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Nowadays a lot of people rely on their cars as they are significantly impact our daily basis routine like drive to work and pick our kids from school. 

Unfortunately car thefts are a common issue which means that we must remain alert and protect our vehicles including keeping them locked, parked in safe areas and make sure all systems are properly working.

In the past cars were started with just a key which was used to unlock the car and also to start the engine and as car theft became more common thieves learned how to start cars without the key using a method called “hot wiring”. 

This was a big problem as it made it very easy for thieves to steal cars and in order to fight this phenomenon car manufacturers introduced a security feature called an immobilizer.

So you might be curious about what is this car immobilizer, what does it do and how effective it is in terms of securing your car and keeping it safe from carjackings?

How exactly does an immobilizer work?

An immobilizer is an electronic security device fitted cars to prevent the engine from running unless the correct key is present and preventing your car from being “hot wired” if an unauthorized entry has been achieved. 

The immobilizer uses a microchip embedded in the ignition key which is identified by a reader in the ignition lock and checked against the engine control unit, if the chip inside the car key sends the correct signal the engine control unit activates the fuel and ignition systems which allowing the car to start.

If an unauthorized key is used or a “hot wiring” attempt is made the immobilizer disables both systems preventing engine start.

What is the history behind car immobilizers?

Car immobilizer can be traced back to the early 20th century but it became more sophisticated in the 1980s and 1990s as of rising car theft rates and the earliest immobilizers were simple mechanical devices like steering wheel locks. 

In 1985 General Motors introduced the VATS,Vehicle Anti Theft System in the Chevrolet Corvette and that was the first electronic immobilizer systems that used an electronic chip embedded in the car key.

This great innovation sparked a trend among car manufactures and by the late 1990s immobilizers have become more common even within European countries which regulate it and mandating them in all new vehicles.

Today car immobilizers are a standard feature in all cars and they make use of advanced encryption and communication technologies to prevent auto theft.

Can thieves bypass an immobilizer?

An immobilizer is a special electronic lock for your car and it needs the right key or remote in order to start the car and while being significantly hard to bypass they are not 100% foolproof and some really clever thieves have developed methods to bypass these systems such as using sophisticated equipment to clone or emulate the car key signal or exploiting weakness in the car electronic systems. 

Bypassing an immobilizer requires great knowledge and specific tools making it a more challenging compared to vehicles without this security feature and it is also a time consuming operation.

Do keyless cars have immobilizer?

Keyless entry cars which start with a push button and use a smart key fob instead of a traditional key also have immobilizers as part of their security system and they work exactly the same as those in cars with traditional keys but instead of requiring a physical key to be inserted into the ignition switch they communicate wirelessly with the key fob. 

The engine can only be started when the fob is within a specific range and its unique signal is recognized.

Car manufacturers continuously innovate and enhance vehicle security features to combat the evolving tactics of car thieves. This ongoing battle has led to the development of more sophisticated security technologies beyond traditional alarms and immobilizers. 

For example manufacturers are implementing advanced encryption methods for key fob signals, making it harder for thieves to intercept and replicate these signals.

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