Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Not to buy an immobilizer

For about 2 years now, MPIC has been pushing Immobilizers.  They are applying pressure to the driving public to retro-fit their cars with these anti theft devices.  There’s even been talk about mandating this retrofit.  I am completely against this.  Now before you make judgment and tell me I’m a wacko, let me explain my point of view.

Recently a few cars were stolen in the city that were ultimately used to run down some joggers.  One jogger, last I heard, was still in hospital in serious condition.  The car, a Pontiac Sunfire, I believe, was not equipped with an immobilizer, despite MPI claiming they had sent six letters to the owner encouraging a retro-fit of an immobilizer.    Reaction from some people was that the car’s owner should be charged with negligence as their refusal to install an immobilizer facilitated this crime. 

So why on God’s green Earth, would I advocate against such a device?  Well, honestly, I don’t advocate against these units.  I advocate against a required retro-fit of these units.

First off; history has shown us that the only way to move the yard stick on vehicle standards and safety has been legislation.  The government mandated seatbelts be installed in all passenger vehicles.  Old vehicles were not required to retro-fit.  Same goes for the 3rd break light, Airbags, and daytime running lights.  Similarly, this also applies to emissions etc. (If there’s ever been a mandate to retrofit a 60’s car with an O2 sensor and catalyst, I sure have never seen it.)  So based on that premise, there’s no reason to require it for an immobilizer.  All of these retro-fits would save insurers and other services money when it came to particular incidents.   I guess this argument is like the old analogy of a kid saying “Why can’t I go out and play today, Tommy’s mom lets him play.” 

When a car is built, much like any other manufacturing process.  The assembly is streamlined, all parts are properly aligned and things are placed where they ought to be.  Retrofitting a vehicle with other options ends up being “open heart surgery” in an automobile.  Do you know anybody with power locks and windows, that’s decided to Retro-fit their car with a command start?  How many of those people haven’t had a single electrical problem with their car after 3 or 4 years that could be attributed to the installation of this command start.  I would say, from the people I know. Probably 30%-40% have had some kind of problem with an aftermarket command start.  It’s very simple science folks.  Immobilizers are electronic components.  They’re hacked into a car's electrical and fuel delivery system requiring wires to be twisted turned, spliced, and soldered.  Each and every one of these weakens the wire.  Where the sheath of the wire has been exposed, you’re not increasing the susceptibility of corrosion with increases resistance and can lead to electrical failure.    If you buy a brand new car with an immobilizer, and it breaks after 3-4 years, there’s a chance that warranty will cover it.

How about a retro fitted immobilizer?  Well, the warranty will be one year maybe you’ll be lucky and get two on parts, but definitely not on the labour.   Now where do you tow the vehicle for a repair?  To the dealer?   Well, I can guarantee you; they’ll charge you more to fix an aftermarket immobilizer than a factory one.  This all spells bad news.  For the DIYer, Just you try removing this bloody thing from your car.  It’s built not to be bypassed, good luck removing this thing without introducing more problems.  Problems do happen with factory immobilizers.  Do a Google search on “Immobilizer problems” and see for your self.  At least with a factory installed immobilizer the dealer has the knowledge and parts available to repair/replace the device.

In my opinion, there are only two plausible solutions.  If an insurer is going to mandate such an item, they should hold the bag for its support and repair.  Arguably, this isn’t a safety device, it’s an insurance cost saving device.  My reply to MPI, “If you want to mandate it into my car, then you support it.”  The other option is already in the works.  Mandate all new cars to be equipped with a factory immobilizer if they are to be sold in Canada.



gfroese said...

Check out this article, apparently the increased number of immobilizers is adding to the number of people affected by car theft.

Here's an excerpt:
Crimestat shows that auto theft and attempted theft in Winnipeg is running 13 percent ahead of last year Jan. 1-March 6.

- Actual car thefts are down 22 percent (339 vehicles) while attempted thefts are up 75 percent (655 vehicles), meaning that there are now nearly twice as many victims of auto theft as last year.
- Districts 5 and 6 showed the most improvement. Car theft is down 10 percent in both districts, and the number of attempts is significantly less than the drop in actual thefts.
- District 2 and 3 had the worst showing. District 2 had eleven fewer thefts and 108 more attempts. District 3 had 41 fewer thefts and a whopping 337 more attempts. Together that's almost 400 more victims of car theft in only five weeks.

sophisting said...

So "gfroese" in your world correlation = causation? How can you say that the immobilizers have ANYTHING whatsoever to do with the increase in car theft attempts? If anything it sounds more like there are a lot more kids out there who don't know what they're doing.

And the so-called 'article' you (didn't successfully) link to does not make that claim at all.

Anonymous said...

Although I must confess, I haven't had time to read the link article, I get the following message from gfroese's comment..

The focus is on the victim when it should be on the perp.

It's like Blaming a Mugging victim for walking outside at 11pm, when really the question should have been, why wasn't the mugger kept off the street.

regardless of immobilizers or not, the rate of offense has increased, and MPI has hidden this stat by telling us the amount of victims has decreased. They're focusing their efforts in the wrong place. Get the car thieves off the street not preventing the car from being driven.

Anonymous said...

You are aware that all 2008 new cars (Canada for sure, not sure about US) are mandated to have a factory immobilizer?

GermanPickle said...

Yeah, I was aware of this. And I think that's the right way to go. I just don't think forcing people to retro fit would be correct action. This already happens if your vehicle is stolen. Currently a stolen vehicle must be fitted with an immobilizer before you may re-insure it for use.