We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Commuters in snowy climates often dread walking down the driveway in the morning. When hot coffee and mittens just won’t cut it, turn to one of these remote car starters. Beyond heating up the vehicle before you get in, many also come with handy additional functions, like trunk release, carjack protection, smartphone connectivity, and defroster control. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.
10. Crimestopper SP-402
- Dual phase shock sensor
- Includes carjack protection
- Instructions are confusing
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
9. Compustar CS800-S
- Comes with mini carabiners
- Remotes are bulletproof
- Minimal programmable features
|Rating||4.3 / 5.0|
8. Viper 4105v
- Panic mode can connect to horn
- Instructions are not comprehensive
- Automatic transmissions only
|Brand||Sound of Tri-State|
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
7. Crimestopper RS4-G5
- Delayed start feature
- Range of up to 2000 feet
- Can be programmed for multiple cars
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
6. Easyguard EC003
- Works with manual transmissions
- Tries 3 times if car won’t start
- Instructions are difficult to follow
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
5. Avital 4103LX
- Comes with two remotes
- Lights flash with alarm
- Some vehicles require bypass parts
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
4. Audiovox APS997C
- Cold temperature program
- Lights up if someone enters your car
- Alert sirens are too quiet
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
3. Viper 5706V
- Alarms are very loud
- Alerts you if door is open
- Silent alarm signals remote only
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
2. Direct Electronics Python 5303P
- Includes an alarm clock
- Can turn the defroster on or off
- Window control sensors available
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
1. Viper 5906V
- Fob charges via usb
- Very easy to install
- Signal can go through walls
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
How Remote Starters Work
Remote starters, also sometimes referred to as remote keyless ignition systems, are rather complex systems that allow a person to start their car without having to be physically inside of the vehicle. Most can work from some distance away. For example, a person may be able to start their car from inside of their home or office, depending on the system and the strength of the signal.
As when you start your car normally, starting a car with a remote keyless ignition system will also turn on all of the settings you left on when last exiting your car. If you left the stereo and air conditioner on, they will also turn on when you remotely start you car. The same can be said of the heater. Some newer models include options to control these systems remotely. This makes them ideal for locations that experience extreme temperatures.
Remote start systems work in much the same way as a keyless entry system, car alarm remote, or even a television remote. When a button on the remote control is depressed, it sends a signal to a receiver box installed inside of the vehicle. This signal frequency is generally encrypted to prevent tampering.
The receiver box is connected to the car’s starter wire, brake wire, power wire, ignition switch, ignition wire, tachometer, and ground wire. All of these systems or wires are involved in some way in the ignition of a car. Some remote start systems may also be connected to a car’s electronic door locks, as well. When the box inside of the vehicle receives the signal, it supplies power to the car’s ignition system exactly replicating what happens when a driver turns the key.
Most keyless ignition systems are connected to the tachometer so they can monitor a car’s RPM. This allows them to verify that a car has started, in which case they stop supplying power to the starter. This ensures they do not grind the starter once ignition has taken place. Some systems will provide visual confirmation of ignition, like blinking the lights, so that the vehicle owner knows the car has started successfully. Systems that are connected to a car’s electronic locks will lock the doors as a theft prevention measure.
The History Of Remote Car Starters
The electronic ignition system for automobiles was invented in 1915 by Charles Kettering, but it would be much later that a remote ignition system was developed. In fact, the first mention of a remote starting system is from 1966. It was called the Model 100 and sold by a Winnipeg-based company named A.A. Auto Matic Products Limited. It was comprised of an under-hood module, a female receptacle, and a house-bound starter switch box that included 30 feet of cable. There were also a few other various components, such as a secondary vacuum control and electrical splice pieces. Unfortunately, the exact procedure of how it worked once the switch was flipped seems to have been lost to obscurity at some point in the past.
The first patent for a remote automobile ignition system wasn’t issued until 1971. It lists Giuseppe Re Baratelli and Theodore J. Galvani as the creators. Before they received their patent, however, it was featured in the November 1968 issue of Popular Science. It was touted as being able to start a car from 500 yards away. At the time, it sold for $595, which equates to over $4,000 in today’s money. It certainly wasn’t cheap and was priced out of range for most home consumers.
In 1983, American Motors started manufacturing remote starters, which were included in the Renault Alliance. It is cited as being the first production car to have come with a remote starter option. In 1989, GM included remote starters in a number of their models like the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Since that time, they have gained in popularity, and now there are even models available that can be controlled via smartphone.
What To Consider When Buying A Remote Ignition System
Most aftermarket remote car starters are universal. This means they are designed to work with practically any vehicle, but it is still smart to double check that the system you are considering is compatible with your vehicle model and year. For example, older, carbureted engines require models with fuel delivery controls, while newer vehicles often require a system that is compatible with their anti-theft module.
Other things to consider are the additional options that a system may or may not come with, as well as its various features. Remote car systems are available with varying ranges. Some may be able to work in ranges upwards of one mile, while lower-cost systems may only work in a 200-foot radius. If you generally park your vehicle far away from your home, it is wise to choose a model that accommodates the distance.
If you share your vehicle with anyone, there are systems available with two or more access control fobs. These allow each user to have a remote for the system. Some kits may be expandable so that you can add additional fobs at any time. This can be a smart choice if you have a child that will soon reach driving age and you plan on giving them their own set of keys at some point in the future. There are also systems convenient for those on a tight budget. They allow a vehicle owner to start with a relatively basic and low-cost system, and then add features over time as their budget allows.
Ideally, one should always choose a system that comes with a tachometer monitor. Not only will this prevent the possibility of damaging the starter system by continuing to grind it after the vehicle has started, but it will also notify the remote starting system that the engine has not started. When this happens, a system that includes a tachometer monitor will attempt to re-start the engine.
Other features that one can consider are defroster and seat heater activation, car alarm control, keyless entry, car locating features, smartphone activation, and a two-way LCD key fob.