Choosing the Best Remote Start Kit

The most important features of a good remote car starter kit

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Some remote start kits include alarm functionality and other useful features. Image courtesy of Imencar, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons 3.0)

When it comes to finding the best remote start kit, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to consider a few different factors before buying, including:

  • Which features are included out of the box?
  • What additional options are available from the kit?
  • Is it compatible with OEM antitheft systems?
  • Are there any fuel delivery controls?

Antitheft compatibility affects whether a remote starter kit will work with the antitheft module in your vehicle. If you don't have an antitheft module you can ignore this option. Similarly, additional fuel delivery controls are vital if your engine is carbureted instead of fuel injected.

Remote Start Kit Features and Options: Narrowing the Field

Before you start looking at remote start kits, it’s important to be aware of the various features and options. Some of the most important ones include:

  • Operating range: Match the starter's operational range to the distance between your car and where you expect to be starting it from. The advertised range assumes absolutely no obstruction between the remote starter and the car. If you don't have a clear line of sight, any walls or other obstructions will drastically reduce the range of operation.
  • Number of remote key fobs: Some remote start kits only come with one remote, which is fine for some people. If you need two remotes, either verify that the kit is expandable and buy another fob, or choose a kit that comes with at least two remotes.
  • Engine speed-sensing: Kits that include a speed-sensing feature monitor the engine RPMs and can determine if the engine fails to start or dies, in which case it can attempt to re-start the engine.
  • Manual cutoff switch: Kits that include a manual cutoff switch provide an additional layer of safety by allowing you to remotely shut off the engine.
  • Mobile compatibility: If you want to use your smartphone to start your car, lock and unlock the doors, or control other systems, make sure you buy a kit that has this functionality, including the right OS compatibility.

In addition to these basic features, there are some other options to consider. Some remote start kits come with keyless entry functionality or built-in car alarms. Other remote start kits are modular in nature, which means you can add additional features whenever you'd like. These modular kits are also great if you’re working on a budget. Here are some more options:

  • Keyless entry (including trunk control)
  • Car alarm systems
  • Panic button and audible location features
  • Defroster and heated seat activation
  • Anti-grinding functionality to protect the starter
  • Two-way LCD key fobs

Some of these features, like heated seat activation, are purely for convenience. Others, like car alarms, provide an added level of security, and features like anti-grinding can protect your engine from cold damage.

One great convenience is a two-way LCD key fob. These fobs are often capable of displaying the interior temperature of your vehicle, so you can be absolutely certain that it’s the right temperature before venturing outside.

Antitheft Issues

Most newer vehicles won’t work with a remote start kit unless it includes the correct antitheft pass-through module. If a kit doesn’t come with one, it may be possible to purchase a compatible pass-through at an additional cost, but it’s better to just buy the right kit, to begin with.

Fuel Injected vs. Carbureted Remote Start Kits

Most remote start kits are designed to work with fuel injected vehicles. This is due to the fact that the idle speed, air/fuel ratio, and other factors are all computer-controlled in fuel injected vehicles, which means that the car will essentially take care of itself after the remote starter turns the engine over. Some kits include an RPM-monitoring function that will shut the engine off if it starts racing or restarts it if it dies, but most kits rely on the ECU to keep things running smoothly.

If your vehicle is carbureted, then matters are more complicated. This is due to the fact that carbureted engines often require a great deal of attention until they are fully warmed up, and you typically have to manually kick them down off high idle at some point. That means that most remote start kits won’t work with carbureted vehicles. However, there are some kits with additional components that allow for carburetor control. If your vehicle has a carburetor, you will need one of these kits.

The Best Remote Start Kit

If you pay close attention to the basic features and zero in on the most important options, then it shouldn’t be hard to find the best start kit for your needs.

Of course, you’ll also save yourself a huge headache down the road if you verify that the kit works with the existing antitheft modules on your vehicle. Beyond that, it’s a matter of balancing the features and options outlined above with your budget, then selecting the best remote start kit that you can afford.