What is an immobilizer and does my car have one?

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Most vehicles manufactured in the past 20 years include a car immobilizer system as a standard anti-theft feature. It greatly minimizes the likelihood that your automobile will be stolen when it is functioning properly. But how does an engine immobilizer work? And how do we know if our car is equipped with an immobilizer?

What is a car immobilizer?


modern car dashboard with button

A car immobilizer system (also known as an engine immobilizer) is a great electronic security technology that acts as a deterrent against vehicle theft. Its goal is to prevent a car from being wired and stolen by someone who does not have the key to start the engine. According to the statistics, since immobilizers were installed in cars, there have been fewer car thefts.

If you’ve bought a car in the past 20 years, you’ve almost certainly used this technology before without even recognizing it. Car dealerships are increasingly distributing key fobs or smart keys instead of traditional car keys. As a result, the key base has buttons to lock and unlock the car doors, open the trunk, and in some cases, start the vehicle remotely.

Many key chains do not even have an actual key attached to the base in recent cars. To start the automobile with an engine start button, you just need to be inside the vehicle with the key fob.

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How does a car immobilizer work?


Carbon fiber center console

Today’s car keys can be viewed as additional security features. Transponder chips are found in key fobs and smart keys. When you start the engine or have the key fob inside the automobile, these chips communicate an access code to the immobilizer technology of the car. If the remote control PIN code matches that of the immobilizer system, the vehicle will start. Otherwise, your automobile will not start.

Most immobilizers will sound an alarm if the wrong code is used to turn the ignition on. In addition, some digital automotive systems will notify a security service in the event of an attempted theft. The security company will call the user to confirm that they are not in the car and that there has been an attempted theft.


Some companies have upgraded their immobilizers to a two-tier security system with a fixed code and a changeable code. The second code is stored in the transponder and is changed each time the car is started. When you try to start the car, the immobilizer first checks the permanent code, then asks for the second changing code, which is compared to the one saved in the database, and then starts the car. The car will not turn on without the second code.

How to check if your car has an immobilizer


Car key

There are a few things that can help you determine whether your car has an immobilizer or not. You can read your car’s manual to see if it has a factory installed immobilizer. This book should contain all the information about your vehicle, including whether or not it is equipped with an immobilizer.


If you are buying a used automobile, it is possible that the immobilizer was disabled or removed by a previous owner. On the other hand, if your automobile is used, the previous owner may have installed a new or replacement immobilizer. So even if the manufacturer did not install it, the car could still contain an immobilizer.

In your car’s manual you should find all the information about the immobilizer, including if it has been removed or modified. If this information is not obvious, any qualified mechanic should be able to inspect the vehicle and verify the information for you.

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How safe are car immobilizers?

Since their inception, immobilizers have significantly reduced automobile crime. According to Kaspersky, car theft in the United States declined dramatically in the late 1990s and then declined in the 2000s as immobilizers became more and more used.


While vehicle immobilizers help prevent auto theft, some criminals are even more resourceful. Thieves always manage to find a way around all levels of security. When it comes to car immobilizers, many criminals move with advancements and find out how to bypass transponder codes and start cars the same way they did before.

The introduction of keyless entry and start systems on modern cars has led to an increase in relay thefts, in which thieves use devices to intercept the code created by the car key and broadcast it to deceive the car key. electronics of the car by making it believe that the key is present. This would allow them to start the car and drive away without deactivating the immobilizer. It is one of the most common ways for criminals to use technology to steal cars. On the other hand, recent models have made relay theft more difficult.


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What is a Thatcham device?


a person holding a key near a car door

Thatcham is a non-profit organization that assesses vehicle safety to help insurance companies determine your premium. This unbiased assessment examines the safety features of your vehicle, such as alarms and immobilizers. It should be noted that Thatcham rates some alarms and immobilizers higher than others.

At Thatcham site, you can know the rating of your car. You will be asked to provide information about your vehicles, including their make and model, gasoline type and year of production. You will then be offered several safety-related results, such as a theft hint, whiplash hint, and group hint for your vehicle.

These results will be used to establish the safety level of your car and to help your insurer determine a reasonable rate.

Your automobile will be considerably safer with an immobilizer installed, which will make it more difficult to steal. This is a positive thing because it gives you a lower risk for the auto insurance companies which results in a lower rate. Because it is the highest rated, a factory fitted, Thatcham approved immobilizer is the best alternative. Always check your insurer’s auto insurance policies, as they can differ from provider to provider.

Reinforce the safety of your car with an immobilizer

Despite the sophisticated security systems put in place by manufacturers, you must always be vigilant and anticipate the safety of your car to limit the risk of theft. Park in well-lit areas, keep your car keys safe, and be careful around your vehicle.


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