Car security components starting from the basic car alarm and continuing with immobiliser, security tint and car trackers are increasingly getting critical considering the number of vehicles being stolen every year. In 2021, Proton Wira topped the list for a known reason – the model is used as the base for the conversion into a modified Mitsubishi Evo look-alike or for parts. Image source: VTREC.
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It is said that the first car alarm was invented as early as 1913 by an unnamed prisoner from Denver. It took some 60 years before car alarms becomes commercial when Chrysler started to include car alarms in their car line-ups long before all car manufacturers now included them as standard car security accessories and owners have an option to upgrade these car security accessories.
One of the key factors when it comes to stealing a car is how long it will take to steal the car. If the car comes with a good alarm system and there are steering lock that cannot be easily cut or hacked into, it will take the thief longer to steal the car and thus increases the chance of him being caught.
Alarm Triggered: First Car
My very first came with a very basic alarm but did not have any immobiliser and yet I thought that with a steering lock, the car was secured enough to be parked in dark alleys. That is the case until one day, a walking salesman stopped me and asked if I am interested to install an immobiliser on the car.
Of course, I rejected it as a sales gimmick until he demonstrated how within 5 minutes he can disable the car alarm, showed how the steering lock can be dismantled and started the engine. In other words, despite having a car alarm and steering lock, in 5 minutes my car would disappear.
That demonstration woke me up to the reality of things and I got the salesman to install a basic form of immobiliser where the car can only be started if I had my fingers at a particular point in the car. Without that, the car cannot be started even using the original keys. Another thing I added was a sound sensor that triggers the alarm to go off and the reason for this was to trigger if someone breaks the window or the windscreen.
This was a mistake as the sound sensor that I installed was too sensitive that it will go off every time there is a thunderstorm outside or if anyone had accidentally knocked on the window. This often requires me to run out from the apartment unit on the third floor to the car park to switch off the car alarm and switch on the alarm again.
The worse is at night and wee hours when the car alarm can be triggered from the alarm from a grocery shop and the alarm will be sounding for some time before we realised that it is coming from my car.
Alarm trigged source: sensitive sound sensor
When it comes to replacing the keys for the car, it is not a matter of just duplicating from the original key instead all related components must be replaced starting with the ignition, the locks at the door and the boot and ensuring the chip in the new keys can communicate with the immobiliser. Image source: The Race Cartel
Alarm Triggered: Second Car
The next car which I am still using was a very modern car and it came with a high-tech car alarm system which has an immobiliser that communicates with the chip embedded in the car key.
In addition to this standard accessory, it was the first car at home to have an expensive security tint that protects the windows from anyone who tries to smash and grab whilst at the same time, protecting the cabin from the UV and heat outside. And as a standard practice, I made sure that all cars have a good steering lock which may deter potential carjackers although it is not guaranteed that the car will not be stolen.
Unlike the first car that had a sensitive sound sensor that triggers the car alarm unexpectedly, I did not make any changes to the standard car alarm or added any sound sensors. So we did not have any problem with the alarm triggering on its own and disturbing the peace until one day I was away on an overseas assignment.
There was a family function and someone used my car to drive around to buy some items for the function and somehow damaged the key slot. It ended up jamming the lock at the steering and when they tried to forcefully unlock the car, they must have damaged the car keys too. The immobiliser kicked in and they could not start the car. Then after several tries including calling a keysmith, they managed to unlock and start the car. However, the key was still difficult to turn which meant I had to replace the whole set.
As I was not in the country, my wife managed to get a mechanic that we know to come over and take the car from home to get the whole ignition key set replaced. He replaced but unfortunately, he replaced it with the wrong model key set which worked well in the beginning but it started to show problems just a week after. By then, I am back from my overseas assignment and immediately I noticed the key design was different from the original key design. I know the mechanic had installed the wrong key set for the car.
The alarm did not work most of the time and when it does, it will be armed for 10-15 minutes before the locks unlock on their own and the alarm goes off. I had to manually lock the doors without arming the alarm which was not safe considering the alarm was switched off.
In the end, I had to make an appointment with the authorised dealer and waited the whole day for the replacement key set to be ordered and delivered before the mechanic could replace the incorrect key set with the correct one. There is no problem with the alarm since then.
Alarm trigged source: damaged ignition key set and incorrect key set replacement
Car alarm systems these days are not expensive as compared 10-15 years ago. These days you can buy a decent system online but you may still need the right knowledge to install them. Image source: Shopee Malaysia
Alarm Triggered: Son’s Car
Just when we thought we have seen the end of the car alarm going off unexpectedly, it happened recently with the used car that we bought as the third car at home. There was no problem with the alarm since we took over the car from the dealer but then one night, it started to rain very heavily with loud thunderstorms.
Out of the blue, the car alarm goes off and we did not know what the cause of it was. It was still raining and it was too early in the morning for a closer inspection so we just do a manual lock and went back to sleep.
In the morning when the sun was up, the first thing I checked is if the doors are properly closed and this included the boot and yet the car alarm cannot be armed and when we managed to arm it, the alarm goes off blazing nosily. And that was the case for the whole day and I worried that it could be due to the failure of alarm components, as it is a used car. I called up my mechanic and arranged for him to take a look the next day.
Then something funny happened – by the time it was lunchtime and it was very hot outside, I tested the car alarm and surprisingly it armed as expected and there was no further problem thereafter. Despite this, I still decided to send it to the mechanic to do one round of inspection. Unfortunately, after he had checked, he still could not find any problem with the alarm.
He even splash water onto the alarm socket and the siren and yet there was no problem with the alarm. He asked us to monitor for a couple of days and if we hit a problem with the alarm, he asked us to bring back the car and he will open and check the wiring again. It has been some days since we had the problem with the alarm but so far, we did not have any problems.
Alarm trigged source: probable rainwater at the alarm socket or wiring
An alarm system is designed to work in conjunction with other deterrent systems which include security tint, steering lock and some common sense like parking the car where it is not dark & lonely. Personally, I always like to park the car where I can see the car at any one time or behind locked gates.
Even without a car alarm armed to provide early warning and to deter a potential thief from stealing the car, there should be some visible marking in the car that tells that it will not be easy for anyone to steal the car. And one of these would be a brightly coloured, branded steering lock which is locked at the joints.
A car alarm going off without warning can be inconvenient to others especially if the siren or the car horn is loud and it is blaring in the middle of the night even if the rest are sleeping. So it is best to ensure that regular service includes checking for any weak wiring or leakages that may cause electrical fault.