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General Motors VATS Ignition

General Motors VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System) is most noticeable by the “black chip” in the blade of the key. Originally installed in Corvettes as early as 1986, it was still in use in
the Corvette in 2004. It has been used in all GM brands.

Description of VATS:
VATS is a General Motors (GM) security system that has a resistor embedded in the blade of the key. There are 15 different resistors in the single sided configuration, and 14 different resistors in the double sided configuration. There is a three minute timeout for using the incorrect resistor.
Normal operation is for the key, with resistor pellet, to be inserted and turned. If the correct resistance is read, the VATS Module, through a relay, will allow the starter to crank the engine and also send a signal to the ECM to allow the operation of the fuel injectors. Without the correct resistor the injectors and starter are inhibited.

Problems with VATS:
The operational issue with VATS is that each time the key is turned two very small wires are moved inside the steering column. Over a period of time wire strands start breaking. As the wire strands break, you will experience the security light staying ON occasionally. You may wait for approximately three minutes and try again, and the car MAY start or it may put you in the time-out sequence again. As you try again, some of the wires that are broken will touch and allow the car to start. At some point in time, too many of the wires are broken for the correct signal to get back to the cars computer. The car will no longer start.
Some GM cars, Cadillac’s and Corvette’s are examples, give more information than just a flashing security light, but the issue is the same.

Whether you have LOST YOUR KEY and need us to make you a key, or you HAVE A KEY and are just having a problem starting the car, our answer is the same. The steering
column must be torn down. The labor involved is time consuming and costly. The wires WILL cause problems at some point (probably soon).

After Market Parts:
Sandfly Locksmith, Inc. recommends a STRATTEC, or ACDelco VATS ignition when replacing the ignition. Both of these companies offer OEM, and GM “Official licensed products”.
We have found most after market ignitions to be too troublesome for us and the customer.

Trouble Shooting Your Cars VATS Problem:
When VATS value is correct:
SECURITY light goes out after 5 seconds (car can be started)

When SECURITY light flashes at ONE-SECOND intervals:

  • Not a VATS key
  • No resistor “pellet”/broken resistor in VATS key
  • Wire broken / circuit OPEN

When SECURITY light stays on SOLID for more than  5 seconds:

  • Three minute timeout is in progress
  • Wrong VATS key
  • Contacts dirty or corroded on key or module
  • High resistance in wire (wire is almost broken)
  • Defective resistor in key

When SECURITY light remains lit with ENGINE RUNNING it signifies a VATS error:

  • VATS module damaged/defective
  • low battery voltage
    • Bad alternator
    • Bad battery connection
    • Bad battery
  • VATS system disabled
  • Contacts dirty or corroded on key or ignition cylinder
  • High resistance in wire (wire is almost broken)
  • Defective resistor in key