How Does Immobiliser Work? (Simply Explained)

An immobiliser is one of the important tool when it comes to you car’s safety.

As a guy who is crazy about car safety, I will tell you everything you should know about immobiliser.

You’ll find out step-by-step how immobiliser works, what to do if it’s not working and many more!

How Does Immobiliser Work and What is it for?

An immobiliser protects your car from being stolen by comparing signals from the receiver and transponder. It blocks the ignition system or the fuel pump. In effect, when someone is trying to steal a car, the starter is spinning out, but the car will not start.

In some cars, immobiliser turns off the whole electronics, but it’s very rare.

That’s just a general rule of how immobiliser works. Continue reading the article to find out how it works in detail.

How Does Immobiliser Look Like and Where to Find it?

An immobiliser is made out of a transponder and a receiver. A transponder is inside the ignition key and a receiver in an ignition switch.

The transponder after getting it out of the ignition key looks like this. It’s basically a small chip.

the transponder

Sometimes it can be in a “pendant” bounded to your ignition key.

And the receiver which resides under the steering wheel.

the receiver

In the past, to start an engine, you had to type the PIN code. You can find this solution in old Citroen cars, but it’s pretty rare.

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Does Every Car Have Immobiliser?

All cars manufactured after October 1998 must have an immobiliser. If your car is older, there are a few ways that you can find it out, for example by disassembling the ignition switch.

The other methods how you can check out if you have an immobiliser are:

  • Checking if the immobiliser icon is on– the simplest method to check if the immobiliser is working is to check the immobiliser icon. It’s not 100% accurate because the lamp of the icon might be burned out, or it might not be available in your car.
  • Wrapping the ignition key with a foil- if you wrap the plastic element of your ignition key with a foil, and your car won’t start, it means that you have an immobiliser.
  • Disassembling the ignition key- that demands some work and precision, but you can easily check if there is a transponder inside your ignition key. It looks like a small battery with a copper element inside.
  • Checking the car’s manual- in every car’s manual, you should find the information about the immobiliser.
  • Asking your mechanic- you can ask your mechanic. If he doesn’t know, he can easily disassemble the ignition switch and check it out for you.

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Step-by-Step How Immobiliser Works

The whole process is pretty simple and it all happens in a split second.

1. You put the ignition key with a transponder that is inside it to the ignition switch and turn the key.

2. When you turn the key, data exchange will happen and the signal will be sent from the transporder inside the ignition key to the receiver that is in the ignition switch.

3. The signal is being analyzed by the receiver, and if it’s correct, the receiver sends the signal to the transponder inside the ignition key that launches the checking process.

4. When both signals in the transponder and the receiver are correct, the ignition key is accepted, and you can start your car.

During this process, the immobiliser icon will appear on your dashboard. It looks like this:

immobiliser icon

It disappears when the process of data exchange is done.

In cars with a keyless system, you don’t put the ignition key to the ignition switch. Instead, you just need to have the ignition key around so that the receiver will catch the signal from the transponder.

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Can You be 100% Sure that Your Car Won’t be Stolen?

An immobiliser isn’t perfect, and your car can still be stolen with the use of scanning tools. However, the security systems in newer cars are more advanced, and it’s way harder to steal such a car.

How does it work?

When someone wants to steal your car, he needs a help of a second person. They are both equipped with a signal extender.

The first person is fooling around a place where your ignition key might be. It might be, for example, your house, workplace, or grocery store, but he doesn’t even have to be inside. He is searching for the signal from the transponder outside.

If he catches the signal, another person is standing next to the car and is receiving the signal. That way, it’s possible to open the doors, start the car and drive away.

how can thefts steal your car

Is there a way that you can avoid it?

Yes, there are a few ways. First, you can buy an anti-theft case- it looks like a wallet for your ignition key. The anti-theft case blocks the signal that the transponder emits and prevents your car from being stolen.

Alternatively, you can automatically turn off your immobiliser, but it’s possible only in the newer cars.

If your car will be somehow stolen, it’s a good thing to install GPS to follow its journey in the realtime.

Also, I’m sure you’ve seen in the movies that a theft gets into the car, connects some cables, and drives away. Is it possible?

Yes, but only if your car isn’t equipped with immobiliser.

You only need to get into the car, take off the insulation, connect the car battery cable with the ignition cable, and bind. Next, you need to touch the starter cable to the connection of those cables, and it’s done.

But like I told you, nowadays it’s almost impossible, because most cars have an immobiliser.

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How to Check if Your Immobiliser Really Work?

As you can see, if your immobiliser isn’t working, it’s relatively easy to steal your car. To prevent it, you need to make sure your immobiliser works correctly.

The easiest way to do it is to make sure that the immobiliser icon in the dashboard goes out. If it goes out after 2-4 seconds, it means that immobiliser works correctly.

If you want to be 100% sure, it’s a good idea to wrap the key ignition with a foil. A foil blocks the immobiliser signal, so if your car won’t start, it means immobiliser works.

Don’t wrap the whole ignition key, only the plastic element where the chip is.

What to do if Immobiliser isn’t Working?

How to know if immobiliser isn’t working? It’s easy. Your car won’t start. It might start for 1 or 2 seconds, but it will turn off.

The first thing you should do is to use your spare ignition key if you have it. If it works, it means that you need to replace the battery in your previous ignition key or the transponder is broken.

If the transponder is broken, you need to go to your local dealership to fix it or buy a new one. There can also be a receiver or software problem that also should be fixed in your dealership.

If the dealership is too expensive for you, make sure you visit a reputable mechanic.