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Special Projects 101: Part 6: New Car Makeover 2021 – PKE Alarm System

PKE Alarm System Car Makeover

All new cars these days come with a keyless alarm system which takes away the need to have the physical key and some even have PKE or passive keyless entry alarm system. Add that with a large Android entertainment system, digital dashboard, cameras and multiple USB ports, one has to wonder how taxing it will be on the electrical systems of the car. Image source: Asm Arif/Pexel.

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After the last “upgrade” done in 2022, there was not much work done on the car other than perfecting my detailing skills so that the car looks sparkling new & clean especially the easy to get dirty rims.

That is until I started to have problems with the car alarm again although I would have ignored it as it was not like the previous time when I had problems with the car alarm. It started off with one of the indicators that had failed to work, it was not a major issue though. The alarm was still working perfectly but not seeing another faulty item did not set well.

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Car alarm connections are of the same standard & built like any other electrical system so it is open for issues. The only problem is when it will happen – if it happens at home, then one can open up the dashboard to check on the connections. But it happens whilst you are driving or outside far away from home, it can be dangerous. 

Problem With Car Alam

Car alarm problems in the past only required me to reset the sensors and replace the keys & locks but the car alarm remained in the original box and never been replaced. Now that the indicator was not working – at first, the right indicator and then the left indicator after checking with my mechanics who unattached the cables and confirmed that it is due to a faulty alarm box. Somehow the alarm box is not sending the signal to the indicators whenever I arm & disarm the alarm.

For some time, I ignored these little shortcomings in the alarm system as the alarm itself was working well. However, the fact that one of the indicators was not working already indicated that the alarm box already started to have a problem. The only uncertainty is whether it will be the end of the problem or if I going to face other problems.

I resisted all temptation to go out and simply change the alarm for another or look for the original alarm box as the after-market alarms look mostly Chinese cheap brands and the original alarm box seems too expensive.

Car Alarm System Shopee Online PKE

Car alarm systems these days are not expensive as compared to 10-15 years ago. These days you can buy a decent system online but you may still need the right knowledge to install them or get the shop technicians to install it for you for a small fee. Image source: Shopee Malaysia

Opting for PKE Alarm System

I called a few car accessories shop to check on the car security products that are on offer – most seems to have the same type of cheap after-market alarm costing about RM250 to RM280 including installation. However, most of them informed me that the car alarm does not support trunk release which is available in the original alarm. I still use the steering lock from Day 1 of my having a car as I trust it is a big deterrent for any potential carjackers.

Then I came across the solution of having a PKE alarm system that allows old cars to have the same keyless system as most new cars. It is not a cheaper option obviously. Of course, there are pros and cons of having a keyless system.

The primary advantage is the PKE alarm system is the auto lock & unlock function where once you are away from the car, the alarm system auto-locks the doors & automatically arms the alarm when one walks away from the car. And if you walk back to the car, the alarm senses the key and unlocks & unarms the alarm automatically.

And why this is important?

At this age, there are times when I forget if I had locked up the car especially when one is busy with events. Often I would walk all the way back to the parking lot, just to see if I had switched on the alarm. The original alarm system had an auto-lock feature but it does not work all the time. With the PKE alarm system, it seems like it auto-locks the car and arms the alarm all the time. Further now both indicators are working well again.

PKE Car Alarm System Keyless

I could not get many details of this brand Smart Lock PKE alarm system from the net and checking with the vendor, indicates that it is sourced from South Korea. Other car alarms in the market are likely to be from China. I wonder what happened to the more famous brands like Cobra that were prevalent in Malaysia 10-15 years ago, 

Installing PKE Alarm System

Looking at several shops that provide keyless alarm installation and many more that sells the system online but requires the buyer to install it themselves. Frankly speaking, I did not want to touch any of the electricals in the system & screw it up. Further, I don’t have all the tools & cables to do the installation so self-installation was totally out of the idea.

