Car Alarms

October 21, 2014

Many years ago we had someone break into one of our cars and stole the radio in that car. That was the time I got interested in securing things whether it was my cars or the computer systems I worked on. That's just a horrible feeling, when someone just breaks your stuff and steals your items or the car itself. I have experience both which is the reason I try to help others as much as I can where I can. Now there are no guarantees but at least you can take some extra steps that will hopefully deter some of these things. Do keep in mind that there a lot of very good people in the world, but at the same time, there are many very bad people as well.

I've had several car alarms installed over the years and I have had problems with every one of them. They were all installed by the places I usually bought them from, but they also made a mess of the under dash. I have always like the convenience of them and the security on the cars. It's been many years since I have looked at them as many new cars now come with their own system from the manufacturer. Since my alarm was acting up I decided to look into them again and get something that I could install this time around. Normally you want a professional to do this sort of thing, but since I don't mind doing this and I can, I figured I just see what I could buy online that had the installation manual with it so I could do it. The internet is all about information, if you can't get it, then I would just move on to a different alarm, I don't need that headache. Granted, most people aren't like this or care to install their own which is fine.

The reason I like to do this is because I can install it where I want and no one else will know what I have or how it's installed. Plus, things have changed a bit, so here are a few things I like to look for in an alarm.

- Code hopping. This makes sure that your alarm is not turned off by anyone else or prevent you from arming your system with any other remote. Many old alarms have this problem. This is simply a security aspect and has been around for a while now. Very cheap alarms don't have code hopping.

- I like to keep it simple with just the basics as my car is a manual so I don't need a remote start for example. If you live in a very cold area, then this option may be very helpful in the mornings while you get ready. So you may want to get it as the alarm is not much more than without it. It can let you warm up your car in the winter or cool it off in the summer. However, not all remote start alarms support the manual transmission cars.Unfortunately I think one of my alarms has a temperature sensor and the darn thing won't work (unlock my doors) correctly if it's too cold. Either that or it wasn't installed properly. Stay away from anything with a temp sensor, they seem to act up in the winter time, specially if you got an old car that won't seal well. On a manual this may not work too well since you have to make sure the car is always out of gear or you may end up hitting a wall or something in front of it. I think many have more safety built into them, but still you should pay close attention when using them in a manual transmission type of car. Or just get one without and not even worry about that.

-Things have changed so much now that a basic system does what I need. Just don't get too cheap on these either because then you're just asking for trouble. For example, there are many very cheap systems that you can buy, but they can also be easily disabled as they don't have code hopping for example. Get anything with too many options and it can get a bit too overwhelming with things you probably won't even use. Plus you have to pay for each option you want installed if you're not doing the install yourself. Not to mention you may need to add relays if you have a car with no power locks or anything.

-A two way pager is now mandatory on all my systems. This lets me know if it is my car going off or someone else's when an alarm is screaming outside. I had an AM system and just upgraded to an FM system with a usb rechargeable remote battery. The range is supposed to be better on the FM. It's hard to say, but my car was outside and across the street when someone tapped the door, so at least it looks like it works. I hated using the AAA batteries on the old alarm. The new remote I can connect to my computer or the car USB. Trust me, changing AAA batteries sucks, not to mention your clock will never have the correct time like a VCR. Not all alarms have the usb charging on them yet, but there are a few that do now and they are affordable compared to years past. This is the other nice thing about alarms now, they have gone down in price as the technologies have gotten much better.

-A two stage shock sensor is what they now come with and it's nice to have as you can adjust them to where they work, but won't give you false alarms.

-Now I also add a proximity/radar sensor for the interior. Thieves know not to open doors when they break a window without hitting it. I saw a few youtube videos where they just lean over after breaking the window and steal the stereos of new cars for example. An internal sensor will make sure the alarm triggers if someone decides they still want to break your window. Now these need to be adjusted correctly and they also now have two stages. If you don't adjust these correctly you will get many false alarms. There are other tilt sensors that can be added if you wish, but since my basic alarm only has one sensor input, a second one is probably the most you can go with and the radar is the one I choose. It's a matter of preference but at least you know these will cover most of the car. This is a no brainer but most if not all installs don't include this sensor. There is also a tilt sensor you can buy, but I think the first two set correctly will take care of motion as well.

