Friday, June 4, 2010

Anti-Theft Devices Only Deter Me From Buying Said Devices

A year or so ago, I opted to sell my wife's car in favor of something that was all wheel drive since she was going to be doing a lot more driving in bad road conditions at all hours of the night. It was a peace of mind thing for me. I decided to try a new method of purchasing this vehicle by buying it used off Ebay but I thus limited what options I could get to those that were on the car that met my price and proximity budgets. So I ended up successfully winning a bid for a 2001 Honda CR-V in Chicago that had a Special Edition trim package and more than I would normally go for had I bought the vehicle new. One of those features is a theft deterrent system.

It actually had two theft deterrent systems, one that is an aftermarket device installed so that anytime someone touches your car in a manner not becoming of someone with the key or fob, it sounds an abrasive alarm and another one that is part of the factory radio. I hate both. The first one is absolutely worthless because nobody pays attention to them anymore anyway. I've seen so many people standing next to cars fumbling around in their pockets for what I presume it their keys that could actually be people looking for their screwdriver to break the steering wheel lock and have kept on walking. I'm not the only one. I also know that the alarm on my wife's car has gone off more than a time or two when I accidentally went to open it without unlocking it and not one person has ever asked me if I were breaking into it. Another quirk of the alarm on my wife's car is its ability to arm the alarm without actually locking the doors so I can go up and open the door setting off the alarm even though I have the key. I would have ripped the system out long ago except for two reasons. I bought the car second hand and don't have a manual or know how to disarm the sucker and two, it is tied in with the key less entry and remote start features which I do like, especially when I have full arms or a cold car on an even colder winter day. In the end, I disconnected the auxiliary horn that was installed on it so now when the security is breached by me, it is as silent as a church mouse. My wife has discovered that if you hit the car lock button on the fob more than twice, it sets off the alarm via the factory horn but this is a more rare event. I can live with that.

But it is the anti-theft system that is tied into the car radio that I wish to elaborate on for this blog post. My wife accidentally left her headlights on for 36 hours while on call at the hospital in the urban jungle and ran the battery completely dead. Although it randomly set off her car alarm (before it was permanently disabled) when the car was running with the key in the ignition which created some embarrassing situations for her until the battery charged up enough to prevent that from happening, the most annoying thing was that it killed the radio. In a 2001 CR-V, whenever the battery is disconnected or run completely flat, the radio locks itself requiring a code to use it again. Googling has revealed that if we had bought the car new, our manual would contain a page with a sticker on it that we could stick in some undisclosed location on the car and refer to it in times of need, namely every time the battery was replaced, disconnected or run flat. However, we didn't receive said manual when we bought the vehicle and I was forced to hunt for that undisclosed location.

More Googling told me that the most common (dealer placed) undisclosed locations were the bottom of the ashtray or cup holder, side of the glove box or inside of one of the three fuse box covers. None were the case in my situation along with the visors, vanity mirrors, every compartment lid throughout the vehicle, door same, under the seat, or any other surface large enough for a small sticker that I could think about and search. In frustration, I tried a few obvious codes like 11111 or 12345 but the radio went from asking for the code to err1 to err2. I decided not to press my luck for fear of reaching some unknown limit that might cause the radio to self destruct instead of remain locked for use.

Back to doing some more Googling and later by calling the nearest dealer some 70 miles away, I learned that the only way to retrieve the code when you don't know the code it to give the dealer the serial number of the radio which is located on the same sticker as the code or a different sticker on the body of the radio. As I can't locate the former sticker, I am left with reading the latter sticker which means I have to remove the glove box and right lower dash, the lower left dash, the lower center console, remove the five screws holding the center radio console to the car body, slide the center radio console out to access the screws holding the radio to the center console, slide the radio out and read the serial number. Then I have to put everything back together in reverse order, call my closest dealer and then and only then will they give me the code to my radio.

