Back in 2016, I was given the heads up that the Cobra AK4218 Toyota upgrade alarm was going to have one final production run. I purchased a bulk load of them which has got me through the past couple of years.
Well, I’ve finally sold the last one. This means I am no longer able to offer Toyota alarms that can turn the Ultrasonic sensors off with a second press of the remote.
The good news is I have had time to come up with a nice solution.
Ultrasonic Off Switch
New switch for disabling the movement sensors
I’ve had some switches made up that will work with both the Cobra AK4615 and the AK4698. They will fit in most Toyota models from the past 15 years or so where a switch blank is available. The LED in the new switch can also double up as the alarm LED which is a nice touch.
How does the switch work?
Simple, it latches on and off. If pressed in it turns the ultrasonic sensors off and the siren chirps 3 times to let you know. Great for those times when you want to leave a window open. It’s much easier than using the LED over-ride switch.
Ultrasonic Switch fitted in a 2012 Toyota Hiace
I’ve also been working with Vodafone Automotive sniffing the CAN-BUS data for Toyota windows. This means it should be possible to have the Ultrasonic sensors deactivate if a window is left open on some of the new models coming out.
Back in March, I got my hands on the new 2019 Toyota Hiace (H300) to test out the factory security system. It’s quite a change from the old model and comes with an alarm system.
I’ve now installed well over 400 alarms in the old shape Hiace. Given the popularity of the van, it has been a priority to make sure I had a solution for the new model as soon as it was available for sale.
Is the Factory Alarm any good?
Well, it works from the factory remote key and it covers the doors, boot and bonnet.
It also disarms with the driver’s door lock!
The 2019 Hiace
What does the Toyota Hiace alarm lack?
The alarm lacks internal movement sensors and will disarm if the door lock is picked. Given this, I highly recommend upgrading if you keep any valuables inside.
Upgrading the Hiace Alarm
I have been busy working with Vodafone Automotive developing the AK4615 CAN-BUS alarm firmware to work with the new Hiace. I’ve also gathered all the wiring information to make the installation as clean as possible.
The AK4615 works with the factory remote. It will not disarm when the door lock is picked, has a super loud digital battery back-up siren and honks the horn. It also has ultrasonic internal movement sensors so covers all bases.
The Alarm comes with a red 3mm LED mounted with the over-ride switch. I the Hiace I fit it next to the traction control button as shown in the photo below. For anyone wanting a brighter LED, I can easily add one.
Most systems unlock the driver’s door with the first press of the remote unlock button. A second press will then unlock the other doors.
Some vehicles like the Ford Transit have a dedicated remote button to select which zone of the van unlocks. This way it is possible to unlock the back of the van and leave the front locked.
Many vehicles allow you to turn this feature on or off to suit your requirements. Take my Nissan e-NV200 for example, selective locking can be turned on or off by holding the lock and unlock buttons together for a few seconds. Personally, I like all the doors to unlock with just one press of the remote.
Aftermarket Selective Locking
Selective locking can be retro-fitted. The video below shows an install I did on a 2009 Toyota Landcruiser which did not have central locking before it got into my hands.
My customer asked if it was possible to just have the front doors unlock with the first press of the remote. No problem as the Cobra AK4698 supports selective unlocking.
I got my hands on a 2019 Ford Transit Cargo this week. That’s the big brother to the Transit Custom.
My first job was to test the factory central locking to see if the van had the updated firmware. In the past, the factory alarm would disarm if and the rear doors would unlock if the driver’s door barrel was picked! So much for deadlocks hey!
The good news is that this issue seems to have been fixed. I don’t think Ford NZ have any interest in updating the firmware on older vans, but hope I’m wrong about this. They failed to get back to me when I contacted them about it last year 🙁
I do have my own fix for this for those who don’t get any help from the Ford dealership.
Ford Transit Cargo Alarm
Is the factory Ford Transit Cargo alarm good enough?
Well, it has door boot and bonnet protection and honks the horn, but offers no internal movement sensor. You may want to consider an upgrade if you keep valuable tools in the back.
Making the Ford Transit Secure
My recommendation is the Cobra AK4615 CAN-BUS upgrade alarm which works with the factory remote. It has a super loud siren and honks the horn so is much louder than the factory system.
The Leaf comes with a factory immobiliser and SmartKey entry with push-to-start.
Most don’t have an alarm, the ones that I’ve seen that do have chunky black ultrasonic sensors on the “A” Pillars. I think the alarm was a dealership fit option when sold in Japan, but I’m not certain about this. If you are a Leaf geek feel welcome to confirm or correct me on this.
