Last week a car gets towed in. Customer states the car was in the driveway, it started but died right away, then they cranked it long enough that the battery died. The job goes to one of the junior guys in the shop, a bright young guy with great potential, just not a lot of experience.
He charges the battery and finds the following:
The car started and ran for about 15 seconds, then stalled. It will either start and die or not start at all. Also, there is no instrument cluster operation at all–no warning lights come on with the key, all the gauges are at 0 (even when the engine was running). Also the climate control panel is dead–no display, no blower operation at any speed, none of the knobs or buttons respond. Also both right side windows do not work, and the right headlight is out. There are several fault codes stored in the ECM, but nothing that should cause a no-start. He figures this is probably a complex electrical issue that’s over his head and kicks it up to me.
Before going further I want to talk to the customer and find out if these issues all cropped up at once. Customer states they have been driving the car in that condition for 2 years. (no heat or defroster, must be fun). I ask them how they know how much gas is in the tank. She states they put $20 in every week and they’re sure it’s not out of gas.
I spend some time reading wiring diagrams to look for a common circuit between the failed components, grab a better scan tool, and go to work. Data stream shows fuel in tank at less than 1 liter. Add 2 gallons of gas and the car starts and runs normally.
Service writer calls back and informs them the car was out of gas and reminds them that gas has gone up about $1/gallon over the last few months so $20 now only buys 6 gallons instead of 10. And right now the bill is $149, and for another $250 we’ll be glad to troubleshoot the fault codes and dash and heater operation. She declined to do any other work, taking the car with no gas gauge, odometer, or speedo. We did replace a burned out headlight.