It’s quite common for me to come across vehicles that are not listed on the Vodafone Automotive website. The Nissan Maxima is one of these, so I have to test the vehicle myself, take notes and make sure the software is going to work.
You’re after the Best Car Alarm, so why do I not recommend the “Big Names”?
Here is a recent email which is all too common:
Message: Hi, have been reading through some of your posts and see that you have flawed a lot of the big name brands.
I thought I’d explain the misconception as most of the “Big Brands” I do actually rate. It’s important to understand what a big brand is and look at the bigger picture. I tend to recommend big global brands as opposed to small New Zealand brands.
New Zealand is effectively a very small goldfish bowl in a big world
Big Fish, Small Bowl Syndrome!
I know, everyone in New Zealand seems to sell AVS and Mongoose, because if you ask your local car audio shop who makes the best car alarm then you’ll probably hear one of those names. The thing is, you won’t find them for sale outside NZ and Australia?
Put in simple terms, they don’t meet international standards. It’s just that they’ve simply done a good marketing job here in little old NZ. Besides which, most car audio shops are not alarm experts.
There is a very thin line between marketing and bullshit. Because we don’t look at the facts and see that AVS are just re-branded Rhino-Co alarms and Mongoose systems are mainly made in Taiwan or China.
The Best Systems Meet International Standards
The main brands I tend to recommend are Cobra (Vodafone Automotive), Autowatch and Viper. Because these brands meet international standards you’ll find in many other countries.
Which is The Best Car Alarm?
As for which alarm is the best? Well, that really depends on what vehicle you have and what your budget is. Becuase we all have different requirements its best to find out which car you have and treat it on a case by case basis. This is why I like the details to be filled in on the contact page.
Arguably the most important factor is the installation. It’s almost impossible to install a crap alarm to a high standard. This is explained in the review section of the website where you can find my opinions on most alarms and how effective they are.
Last week I finally got to fit a courier alarm into an LDV V80. These vans are starting become a common sight in NZ and I dare say it’ll be the first of many installs I do on this van.
What’s the best Courier Alarm?
I decided that the Vodafone Automotive/Cobra AK4698 would be the best option. After having a good play with the settings I now have a nice solution sussed out that works flawlessly with the V80.
LDV Courier Alarm
It’s basically the same set up as what I use in the Toyota Hiace. The alarm arms whilst the key is left in the ignition and the ultrasonic sensors are programmed to turn off whilst the engine is running. This way there will be no false alarms if the heater fan is left on full blast or a window is left open. If the owner wishes to have the sensors active when the engine is running they can simply disconnect one of the service plugs which I’ll explain at the end of the post.
How it works:
The alarm is the same as a Cobra AK4698, apart from the fact that it’s wired up so it will arm whilst the engine is running. The Alarm will chirp 3 times when it is armed. If the alarm is set of the Horn honks along with the Cobra siren. If the engine is turned off it cannot be re-started. Arming/disarming of the alarm is silent when the ignition is turned off.
Here are some photos of what you’ll see after the install:
Service plugs which make coding replacement remote controls easy in the future
There are a couple of service plugs for the alarm fitted below the glove box. This allows for easy programming of new remote controls when the time comes. Unplugging the plug with the pink wire activates the ultrasonic sensors with whilst the ignition is on, whereas having it plugged in disables them. The plug with the green wire must not be disconnected.
All Cobra remote controls take one CR2032 Battery. I recommend changing your Cobra remote battery after about 3 years, but if your remote has stopped responding, or the range has dropped then you can do a simple test to see if the battery is still good.
The following video shows how to check if your battery is good in your Vodafone Automotive/Cobra alarm remote. Not that the test is the same for the Padlock style remote.
If your car comes with a smart key and push-to-start button it can be a super easy target for a professional car thief. Here I look at some of the modern methods used to compromise your vehicles factory security and explain how it is done.
Remote Blocking/Jamming leaves the car unlocked
This method involves transmitting a frequency that is in the same range as your cars remote so that it blocks the signal and prevents it from locking.
