- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

Owners of the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu will be able to start their cars from the comfort of their homes, enabling them to enter a warm car in winter or a cool car in summer. All it takes is a squeeze of the "remote start" button on the vehicle's key fob. GM will be the first domestic automaker to offer this convenience.

The Malibu LT will have remote starting as standard equipment. The midlevel LS will include remote starting as part of an option package. The base model Malibu also will offer remote starting, but as a stand-alone option and the price has not yet been announced. All three will offer the convenience of starting the car from as far away as 200 feet.

Thousands of car owners already enjoy this feature that is available as an aftermarket item in discount and auto parts stores for $50 to $400, plus installation. But those systems are not integrated with the car's safety and security features. In addition, the remote-start system comes with the same warranty that covers the rest of the Malibu. Aftermarket systems are not warranted by automakers.

To avoid inadvertently starting the vehicle, a two-step process is required.

First, the system must be activated by pressing the "lock" button on the key fob.

Then the remote start button must be held down for 90 seconds. These steps insure that the vehicle will be locked after it is started and at the same time initiates the engagement of the anti-theft system.

The driver can determine if the vehicle has received the remote start signal, because the car's lights will flash once. When the vehicle is idling after start-up the parking lights turn on. The car will continue to idle for up to 10 minutes. If you don't enter the car within that time, the engine will shut down.

Remote start performs a myriad of other task before initializing the engine: it checks whether the hood is closed and the status of the anti-theft system, engine oil pressure and temperature, RPMs and the throttle position are checked. Remote start also checks the brake transmission shift interlock, vehicle speed, onboard diagnostics, battery voltage and ignition switch integrity.

If the system detects any deviation from normal, the remote control will not start the car. Even though the car starts while the owner is out of the car, the vehicle cannot be driven away unless the car is opened with the remote control and the ignition key is turned to the run position. This allows the theft-deterrent system to check the electronic password.

Only then can the driver shift out of park.

Should the driver decide to turn the engine off after it has been remotely started he or she has only to press the remote start button on the key fob. Pressing the hazard switch also will turn the engine off.

Another way to shut the engine down is by inserting the key into the ignition switch and turning to the off position. GM is optimistic that a high percentage of customers will elect to purchase cars with remote start as a standard feature, or buy it as an option.

The company's marketing division intends to monitor the success of the system on the 2004 Malibu before committing to install it in other models. Installation in trucks and sport utility vehicles also will happen, but that is further down the line, GM says.

A company spokesman says GM has no plans to offer the system for retrofitting older vehicles. But if you don't have the patience to wait, you can still go to an aftermarket supplier and either install the system yourself or have it done by a professional mechanic.

It's interesting to note that many new-car dealers also offer aftermarket remote-start systems. One Chevy dealer in Montreal says he installs them in every vehicle he sells. But the benefits of the system aren't just suitable for warming up cars in cold climates.

Remote-start systems also can be used to cool down vehicle interiors in hot climates.

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