Why on earth would the only information necessary to unlock the anti-theft feature on a radio be located on the radio itself, the very same object of desire by some would be thief, is unfathomable to me and thus the reason why I asked my local dealer when I had him on the phone. His reply? Honda has realized the stupidity of this and thus on 2002 and higher models had made it so that if you push the one and the six preset buttons simultaneously and then hit the power button, the radio would display the serial number. I don't think he gathered from my dumbfounded silence at the other end of the phone that they still hadn't answered my question. So I had to tear apart the dash of my wife's car to retrieve a number to help me get the code to listen to the radio once again. I haven't but have thought that someday soon I should etch it into the face of said radio so that it can't be missed in time of future need or by some thief wishing to have my radio. Perhaps by saving them a phone call to give a dealer the serial number they will respond by doing less damage to my car in their attempt to liberate my nearly decade old factory radio. They already know that they don't have to worry about the car siren that will mostly might have blared out while they went about their theft. Nobody would have paid any attention.

15 comments:

Murf said...

While I was reading this, the whole time I was wondering "Why didn't he make sure the manual was in the car before he bought it?". Was the fact that this car was manual-less advertised in the eBay posting? Why would someone get rid of the manual? It doesn't take up much room in the glove box.

Just a few things us manual writers think about. ;-)

Ed said...

Murf - In my used car buying experience, only about half of the cars have their manuals. Those that do have the manuals seem to have belonged to a male driver and those without a female. I have always assumed that the female simply had more to put in the glove box than the male and thus ditched the manual.

geri said...

While reading this I wondered where you got the time to do what you have done already to look for that sticker... That would drive me nuts!

Murf said...

That's an interesting idea, Ed. I'm going to have to ask my female car owning friends if they have the manual still or what is in their glove box. I'm going to unfriend anyone that says that she has tossed the manual. I don't want to know someone who does such things. :-)

Vince said...

The thing I need is a light on the fob to tell me that I've locked the damned thing in the first place.
The number of times I come out of a store just to press the fob, it's just not funny.

Ed said...

Geri - It often consisted of fifteen minutes here and there drug over a couple months.

Murf - Let me know the results of your "scientific" poll.

Vince - I've always thought that it would be easy to put some sort of GPS device in your key fob. When it separates from your car by a preset distance, you car automatically locks. When you return, it unlocks.

Vince said...

YES that's it exactly.

sage said...

THe other day at a hospital, a car antitheif gizmo was going on and inside, with windows crack, a dog was going crazy--there are just so many things wrong with that...

I once was looking at a used car and very interested in it. I looked for the manual and it wasn't there... The car salesman asked if I didn't keep my old manuals and I shook my head and walked away wondering just who has a library of old car manuals... I wasn't trusting that guy anymore.

Ed said...

Sage - Up until now, I never thought twice about a missing manual. They are readily available through the internet. However, I will be inquiring more about anti-theft systems before I buy anymore of those with a vehicle.

Ron said...

I've got to find the code for my Ford Explorer keyless entry so I can disable the stupid "feature" that locks everything as soon as I put it in drive. Argh...

Ron

Ron said...

OMG! I fixed it!

Thanks for the motivation... I've been meaning to do that for months. :)

Ron

R. Sherman said...

Sometimes technological advances are indeed a pain in the butt. I think the best anti-theft is a GPS transmitter.

Cheers.

Eutychus2 said...

The last two cars, and current one, my wife and I share, were and are, a Honda CRV .... I simply love the vehicle, extremely comfort for old people to get in and out of. We've taken to buying from the dealership, getting everything done at the dealership .... I know this costs more money, or does it really, when you consider the less stress and hassle ...... and its has a MANUAL.
A little over a month ago the back window was broken into ... and though we didn't hear the alarm go off, the dealership made replacement a total lack of stress.

PhilippinesPhil said...

The best antitheft device is to own a piece of crap that no one wants to steal; or, you can do what my buddy did: install a secret switch that prevents the car from starting, even if some expert thief knows how to hotwire. Sometimes I would just remove the ignition coil wire and hide it in my trunk; but mostly I just own crappy old cars that no one would ever think about boosting.

TC said...

They sure make cars complicated these days.

I want a warmer! I swear, my next car will have one if I stay where winters are cold.

Murf: My car doesn't have a manual either :( I don't get why one owner would want to keep it? I've asked (repeatedly for almost two years) and they keep promising me one, but I've given up expecting it.