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01.22.2018 | Driving Tips

Are Remote Car Starters Safe for Use?

Technology is a part of our lives for years already, and the automotive industry has no reason to be left behind. What seemed like sci-fi 20 years ago – starting your car’s engine at the touch of a button while you’re still in bed – is an everyday reality today.

Remote car starters are becoming increasingly popular, even though in some cities they might be regulated by law. There are apps and devices that require a few key combinations or just the click of a button, and the engine of your car starts right away, regardless of how far you are from your vehicle.

How does that happen?

What’s a Remote Car Starter?

A car remote is connected to the car’s computer and is radio controlled. Its purpose is to start and keep the engine running for a predefined amount of time, in order to cool or preheat the vehicle before the owner gets to it.

It is thought to save precious time especially during winter times when defrosting the windshield can take up a lot of time and energy.

Pros and Cons of Remote Starters


1. You Get the Ideal Temperature Before Reaching Your Car

That’s the one (but not only) big advantage of remote starters. Think of a short-distance trip during winter – your hands are freezing on the steering wheel, and by the time you arrive at your destination, the engine hadn’t got hot enough to turn the heat on. That’s the kind of cold that gets you to your bones.

Instead, imagine touching a button on the remote while you’re still having breakfast before leaving home. The heating system is turned on, and when you get in the car, you enjoy a shiver-less trip.

2. You Get Extra Security

Once you activate the engine via remote, the doors are locked automatically, so that no one can get inside the car unless they have the key.

Moreover, most remote models can set a time for the motor to stop if the key wasn’t inserted into the car until that time has passed.

Other remotes are designed to stop the engine instantly if one of the pedals are hit, but the key isn’t inserted (which happens if a stranger manages to get in the car).


1. Wasted Fuel

Let’s go back to the short morning trip example mentioned earlier. The reason for which the engine hadn’t got hot enough is that there wasn’t enough time spent burning fuel. On the other hand, on longer rides, the engine has plenty of time to get heated, because there is a certain amount of fuel burned.

With remote control, that amount is burned before you get to the car. In conclusion, you might need to refuel more often than you’re used to.

2. Large CO2 Emissions

Because there’s more fuel burning than usual, the amounts of emissions and pollution increase as well. On the other hand, if you’re the proud owner of an electric car, the battery will run out faster than it usually would.

3. Excessive Wear of the Engine

If you make a habit out of preheating or cooling your car every time you go for a drive, you will observe signs of wear and tear on your engine over time. The fuel doesn’t burn completely unless while driving, so the residues might cause you trouble.

4. You Increase Your Chances of Getting Listed as a High-Risk Driver

If you’re not familiar with the mechanical components and functionalities of your car, then you’re more likely to cause accidents.

When you’re using a remote car starter, if the transmission on your car is manual, you’ll have to keep your vehicle in neutral. Otherwise, if you keep it in the 1st gear and start the engine, the car will most likely depart. If you’re not near it to jump behind the wheel and stop it, it can cause accidents or even hurt people in the way.

This type of accidents is rare, but it increases your chances of having a high-risk driver reputation. A high-risk insurance can get expensive, so pay extra attention to your driving habits after you install the remote, and keep your record clear.

Once again, if you own an electric car or if the transmission is automatic, this is not an issue.

Types of Remote Starters

According to E-Bay, here are the most common types of remote car starters:

  1. Add-On – which is attached to the car keys;
  2. 1-Button – a separate remote that also controls the doors;
  3. Remote with Keyless Entry – in most cases, it can replace the car keys completely;
  4. 2-Way Remote – which also sends data from the car towards the owner;
  5. Remote and Car Alarm – mostly all the functionalities of the car can be controlled through such a key;
  6. Smartphone App – probably the most relevant alternative, where you can check and set the temperature in your care very conveniently.

Is It Safe to Use a Remote Car Starter?

In some cities, the law that stipulates that it is illegal to leave a vehicle unattended while it’s running also render the use of remote starters outside the law. For instance, in Toronto it’s illegal to keep your engine idle for more than one minute.

But, to the same extent, these legalities refer to the act of leaving your engine running to warm up the car while you clean the snow off your car.

Even if you are the one who is directly affected by a potential issue caused by your unattended running car, it also affects the others around. If there is any public damage done (even excluding the case in which another person is injured) by your unattended car, the reparations are usually supported by public money.

In other words, if you know your car and know how to operate it in order to include a remote starter in your driving habits (e.g. leaving it in neutral if the transmission is manual), then it’s entirely safe. Otherwise, if you don’t handle too well the mechanical aspects of your car, it’s better to ditch some of the comforts of having already heated seats by the time you get to the car.

If you choose to install one, have a professional do the work for you, to avoid compromising your vehicle’s warranty.

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