Explaining how your car security system works

Thursday December 6 2018

Recovered. Kampala Metropolitan Police

Recovered. Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima looks at some of the recovered vehicles parked at the Directorate of Crime Intelligence in Kampala last year. PHOTO BY ANDREW BAGALA 

By Paul Kaganzi

Hello Paul, with increasing car thefts, many drivers have resorted to hidden button car start systems where the car will not start before you press the “hidden” button. Please share knowledge on what takes places behind the scenes for the car not to start and only to start after use of the button. Michael

Hello Michael, car security systems are theft deterrent devices installed in a car at the factory or as an aftermarket accessory. The purpose of car security system is to delay or deter illegal access or theft of the car, alert the owner, disable the car and in some cases help to track its whereabouts. The design of each security system is a preserve of its manufacturers who will only tell the authorised owner of the car how to arm or disarm the security system.
Discretion is an important aspect of any car security system. The designers will make it difficult for smart thieves to deactivate it. So they will not advertise how their system works in order not to help criminals deactivate it. However, to help you understand how they work I will describe the features of a security system briefly and how they deny start ability.
Car security systems in general have sensors that work with a computer or control unit, trip switches, horn and auxilliary battery unit. They are able to detect unauthorised entry or access and deny start enabling while triggering an audible siren. Different security system designs and customisation are driven by owner needs or features offered such as perimetric (environmental monitoring), interior motion sensing, tilt sensing (anti tow away) and start disabling (where your interest is).
Starter disabling or enabling is offered by car manufacturers using keys built with encoded transponder chips which communicate by radio waves and are recognised by car key readers or attendant security computers.
After market security systems designed to work on any car use small hidden switches positioned where a car owner can discretely but easily operate it. These start authorisation devices are connected as circuit breakers which connect or disconnect the electronic fuel supply or starter motor. This will prevent the car from starting. Smart car thieves keep learning how to disable or beat the systems. It is important to avoid predictability. Car manufacturers employ sophisticated key code rolling systems and programmable keys to beat the key code snatchers.
Aftermarket car security systems will offer different features and levels of security depending on cost. It is important to understand the features, coverage as well as asses the integrity of the installer in case he is part of a racket.

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