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Should You Install a Remote Starter on Your Own?

Remote Starter Installation

Adding a remote starter option to your car is a move you won’t likely regret. But it’s not a DIY to be taken lightly. Without the proper knowledge and tools, it’s a project really better left to the professionals—otherwise you risk serious damage to your vehicle and personal safety. Wondering if you’re up to the task? It’s important to understand the necessary skills and general installation procedure.

System OverviewShould You Install an Automatic Starter on Your Own?

When you turn your key to the “on” position, your ignition switch completes a circuit that powers accessories by pulling electricity from the battery through the connected components (turning them on), to the ground. Similarly, when you crank the key to “start,” it powers another circuit to associated components like the starter, which remain engaged as long as the key is held in that position, and starts the engine. A remote starter taps into this ignition and starting system, using existing actuators like that of the power lock system, which can also be controlled via a key fob. It might sound straightforward enough, but today’s vehicles have complex ignition systems and a ton of other interrelated circuits, including finicky security systems, that cannot be simply bypassed. Besides identifying the proper wires to splice, you must also establish a ground connection that won’t interfere with other signals and circuits.

Necessary Skills and Tools

You need to have a solid grasp of automotive electrics and the science of electricity itself. Beyond the theoretical, you must be able to read an electrical schematic and know how to work a multimeter and test light, as well as how and where to connect them. In addition to the instructions included in the remote starter kit, you should also have the proper diagrams from your vehicle’s manufacturer.

For best results, you should know how to solder. When picking a kit, do your research. Skimping on price could cost you down the road and, above all, make sure the kit is compatible with your vehicle model. Most kits come with most everything you need, but you may have to supplement with a few splicing and crimping tools.

Precautions and Common Mistakes

Make sure all regular electrical components—lights, signals, horn, alarm, locks, etc.—are in proper working order, or you may misidentify the correct circuit to tap into later on. If you splice into the wrong system you could cause major damage to individual components or the ECU itself. You could even accidentally inflate the airbags, resulting in serious injury. Security systems are advanced these days, so be careful to work with yours to make the project a success. Be especially mindful of any aftermarket security you may have installed which wouldn’t be covered in the manufacturer’s guide.

For the most part, the kit instructions will walk you through the process (which varies greatly by vehicle), and so long as you have the proper schematics, knowledge and tools, you can pull it off. If you still feel confident after reading this, proceed and good luck! If, however, any of this makes you a little uncertain, best to take your local NAPA AutoCare and get the advice of a certified professional.

For more information on installing a remote starter, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy or Flickr.

Blair Lampe View All

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

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