I finally ended up replacing my alarm and I also found that both door trigger inputs had been installed. You only need to use one or the other and I now know that's why my alarm was also acting up. Either way I can say that the new system has been working flawlessly so only time will tell. I also did a much cleaner install on it that it is now easy for me to work under there if I need to. The true test of any alarm is the winter though. If it doesn't go off randomly and still works the way it's supposed to, then that's just what you want. I would stay away from any that have a temperature sensor, but instead you can tell it when you want to turn it on. This may or may not matter if you have an older car with old seals where the cold gets inside your car. The extreme weather cold or hot can also affect many components, so just be aware of this which means placement of an alarm may be more crucial with an older car that doesn't seal well. A good example is a convertible to give you an idea. Those will give you more false alarms than you really want.

Next thing on the list is to make sure that both the siren that comes with your alarm is installed/connected as well as your car horn. This gives you more noise but also gives you another noise maker in case someone does cut your siren wires, hypothetically. I say hypothetically because you would know right away something is not right when you first turn the alarm on or off. This will still leave you with the horn doing the job of scaring the bad guys since no one in their right mind wants to attract attention to themselves. But again, make sure your sensors are dialed in correctly so that you are not making noise all the time but if that happens you will know something is not right. Specially since now your car will make a more distinct sound when and if the alarm goes off.

So far I have used the following brands:
Crimestopper - Affordable because it's not a popular name brand and seems to work just fine so far. Only time will tell. I like the basic features so far and has not given me any trouble in the week I had it. I do like that they have the very same system with a remote start if you live in the cold and have an automatic car. You can go with that instead of the basic two way system with no remote start. Keep in mind that you will need to install more wires with a remote start. Not hard but if you take your time it can be done. So you need to think about where it's going before you start since you will have more wires to tuck under the dash. The remote start versions do include more built-in relays though. I have contacted them both through email and phone and they have been pretty good about helping me out. I didn't need much help but had a few questions regarding their systems. No questions asked from them so I like that since I did buy their product. Again, the internet is about information, if I can't get it from the manufacturer I don't want their products. Their remotes are usb rechargeable which I like better now.
http://www.crimestopper.com/products/products.html

Scytek (I found the settings were getting reset with the key on/off more than one time and/or battery off for whatever reason so this is why I took it out too) - This was replaced due to it acting up a bit. It was a two way AM system, but the remote used AAA batteries which didn't last long and they were also very fat in the pocket. This one had a  wire installed wrong as well which could have also contributed to my problem. Hard to say but this is not a brand I can recommend. Although I did like the fact that I could hear it when it got bumped all the way to my room. The moral of the story here is that no matter what type of alarm you get, if it's not installed properly it will be more headaches than something that protects your car.

Clifford (Now a more expensive brand) - Was a decent quality and I don't know how they are now that they got bought out by DEI, another alarm manufacturer and I have read of quite a few problems with the DEI alarms. Unfortunately they are also more expensive and it's hard to get their installation manuals so you can do the installation yourself. This one keeps acting up in the winter time for me unfortunately. It will need to get updated anyway so I won't bother with it.
http://www.clifford.com/

Carbine - Unfortunately they also don't provide their installation manuals online so I won't bother. (I emailed them but never heard back from them so I can't recommend them anymore) - I used one of these many years ago. I like that they were made here, but the one I got was easily disabled at the time. There are new ones now, so I think they are still good, but you have to look at the specifications like any other system to make sure it's what you want and that you can get some help and information from them or you will be stuck with something you can't use or fix.
http://www.magnadyne.com/catalog/category.cfm?CID=25855

In short, check the reviews on amazon or anywhere you can find them, you can also just purchase alarms on there as well. Just make sure you can get the installation manual if you are going to do this yourself or you will be stuck with an alarm you can't install. Most manuals can be found on the net, but check the manufacturers website first. If you can get it from them then you will have an easier time installing it yourself.

The crimestopper and scytek come with the installation manual. Cliffords don't, but some places may give them to you, I just asked for it since I bought the thing. They're just weird like that and I forgot that they also have  many programmable functions that you need a special tool or software to change. I got the software for my old Clifford, but that junk never worked anyway. I just could not get the computer to connect to it. So this is one reason I would stay away from anything that you can't easily program yourself.

There are many alarm brands out there and most of them have the same basic functions, but this should help give you an idea of what to look for. I'll list other companies below as I find or remember them. I have not use them so I can't say how good or bad they are, but I like having options. So basically you want to look at the specifications and what each one has so you know what you're getting and if it has all the ports and features you want or will actually use.

