There isn’t a category in the mobile enhancement industry not plagued by myths and misunderstandings. There’s nonsense about subwoofer cone materials improving sound quality, claims that Class D can’t sound better than Class AB, or that remote car starters are bad for your vehicle. This article will be the first in a series that addresses and explains the most common myths about remote car starters. We will kick this off with the myth that you can remote start your vehicle from anywhere.
Can You Remote Start Your Car or Truck from Anywhere?
Many consumers believe you can remote start your car or truck from anywhere if you’ve purchased a car starter. For example, if you are in the local mall, finishing up your Christmas shopping on a cold December evening, people expect that you can push the button on the remote, and your vehicle will start. While it’s possible or even probable, it’s not guaranteed.
The issue here is the transmitting power of the remote fob. These remotes use a low-power radio frequency transmitter, with 3.6-volt coin cells or 4.2-volt lithium batteries as power sources. Unlike the local radio station that might have 50,000 to 100,000 watts of power or a handheld two-way radio with 5 to 10 watts, your remote start key fob likely has less than a watt of power. The lack of signal transmission power means you can’t be on the other side of the city and expect it to work. If you’ve purchased an entry-level remote starter, you likely can’t start the vehicle reliably from within a big store.
Remote Start Range Is Key to Reliable Operation
Remote start range is the top priority when shopping for a car starter as it correlates to perceived reliability. If you push the button on the key fob, you expect the vehicle to start. If it doesn’t, most consumers think the system is broken. In reality, being out of range is typically the problem.
Range refers to the distance between your vehicle and you when starting the car with the starter. The most basic and least expensive remote starters offer about 1,500 feet of range under ideal conditions. If buildings or trees are in the way, or there’s a significant amount of radio frequency interference in your area, you might only get 100 to 200 feet of usable range from those systems. If the battery in the remote is low, that will also reduce the operation range.
All brands of remote starter systems have a variety of range options. For example, Compustar, the leader in remote car starter and security systems, offers four key fob range levels. More accurately, they have four different power transmitting levels.
After determining the make, model, trim level and year of your car, truck or SUV, the product specialist should ask how you use your vehicle. Do you park it in the driveway in front of your home? Is it beside the building you work in? Are you in an apartment building with underground parking? Do you work in a large production facility? Answering these questions will give them an idea of how much power the remote needs so that you can start the vehicle reliably. Imagine your frustration if you arrive at your car, thinking it’s been running for a few minutes, only to find out it didn’t get the signal from the remote!
Remote Start System Control Options
Three communication options allow you to send commands to your vehicle’s remote car starter system. The radio-frequency key fobs mentioned above are by far the most common. A few companies offer Bluetooth communication options. These solutions let you use your smartphone to send commands to the remote starter hardware in your vehicle. While the published maximum range is 150 feet for these solutions, real-world functionality is often much less. Bluetooth connectivity is a great backup solution if something more reliable isn’t working.
A third option is a telematics interface. Telematics refers to the use of telecommunication systems to transfer digital information. Technically, the good old days of dial-up internet connectivity used telematics. In the case of remote car starters, you can upgrade your vehicle with an interface that uses cellular communication to relay commands from an app on your phone to the car.
Make Sure Your Remote Starter Will Work
Here’s an example of why remote start range is essential. Let’s say you work in a hospital and have just finished a grueling 12-hour night shift in the emergency department. You grab your coat and boots, then want to remote start your vehicle. If you have an RF remote, the chance of it providing enough range is iffy, though it depends on the size of the hospital and where you’ve parked. More importantly, it depends on the range capabilities of the remote you’ve chosen. If you have a telematics solution, you can launch the control app on your phone and press the start button. The app will send a command to your vehicle using the local cellular data network. High-quality solutions like Drone from Firstech might only need a second or two for the message to get to the vehicle. Once the engine starts, you’ll get a confirmation in the app that it’s running.
