pressing it just a little harder fixes the problem. I’ve driven on freeways at 70 miles per hour without a problem but again, short distances.

​​​​​​​Today I was forced once again to deal with this as I need to get a smog certificate to renew my registration. I know it’s going to fail and want to take advantage of California’s $500 CAP program to help pay for my repairs. So I took my car to the smog place today to get a FAILED smog result which I need to submit with my application for CAP. The tech tells me I have a different VIN number on my PCM than what the car’s VIN is and can’t perform a smog on it. He says the state recently stopped Smog places from overriding the vin number due to fraud. I explain I never changed the PCM and I bought the car used 4 years earlier and didn’t have a problem getting a smog the last time. Again he said it was a recent change and suggested going back to the dealership and having them flash the PCM with the correct VIN number. I drive over the Galplin Ford where I bought it used and they researched it and said I must of changed the PCM because all their paperwork shows only the correct VIN number. I never changed the PCM… i asked them if they could just flash it with the correct VIN and they said you can’t do that… Its hard coded. Then said go back to the smog place that they most certainly can override the VIN number in the smog system. I said they told me they couldn’t and he assured me they could.

So who’s lying? Does anyone know? I mean how am I going to get my car legal again if I can’t get it smogged? Also, when a dealership buys a used car don’t they verify the VIN on the PCM to ensure its not stolen or that the pcm is the original?

Secondly…I know driving my car on and off for 2 years with a misfiring cylinder can’t be good and from what I’ve been told probably ruined all 3 catalytic converters… But I never see any smoke or smell anything odd from the car. Oh and by the way, I recently went ahead and changed the back 3 coils and plugs to see if that fixed any thing but it didn’t… So could it actually be the fuel injector #5? Everything I’ve read and researched online says it’s usually the plugs or coils on those codes and not the actual injector… But wrapping this whole story up, could it be when it backfired it did in fact damage the fuel injector? It only backfired that one time 2 years ago… And finally… What about the dirt? If someone put some dirt in my gas tank, would it cause these problems? I’ve tried over the years a few injector cleaner products and can’t tell if it helped or not, but that check engine light is on and the codes remain. This weekend I also replaced the fuel filter (which was filthy) but didn’t net me any big changes

Sorry for the long winded post… Im just losing my mind over this. Any insight or advice would be sooooooo welcomed.

Thanks guys.

This is a messy situation.

I think you have two problems here.

One is the various mechanical issues. I can’t quite sort all that out, but it sounds like the car still runs OK.

The other issue is passing a smog test and getting the car re-registered. It sounds to me like you’ve entered a dark, black hole of bureaucratic purgatory. I’ve been there myself once; a car I was trying to register had the paperwork 1 digit off from the VIN (a “O” vs a zero).

Here’s a wild idea. Based on what you’ve said here… it sounds like you don’t drive this car much. Do you really need it? Aside from utility value, which I get… might you be better off getting rid of this hornets’ nest of problems?

Just an outside perspective. Good luck.


Im not a mechanic, this is just my guess. The mechanical issue is probably something to do with the combustion system. Might be something to do with spark or fuel system.

For the vin issue, have u tried going to more than one smog place? If they all say the same thing, the dealer is lying and clearly some paperwork went wrong. If thats the case, contact the bureau of automotive repair, the dmv or take this to small claims court. Might be worth contacting your local sheriff to ask for some advice or talk to a lawyer. Paper work for a car is a pain, u can deal with it yoursef but i doubt ur gonna solve the problem.

If u dont drive the car that much, sell it as is. Not worth keeping or dumping money into it. Take it as a loss

I am awaiting a call from the state’s “referee” who im hoping will shed some light on the problem and possible solution.

I was able to get it smogged once a few years ago without any problem or any mention of the different VIN numbers. In fact when I did research on the VIN number in the PCM (which I can see on my own OBD reader) it is listed for a 2003 ford escape… But that car was scraped. So obviously at some point prior to me buying the car “someone” replaced the PCM. I just don’t know how I can prove that. Furthermore I’d LOVE to know of Galplin Ford knew about the 2 different VIN numbers or better than that, If they actually replaced it. Is there a unique code on the PCM that I could go back to the maker and find out when it was purchased or installed?

Thanks for your responses!!