Most vehicles made in the last 20 years include a car immobilizer system as a standard anti-theft feature. It dramatically minimizes the likelihood of your automobile being stolen when it functions properly. But, how does an engine immobilizer work? And how can you find out if our car has an immobilizer fitted?

What Is a Car Immobilizer?

dashboard with button of modern car

A car immobilizer system (also known as an engine immobilizer) is a great piece of electronic security technology that acts as a deterrent to vehicle theft. Its goal is to keep a car from being hot-wired and stolen by someone who doesn’t have the key to start the engine. According to statistics, since immobilizers were installed in cars, there have been fewer car thefts.

If you’ve bought a car in the previous 20 years, you’ve almost certainly already utilized this technology without even recognizing it. Car dealerships increasingly distribute key fobs or smart keys instead of traditional car keys. As a result, the key’s base has buttons for locking and unlocking car doors, opening the trunk, and, in certain cases, remotely starting the vehicle.

Many key fobs don’t even have an actual key linked to the base in recent cars. To start the automobile with an Engine start button, you simply need to be inside the vehicle with the key fob.

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How Does a Car Immobilizer Work?

Carbon fibre center console

Today’s car keys might be thought of as extra security elements. Transponder chips are found in key fobs and smart keys. When you start the engine or have the key fob inside the automobile, these chips communicate a passcode to the car’s immobilizer technology. If the pin code in the key fob meets the one in the immobilizer system, the vehicle will start. Otherwise, your automobile will not start.

Most immobilizers will sound an alarm if the wrong code is used to turn the ignition. In addition, some digital auto systems will notify a security service if a theft attempt is undertaken. The security company will call the user to confirm that they are not in the car and that there has been an attempted theft.

Some companies have upgraded their immobilizers to a two-tier security system with a fixed code and a changeable code. The second code is recorded in the transponder and is altered each time you start the car. When you try to start the automobile, the immobilizer checks the permanent code first, then demands the second changing code, which compares to the one saved in the database, and then starts the car. The car will not ignite without the second code.

How To Check If Your Car Has an Immobilizer

Car Key

There are a few things that can assist you in figuring out if your car has an immobilizer or not. You can read your car’s handbook to see if it has a factory-installed immobilizer. This book should have all of the information on your vehicle, including whether or not it is equipped with an immobilizer.

If you buy a used automobile, it’s possible that the immobilizer was disabled or removed by a former owner. On the other hand, if your automobile is used, the previous owner may have installed a new or replacement immobilizer. So, even if the manufacturer didn’t install it, the car could still contain an immobilizer.

In your car’s handbook, you should find all information about the immobilizer, including whether it has been removed or changed. If this information isn’t obvious, any skilled mechanic should be able to inspect the vehicle and verify the information for you.

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How Safe Are Car Immobilizers?

Since their launch, immobilizers have assisted in decreasing car crime by a large amount. According to Kaspersky, car theft in the United States reduced dramatically in the late 1990s and subsequently decreased in the 2000s as immobilizers became more widely used.

While vehicle immobilizers help prevent automobile theft, some criminals are even more resourceful. Thieves always manage to find a way to bypass every degree of security. When it comes to car immobilizers, many criminals move with the advancements and figure out how to bypass the transponder codes and start cars in the same way they did previously.

The introduction of keyless entry and start systems on modern cars has led to an increase in relay theft, in which thieves use devices to intercept the code created by the car’s key and broadcast it to deceive the car’s electronics into thinking the key is present. This would allow them to start the car and drive away without deactivating the immobilizer. This is one of the most common ways criminals use technology to steal cars. On the other hand, recent models have made steps to make relay theft more difficult.

Related: Ways Your Car Can Be Hacked and How to Prevent It

What Is a Thatcham Device?

a person holding a key near a car door

Thatcham is a non-profit organization that assesses a vehicle’s security to assist insurance companies in determining your premium. This unbiased assessment examines your vehicle’s safety features, such as alarms and immobilizers. It’s worth noting that Thatcham rates some alarms and immobilizers higher than others.

On Thatcham’s website, you can find out your car’s rating. You’ll be prompted to provide information about your vehicles, including their make and model, gasoline type, and production year. Next, you’ll be offered several safety-related results, such as a theft rating, whiplash rating, and group rating for your vehicle.

These findings will be used to establish how safe your car is and to assist your insurer in determining a reasonable rate.

Your automobile will be substantially safer with an immobilizer installed, making it more difficult to steal. This is a positive thing because it gives you a lower risk for vehicle insurance companies, leading to a lower rate. Because it is the highest-rated, a factory-fitted and Thatcham-approved immobilizer is the finest alternative. Always double-check your insurer’s auto insurance policies, as they may differ from one provider to the next.

Boost Your Car Security With an Immobilizer

Despite the sophisticated security systems implemented by manufacturers, you need always be vigilant and plan ahead for your car’s security to limit the risk of theft. Park in well-lit areas, keep your car keys secure, and be cautious whenever you’re near your vehicle.


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