Car Audio

LIS Audio How-To: Remote Start Systems Explained


Remote start systems, also often referred to as “Auto Starts,” have been utilized in vehicles for some years now for many different reasons. These days, having a remote start system is simply to keep up with tech and times. Remote starts are fast becoming standard on vehicles from the factory due to the demand and convenience that they truly do offer. In this blog we will discuss exactly what benefits come with aftermarket remote start systems, details of what to look for and basic operations, as well as go over what to look for when purchasing a system for your vehicle.

20180220_151108_hdrRemote starts can melt that pesky ice that attacks our ability to drive in the winter time

I am very impressed with the work that was done in my car. I had them install remote start. It has been wonderful and they are very detailed in their work. I would highly recommend them to anyone. – Jillyn Netcher

Remote starts have been seen as never ending headaches and pains for many system owners. When remote starts act up this is most commonly faulty installation methods. There are some exceptions to this, such as user handling, below freezing weather conditions, a deteriorating battery or even just improper voltage to the system. If these previous factors are not an issue then having a remote start system can be a life changer. For the most part though, it’s all about the installation. While reading this blog keep in mind purchasing and having a system correctly installed by a certified shop is always recommended and can save a lot of time and money in the long run.

It is easier to explain price once than to apologize for quality forever

The benefits of an Aftermarket Remote Start system…

One of the most commonly mentioned benefits that come to mind with many new remote start users is the fact that the vehicle will heat up in cold weather while they prepare for their venture. Many don’t think about how utilizing the climate controls year round while remote starting the vehicle can be just as advantageous. A good example is leaving the AC on during hot summer days.

In some American states it is illegal to leave a vehicle unattended, running and with the keys in the ignition. Using the “Pit Stop” feature while running into a gas station or simply having a remote start in general is a good way to avoid at ticket. Not to mention the high possibly of the vehicle being stolen and causing a large inconvenience in your day.

Adding an aftermarket remote start system also allows the option of upgrading the remote kit to a much more efficient and reliable remote kit. Most factory remotes, or fobs, will only transmit on average 200-300ft of range. Some aftermarket units will start at 600-800ft of range. LIS Audio’s most commonly sold unit is the 4 Button 1000ft range Compustar or ArcticStart system. Many higher end remote kits can have range up to or exceeding 1 mile. Some units will offer a cell phone app allowing the vehicle to be started from anywhere there is cellular reception, even from the other side of the globe.

The downfalls of online remote start shopping…

Shopping online for remote start systems can often be misleading. Not all vehicles require the same equipment to make the remote start perform correctly, some add-on features may require more materials than the unit may come with and some wholesale sites may unintentionally send a unit not properly stocked with all necessary parts. Aside from the inconvenience of waiting for the unit to arrive when ordering online or having to wait for an additional part to arrive, is the fact that if it breaks the shop that installed it most likely won’t warranty outside product.

A tangled mess of an older remote start that was malfunctioning in a this vehicle

Many product warranties are valid only when installed by a professional technician at a certified shop. If the unit breaks or is faulty and is warrantied through an online retailer then the unit must be uninstalled, shipped back for warranty and then must be installed once again. This means more waiting and more money, overall more inconvenient and expensive than spending the money at a local shop.

WarnA warning sticker that LIS Audio places under the hood in plain sight under the hood for anyone that could possibly work on the vehicle

Many online retailers for remote start systems are rarely upfront about the condition of the product being purchased, the stipulations of their warranties and may prove to be much more inconvenient than they promise. There are less than a handful of online sites to shop with that will give a non remote start savvy buyer accurate information and compatibility of the unit per vehicle. Even then it is easy for the uneducated to purchase the wrong part or not purchase enough to complete the installation.

xagah.png.pagespeed.ic.MA2VLp7L6vOrdering a package online isn’t always as convenient as we expect it to be, is it?

A lot of the much larger online retailers will also try ploys to draw buyers in and just spend their money. They will offer packages or bundles that come with “everything needed for installation” or that are “plug and play” units. In most cases, this is not the situation, especially for someone that is new in the remote start installation world. Be weary of those online great deals, if it seems too good to be true, chances are it is.

