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Old 09-26-2002, 03:14 AM
Posts: n/a
Question Is a Remote Starter a Bad Idea?

Living in the great white north can get pretty cold during the winter and so I have been considering getting a remote starter for my wife's 93 400E. She mentioned it to a tech at a local MB dealership and he told not to do it and to leave the car stock.
My wife says that since the tech is the expert, we'd better listen to him.
Any second opinions out there? Could I mess up her car by installing a remote starter?
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Old 09-26-2002, 07:01 AM
jsmith's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: At Sea
Posts: 1,729
i think remote starters are a great idea in winter. have one for the family van which does daily train station / car pool service and it's great. the problem is in installation - circuit city took 3 visits to get it right! i found out later that they were basically doing it almost by trial and error. once they had all the hookups done i did all the reprogramming from the control unit.

if an installer is very familiar with MB's i don't see why not but there aren't a lot of them out there. MB's electricals aren't that complicated - just obscure since it's not what your neighborhood alarm installer deals with on a day to day basis...
1993 300e-2.8
- gone now <sigh>
"Do not adjust your mind, it's reality that's malfunctioning"
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Old 09-26-2002, 07:18 AM
Michael's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: CT, USA
Posts: 2,699
I have one in my TE and LOVE it...put it in for my wife so she doesn't have to get into a cold car, and it ensures that she'll take the minute and actually warm the thing up
"If everything seems under control, you're simply not going fast enough" --Mario Andretti

1995 E500 street car
1986 Porsche 944 Turbo S track car
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Old 09-26-2002, 07:52 AM
Posts: n/a
Sure, it's a great gadget for the winter.

The practical side of this is the complications involved with such a modification. If it is done WELL by someone who KNOWS how to properly make such wiring modifications, no problem.

Where the problem comes in with aftermarket electronics is the installation. These installations are usually performed with cheap connectors of various descriptions and usually done by someone with minimal electrical experience.

IMHO, most aftermarket electrical modifications result in problems. Personally, I refuse to take a fine piece of machinery like a 400E and place it in the hands of an electrical butcher. This can lead to so many different kinds of problems you wouldn't believe it.

How do you find someone who can and will do it correctly? I have no idea.

I would NOT do it.

Good luck,
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Old 09-26-2002, 08:57 AM
I told you so!
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Motor City, MI
Posts: 2,804
I agree with Larry. I've personally seen lots of electrical butchers out there (alarms and remote starters).

Unless you can guarantee that someone will do it right and take the time to make rock solid connections and secure the wire routing properly, the trouble you invite may be greater than the convenience of a remote starter.
95 E320 Cabriolet, 140K
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Old 09-26-2002, 09:03 AM
Posts: n/a
What about fitting an electric pre heater which plugs into the mains and warms up the coolant, i have seen them advertised in 4x4 magazines?
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Old 09-26-2002, 09:33 AM
Female Pimp
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Bay Area
Posts: 458
Here my .02 cents:

I had remote start on my 89 300E
I currently have remote start on my 95 E420
I currently have remote start on my 94 E500

All of my cars where taken to a different shop to install the car alarm with remote start. Not because I wasn't happy with one shop, but because it was a convience thing . I went to a local shop by my house and then the other times I went to a shop by my job. And one time I wanted a special two-paging alarm and only 1 shop in my are sold and installed it.

All 3 cars never had a problem with the remote start or any other eletrical gremlin (knock on wood).

i personally would worry problems with remote start. Just go to a shop that is insured and it is all good.
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Old 09-26-2002, 10:19 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: ajax, ontario, canada
Posts: 773
when I start my car, I want to monitor the oil pressure gauge to ensure that the oil pressure actually climbs after a few seconds. If it did not for some reason, then I can kill the engine to prevent damage.

I also monitor the other indicator lamps to ensure that everything is ok before letting it idle further.
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Old 09-26-2002, 10:19 AM
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Just a guy
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
This is a copy of a post I made to a topic inquiring about a remote start in a W140:

I'll highlight in bold parts that you should pay special attention to with your 400E

I used to own a shop that specialized in auto electronics. Ultra high-end audio systems (did a couple systems with price tags well over $100K, lots $30-50K.) We also did lots of remote car starters, as I live in frigid Canada.

We were the only shop in the city recommended by BMW and Mercedes dealers.

We did lots of W140 pre-switchblade/pre-SmartKey cars. Easy (relative to some other Mercedes) system IF you know what you're doing. DON'T go to somewhere that has no Mercedes experience. Mercedes interior panels work differently than regular cars. These cars have many quirks that can trip up a regular electronics installer. I repeat: IF THEY DON'T HAVE MERCEDES EXPERIENCE RUN AWAY. They could do real damage to your car. Know how much an instrument cluster costs?

