Time Needed: 2-3 Hours, Depending On Skill, Difficulty: Intermediate, Cost: $100-$200, Depending On Starter And Tools Needed
If you’re among the hearty millions who live in cold parts of the world, you’re likely intimately familiar with the pain of sitting in a freezing seat when starting your car every morning. Even if you’re not lucky enough to live where the air hurts your face, there are probably times that you’d just like to start your car ahead of time. It’s in these times that a remote vehicle starter would be a perfectly useful upgrade. Lucky for those who treat winter like a quarantine, it’s a job that most people can complete in just a few hours.
Remote starters function using a remote key fob that activates a vehicle’s ignition system. It can be used to warm up a vehicle in cold weather or cool a vehicle that has been sitting in the hot sun. Installation is not the most complicated automotive job you’ll encounter, but you’ll need to understand the basics of your vehicle’s wiring. Car Bibles’ editors have done the remote starter tango before and can guide you through the general steps of installation.
Let’s get started.
The Safety Brief
- Ideally, you’ll have some experience dealing with the electronics and electrical components of your vehicle. There’s a lot that can go wrong, so take the time to familiarize yourself with how your vehicle works. Your owner’s manual and electrical schematics are great places to start.
- Disconnect the battery before beginning your work to reduce the risk of shock or injury. If you have a newer car, you might need an ECU memory saver to preserve your settings.
- Wear gloves and wear protective glasses while working on the remote starter. You’ll be reaching into tight spots and may encounter sharp edges that could lead to cuts or other injuries.
- Carefully read the instructions. If there’s a step you don’t understand, find someone who knows what they’re doing and ask questions. Don’t be a hero.
The Tools & Parts You Need
If you’re lucky, your remote starter will include the tools and gear you’ll need for installation. If you’re not that lucky, count on needing, at the very least:
- Utility knife
- Wire cutters
- Wire strippers
- Soldering iron and solder
- Electrical tape
- A small wrench and screwdriver set
- Digital tester/multimeter
The pros recommend soldering wires together for the most reliable and long-lasting connection. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can get away with crimping the wires together or using posi-taps.
The Job: How-To Install A Remote Car Starter
1. Inspect The Car’s Electrical System Before Starting
Give your car’s electrical and mechanical systems a quick once-over before starting the installation. It’s best to be aware of problems before you’re in the middle of a project.
2. Disconnect The Battery
You’ll be working with bare wiring here, so you’ll want to be sure that you don’t get shocked or damage a fragile electrical component while working on the remote starter system.
3. Determine Where You Want To Put The Main Module
Remote starter systems have the main control module that must be hidden in a secure location. Many times, shops install this unit in the lower dash area beneath the steering wheel. There’s usually a panel down there that can be removed for a great place to install the module.
5. Connect Ground Wire
The ground wire is usually black. It should be installed against a bare metal surface of the car near the main control module.
6. Find The Vehicle’s 12-volt Constant Wire And Attach The Starter System Power Wire
The 12V constant wire carries power for several parts of your vehicle. You’ll need to locate it, using a maintenance or owner’s manual and make a connection to get power for the remote starter system.
7. Find And Connect Ignition and Other Wiring Points
This step represents the bulk of the annoying wiring you’ll need to do. This will look different for every vehicle and remote starter system, so we won’t get deep into the weeds here. In general, expect to connect:
- Accessory wire
- Ignition wire
- Starter wire
- Parking lights and brake wires
- Tachometer connections
8. Connect Auxiliary Security or Anti-Theft Systems
If you’ve got an aftermarket car alarm or security system, you’ll need to connect it to the remote starter to avoid any confusion between the two systems.
9. Test System
Before you pat yourself on the back, test the remote starter system to be sure you’ve got everything right. It’s also good to do this before you’ve reinstalled panels and closed up the spaces you’re working in.
10. Replace Vehicle Interior Panels
To finish the job, replace any panels and coverings you’ve removed to access various wires in your car’s interior.
Your Questions, Our Answers on Installing A Remote Starter
Q. I’m Not Comfortable Installing a Remote Starter Myself. How Much Is This Going To Cost Me?
A. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 for remote starter installation, excluding the cost of the starter system itself. That big price range is due to the fact that the electrical systems in modern vehicles can vary wildly.
Q. Are Remote Starters Safe For My Vehicle?
A. As long as they are installed properly and the vehicle doesn’t have underlying maintenance issues, remote starters are perfectly safe and can be extremely convenient.
Q. Will A Remote Starter Increase My Car’s Value?
A. Maybe, but this will really depend on the vehicle and even where it’s being sold. Buyers in cold climates may be more inclined to shell out more for a car with remote start because of the pain associated with stepping into a freezing car every morning.
Video Tutorial on Installing Remote Starters
Best Places To Buy Tools and Parts to Install Remote Starters
Finding parts to help you install your remote starter can be an overwhelming job itself. That’s why we’ve selected a few products to get you started. The Compustar Two-Way Starter, the Dekopro 168-piece Tool Set, and Mechanix Work Gloves are affordable, useful, and well-reviewed.
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