What comes with a typical remote start system?

Now, we will break down the most commonly found parts of a remote start system and what to look for generally from vehicle to vehicle in order to find the right system per application. This section will help the beginner have a better understanding of what and where to look for a remote start system with most any type of vehicle on the market. Granted that are a lot of contingency vehicle to vehicle that will not be touched on.

A remote start system and a few extras ready to be opened and installed

The brains of the operation…

There are 3 most commonly found components used in remote start systems today to give aftermarket features to the factory platform. The first and main component that will be included in every remote start installation is the remote start unit itself often referred to as the “brain.” This unit could be a module that has a high current, low current, or even both low and high current harness for starting. Knowing whether the vehicle has a high current or low current ignition wire harness will determine which type is fit.

A LIS Audio prepped remote start system ready for installation

The remote start brain itself is typically capable of performing most basic features via hardwire through the main harness and the ignition harness. The typical functions of the main harness could be as much as but not limited to; lock, unlock, factory alarm arm, factory alarm disarm, door triggers, trunk release, light flash, tachometer input, foot brake input, horn honk, dome light supervision, hood pin, neutral safety, E-brake trigger and possibly ground. There may also be other programmable outputs and inputs on this harness as well as wires to enable additional features or sensors.

RS IGYou can see plenty of examples of how to correctly install remote starter systems on our social media pages

The ignition harness typically consists of power, ignition, start, accessory and ground if it is not located in the main harness. This harness may be high current wire most commonly but can be found having low current wires, or in some cases it may have both. Some remote start units will simply consist of a single module that provides these same functions but entirely across Data gateway. This allows for more than one job to be performed in one single wire, which means less wires and lower current.

Immobilizer bypass…

This brings us to our next component, the immobilizer bypass. Some newer cars (generally newer than 1997) may have an immobilizer in the ignition, which is synced to a chip with a unique code in each one of the keys. These unique codes won’t work in any other vehicle without being programmed, which is why theft of newer vehicles is a bit more complex. This technology prevents thieves from simply cutting a metal key and getting away with cars as easily, and it makes hot-wiring a car next impossible as well.

ImmobThe clear plastic piece around the ignition with the chip board, copper wrapped around the ignition cylinder with the black plug on the back, is the immobilizer.

The small ring of copper around the ignition reads the chip in the key for varification. So, in order to “trick” the vehicle into thinking the key is in the ignition (when in reality its in your hand while you’re remote starting the vehicle) an immobilizer bypass is needed. We program the immobilizer bypass to the vehicle keys which it then sends a Data signal to the immobilizer in the vehicle that mirrors the code of the chip in the keys. This is how remote start systems are integrated into newer vehicles with immobilizers. 

20180323_181256_20180327141834932The immobilizer bypass can sometmes be “docked” into a brain rather than hardwired

Which remote should you choose?

The third most commonly found component in a remote start system is remote kit, sometimes referred to as a RF kit. The RF kit typically consists, of 2 remotes, an antenna and cord, which connects the antenna to the brain of the unit for control. The antenna will most commonly be installed on the front windshield or on the dashboard and may have a button and/or a LED light on it.

20180227_093221_HDR_20180306075947998This Toyota FJ Cruise received a 4-button remote start system as well as a few other goodies

Most RF kits will have a primary remote and a back up remote depending on manufacturer. Some remotes will have an identical pair others will have a stronger and more capable remote with a slightly weaker but similar remote for back up. There are many different styles and stages of remotes kits and the advantages and disadvantages can vary. When referring to the amount of range seen with remotes later on this is best-case scenario. This would be in an open field with no large obstructions between the remote and the vehicle. Range listed for the RF kits will typically just signify the intensity of the signal. When in a building or near a large structure, range of the transmitter is almost certain to be reduced.

20180106_123109Our number 1 selling single button 1-way remote which is great for adding only a remote start feature

The most universal and commonly found remote will have unlock, lock, trunk pop, remote start and possibly panic. We referred to this as a “4 button” remote kit. There are also remote kits that have one single button for starting and stopping the vehicle and with a different press pattern may also lock and unlock the vehicle, we refer to these as “single button” kits. These remotes are typically found with 1-way and 2-way compatibility depending on manufacturer and price.

20180302_104119_Burst01This 4-button remote kit comes in 1-way and 2-way communication

A 1-way remote means that the remote kit and remote start brain only have one way communication, remote command sending and then the brain receiving. Now, the 2-way remote kits will offer 2-way communications, which means the remote sends signal for the brain to receive then the brain sends a confirmation back to the remote saying confirming the command was or was not completed. The 2-way remote kits will often have a LED that blinks or a chime that sounds upon confirmation of each command.

20180113_131953(1)LIS Audio’s top LCD 2-way remote that allows for alerts to be displayed in the users hand from up to a mile away

The next upgrade in remote kit from here is to jump to the 2-way LCD screen remote. This has the same 2-way communication but with a bit more information displayed for the user. This remote will have a screen, which will either be black and white or multi colored depending on manufacturer. The screen will display confirmations of commands sent as well as monitor the current conditions of the car. Most LCD remotes will display whether the vehicle is locked/unlocked, doors open, remote stat run time, range of reception, battery life and sometimes-even more. The range on the LCD remotes tend to vary anywhere from 1500ft of range upwards to 3 miles.

This Toyota FJ Cruiser also received a Drone Mobile app based remote start add-on

As if the LCD screen doesn’t provide enough smarts for everyone there is yet another step up from here and that is with smart phone activation. Some of the top manufacturers, such as Compustar’s and ArcticStart’s DroneMobile, have created apps that can be downloaded to most smart phones to utilize this platform to send and receive Data communications to and from the vehicle. The range on the app based start applications is typically limited to the current cellular service of the user in their current position. So, a user with a vehicle in the US can start their car all the way from China.

RS JusticeJustice, Owner at LIS Audio showing how to use our basic 4-button remote start system

These apps have the most advantage with users that regularly take long trips out of town leaving their vehicle behind and need it started every so often. Vehicle fluids, moving parts and batteries like to see regular work in order to have a long life. The DroneMobile app is also very advantageous when it comes to drivers that need to park extremely far from their location, want to know the security of their vehicle wherever they may be or for a vehicle that is kept in storage that isn’t always easy to get to and start regularly.

A tip start Mercedes-Benz smart key that can be very expensive to replace

For the fact of the convenience of using the factory remote, there is also an option present. This method typically uses the 3 times lock sequence to activate the aftermarket remote start system. It will give the user the advantage of not having to carry the bulkiness of two remotes, if the factory key has a remote built into it. The range with this system will remain to be that of the limited 200-300ft offered by the vehicle manufacturer. This option is available on most but not all push-to-start vehicles.

3X CamCameron, Owner at LIS Audio showing how to operate the 3X-Lock-Start basic remote start system

Choosing a starter from looking at the key…

The exact amount of components needed tend to be dependent on the exact year, make and model of the vehicle as well as how advanced the vehicle Data system may be. Some vehicles will not have a chip in the key and will only require using the remote start unit and a remote kit for operation. Some vehicles will allow for 3X Lock Start for remote start activation.

A factory replacement style key with an immobilizer chip in the black base

A shops main goal, in most accounts, is to at replace the already present functions of the keyless and factory alarm system with aftermarket while adding remote start. This means if the vehicle comes with lock, unlock, trunk pop and panic on the factory remote then the aftermarket remote should at least have these features plus that addition of a remote start function. Some functions like, rear window roll down, maybe considered add-on features as some shops, so be sure to as in advance.

A Standard Key that could have an immobilizer chip that has the remote seperate

Most original “standard” keys will have some fully metal or with a small rubber or plastic grip on the head. Many classic vehicles will actually have a key for the ignition and a separate key for unlocking doors and popping the trunk. These keys will not have chips in them nor will there be an immobilizer in the ignition.

