One of the most popular purchases to be made in the automotive aftermarket industry this winter will be remote starters. Remote starters have become increasingly popular every year, with the majority of sales occurring between October and February. Sales peak around the holidays with many people purchasing them for loved ones at Christmas time.
Remote starters allow the owner of a vehicle to start the engine on their vehicle with a wireless remote or key fob. There are many advantages to this, including warming up your car on a cold morning, unlocking the doors on your car, automatically starting your car in extreme cold temperatures to keep the gas and oil from freezing, and even cooling your car down on a hot day. Simply turn on your heater or air conditioning prior to exiting your car, start the car with the remote, and step into an already warm or cold vehicle. Remote starters can be programmed to allow your car to run for a preset amount of time, anywhere from 10-60 minutes. These units can also be set up to unlock the doors on your car, roll down the windows, turn on the defroster, open the sunroof, open the truck, sound the horn, as well as a variety of other features.
There are two main varieties of remote starters: one-way and two-way units. There is one main difference between the two: one-way provides the user with no feedback while two-way provides the user with feedback. One-way units will allow the user to unlock the doors (if so equipped), start the car, as well as perform other optional duties. For the user to know if the car unlocked or started, they have to be able to see the car as the button is being pushed or after it has been pushed to verify that what they attempted to do was successful. Most units will flash the lights upon locking and unlocking as well as either flashing the parking lights or keeping them lit to signify the owner that the vehicle is running with the remote start.
The two-way remote starter uses a remote with an LCD screen or alert lights to inform the user of what is happening. The most popular two-way units use an LCD screen with a digital image of a car. When the user pushes the button to activate the remote start and start the car, the car will provide the user with feedback via the remote to let them know if the car started or not. If the car started, units with an LCD screen will generally show a digital puff of smoke coming from the rear of the car which lets the user know the car is running and the remote start activation was successful. Two-way remotes or key fobs can inform the user if the car is running and also if the car is locked or unlocked.
A popular version of the remote starter is a combination unit that features a car alarm as well. These units will perform all the duties of the standard remote starter, as well as protect your car from break-ins and theft. The two-way remote starter/alarm remotes can provide feedback to the user by visual alerts as well as audible alerts. The remote can alert you if a door has been opened, if the shock sensor has been tripped, or if any other sensor has detected a fault. This is designed to inform the user if someone is attempting to break into their car while they are not around. These units have a variety of service ranges anywhere from 200 feet, up to 6000 feet. That means you can be hundreds or in some cases thousands of feet away and be alerted if your car is being broken into. A new unit even uses a camera mounted in the car and in the event of a break-in, will take a picture of the inside of the car and transmit that picture to the full color two-way LCD remote, so the owner can even see who is breaking into their car.
Remote starters are not something that an amateur installer should attempt to install. These units are increasingly complicated and someone who has never installed one will be pulling his hair out in a few hours. There are a lot of safety and liability issues involved with wiring something so complex into your car and interfacing with increasingly complicated factory wiring and computer systems. Just a small error in probing a wire can cause an airbag to go off, or blow up an engine or body computer, either of which would cost thousands to be repaired. For the nominal installation fee, using your local 12 volt shop is the only way to go. For what would take an inexperienced installer a few days to install, an experienced installer can generally have you back on the road in less than one working day, saving you time, money and headaches.
On vehicles produced from 1995-1996 on up to brand new 2008 models, a variety of additional parts may be required to install your remote starter. Vehicles with a factory immobilizer system will require a bypass module to bypass the immobilizer system during the remote starter activation to allow the remote starter to start the engine. These bypass modules are designed for vehicles that contain a chip in their keys. The bypass module contains the same chip or program as the chip in the key and tricks the vehicle into thinking the key is in the ignition, thus allowing the remote starter to activate and start the car. If your car has an immobilizer system, you will be required to purchase this part, as the remote starter will not work without it. Also, some vehicles need additional modules to activate keyless entry. If you want your unit to roll down your windows this also requires a control module to do this. Many installs also require additional wiring and relays, which can increase the price of the installation depending on your make and model of vehicle. If your car is newer, be prepared to spend extra money for the additional parts that will be required for your remote starter to work on your vehicle. These parts can range from $50 up to $200+ depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle.