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Car thefts are a common issue as over 1 million vehicles were stolen last year which means that you must remain alert and protect your car.

In the past cars were started with just a simple metal key which was also used to lock and unlock the car but as car theft became more common and thieves learned to ‘hot wire’ cars and start them without using a key.

Car theft has become a big problem and in order to fight this phenomenon car manufacturers introduced a great technology innovation a security feature for cars called the Immobilizer.

What is a car immobilizer and what does it do? 

The Immobilizer

The car immobilizer is an electronic security device install in cars to prevent the engine from running unless the correct key is present and preventing your car from being “hot wired” if someone broke into it.

What is the history behind car immobilizers?

The car immobilizer was invented by St. George Evans and Edward Birkenbeul in the early 1900s but became much better and more complex in the 1980s and 1990s as of rising car theft rates.

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 common even within European car manufactures which regulate it and demand them in all new vehicles.

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

How exactly does an immobilizer work?

Your car key contain a tiny chip inside called a transponder. This chip doesn’t use a battery and it gets its power from the car itself when you insert the key into the ignition switch. There’s a receiver unit around the ignition switch that sends out a radio signal that connects uniquely with the transponder microchip.

Here is what happens when you put the key in the ignition:

Power Up: The radio signal from the car energizes the transponder in your key.

Handshake: The transponder transmits a unique electronic code back to the receiver in the car.

Match Check: The car immobilizer unit checks this code against a code stored in the car computer.

If the codes match the immobilizer gives the okay and the engine can start. But if the codes don’t match because a wrong key was being used, the immobilizer prevent the engine from starting by disabling the fuel injection or the ignition.

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