The Sensor pods come in grey as standard which is a perfect colour match for the 2010-2012 models which have a grey interior. The later models have black “A” pillars. The sensor pods can be painted to match.
Below are some photos of how the alarm looks when installed:
KEYLESS BLOCK from Author is designed to protect vehicles with keyless-start from Relay Amplification Attacks.
Before explaining how KEYLESS BLOCK works I’ll explain how SmartKeys work and how they are vulnerable to a Relay Amplification Attack:
How a SmartKey works
Many modern vehicles have a SmartKey which allows you to lock, unlock and start the vehicle without touching the key so long as it is in proximity.
When the car door handle is touched the car sends a challenge to the SmartKey. The SmartKey (if in range) will respond by transmitting a rolling code unlock signal, just like pressing the unlock button on a traditional car remote. This is known as a “Challenge and Response” and will only unlock the car if the SmartKey is programmed to the vehicle and is in range. The range is typically no more than 1 meter from the car door.
Relay Amplification Attack
A Relay Amplification Attack tricks the vehicle into thinking the key is in proximity. It involves two people.
One stands by the vehicle and touches the door handle, they use a gadget to extend the challenge signal to the second person, also with a gadget which will receive the challenge.
Person number 2 needs to be close to the SmartKey so will stand by a window or front door of your home to get in range, or maybe stand by you if you have it on your person. Once the SmartKey responds the unlock signal is then extended back to the first persons’ gadget which unlocks the car. The car can then be started using the same method once the start button is pressed!
How KEYLESS BLOCK works
KEYLESS BLOCK arms when the vehicle is locked, either with the remote button or using the keyless system.
It shuts down the keyless function of the vehicle locking system to prevent a Relay Amplification attack.
KEYLESS BLOCK can disarm in a number of ways. Pressing the unlock button on the SmartKey will disarm the system and the vehicle can be used as normal.
Then there is the option to program the system to disarm from an external device, such as a remote start or GPS tracker.
Disarm KEYLESS BLOCK via Bluetooth
AUTHOR ID APP
The system also comes with two Bluetooth Fobs which will restore keyless access when in range.
It can also be paired with a Smartphone to work with the Author ID App via Bluetooth.
The range of the Bluetooth Fobs and the phone can be adjusted with using the AUTHOR CONFIG App.
When a paired Bluetooth device is in range of the vehicle the full keyless functions are restored.
AUTHOR CONFIG APP
The CONFIG App also allows you to put the KEYLESS BLOCK into service mode.
Service mode turns the system off so that you can have the vehicle serviced without the dealership knowing you have it installed.
The KEYLESS BLOCK can also be put into service mode without the App.
This is done by turning the ignition on (without starting the car), then pressing the accelerator pedal 5 times.
To take the KEYLESS BLOCK out of service mode the same procedure is done but the accelerator pedal is press 4 times.
A list of vehicles that KEYLESS BLOCK works with can be found on the IGLA NZ website.
More vehicles will be added in time and I’ve been involved with the process of developing the firmware for some vehicles.
I’ve already mapped my Nissan e-NV200 van to work with KEYLESS BLOCK by sniffing the CAN-BUS data, then sending it to the technicians in Russia who have written the firmware for it. (I’ll explain more about that in the future)
KEYLESS BLOCK RRP: $480.00
Protects your Keyless car from Relay Amplification Attacks
The Iveco Daily I recently worked on was first registered in 2019, however, looks to be to older shape model made between 2011-2014.
Regardless of production dates, all models come with keyless entry with selective unlocking as well a transponder immobiliser. It does not have an alarm so I if you keep tools or valuables inside then it’s worth considering.
It has recently come to my attention that a Company in Lower Hutt has been Parallel importing Cobra Alarms. Whilst there is nothing legally wrong with doing, I still have some moral objections to the practice.
I think that it should be made clear if you are selling Parallel Imports rather than simply not mentioning that you are not an approved dealer! It’s about being honest and transparent. Personally, I believe this is vital if you are dealing with security products!
Speaking of being honest the company in question has had some shocking Facebook reviews in the past. I recall one relating to a scratched dash trim where they failed to respond to the customer. I checked their page out before writing this and noted that reviews are no longer visible!
Am I to assume that any company who does not allow reviews to been seen on Facebook has had poor feedback? I’m guessing Facebook allows this because they still want the advertising money! Anyway getting back to the subject…
Why Use an official Cobra Dealer?
First off using an official Cobra dealer helps protects you against poor workmanship. It’s vital that the installer knows the product, has full technical support and access to firmware updates and installation documents.