Ask if they use SRS and ECM safe testing/installing equipment. A circuit tester uses voltage to test the wire. Even a tiny voltage like the one given out by a tester will INFLATE AN AIRBAG. Or wreck your ASR/ETS/ESP computer. Special (read: expensive) testing equipment is needed to work on MB cars. We used a small ECM/SRS safe test light for tight spaces. Snap-On's best price: $600. For one small light, with no other stuff. Ouch.

(as an aside, pulling the fuse for your SRS may not disable it as the voltage required to fire it is so low, a static charge in the unit or on the line will be enough if the sensor indicates a condition to fire)

Ask them if they know where the tach pick up is for your car. You don't want them poking a tester into ignition system components. They need to know where it is, right off.

Ask them if they know how to by-pass the factory anti-theft system. You don't want them poking wires trying to figure it out.

Ask them what types of joints they use. Anything other than soldered for EVERY wire, run away. Ask for references from MB owners. We gladly gave that out.

1. The SmartKey cars CANNOT be equipped with a remote car starter. Mercedes will NOT release the encription codes for the anti-theft key. The double system of RF and IR, both using rolling code algorithmic encription systems is impossible to get around. We took a C43 completely apart, and couldn't solve it.

2. The Mercedes switchblade key can be broken, but the AAM computer will figure out that an unauthorized key is being used, and TOTALLY disable the car. It only takes a few remote starts, and your car is DEAD. Then, ouch, the system erases all the keys and you end up $$ light at the dealer. And you don't want to know what a new AAM computer and key set costs. The GDP of some nations.

3. You may no longer be welcome at some MB dealers. Some will NOT work on an automobile equipped with a remote start unit. Mercedes' factory believes them to be inherently unsafe. "The car should not be running unattended."

4. This will not be cheap, and if the price quoted to you seems "great", there is a reason. We NEVER did ANY Mercedes system for less than $1500. Quality takes time. Lots of it. Some MB owners were disappointed at the cost (we did Neons for $169 installed), but when they learned why, they understood. Also, the Neon didn't get top-line electronics.

5. Find about safety systems. We NEVER let a car out of the door without a sophisticated hood pin (series of electromagnets) system that detected when the hood was open and disabled the starter. That way you couldn't accidentally start the car with the hood up. If they show a puny spring operated pin, then you're in the wrong shop. If the car was put into gear, the engine would die. If the brake pedal was touched, the car would die. If the rpm broke a certain threshold, the car would die. The remote start system has to be tied into all those systems to ensure safe operation. If the shop says it's not required, RUN AWAY. Tying into all that electronic stuff takes time and expertise.

We did a 1993 S600 car. Top-line system, superb installation. By-pass factory security, added keyless entry. Price: $3500. 1/2 mile range with page-back to confirm start. Lock/Unlock status through page-back. Took a week to carefully dismantle the dash, install the unit, and reinstall interior bits. I'm sure we barely broke even after paying the labour charges.

BTW, the Mercedes SmartKey is the cat's ass of anti-theft systems. Nothing better sold today. Unbreakable even by techs with killer equipment.

We took a 2000 323i apart and broke the BMW radio-key system. 2nd toughest.

We broke all the Japanese systems quickly. Lexus almost on par with BMW, miles behind Mercedes

GM/Chryco/Ford's took about 15 minutes. Simple systems, easy to crack. Keep only joy-riders from taking your car.

Easiest car to steal? GM. and Dodge Neon. Gone in 60 seconds? What took you SO LONG!!!?

Anyway, be VERY careful when looking into having a remote starter installed on your Mercedes. It's NOT an easy thing to install (despite the claims of some systems sold over-the-counter touting DIY install) and takes a huge amount of knowledge, equipment,and time.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K
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Old 09-26-2002, 10:50 AM
'82 300TD-T
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: SoCal
Posts: 276
Originally posted by blackmercedes
This is a copy of a post I made to a topic inquiring about a remote start in a W140:

I'll highlight in bold parts that you should pay special attention to with your 400E
THAT was a damn good post - it's the kind of info that's gonna save someone on this board thousands of dollars, not to mention hours of headaches...
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Old 09-26-2002, 03:46 PM
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Just a guy
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
Originally posted by Joe Blowe
THAT was a damn good post - it's the kind of info that's gonna save someone on this board thousands of dollars, not to mention hours of headaches...
Thanks for the kind words.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K
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Old 09-26-2002, 05:10 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Bismarck, ND, USA
Posts: 40
OK, here's my two cents on this. As a disclaimer, I've never had a remote start on any vehicle, and have lived in northern climates almost all my 51 years. Also, one of my pet peeves around here is how many people leave their motors idling while the car is parked (and the vehicles are usually, but not always, locked).