In the late 90’s some manufacturers started adding chips to standard style blade keys to prevent theft. Most of these chipped keys are identifiable by the symbol or letter stamped near the base of the blade on the key. Others are identified by the color of the grip on the head of the key. It is always recommended to have a certified professional look at the specific vehicle and key to accurately assess whether there is a chip in the key or an immobilizer in the vehicle.

Commonly found with Ford vehicles  this remote head key is a remote and key in one

The next style of key up from here is almost certainly going to be chipped and have an immobilizer in the ignition, aside from a small group of manufacturers. It is referred to as a “remote head” key. This key features the vehicle keyless entry remote on the key itself marrying the previously two-piece combo into one. Chipped keys can be identified similarly to standard keys with chips.

A factory flip key first used on high end luxury cars that has the remote entry built-in

The “flip key” blade style is typically a remote with the blade hidden that flips out the side or straight out. These are commonly seen with mid to late 2000’s Volkswagen and Audi keys. Chevrolet has had a run of flip keys as well. These keys are almost always going to have a chip coded to the immobilizer and are not inexpensive to replace. They will typically have at least lock and unlock built into the remote head, possibly trunk pop and panic.

Key Tip Start
The Dodge style tip start key  which also has an immobilizer chip built-in

The next key will be more advance and almost always work through a Data system in the vehicle. This key is typically all plastic with a unique shape to one end that fits into a rotating key port. This is referred to as a “tip start” key. It is fairly safe to assume a vehicle with this style of key will need an immobilizer bypass in order to correctly install a remote start system.

This fob is commonly found with Infiniti or Nissan Push-To-Start vehicles and most certainly has an immobilizer built-in

Many new vehicles are coming equipped with push-to-start buttons in place of the standard tumbling style ignition cylinders. The remote carried in place of the standard vehicle key is referred to as a “fob” or “tombstone” style key. The vehicle typically senses the fob when it enters its proximity, allowing the carrier to simply climb in with the fob and start the vehicle with a push of a button. Some fobs will unlock the vehicle when it enters the proximity and may also provide a dock for the key called a “key port.” Key ports may sometimes be found on the left of the driver’s side dash, along the center console or inside the armrest of the center console.

Now, as you can see this is the reason why there are so many different remote kits on the market. Each vehicle is slightly different in how the factory remotes work with the vehicle, as well as features already available with the factory remote. Aftermarket manufacturers must try to meet the needs of a specific vehicle paired with the application and needs of the user while maintaining the factory functionality. Which could mean any number of features!

The biggest differences of Older vs. Newer vehicles with Remote Starts…

As we have talked about previously there are some distinct differences between adding a remote start system to a new vehicle verse and older vehicle. Most of these differences will be in how advanced the vehicle Data system may be. Some cares that are old enough will actually have no computer system in the vehicle at all. On the other hand, some newer vehicles are able to control every function to each component through Data.

An 1969 Oldsmobile 442 LIS Audio performed an installation on

The differences between older and newer vehicles receiving remote start systems will be in the interfacing of the aftermarket remote start system with the vehicle and itself. Some older vehicles will require additional parts to make the remote start function properly, such as relays for door locking systems, circuit integration of the trunk pop feature, or even diodes to prevent circuits from back feeding. With older vehicles it is much easier for a technician to accurately identify the wires without utilizing wiring schematics.

A vehicle prepped, disassembled and ready for installation with the LIS Audio protection package

Since many newer vehicles have a computer system that uses Data signals to send commands, one wire can have multiple purposes. This may cut down the amount of wires use in the vehicle but, it also makes testing circuits much more complex and is one of the reasons many technicians today rely on wiring schematics and vehicle diagrams for accurate information. Without access to dealer information, experience in installation or expensive software programs it can be hard to find the correct wires for installation of a remote start unit in a newer vehicle.

20180327_151313When choosing a shop to perform the work be sure that they are not only have MECP certified techs but that they hold themselves to a higher standard

Integrating a remote start system into a vehicle can be a task time to time. Even for an experienced technician. This is why we recommend always using a certified professional shop to perform the installation. Adding electronics to a vehicle can be iffy, so leave it in the hands of a professional that knows what to look for and how to diagnose an issue if one was to arise. Along with the ease of fixing issues that could arise, if the unit was to go bad and it was purchased through an authorized dealer, the shop would be able to replace it immediately under warranty.