I’m always ranting about how bad most alarm installations are along with how many dodgy installers are out there! I’ve spent years building a good reputation for both myself and Cobra NZ. I’m not happy when I see Cobra alarms poorly installed.
After Sales Support
As a Cobra dealer, I am required to register every alarm that gets installed. This way there is a record of it should there be a warranty claim, or if replacement parts are needed.
For example, let’s assume the vehicle has changed ownership and both remote controls are lost. It’s vital that there is a record of the alarms over-ride pin number. Without this, the alarm will need to be removed and will probably end up in the landfill!
I asked if they would still charge if I only dropped off a couple of batteries. The reply was no, simply because it’s not worth the admin time, and they would rather take them than know that they would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Now I’m not perfect and know I can improve my recycling game. In doing so I encourage all of you to do your part too. Feel welcome to give me your used batteries if you see me out and about. I keep a box for them in the van. Or better still recycle them yourself.
Challenge the shops that sell batteries
Next time you go into Jaycar, Repco, Super Cheap Auto, or your local car dealership to get new remote batteries ask them what the do with the old ones.
Do they recycle them? If not why not?
Ask the same question to your local car alarm installer too. They may not even have considered recycling them, so your question could make the difference.
Let me know what the reply is. Feel welcome to publish it here too.
If you live outside of Wellington let me know where you take your batteries and I’ll update this post to make it easier for people. Everyone who makes an effort will make a little bit of difference so please encourage responsible recycling habits.
Shock Sensors are beyond doubt the main culprit when it comes to false alarms.
How many times have you got annoyed at a car alarm going off for no obvious reason?
More to the point, have you ever gone out to check and see if your neighbour’s car is actually getting broken into? Let alone catching a man in a balaclava hitting your car like an imbecile?
Don’t cry wolf!
If you think that getting an alarm with a shock sensor is a good idea then watch this video:
How do Shock Sensors Work?
Magnetic Shock Sensor
The most common impact sensor is the magnetic shock sensor. It is simply a magnet held by an elastic band which is suspended next to a coil. When the Magnet vibrates it induces electricity in the coil. This, in turn, triggers your car alarm to go off.
These sensors have a sensitivity screw which can be dialled up and down. This is used to adjust how much vibration is required before your alarm sounds. Some have a dual zone setting. The 1st zone being more sensitive will tell the alarm to chirp a couple of times as a warning should a small vibration be detected. The 2nd less sensitive zone will trigger a full alarm.
Other types of impact sensors
There are other other types of shock sensors out there which I’m not going to explain here (piezo sensors for example). These sensors need more understanding of electronics so are not going to make sense unless you are into it. You can do your own homework if you really are interested!
What you should know is that all shock sensors deliver similar results. They pick up vibrations to set your alarm off.
Why have a Shock Sensor?
The reason many people think they are a good idea is that they don’t want their car’s bodywork to get scratched or dented. The reality is that constant false alarms piss everyone off will probably be the motivation to actually take a key to your paintwork!
The irony is that the act of keying a cars paintwork is unlikely to be picked up by the shock sensor!
It’s also unlikely that the use of a screwdriver to remove your number plates or exterior accessories will be detected by the shock sensor.
Here is a quote from the Mongoose installation manual:
Avoid over sensitivity as people nearby may not respond due to too many false alarms. (This type of sensor may not prevent wheel theft, we therefore advise the fitment of locking wheel nuts)
So what will cause a shock sensor to trigger?
There are many things that can cause the sensor to vibrate. The environment the car is located is often a big factor. For example, a car parked in a multi-storey car park is very susceptible to the resonating frequency of motorcycle exhausts, or even loud car exhausts for that matter.
Cars parked on the roadside can pick up vibrations from trucks and buses passing. In Windy Wellington, the wind can also play havoc with them.
The location of the shock sensor in a vehicle is also a major factor. In theory, the best location for one is the centre of the vehicle so it is not biased to one side. Yet most of the ones I have removed are tied to the steering column!
So why do so many alarms come with Shock Sensors?
First off is that they are cheap to manufacture. Secondly is a false notion that they will protect your car from getting damaged. The reality is there is not much that can be done to protect the outside of your vehicle without false alarms. If you want to protect your wheels then a tilt sensor will be far more effective.
What about Intelligent Shock Sensors?
I have read all sorts of marketing bullshit about “Intelligent” shock sensors. Some alarms have them built into the brain which makes the ideal centre of the vehicle location impossible in most cases!
The reality is that a car thief is not going to bang on your windscreen to set it off. But I do know if a case where an installer has cracked a windscreen doing this test!