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Remote start install demystified – Part 1

Remote start & vehicle security systems are considered one of the more difficult vehicle products to install. They can require a lot of information and there are a lot of variations of products, vehicles, interface modules, & accessories. When you choosing a system, the waters can be tough to navigate. You’ll need a system that offers all the features you want with great reliability and can integrate with your vehicle seamlessly. Also choose one that is backed by a fantastic warranty, and a retailer that won’t leave you high and dry if you really need help.

Scared yet? Haha. Don’t worry!

Our customers come to us with all levels of expertise. We work with professional installers with decades of experience, complete beginners with next to no wiring experience, and everyone in between. Our support staff can guide just about any customer to install success and greatly simplify the process for you.

Can you install your own remote start? (Spoiler: Of course you can!)

That’s the several-hundred-dollar question, right? Installing a remote start for the first time (or second, third…) is a matter of patience &, most importantly, having great technical support available. Planning ahead and consulting an expert retailer like can save you time, money, & so many headaches. It can also result in a very enriching experience. Us DIY’ers thirst for knowledge anyway! So, if you’re ready to up your electronic wiring game, read on.

My first install

It was an alarm & keyless entry on my 1995 Nissan Pathfinder SE 4×4 in 1999. Man, at 18 yrs old, I worshiped that truck. I’ve never worked for a professional shop & only had some basic car audio experience at the time. To top it all off, I had next to no guidance. I just wanted to protect my car and audio system (the center of my teenage universe). An installer acquaintance was nice enough to give me a wire sheet for the truck. But, it was bare bones and I had no idea how to relate that info to the alarm itself. I finished in only 12 hours. Haha. I think 8 of those hours we consumed by anxiety.

20+ years (and “a few” installs) later…

These days, the Pathfinder install would probably take about 30 minutes (including tool cleanup!). The few professionals I knew back then would at least answer my phone call if I hit a wall but they were not interested in training me at all. Most of what I know now was learned the hard way. However, the tough lessons ultimately resulted in me earning my MECP Security Specialist certificate in 2000 and the opportunity to work with some of the top manufacturers in the industry.

Why should you consider installing your own remote start?

Obviously there is the financial benefit of most DIY projects. But for a lot of us, it’s mostly about learning, or even mastering, a new skill. Bottom line: if some other guy can learn it, so can you! Here’s a nice clean list of the primary benefits of DIY remote start:

  • You’ll likely save several hundred dollars in labor. Duh.
  • You know exactly what quality installation you’re getting. There are plenty of good and plenty of bad “professional” installers. They can be difficult to vet before purchase.
  • Empowerment: Learn new skills that can be a gateway to truly understanding vehicle electrical systems and add value to future projects.
  • On many newer cars, there are plug-in kits available that require few to no hard-wire connections. They’re a breeze. No point in paying for that.
  • Install remote start for friends/family. They make great gifts or even a source of extra money.
  • Having remote start allows your engine to reach operating temperature under a light load. This encourages engine longevity.
  • The most popular benefit: Heat or cool your vehicle’s interior for comfortable driving.

Remote start & alarm general theory (the boring stuff……….or is it?)

Remote start installation differs from car audio by one key concept: They integrate with several, sometimes unrelated, vehicle circuits to function safely. Car audio typically involves very little integration to factory circuits. This is because you’re typically just adding components or replacing existing ones.

Basic Concepts of Remote Starting Your Car:

  • A remote start’s primary job is to mimic the operation of your ignition switch and key.
  • If your car has a factory immobilizer, remote start will require a “bypass” or “integration” module.
  • Remote starts monitor various circuits in the car to ensure safe operation. For example; the brake pedal, hood open status, and engine rpms, and more.
  • Usually, the remote start has a limited run time. This prevents the engine from running indefinitely and unnecessarily.
  • When installed properly, your vehicle cannot tell if the remote start or you and your key started the engine.
  • Quality remote starters can accommodate most vehicle differences. Any vehicle with diesel/gas/hybrid engine, manual or automatic transmission, standard key or push-to-start ignition.

Remote Starts Have Security & Safety In Mind:

  • Security is a priority by most quality remote start systems. Yes, you can lock/unlock your doors just like normal during remote start.
  • Vehicle security systems still function while remote started. Especially if they’re both part of the same system.
  • You cannot drive your car during remote start mode. Remote start will shut down whenever you presses the brake pedal.
  • Your remote start will monitor the vehicle’s hood open status. If someone is working under the hood, you cannot activate remote start.
  • Automatic transmission vehicles, by design, will not start unless the transmission is in park or neutral.
  • Most manual transmission vehicles provide no way to tell whether it is in gear or not. Many remote starts provide a setup routine called “manual transmission reservation mode”. This requires you to perform an exit routine after parking your car. It ensures that you don’t accidentally leave it in gear.

Aftermarket vs OEM (Factory) Alarm Systems:

  • Factory alarm systems are conservative at best. They offer little to no upgrade options.
  • Good aftermarket alarm systems employ layered security techniques. You can layer sensors on top of entry point monitoring.
  • There are many aftermarket sensor options depending on your vehicle and needs.
  • Vehicle security systems still function while remote started. Especially if they’re both part of the same system.

In Part 2:

In the next article, I will talk more about the most important remote start installation dos and don’ts. I’ll also put together a nice list of tips and my favorite install secrets.

Please comment below with any questions or comments. Thanks for reading. Until next time!

– Mike


KICKYRIDE - DIY Remote Start Gurus