I opted for a supplier who has installed similar systems to the same models thus I know that they will know which cables to pull & attach the new connections. The installation work started with checking the condition of the battery & alternator which my car passed with flying colours (or so I thought). The actual installation work started and it took almost 3 hours to complete.

The PKE alarm system is mentioned to be sourced from South Korea although I found their office located in Singapore. There was not much information available online and similar systems seem to be marketed under different brands.

The installer knows his work well and he started off with the back, disconnecting all the cables from the old original alarm system and then pulling all the new cables from there. All the connections are properly taped and plastic straps to properly secure the connections. All the existing cables & connectors of the original alarm system is left intact in case I decide to change it back to the original alarm system. This is a good sign.

The key & immobiliser from the original alarm system was attached back to prevent the steering from locking once the engine started using the push-start button. This PKE alarm system also allows for the remote start of the engine in case you want to start up front to warm the engine & perhaps to get the aircon to cool down. However, personally, it is unlikely I will use this feature.

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I guess one of the good things that came out of this experience is that I learned more about the electrical systems in the car and how voltage monitoring helps to avoid bigger problems in the near future. I only did the simple, straightforward test but there are more tests to be done. 

Voltage & Other Problems

It is evident that any new add-ons to the car’s electrical system like the PKE keyless alarm system or a new infotainment system will be taxing on the battery especially if it is an older car which does not come with the more expensive & larger batteries. For monitoring, I added a voltmeter which can be installed on the power socket in the car. In addition, I also have a voltmeter which I can check directly on the battery terminals.

Battery before starting the engine shows more than 12 volts (around 12.5 volts) and when the engine started without switching on the dashcam, radio and the airconditioner, the voltage goes up to more than 14 volts which indicates that the alternator is working. Then once you switch on the other electrical items in the car, the voltage drops to some 13.7 volts and then it keeps dropping down.

It gets worse when it is a traffic jam and the car is not moving, the voltage goes down to 12.5 volts before jumping back to 13.6 – 13.7 volts which calls for great concern. I need to closely monitor the voltages for the next few days.

Another reported shortcoming with the PKE alarm system is that it is easier to be hacked. This is because PKE systems use radio waves to communicate with the car and thus hackers can intercept these radio waves & unlock the car with their devices. This is very true but experienced carjackers can unlock any type of alarm system including the old ones using the keys. The question is how long it will take for the carjackers to bypass the system and one way to deter any potential carjackers would be to add a steering lock which makes the carjacking attempt longer.

The other reported shortcoming is that the PKE alarm system can be unreliable as there is no physical key and everything else is connected electronically. All you need is one faulty wire for the whole system to go haywire. The usual fault with a keyless system is the need to ensure the FOB key batteries are fully charged to ensure that the system is able to detect the key. Sometimes a dumb person can screw up the battery replacement causing your keys to having a problem like how I encountered last year.

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If the car alarm goes “rogue”, there is no way to simply turn off the key for a keyless alarm system and one does not know when the PKE alarm system will last simple problems like cabin condensation which my car has even though the one I installed comes with 1 year + 3 months warranty and it was tested after it was installed by the technician. 

Final Say

To be frank, despite the so-called upgrade and after 3 hours of installation waiting time and paying more than usual for a car alarm system, I ended up REGRET installing the PKE alarm system. Don’t get me wrong, the PKE alarm system is a step up in car security and it has its advantages. But after tracking on the voltage of the car after installing the PKE alarm system, I have my concerns.

But then I may be worried for nothing, after all, the car battery is not new (but then is not too old as well), the ignition & alternator is still the original and it may have started to deteriorate just when I decided to change the alarm system. So far monitoring shows that the voltage did not go below 12 volts except when I start the engine but this seems to be normal from what I have checked on the internet. It should not dip below 12 volts after the engine has started.

Since I have spent considerable time and money (the PKE alarm system cost more than double the standard alarm system), I will continue to use the PKE alarm system for now but do a very close monitoring of the voltage which seems to be more critical.

To be continued…

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