It does not require any sophisticated equipment and can be done with a simple car alarm remote! Ever press your remote and found it didn’t work? Then tried again and it did work!
Check to see if your car has actually locked or watch for the hazard lights to flash confirmation. If not you could be leaving your car open to content theft and a possible OBD-II Attack! (See below)
Don’t assume your car has locked because you hit the remote button!
Roll Jam Attack
This is an advanced version of Remote Jamming. It blocks the vehicle from receiving the code whilst recording it. The owner then presses the remote again and the first stolen remote code is used to lock the car. The second code is then stored to unlock the car in the future!
The video below explains the details. I’ve clipped it between the 37.40 and 51.11 as it’s the most relevant part, but the whole thing is worth watching if you have the time.
This method is used on vehicles that come with a smart key. It allows the thief to unlock and start your car by tricking it into thinking the smart key is in range.
Again I’ve cropped the video to the most relevant part which starts at 33.42 minutes in but again, the whole thing is worth watching:
OBD-II Remote Cloning
On-Board Diagnostic plug allows easy access to key programming!
Programming a smart key via the OBD-II plug can be done in a couple of minutes with the right tools. The thief can then drive your car away!
Every car manufactured after 1996 has an OBD-II plug.
The “On Board Diagnostic” plug is there to help technicians read vehicle fault codes and electrical settings. It is also used by the Dealership and Automotive Locksmiths to code a new remote to the car using an OBDII scan tool.
These tools have become much more affordable in recent years and are easy to purchase.
Traditional Remote Key V Smart Key
Remember any vehicle is easy to take if your keys get stolen, this remains the easiest way for a thief to take your vehicle.
Fact: Over 70% of cars are stolen with the keys!
A remote with a traditional key is much less vulnerable than a smart key for the following reasons:
It only transmits when the button is pressed so is not compromised by an Amplifier/Relay Attack.
The transponder immobiliser is not compromised by a Remote Blocking or a Roll Jam attack, but can still be vulnerable to an OBD-II key programmer.
It still requires a cut key, placed in the ignition barrel and turned, or for the steering lock to be broken and the vehicle to be hot-wired!
I’m currently testing a new product that protects your vehicle from theft from the above methods.
Car Alarm and Immobiliser removal is one of my specialties. Whilst I would rather install quality systems, there are a huge number of crap unreliable car alarms out there, many of which I have reviewed and suggest should be avoided at all costs. If you have one of these then it is only a matter of time before it will fail and you’ll need it removed or replaced.
How many bad car alarm installers are out there?
From what I’ve seen there are not many competent installers around. It seems to be an “out of sight out of mind” mentality with most, working on the assumption that you’ll never see their shoddy wiring attempt hidden behind the dash. More often then not the cars wiring loom gets butchered!
Part of my job is often patching up the mess at a later date. Below is a typical messy install which needs putting right:
The mess left by the car stereo installer!
The same car after the immobiliser removal and fixing up the wiring!
Awful Vehicle Security
The most common brands I remove are AVS, Mongoose, and Meridian. They are a magnet for incompetent installers so be warned! If you want to know who to avoid I’d suggest the AVS and Mongoose list of “approved installers” would be a good place to start!
AVS = Awful Vehicle Security
9 times out of 10 I find the alarm module is poorly placed behind the driver’s side dash held in place with little more than a Zip Tie. These are often a hazard as they could potentially fall down on the pedals or get suck in the steering column!
Another Mongoose alarm that has failed and needs removing
How Much does it cost to remove an alarm/Immobiliser?
Typically between $100.00 to $160.00 including my call out fee. It really depends on where you are and how long it takes to clean the mess up!
If I’m replacing it with a new system then it is normally free of change.
The Lancer comes with remote mirror fold and window closure which can be activated with an extended 2nd press of the factory remote control. The Video below shows how the alarm works as well as the window closure in action:
Here are some photos of what the alarm looks like installed: