Aftermarket remote car starter
Anyone have experience with these? Which brands are good? I don't care too much about ease of installation since I'll probably get my mechanic to do it.
Moved MPSIMS --> IMHO.
I have nearly 12 years' experience in the mobile electronics industry, and my specialty is installing remote starters and alarms.
I work for an "expeditor." New-car dealers upsell extra accessories to their customers; we provide the product and installation to the dealer.
In my opinion, buying the product yourself and then hiring your auto mechanic to install it has several pitfalls:
1. In my experience, most auto mechanics are befuddled by the complex electronics found in modern cars.
2. Most remote car starters have terribly-written installation manuals. I mean, really, really bad, with barely-understandable grammar. Pro installers have already figured out all the idiosyncrasies of the product by trial and error.
3. Who will warranty the system, and what will and won't be covered? If the system fails in the future, hopefully the mechanic will warranty his installation. If he finds that the installation is good but the product is defective, he'll likely charge you to remove it, and hand it over to you to get it repaired or replaced. And if you bought it online, you might have difficulty getting the seller to replace it.
I perform all my own work exactly as my employer does: A single, fair price for parts and labor, and an honest lifetime warranty on the whole system-----whether it's my installation or the product that fails, it's fixed free.
Many retailers provide a so-called "lifetime warranty"---but then they'll only cover the remote controls for a year, and they're not cheap. I think this is downright sleazy and dishonest, but it does seem to be the industry norm.
I'm partial to Audiovox products because of their price, features, and nice-looking remotes. They're sold under three brand names: Prestige, Pursuit, and Code Alarm.
Other good names are Viper, Clifford, Avital, and Python (all made by Congressman Darrell Issa's former company, Directed Electronics), as well as Compustar and AutoPage.
The products you can find at the auto parts store that come with an installation DVD like Bulldog and the like, are usually of lower build quality, come with only a single remote, and have very limited range.
Other sites for reference:
The 12 Volt is a great site for do-t-yourselfers, beginner installers, and experienced installers too. Full of great explanations and diagrams, with a great message board.
ADS, Fortin, and Xpresskit are the Big 3 of interface modules-------that is, the part that helps the remote starter communicate with your car's electronics, especially if you have a newer car with an immobilizer "chip" in the head of the key.
On each of the three sites above, you can put in what kind of car you have, and then print the associated installation manual. Show the manual(s) to your mechanic to see that he is comfortable with the installation, before buying anything.
I've wondered about the safety of these things, and the consequences of unintended starts. Lord knows my phone makes calls of its own accord from my pocket - why wouldn't my car? And then what? I suppose a properly installed unit wouldn't start if the car was in gear, and the chances of an unattended car slipping into gear are low. But what if the car ends up parked in an attached garage? Could it run all night, filling the house with exhaust? How are accidental or unattended engine starts prevented?
Secondly, even if I did, accidently butt-dialling the tiny remote-start button itself 3 times in a row is damned unlikely in my experience. It just won't happen.
I love mine; I have them on both my trucks. Cold winter mornings? No problemo.
Leave the heat and fan on high when you park, and hit the button 10 minutes before you leave. Warm and toasty.
Hot summer day? Leave the windows cracked, and the AC on high. I can start mine from a hundred yards away. By the time I get to the car, it's not the oven that another car would be.
But then, I guess that's the whole point, isn't it? :p
Idealistic, by-the-book answer: Every remote start unit I've seen comes with two (of many) safety features:
1: Hood safety switch. Examples here and here. It looks and works similar to the switch that turns on the light when you open the refrigerator. If the hood is open, the remote starter won't activate. If the remote starter is already engaged and the hood is raised, it shuts off. This is to protect anyone performing engine repairs from an accidental start.
2. Toggle safety switch. Here's what the switch usually looks like. Here's an image of the switch installed in a non-conventional location. Typically, it would be located in the kick panel by the driver's left foot, or under the dash above the driver's feet.
When this switch is in the "off" position, the remote starter doesn't work.
The remote starter's owner's manual usually includes a poorly-written disclaimer stating that it's the user's responsibility to turn the switch off whenever the car will be parked in a garage, and that the car owner is responsible to purchase and install a carbon monoxide detector in the garage.
The hood pin switches included with most remote start units are poorly made junk, and last maybe six months to a year at most, especially in salty areas. They're time-consuming to install, prone to become easily mis-adjusted over time, and the remote-start manufacturers make no effort whatsoever to help with a database of known good locations to put the switch on each car.
Any installer who takes the extra time to install the pin switch quickly learns his lesson after a few customer comebacks .....they are rarely installed, in my experience.
The on/off control switch does sometimes get installed, usually depending on the policy of the owner of the installation shop.
Customers have a tendency to bump into the switches with their feet or while cleaning the car, but then don't remember what they're for and wonder why the remote starter doesn't work anymore. So, many installers omit the switch altogether to prevent time-robbing comebacks.
About garages and fumes: Depending on brand and installer preference, most remote starters are set for a 10 to 20 minute runtime, then they turn off.
The Audiovox units I install have choices of 5 (why?), 10, 15, 20, 45, and 60 minutes. 10 minutes is default. I program all my installations for 20 minutes unless the customer asks otherwise. 45 minutes might be a good choice for diesel engines, as they are slow to warm up.
At any rate, if someone were to park the car in an attached garage and then inadvertently activate the remote starter, it would time out after the runtime expires.
I suppose the level of danger imposed by a car running for 20 minutes in a closed garage would depend on how drafty the garage is, how well insulated the garage is from the house, and where the people are inside the house.
Thanks for your very detailed reply Chris Luongo. So basically, if I don't have the time or ability to install it myself, I should go to an experienced auto electronics place and get them to provide the parts and service? What kind of price should I expect?
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