What to look for in a good Remote Start system…

By now you should have a good general understanding of how remote start systems work and how they are compatible with different vehicles. Now we will determine how to select a remote start for specific applications. This part of the blog will be somewhat biased due to the brands we have previously used and currently use at LIS Audio. The brands we mention are top of the line and very well known in the industry. These manufacturers have been around for many years and have for many years had very satisfied customers and technicians.

pixlr_20180327154241020Some of the different style of aftermarket remotes provided by Firstech and DEI

The two most popular manufacturers of remote start and alarm systems are DEI and Firstech. DEI, also known as Directed, is very well known for more than a handful of company’s it umbrella’s, such as Viper, Python, Clifford, Avital, and a few others. You will see Firstech producing remote start and alarm options through brands like Compustar, ArcticStart, FTX, idatalink, DroneMobile and some more. At LIS Audio we choose to use only Firstech remote start and alarm systems, which won out over DEI products by a small margin of comparison. The main reason we at LIS Audio support using Firstech products primarily is because of the awesome technology they offer within the DAS sensor.

The DAS Sensor which Firstech provides for manual transmission vehicles and alarm systems

Some clients have a fear of adding a remote start to a manual vehicle, and some of these fears are for a very good reason. Some remote start systems of the past didn’t integrate so well into manual transmission vehicles causing more headaches than the system offered in convenience and even some times causing damage to the vehicle. The Firstech DAS sensor eliminates the any fears the past systems may have instilled. The DAS is a 3-in-1 security sensor that detects two stages of impact/intrusion, tilt and forward motion. It is required for installation of remote starters for manual-transmission vehicles.

The LIS Audio workshop full of many different projects

Another hurtle come new users feel needs to be jumped with a remote start system is when adding one to a diesel vehicle. This is not as big of a deal to perform as it has been in passed years. Firstech offers solutions that are easily implemented to deal with glow plug warm up timing and even turbo timing. Remote start systems are not impossible to integrate into vehicles with diesel engines.

FTSA video of the RPS Touch feature we added to this Toyota FJ Cruiser

To narrow down which remote start system to purchase you will want to ascertain an idea of which manufacturer you want to go with. From here the product can be picked up from a local shop, which will most likely provide at least the manufacturer warranty. As mentioned before we also recommend having a certified professional handle the installation. Most of the larger remote start companies will offer dealer locators for an easy and accurate way to find who sells their product near you that can also offer a professional installation.

Dealer locater search engines can be found one the remote start manufacturer websites

After a manufacturer has been selected it is time to decide which features are most important for the specific application… Is the vehicle a manual and does it require a DAS sensor? Is range a huge factor in where the vehicle is parked day-to-day, from home, school or work? Do we want a simple 3X Lock Start option through the factory fob with limited range? Or do we want an added remote with 2-way communication? Do we want control and monitoring of the system from our smart phone?

Is your vehicle compatible?

Follow the links attached to the below pictures to see if your vehicle will work with any of the systems previously listed. Simply put in the information that the website asks for about your vehicle and them begin to determine which units are offered for the specific vehicle. Once you have a decent idea of what your options are, consult with an installation professional to be sure no additional parts are need.

iDataThis link will take you to a search engine that will show you which iDatalink products are compatible when using Compustar or ArcticStart


This link will take you to a search engine that will show you which DEI products are compatible when using Viper, Python or Clifford

From here it will be a deciding factor for the user of what they want with the installation. Experience and reviews will be a huge help when deciding which route to go as well. Reading online customer reviews as well as asking a knowledgeable shop, local or not, can really help a ton with making an accurate decision as well. It always works our well when it is done right the first time.

Thank you for reading our blog on remote start systems and how they work with many different vehicles one the market! Good luck in finding the right system for your situation and we hope this helps you make a more educated choice!

Contact LIS Audio if you have any questions…

Call: (913) 912- 6990



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