Though most cities have excellent cellular network coverage, access to a cell signal isn’t always guaranteed. There might be pockets of areas where network accessibility is limited. Likewise, if you’ve parked underground in an office building, the telematics hardware in your vehicle might be unable to pick up a cellular signal. If you want to be sure you can remote start the vehicle, use the app on your phone to lock the vehicle when you park it. The signal strength indicator on your phone will also tell you the cellular coverage where you have parked. The app will notify you if it’s unable to communicate with the vehicle to lock the doors. Depending on the results, you may choose to move the vehicle. Alternatively, you may decide that using the RF remote is adequate once you’re closer to your car or truck.
Know If Your Vehicle Is Remote Started
Most entry-level key fobs are only capable of transmitting a signal. If the vehicle is too far away, that digital request to lock the doors or start the engine will go unanswered. Unfortunately, you won’t know the status unless you can see the vehicle. Most high-quality remote car starter manufacturers offer remotes with two-way communications. The remote key fobs can transmit commands to the starter system, and the starter can broadcast confirmation messages back to the remote.
Two-way remotes come in two styles: LED and LCD. An LED two-way remote will let you know if the remote starter hardware has received and executed a command by illuminating a little light on the remote and producing a beep or chirp. If the command fails, the remote should warn that the request is incomplete. Please make sure the system you’ve purchased confirms failed requests.
The second type of two-way remote has an LCD or OLED display. These remotes use graphics to indicate the completion of a request. These remotes will also beep or chirp; some have a vibrating motor. With a two-way remote, you’ll never wonder whether your car is locked or has completed the remote start process.
Choose the Best Shop to Upgrade Your Vehicle
We’ll finish this discussion about remote start range by reminding our readers that the lowest-price remote starter is rarely the best choice. An inexpensive remote starter likely won’t offer much range. Likewise, the durability of the remotes might be questionable. We don’t know anyone who hasn’t dropped their car keys at least once. Better-quality remotes should be water-resistant or waterproof, just in case that drop involves a puddle.
When it comes to installation, many shortcuts can save the technician time but affect the performance and reliability of your car starter system. Failing to make reliable electrical connections could prevent the system from working or, in a worst-case scenario, leave you stranded and unable to start the vehicle. Where the antenna and control modules in the vehicle are mounted can affect performance. Likewise, how the technician routes wires or mounts control modules can play a role in determining range. The hardware you choose also determines how well the system integrates with the vehicle.
You will also want to pick a shop that cares for its clients’ vehicles. You should see fender covers in use when someone is working under the hood or in the trunk. Seat covers, steering wheel covers and floor mats should protect the interior when the vehicle is driven into or out of the bay or when someone is working under the dash. The vehicle battery should be on a charger when the doors are open so the dome light doesn’t deplete the battery.
Shopping for a remote car starter is similar to shopping for a plastic surgeon. Do you want an amateur under your vehicle’s dash, cutting wires without being 100% sure what they are doing? If you want to add a remote car starter to your vehicle, start by looking at the shop’s website. Do they have examples of their work? Do they explain their client qualification process? Next, look at the shop’s reviews on Google. Do they have happy customers? Once you’ve narrowed the list, visit a few shops. You should get an immediate sense of professionalism from the product specialist who greets you. They should ask questions about your vehicle and, as mentioned, where and how you use it. They should offer several solutions, explaining the benefits of what more elaborate systems provide. They should explain the remote start range capabilities and show examples of what will and won’t work.
While considering your purchase, look around the shop for certifications or awards. Many top retailers have technicians who have completed Mobile Electronics Certified Professional training. These are good signs. Finally, make sure you ask about warranty and after-sales support. The product specialist should give you a detailed walk-through of the remote starter functionality once the installation has been completed.
Your car, truck or SUV is an essential part of your life. Adding a remote starter with the control solution that provides the range you need is a great way to elevate your driving experience.
This article is written and produced by the team at www.BestCarAudio.com. Reproduction or use of any kind is prohibited without the express written permission of 1sixty8 media.