Corrections and Clarifications
There are several points that have been corrected or further clarified in my earlier postings, but some of the replies indicate that I should repeat these points in one summary.
1. It is now clear that what I heard was the transmission gears grinding. The starter gearing has not been examined, but I donít think the starter was engaged. And the alarm/remote-start system does not have an ignition cut-out function. To understand how I would miss the obvious requires a bit of background. First, you might already be aware that how we interpret things is based on our perceptions which are formed by stimuli processed by cognitive mechanisms. (This is a basic principle of both gestalt and cognitive psychology.) For example, we donít actually see depth but extrapolate it based on shadows, perspective, eye convergence, and other cues. Second, for 25 years I spent most of my time conducting neuroscience research in my laboratory; for the past 5 years I have slowed the pace, but much of my time is spent teaching and working in theory. I havenít kept up on whatís been happening in many things that I once new a bit about. The last automatic transmission that I worked on was a Chevrolet Powerglide (c. 1962) which had manual linkage to the shift lever. It never occurred to me that my Ford transmission was electronically controlled. Thus, I could not envision any way that an alarm system could interfere with an automatic transmission. (Actually, I did know that the overdrive was electronically controlled. I had a similar control with the manual transmission of my 1956 Austin Healey 100/6.) Now that Iíve learned about the powertrain control module (PCM), it is very clear that a sensitive electronic device controls my automatic transmission. Iím surprised that the installer didnít consider this when I described my problem and when he rode with me suggesting I had a transmission problem. Or perhaps he did know about it, but was hoping that I would not see any possible relationship with the newly installed electronic device and simply pay for the repairs myself.
2. The transmission is a Ford 4R75 not a 4R100 as stated earlier. An AAMCO technician showed me the transmission and corrected what I had been told by the owner/manager. Iíll confirm this when I speak with the owner again. In either case, it does have an electronic overdrive and the control to inactivate the overdrive is located on the shift lever positioned on the steering column.
3. The installer probably did have one or two pages of wiring color codes. I could see from my distance and when I approached the vehicle that he didnít have the type of detailed schematics that I have used when working on other vehicles.
4. The device the installer used to probe the wires looked (from a distance) like an old TTL-logic probe or continuity light. It could have been a pen-shaped DMM but the meters that I use (e.g., mostly Flukes) are more traditionally shaped.
5. I stayed behind the ropes and tried not to supervise the installerís work. I thought he was an experienced professional, not me. He may not do things the more conservative way that I would do them, but I deferred to his practical experience and judgment.
6. I donít mean to suggest that DEI products arenít great. But if the installation didnít cause the problem my next suspect is the alarm/remote-start control module. I have used IBM computers almost exclusively in my home and in my laboratory for years; I usually buy used IBMs that have come off lease and theyíre great. But I did have one IBM computer fail over the years even though I have dozens that ran 24/7 without a problem. (All of my Compaqs, Gateways, and others died within a few years.) Python could have released a defective unit. A locally owned, upscale electronics shop that also sells car alarm/remote-start systems did tell me that they heard about problems with these products, but I blew their comments off as trying to convince me to buy their brand. The shop is filled with self-proclaimed geeks who donít make a commission, but they do like to point out that what they sell is the best equipment. My online research suggested that the DEI products are very good, and I was happy with most of the features of the system I purchased even at the higher price. Do I expect DEI to become involved when one of their retailers does $3,000 in damage installing one of their products? Yes, I do; thatís what makes a good company great!
7. The Circuit City is located in a Buffalo, NY suburb. It is close to Niagara Falls Boulevard and Sheridan Drive in Amherst or Tonawanda, NY (both city locations are sometimes used).
8. I have not yet been able to examine the actual wiring on the installation. I went to AAMCO today with camera and wiring diagrams expecting to have a lot more information about what may have gone wrong. The panel is still in place and I donít want to touch anything myself until Circuit City has had the chance to examine the work and deny responsibility. I did confirm that the pin switch was not installed and that the shock sensor has already come loose from its electrical tape attachment and was dangling from the steering column by its wires.
9. I strongly suspect that the +12 VDC was wired into the steering column power line. If the alarm control module does have two circuits, each with a 30A fuse, this is not a good choice. I donít do automotive work, but I have considerable experience in electronic design and construction of digital circuits (I could actually design and build this alarm easier than I could wire it into the vehicleís existing electrical system.). Any abrupt voltage drop along that line could cause other sensitive electronic devices to become unstable. And yes, I too thought that simply disconnecting the ground was not adequate to take the alarm control module out of the circuit (thanks for giving some authority to my unvoiced speculation). The negative inputs might serve as current sinks partially energizing this unit. But installers donít take instructions from customers (and you usually shouldnít).
10. I have not yet contacted Circuit Cityís insurance company. I will push this incident up the ladder tomorrow despite the apparent stalling. (If I donít give you at least a brief update late tomorrow night, Iím probably in jail.) I will ask for the names of the district manager and the insurance company unless they provide AAMCO with a P.O. number for the repairs. And thanks again for the suggestion to contract the insurance company directly; that would not have occurred to me.)
Lastly, I checked the web posting on two other computers and the figures do load for me on both machines. You probably need to refresh/reload the page to see the revised page with the figures. Please let me know if you still have problems.
Sorry about the rambling, poorly written posting. Iím very tired tonight but thought it important to clarify the above points. I will try later to respond to some other points raised earlier (e.g., problems hiring qualified installers).
Cheers . . . MABuffalo