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What is a Remote Starter for Cars?

By R. Anacan
Updated May 16, 2024
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A remote starter is a remote control device that enables the user to start a vehicle without the use of a key. Some remote control starter systems also allow a driver the ability to turn the interior and exterior lights on and off and to lock and unlock the doors with the remote control. The size of the control of most remote car starter systems are typically not very large and are generally similar in size to an average keyless entry fob.

A remote starter works very much like a remote control for a television. To start a vehicle with a remote starter the user simply presses a button on a small hand-held remote fob. The remote control fob sends a signal to a component that is attached to a vehicle’s ignition system, which in turn starts the car.

The main reason that many vehicle owners choose to install a remote starter system is the ability to warm up the interior of a car in cold weather conditions and to cool-down the interior of a vehicle in hot weather conditions, without having to physically be in the vehicle. As anyone who has entered an extremely hot or cold car can attest, it can be quite uncomfortable to enter and operate a vehicle with a hot or cold interior. Therefore, pre-heating or pre-cooling the interior of a vehicle can make the driving experience a much more pleasant one.

Another reason that owners may choose to install remote starter systems in their cars is for the increased level of security that such systems may be able to offer. Remote starters are designed to start a vehicle without a key in the ignition. Without a key in the ignition, a car’s gears cannot be engaged and it may be difficult to effectively use the steering wheel, which in turn makes it difficult to steal the car.

Without a remote car starter system, a driver desiring to warm up or cool down a car would have to leave the key in the ignition while the car is running. This would make a running vehicle vulnerable to theft. In fact, to reduce incidences of vehicle theft, it is illegal in many municipalities to leave a running vehicle unoccupied.

For those interested in purchasing a remote starter system, it is recommended that consumers take the time to thoroughly research the wide variety of systems that are available to find the one that is right for them. A major factor that consumers should consider is the effective range of the remote control system. Most users desire the ability to remotely start their vehicles from the interior of their homes or workplaces; therefore a longer range system is typically more desirable than one with a shorter range.

Remote starter systems can be purchased at many car stereo and alarm stores. Many large retailers that specialize in electronic technology equipment may also offer remote starter systems. While some car starters may be installed as a do-it-yourself project, professional installation of a remote starter system is generally recommended.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Jan 25, 2014

One of the few car bells and whistles I'd like to have is a remote starter. They would come in handy on really cold days, especially. It is not fun to bundle up, run out and start the car, just to come back in and get ready for work, then go back out to get in the car. Pushing one button would be very nice.

Don't know that I'd want to do it for a hot day very often, since a car can overheat with the air running if the car isn't moving. But for a cold day, it would be a wonderful thing to have.

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