Omega - The newer remotes also have usb recharging which is nice and they do provide the installation manuals which is very helpful. The remotes also have a parking meter timer which I didn't know about. I have contacted them about information on their systems and they have been very quick about it, so their support seems pretty good and I haven't bought anything from them yet. I was really liking these alarm units until I saw the price on the replacement remotes! They went from 59.99 and up. Twenty or thirty bucks okay, but for a little more, I can get a whole system with remote start. So this has turned me away unfortunately. That is not to say they are still not a good choice.
http://www.caralarm.com/

Bulldog - These are very very basic systems found at your local auto parts store. So you may want to skip these, but the accessories seem to be the same as any others and cheap too. 
http://www.bulldogsecurity.com/Default.aspx

Audiobox - I didn't know they had any alarms. 
http://www.audiovoxproducts.com/prestige/
http://www.audiovoxproducts.com/code-alarm/

Compustar - More expensive and could not get the installation manuals on-line so that's that.
http://www.compustar.com/index.php

Soundstream - I didn't know that they also made car alarms. Both owners and installation manuals are on their site as well which I like. I also like all the information laid out on the site which you can just view at a glance making it easier to know what each alarm has or doesn't have. I can tell you that 1500 feet or even 3000 feet is not much if you actually get that far with other obstacles in between. But again, do you really need to open your car from that far away?
http://security.soundstream.com/

If you want to install your own alarm, you can now buy them from the following places. These of course are just a couple of suggestions since there are many, many stores you can purchase from.
http://www.amazon.com/- Usually a no hassle return if you need to as long as it's sold by amazon, other vendors on there may be different so you have to be careful.
http://www.ebay.com/- Easy buy, but may not be as easy to return or get support
http://www.sonicelectronix.com/

Of course directly contacting the manufacturer is usually best. This way you can find out what is available to you in terms of information and tech support. You can get a feel for the tech support when you contact them as well. Both of these are very important if you want to do your own installations.

Here are two diagrams that I put together and used myself and work very well. The first one is for the added radar/proximity sensor and how to add it to the shock sensor when there is only one sensor input on the alarm. It is very important to set both sensors correctly by testing them or you will end up with false alarms which will annoy your neighbors and people around. That's not something you want either.

Warning: It was recommended I use a different power/ground source for the radar sensor since my new alarm only has one sensor input. I used the radio always on power wire to power it, but like anything else, the battery eventually does get drained even if the source is low. It may also be the battery, but it works fine when I don't have anything else connected to that power. I experienced the same thing with the dash cam even though the power comes from the ignition wire which only turns on when I put the key in. I took the camera out since the power button on it would also keep it on all the time, draining the battery. I then added this sensor to the radio always on power and started having the same problem so I will be taking it out of there and putting it on the same alarm wires and not directly to the battery which makes sense if you don't want to drain it. I'm hoping that works since I was told there may not be enough power for both sensors coming out of there. You can't use the ignition for this obviously since you want this to be on when the car is turned off and the alarm on. I'll have to try it to be sure as I know this first setup is not working. The sensor works, but it stills eats the battery I have which is an AGM type of battery.

In the end I went ahead and fix all sensor wires to the other sensor wires coming from the alarm, including the positive and negative and it's all working fine on my alarm even after some very cold temperatures for where we live. The temp has going down to 38 degrees F and even lower in some places. We also had some heavy rain and winds in the past two weeks and I had no false alarms. So it all comes down to making sure you set these correctly once installed and they will do their job and the car is always protected. If you want any more sensors though, you will have to find an alarm with more sensor inputs I'm afraid, at least just to make sure they work properly.

I forgot to mention a couple of things when I first wrote this. The diode band or cathode (negative side goes to the radar sensor. I just did this again on another alarm, but you only need it on one sensor, not both. So just put a diode on the blue and green sensing wires to prevent the sensor from triggering each other. I also just soldered the red and black wire to the shock sensor wires so that both sensors work from the alarm itself, this way you don't have to worry about draining your battery through here and both should work like stock. Here's the link where you can read a bit more on the diodes.
http://www.the12volt.com/diodes/diodes.asp

This diagram is for adding door lock relays to a car that doesn't have them, the third relay is for the priority unlock in order to open the passenger or other doors with a second button press of your remote. This way only the driver always locks and unlocks. This may not be as convenient in many places with low crime or two door cars, but very important in those with high crime. The switch allows me to lock/unlock all the doors at the same time since my car didn't have anything. This way I can still open the other door when I get in without having to reach over the other side. If you leave the third relay out and just use two, then both doors will lock/unlock at the same time.

FYI: If you have never used this feature make sure you use it just to get familiar with it. I recently had someone in the car and the door wasn't opening and I had totally forgotten about this feature. I thought the door lock or something was broken and then I realized that it was working as designed. Trust me it will save you the headache when you do have to use it. I had to go in there but also had to fix a wire so it was fine.

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