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Five important questions to ask about remote starters

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2017-02-02 Brian Turner
© Provided by Driving.ca

For years now, remote starters have been a very popular feature on Canadian vehicles. At their beginnings, many automakers resisted the demand to install them at the factory, leaving customers with no other choice but to purchase them from aftermarket specialty shops. Now, a factory remote-start option is available on just about everything on four wheels with even the lowest trim level option packages. But not all remote-starter kits are created equally, so knowing what to ask for can save you a lot of aggravation.

With all the choices out there, from a wide variety of auto electronic manufacturers, a factory-installed remote-starter system is still the best option. It guarantees no interference with stock wiring or computers, and often the remote buttons are built into the keys avoiding carrying extra fobs on the key ring. Many carmakers offer accessory remote start kits that can be installed after the fact and are an exact match to the factory option.

But if you’re heading out to your favourite auto-electronics shop for a remote start kit, here are a few things to consider:

Have they installed their kits on your make and model before? 

Some kits can create small electrical signals that can cause havoc with stock vehicle electronics and may light up check-engine warning icons, or deactivate certain electrical systems. Make sure your installer is proficient with your type of vehicle. Ask about how their systems will work with your vehicle’s factory theft deterrent key system. Most quality remote start systems will keep the functionality of this important feature (unlike earlier models that required a separate chipped and programmed key to be imbedded under the dash, making it an easy grab for car thieves).

Does your vehicle have power door locks? 

While remote start kits don’t necessarily require this option, it can be crucial; if you don’t lock your vehicle and then remote start it the next day, it can present a risk, not only to your property, but to a child who might climb in. Manual transmissions can also present a major safety risk if equipped with a remote starter. Good kits can disable their systems unless a pre-remote check is completed which includes verifying the transmission is in neutral and the park brake is activated.

Is a pre-remote start horn chirp available? 

You might think this would be a noise nuisance, but if you have any pets or wildlife around your vehicle, having a remote start system that chirps the horn a few seconds before engaging the starter may save some critter’s life, especially if it was napping under your hood.

Is the engine run time adjustable? 

All remote start systems have a time limit that prevents the vehicle from idling for hours on end. With many it can be as little as five minutes. That may not be long enough if you live in northern climes where the mercury can dip below -40° C. If it is adjustable, how easy is it for the driver to do? 

What is the signal range?

Of all features of a remote start system, this one is often the most important to consumers. If you can’t remotely start your vehicle from the comfort of your home or office, what convenience does it really offer? The average range for most systems is about 300 feet, providing there are no signal barriers such as steel building components or other dense materials that may interfere with the fob’s transmission. That distance might seem adequate for most residential set-ups, but what if your office is located farther away from your work parking spot. Many aftermarket kits offer the option of a more powerful fob transmitter.  Of course, you can always hold the fob against your head while pushing the button to increase its range (seriously, it works, look it up).

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