In the last 20 years, car immobilizer systems have become a standard feature in many vehicles to deter theft. When functioning properly, an immobilizer system makes it much less likely for a car to be stolen. But how do these systems work? And how can you tell whether your car has one?

How Does a Car Immobilizer Work?

The engine immobilizer is a sophisticated anti-theft technology built into the engine’s ECT (Electronically Controlled Transmission). The engine will not start without the vehicle’s legitimate and authorized keys. An immobilizer does that by using a specially designed digitally coded key, also referred to as a smart key.

Smart keys come with a transponder chip that stores electronic security information. It is similar to the password for unlocking the car. The immobilizer checks the code on the car’s ECU against the security code on the smart key chip. Once a match is made, the engine immobilizer enables the fuel system and the ignition circuit.

A locksmith installing a car immobilizer

The ECU will not engage the fuel system if the match is different, preventing criminals from starting your vehicle. Portable smart keys transmit security codes to the ECU’s code processor in modern vehicles with keyless entry or engine start/stop capability. The start/stop feature activates once the ECU analyzes the two codes.

Rolling Code System

Modern immobilizer systems are far more sophisticated than the earlier models. They now have a rolling or changing security code system to stop unauthorized access. This system consists of two tiers of security, a permanent code and an additional changing code. As a result, it makes it much more difficult for thieves to break into your vehicle.

The immobilizer system in your car changes the second code every time you start the ignition, which is sent to your key. So when you turn on the ignition, the immobilizer system processes the personal code first and then the rolling code.

Both security codes must match to start the engine. Without the second code, or in the event of a mismatch, the engine will not start — even if someone tries to bypass the ignition system. Thanks to this advanced technology, it is difficult to duplicate codes from smart keys and ECUs. If a key is lost, authorized dealers are the only ones who can deactivate it.

How to Determine Whether Your Car Has an Immobilizer

One way to determine whether your car has an immobilizer is to consult your car’s handbook. This book should contain all information on your vehicle, including whether or not it has an immobilizer. You should also find it there whether it has been deactivated or altered. 

Another way to determine whether your car has an immobilizer is to ask a professional. A qualified mechanic should be able to inspect the vehicle and confirm this information for you should it not be immediately apparent.

A car owner unlocking the car with a transponder key

When considering a second-hand car, it is important to know that the immobilizer may have been disabled or removed by a previous owner. However, even though the manufacturer may not have installed it, there is still a possibility that the car contains an immobilizer. Therefore, inspecting the vehicle thoroughly before making a purchase is crucial.

Why Investing in a Car Immobilizer Is Worth It

An engine immobilizer is one of the best ways to keep your car safe from thieves. This simple and easily accessible security measure is worth the investment, as it could mean the difference between a stolen vehicle and a safe one.

Locksmith Near Me

At Sherman Oaks Lock & Safe, we offer reliable mobile locksmith services and car locksmith services for car lockout situations. In addition, our automotive locksmith is always available for lock repairs and vehicle security upgrades. So call Sherman Oaks Lock & Safe today at (818) 817-8008 for all your locksmith needs.

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