Vehicle theft is hitting unprecedented levels in this Canada. In 2022, vehicle theft was up 40% year over year in Ontario, and 50% in Quebec. These trends are continuing so far in 2023. Fortunately, there are several devices on the market that can be installed to help safeguard a vehicle. One of the most effective devices is an aftermarket immobilizer. Bryan Gast, VP, Investigative Services at Équité Association shares more about after market immobilizers, how they work and how using a layered approach is the best way to protect a vehicle from being stolen.
Q: What exactly is an aftermarket immobilizer?
BG: An aftermarket immobilizer is an extra safeguard we strongly encourage people to consider adding to their vehicle because it essentially makes it near impossible for someone else to start your vehicle.
In 2007, Transport Canada mandated that any vehicle sold in Canada must come equipped with a manufacturer's immobilizer installed. Technology continues to evolve and criminals have found ways to defeat many of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) immobilizers, sometimes in less than 15 seconds. As an extra safeguard, we strongly encourage people to consider adding an aftermarket immobilizer, which will have a sequence of actions that only the owner knows before the vehicle can be started. It uses the buttons in your vehicle, such as the ones on the steering wheel, door panels or centre console, to allow the owner to create a unique sequence that must be entered before you can start your car. Look at it as the pass code to start your vehicle. They are very difficult to defeat and drastically diminish the criminal’s ability to steal your vehicle.
Q: Where would someone find an aftermarket immobilizer?
BG: Do your research to find an immobilizer that fits your needs. It is best to purchase them from a reputable distributor. On the manufacturer’s website, they will provide information where to have them installed. We strongly suggest that they are professionally installed because you do not want to risk voiding your manufacturer’s warranty.
Q: How could it void my warranty if I install it myself?
BG: Vehicles today are like big computers. If someone were to mess up the wiring of the existing system, the complete functionality of the vehicle might be compromised. This could be very expensive and would be at your own expense. That is why we recommend having them professionally installed.
Q: How much do they cost?
BG: After market immobilizers cost more than some protection devices but they are worth it. If you are going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a vehicle, then the cost is relatively minimal for a very good protection device.
Q: When a criminal breaks into a vehicle, they would not know there is an immobilizer installed until they try to start it. Is that correct?
BG: Yes. They will only know once they get into the driver’s seat and are unable to get the car started.
Q: Would it make sense to have some kind of signage in the car that that states the vehicle is protected by an immobilizer? That way the criminals may not try to break into it in the first place.
BG: Yes, absolutely!
Q: What is the difference between an immobilizer, a port lock, a Faraday pouch and a tracking device?
BG: Although new methods are always emerging, the primary method used to steal vehicles is re-programming a key fob via the on-board diagnostic port (OBD Port). An OBD port lock covers the port itself. These locks can prevent thieves from simply plugging into your OBD port and re-programming a new key fob to steal your vehicle.
An aftermarket immobilizer is essentially a sophisticated kill switch. When activated, even if the criminals were able to gain access to your vehicle, a quality immobilizer would prevent the vehicle from starting.
A Faraday pouch helps prevent against relay attacks. When used properly, with your key fob inside the Faraday bag, it blocks the radio frequency transmissions between the key fob and the vehicle preventing a relay attack.
Tracking services are also effective from a preventative and recovery perspective. I believe when criminals are aware that a vehicle has a tracking service they will seek other vehicles that do not. If a vehicle is stolen, quality tracking services are effective in the recovery of the stolen vehicle.
Q: Which device is the most effective?
BG: I always suggest a layered approach, including parking in your garage, parking in a well-lit area, lock your vehicle at all times, use a steering wheel lock, etc. Additionally and ideally, I would have an immobilizer, OBD port lock, use a Faraday bag and have a tracking service. This may seem like overkill but each layer provides protection and, currently using these methods, the likelihood of your vehicle being stolen would be greatly diminished.
Q: Are there any specific manufacturers or devices you would recommend?
BG: There are plenty of good options on the market but here are just a few that I can suggest: