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Remote Starter

I have a 98 Olds Aurora, 55,000 miles. On a recent trip home from work I felt a “clunk” and lost acceleration power, although I didn’t lose electrical power. Immediately the car horn started blaring non-stop and I was forced to turn the car off as soon as I had glided to a complete stop. After having the car towed to two different mechanics, and after three days at the second mechanic shop and a $500 bill, I was told the problem was my ignition switch which was replaced. In doing so, my expensive after-factory- installed remote starter, which was only 1 1/2 years old, was disconnected and I was advised not to reconnect it as the mechanic said this is what probably caused the problem in the first place. Any thoughts on the pros and cons of remote starters? Since it was an expensive one, I hate to not have the use of it.

I am not at all sure it was the cause of the problem, but frankly I would not use it. It is generally better for the car to start it and drive it off right away assuming the car is running properly. Cars warm up faster if they are driven. Also remember that letting a car idle to warm it up does not get things like shocks/struts or the transmission warmed up and they work better if they are warm.

Of course the real question is likely your comfort and I assume you get it because you want to car to be warm when you get in. (while it is better for the car to be driven off as soon as it is drivable, the extra wear really is not all that much to worry about) In that case hopefully someone can think of some reason why it might cause a problem, because I can’t think of why a remote starter would cause that kind of problem.

Remote starters are installed on the wires running from the ignition switch, but not at the switch itself.

So if the physical ignition switch failed, I can’t imagine why/how the remote starter would have caused that?

I’ve had remote start in the last 3 cars I’ve owned and never had an issues–one has been in my Taurus since 2002. I have friends/relatives who also have them and never had issues.

I think unless the originally installation was some how not done properly the failure of the ignition switch was just coincidental… I don’t even really understand why the mechanic would have needed to disconnect the remote starter in the first replace?

I’m inclined to agree that it was coincidental. I had a remote starter in a previous car I owned and never had a problem with it. Thanks for the reply.

On this one I’m going to take the position that since the second shop fixed the car successfully after the first was unable to, he probably did find a malfunction in the aftermarket installed remote starting system that caused the problem. Specifics would be nice, but I see nothing in the post to make me want to second-guess his diagnosis…since I don’t know any details.

I’d go with his recommendation.

Pros: you get into a warm car.
Cons: they’ve been known to cause problems with security systems. And you use more gas.

That may be Joesph, but you know what it’s like here in Ohio. Not sure if you have a garage, but those of us who don’t, a remote starter is quite useful on those frosty mornings where our wipers are stuck to the windshield and we don’t wanna spend 15 minutes scraping off the windows.
The opposite is true as well. In summertime when it’s 100 degrees outside and you’ve been at work all day, it’s nice to come out to a cool car where you can put your hand on the steering wheel without leaving a burn mark on your palm.
I’m not justifying turning it on and leaving it on for 20 minutes, most have a 10~15 minute timer anyhow. But it’s nice to turn on a few minutes before you leave in the morning and when you’re walking out to your car in the afternoon.

That’s a good common sense approach. Wild guess that the initial “clunk” whas the starter solenoid briefly engaging the flywheel, uncommanded and possibly due to a short circuit. Perhaps the same short caused your horn to sound.

Funny you should mention the security system.

A little side note to the original story is that a couple of months before the problem I experienced, I had a problem with the rear window, driver’s side–it was stuck in the down position. I had the motor replaced but that resulted in the window going down but not back up. My mechanic suggested that I might have to have the main switch replaced on the driver door and, while I waited for the part to come in, the switch to the rear window was disconnected so that it would prevent me from mistakenly powering the window open. Within a day or two of that, I noticed that my parking lights began to blink sporadically, even when the motor was turned off–sort of like the Knight Rider car. If you were sitting inside the car at the time, this was accompanied by a buzzing, electrical sound each time the lights blinked. This baffled the original mechanic but a second mechanic seemed to think it may have something to do with the security system sensing that something had been disconnected. This continued for a few weeks with no rhyme or reason as to when it would happen. I had yet to get the door switch replaced when I experienced the whole problem I explained in the original email. I do think this all may have contributed to the issue…maybe even more than the remote starter. Any thoughts?

Have those symptoms now disappeared?

Security systems have computer controlled protocols that do not allow enabling of the ignition circuitry unless certain specific parameters are met. In order for a remote starter to function, these systems need to be messed with. That is always a gamble.

Additionally, aftermarket installers will typically have to find a power source for their system. Where and how they tap into that power source can inadvertantly create parallel paths for current that can create ghosts in other circuits.

Some folks have no problems. Others do.

The blinking lights have stopped now only because I did have the complete 4-switch window assembly on the driver’s door replaced. Unfortunately, it still didn’t fix the problem with the back window. Next step was to check the wiring from the back window to the front door , but there isn’t a problem there either. Final analysis from the mechanic was that since the Aurora was such a quirky technical product from Oldsmobile, the problem is undoubtedly in the internal computer segment which handles the windows and would be very costly to replace. Thus, after spending $350 between two mechanics specifically for the window problem, and another $500 for the iginition switch thing, I still have no use of the back window and I’ve lost use of my remote starter. If I didn’t like the car so much, I’d probably consider getting rid of it.

I’m still suspicious of the aftermarket starter installation, however correcting whatever the cause is may require major surgery and may not be worth the cost. Wiring harnesses can be really messy to work with…even without miscellaneous added circuitry.

Having said that, it may be possible to run an entirely new line for the rear window and completely eliminate the old line, bypassung the body control module. I really don’t know, but I though I’d post the thought.

I recommend you get a block heater instead of another remote starter.