For anyone living in an area where heated seats or air conditioning are a must-have feature, Remote Engine Start (RES) should be on their “must have” list. Why? Because it allows you to start the engine of your car from your home, office or other location within reach of your key fob.
Being able to remotely warm up a car’s engine in frigid temperatures is useful. However, the real benefit lies in heating the car’s cabin on bitterly cold days and cooling it down on hot days.
What is Remote Launch?
Remote starting is a function of your car’s key fob. This function allows you to start the engine from outside the vehicle, provided the remote control is within its working range. Not only can it start the engine, but it also activates the vehicle’s climate control system. Therefore, it can warm up the cabin when it is cold outside or cool the interior when the temperature is high. With some RES systems, your smartphone can act as a transmitter. This functionality may require a paid subscription service through the vehicle manufacturer.
How does it work?
Typical drivers just need to know which button on the fob to press and how long to hold it down. Otherwise, as far as you’re concerned, the rest might as well be magic. However, if your inner nerd is screaming for details, read on.
Although operating the RES is quite simple, getting the desired result is quite complex. An interface module or receiver is required to receive and translate the signal from the fob. It requires proper wiring in the vehicle’s ignition and starting mechanisms. In addition, connections are required to the vehicle’s battery, brake, and tachometer wires. Another RES requirement is a bypass module to initiate take-off without activating vehicle alarms or anti-theft devices.
RES works over the same radio frequencies as your fob’s remote lock/unlock feature. Whether via a separate button on the fob or a manipulation of the lock or unlock button, the fob signals the RES control unit. As soon as the control unit receives the correct signal, the starting sequence is started as if a key turned on the ignition.
Remote start in extreme temperatures
Remote start is one of those convenience features that won’t make your car safer or more efficient, but it will improve the passenger experience. Let’s face it, have the cabin temperature right where you want it every time you get in your car. Remote starting, however, shines brightest in insanely cold or warm temperatures. In other words, on those days with the tongue stuck to the flagpole or fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement.
Remote start in cold weather
You may appreciate remote starting the car if you’ve ever gotten into your car on a cold morning and had to drive three miles before the heater finally came on. It ensures that the climate system circulates warm air in the car, making it nice and warm when you are in the car. Ready to go. However, remote starting also has advantages in other ways.
- You never feel the need to drive your car with the key or remote in it, which invites theft.
- A heated cabin heats the windshield and windows, making snow and ice removal easier.
- Driving a car with a cold engine causes extra wear on engine parts. Warming up the fluids a bit before riding will reduce the stress on many engine components.
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Remote start in warm weather
Getting into your vehicle on a super hot day is like climbing into an oven. That’s literally, not figuratively. Because the motionless air in your car heats up, the inside temperature can be 20-30 degrees higher than the outside temperature. By starting your car remotely, the climate control system can restore a comfortable temperature level. There are other benefits of starting remotely on a steamy day:
- You don’t have to roll down the windows to “air out” the car before driving it.
- Surfaces such as the steering wheel and leather or vinyl seats will not burn you.
- Running the engine for a few minutes before driving allows the fluids to warm up, lubricating the engine and reducing wear on engine components.
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Is remote starting safe?
The sad truth is that just about any digitally connected device can be hacked. However, each RES system uses a separate and unique radio frequency, which is usually encrypted to prevent hacking. The RES system, in turn, has its own security protocol. Usually it includes securing the doors when the RES is engaged to prevent a third party from entering the vehicle without the correct key fob. In addition, the RES system will turn itself off if a third party gains access and attempts to drive the vehicle.
Most RES systems are programmed to shut down the engine after a preset time if the operator with a valid remote control does not enter the vehicle. This feature is useful if you get distracted after starting the car remotely and forget it is somewhere while the engine is running.
Of course, drivers should follow some best-safety practices. For example, do not turn on the RES if the vehicle is in a small, enclosed area, such as an attached garage.
What New Cars, Trucks, and SUVs Have Remote Starts?
Vehicles equipped with a manual transmission usually do not offer RES. Likewise, fully electric vehicles (EVs) do not have a remote starting system. However, most EVs have available or standard remote climate control to heat or cool the cabin before entering.
RES is standard or available on almost every luxury model.
Most mainstream car manufacturers have models for sale with a remote start function on a certain trim level. You are less likely to find RES on the lower classes of entry-level models. But even the $18,590 Nissan Versa SR has it. Here’s a rundown of mainstream brands with remote launch features:
- Buick: Every 2022 model has it available.
- Chevrolet: Every 2022 model has it available.
- Chrysler: Both 2022 models have it available.
- Dodge: All 2022 models have it available.
- Ford: It is available on all 2022 models.
- GMC: All 2022 models have it available.
- Honda: Accord, Civic, CR-V, Insight, Odyssey, Pilot and Ridgeline.
- Jeep: Every 2022 model has it available.
- Kia: All 2022 models have it available.
- Mazda: Offers RES only through a subscription to affiliate services.
- Mitsubishi: Outlander and Eclipse Cross require a subscription to connected services.
- Nissan: All 2022 models have it available except the 370Z and GT-R.
- Ram: Every 2022 Ram model has it as standard.
- Subaru: Every 2022 model has a remote start. A connected service subscription is required for the BRZ.
- Toyota: Offers RES only through a subscription to connected services.
- Volkswagen: All 2022 models offer remote starting, except the Golf R. The Golf GTI requires a subscription to connected services.
Can you add Remote Start to your current car?
Used cars built this century (2000 or later) will likely have manufacturer-made RES kits available through a local dealer’s parts department. So if RES was available on your model when it was new, buying the factory kit is your best bet.
Alternatively, there are many aftermarket kits on the market. One advantage of an aftermarket RES system is range. Often, these kits can send signals beyond the typical factory-installed system in new cars. Those rarely have a range of more than 100 feet or so. An aftermarket system can usually reach 1,000 feet or more, and some kits estimate their range in miles.
You’ll find choices ranging from about $50 for a basic package to $600 plus for more advanced systems.
Intrepid backyard mechanics or those experienced with electrical wiring diagrams may be able to install a RES. However, adjusting your vehicle’s electrical system is quite an undertaking. Our advice is to have it installed by a professional. Installation costs average about $200, but it depends on the sophistication of the RES system. Some retailers, such as Best Buy and Walmart, sell and install RES systems. A shop that offers the installation can be an affordable alternative to doing the work yourself.
Is remote starting worth it?
What determines the value of something is how much you are willing to pay for it. In other words, how much value does it have to you? If you live in San Diego, California, where it seems to be 70 degrees Fahrenheit all day every day of the year, you probably won’t find much value in RES.
On the other hand, residents of Mesa, Arizona, because of the consistently high temperatures, will appreciate the air conditioning before getting in the car. Likewise, it’s desirable to run the heater and defroster for a few minutes before getting behind the wheel in bitterly cold winter temperatures in Minot, North Dakota.
Chances are you don’t live in one of these extremes. The warmer and colder the temperatures are where you live, the more value you will get from an external engine starting system.