Winter is coming, and warming up your car from the comfort of home is oh so convenient. You may be thinking it’s time to install a remote starter, and many new cars come standard with them these days. However, owning an older car doesn’t mean you have to go without. There are generally three ways to get a remote starter: from a service center, an aftermarket specialist or by installing a remote starter kit yourself. If you’re a serious DIY buff, it’s fair to assume you’re gonna choose door number 3.
Before you begin, please note that you can seriously damage your car if you do this wrong. Installing a remote starter requires that you tap into some critical systems, such as the starter circuit and immobilizer system, if not power locks, horn or lights, depending on your car and remote starter kit. Tamper with the wrong wire, and you could blow a fuse, blow an airbag or even fry a computer.
Remote Starter Kit
Some come with the majority of things needed to complete the job, such as electrical tape, instructions and a basic test lamp. Make sure your kit includes wiring, fuses, the main control box, perhaps a bypass module and one or two key fobs.
A good test lamp, wire stripper and crimping tool. Extra wire, crimp connections and shrink tubing may also prove useful, and a soldering set can give you 99 percent failure-free electrical connections.
To access wiring in the ignition and immobilizer circuits, a couple of screwdrivers and a small socket set are probably all that is required.
Specific to your vehicle and the most important tool you can have. You may find one online, on the remote starter company website, or ask nicely, and a factory technician might just print one out for you.
If your car has an engine immobilizer, you might need a valet key, preferably uncut, programmed to your vehicle. The remote starter will use it to bypass the immobilizer, allowing the engine to start without a key in the ignition.
Now that you have everything you need, before you start cutting wires and tapping circuits …
Read the Manual (twice)
Take the time to fully understand the instructions and your wiring diagram.
Don’t let your DIY instincts get in the way. Electrical systems can be finicky, so it’s always best to let the manufacturer guide you.
Before you make an electrical connection, check that each wire does what you think it does. For example, one of the wires will have to be live 12V all the time, feeding power to the main control box, doors open or closed, locked or unlocked, dome light on or off, etc. Tap into a line that’s only 12V with the door open, since you’re most likely working under the dash with the door open, and the remote starter won’t work once you close the door!
Don’t Skip Anything
For example, the neutral safety switch on a manual transmission. An unprotected remote starter can easily launch your car into a ditch or the neighbor’s petunias.
As always, whether you’re installing a remote starter, changing your headlights or replacing brake pads, there’s no shame in asking for help if you get stuck. You’re better off asking where to tap a certain circuit, instead of breaking something expensive or irreplaceable.
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Photo courtesy of Foter
Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.