I think remote starters are bad ideas for 2 main reasons:
1. An idling car wastes fuel (zero miles per gallon), and this is a pretty extravagant and environmentally unfriendly way to have a warm car to get into.
2. Every auto manufacturer that I'm aware of recommends that a cold vehicle be driven (gently) to warm it up. Idling over 30 seconds or so isn't necessary and isn't recommended. Also, frequent or prolonged idling is generally considered "severe service" and is one factor requiring more frequent oil changes.

Block heaters can be used to warm the coolant and/or oil (but I never use mine unless the vehicle is parked outside and it's well below zero and I remember to plug it in). There's nothing like a garage, though. Heated seats are also pretty nice on a cold morning.

John R. Boyce
Bismarck, ND
1983 280SL, Euro, 5 speed
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Old 09-26-2002, 05:13 PM
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,105
blackmercedes: what is your opinion on installing a system like that on a newer five series BMW(97 528i). Same problems? same costs?
83 300SD.......sold
96 integra SE....sold
99 a4 quattro....sold
2001 IS300.......sold
2002 330i.........current.
2004 highlander limited....current.
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Old 09-26-2002, 06:32 PM
blackmercedes's Avatar
Just a guy
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
Neither of our MB's have a remote start. The C230 can't be equipped with one anyway, and the 190E doesn't have one either. See a couple posts above for why (not the best solution).

That said, our ol' Mazda 626 has one. Pure convience, but only used occasionaly. One nice benefit is it's a multi channel unit with remote locking/unlocking and trunk release.

Also, the Mazda sits outside, even in -40, and if we're using the car, I start it a couple minutes before leaving to make sure of good drivability.

Both MB's sit garaged, and have access to a plug in for block heater use. MB's have super block heaters, and generally I have heat before the end of the street.

As to a late BMW 5-series, I can't remember the specific key encoding for that car. (I SHOULD, since we owned a 1997 528i!!). I think the system requires an additional key to be "cut" and the encoding is difficult to get around.

Also with the BMW, all the notes about using the right equipment should be followed. A BMW is as complex as a Mercedes, and it's electrical components are just as expensive. BMW's also use sophisticated ignition systems, and baring/poking wires to get a tach point is also a no-no. One thing that makes installation more difficult is the need to accurately measure RPM, which is quite a task on MB and BMW cars. SRS systems are also complex, using multiple sensors. This means a greater likelihood of stabbing an SRS wire.

Some BMW cars have key-specific memory systems that allow different drivers to program their cars and have the car save the settings using the key as the trigger. These systems can get screwed up during the process of bypassing the factory anti-theft, and it takes some care to make it work properly.

BMW cars also have expensive interior panels and materials. A goof is an expensive goof.

BMW cars also have traction control systems, which, for some reason, seem easily damaged by adding electronics to the car. Dodge Intrepid systems are really delicate, and we refused to work on such cars.

And don't forget about safety systems. Don't install a unit that won't deactivate when the hood is opened, the brake stepped on, the shift lever moved, or an RPM threshold exceeded.

Also, a good install means a good "start." This means that the unit disengages the moment the engine is catching, to keep from grinding the starter. This is the programming of the unit, and the quality of the tach measuring pick ups. A good installer will have the starter disengage immediately based on trial and error for EVERY car, not just model by model. We used all kinds of tricks to get good starts, including altering number of cylinder reads. This takes experience that most part time kids just don't have. Again, if it's a Neon, who cares?

One thing I don't like is that we put lots of time and energy into defeating the factory anti-theft. This is import to think about. You have less theft protection when a remote-start is installed, no matter what the shop tells you about on-board anti-theft witht he remote start. The MB and BMW factory systems are good, really good. Later ones are better than ANY aftermarket system, especially when GPS tracking is involved.

One other thing to note: Despite the availability of gear and people that will install it, don't put one in a manual transmission car. No! Never!
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K
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Old 09-26-2002, 08:31 PM
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Thumbs up

Thanks for the great insight John (blackmercedes).

It makes me feel better as I got a great deal on a Clifford Avantguard4. Even though the alarm came with their IntelliStart, I opted to NOT install it as I felt uneasy with the idea that an aftermarket computer could start my car (sharing all the concerns you warned about).

I didn't feel the convenience factor outweighed the potential problems and concerns.
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