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What I feel an alarm or security system should be able to do and what it can't do
August 30, 2005


There isn't any particular order to this. Plus you have to keep in mind that I'm free to state any opinion I have. Others may not agree!!

1. It has to be something that you will use!

This is the most important thing!

If you don't use your alarm or security system, then it's pretty much useless!

This is one of the reasons that I don't like removable steering wheels. Are you really going to bring it in to a theater? Are you really going to remove it when you go into 7-11?

Some people will talk about removing things like the master relay. This is fine if you want to disable the car when parked for a long period of time, but it's not really something you are going to do on a regular basis.

2. You don't want a passive arming alarm!

A "passive arming" alarm is one that activates a couple minutes after you turn off the car and walk away.

That all sounds good, however it can lead to problems like this; My alarm defaults to passive arming when re-set and it was in that condition when I stopped to get gas. I got out of the car and tossed the keys on the passenger seat. While pumping gas, the alarm went active, locking the doors and rolling up the windows!!! There was nothing I could do but look in the window at the keys. I have AAA coverage and had them come out and unlock the car, all the while blocking a lane at the gas station.

3. The alarm should "burp" when activated!


It's a small thing, but if a thief is watching you, he then knows that you have an alarm. Unless he can easily tell how to disable it, he may just go to another car.

4. Is that flashing LED important?

Yes, however it's kind of a two sided sword!

If you have an indicator LED, then it should flash. Even if there isn't an alarm in the car, the LED should flash.

If a thief looks in a car and sees a non-flashing indicator LED, then he will assume that the alarm is turned off. Good to go!

In other words, at a minimum you could just buy a flashing LED and wire it up so it works all the time.

5. The alarm should lock the doors and roll up the windows.

The fact that the alarm should lock the doors is pretty much obvious!

On my project cars, I've converted them to power windows so that the alarm can also roll them up.

My reasoning is that I can walk away from the car, hit the alarm, and know that both windows are rolled up. Do you really know if your last passenger rolled up the window all the way?

Wiring up power windows so that the alarm can roll them up isn't hard. You just have to get a "window control module" from a company like DEI.

Although it wouldn't be hard to have the alarm also roll the window down, you really don't want that in case it's raining.

6. There should be a back-up battery!

One of the first things a thief will do is disable the power to the alarm!

There are two methods that should be covered.

One would be if the thief just cuts the wires going to the battery (just some good size cutters). The other would be to short out the battery (lay a screwdriver across the terminals to see what I'm talking about) (not really, the battery could explode!!).

So, you want a small back-up battery that gets a constant charge, works even if the cars main battery is disconnected, and is protected if the main battery is shorted out.

You can get small (about motorcycle battery size) re-chargeable batteries from places like Radio Shack (I got mine at Fry's).

Use a high current diode between the main battery and the back-up battery.

So, here is the run-down;

a. Power comes from the car's battery and charging system and goes to the diode.

b. Power goes through the diode and due to how diodes work, drops 0.7 volts.

c. The voltage coming out of the diode keeps the back-up battery charged and also powers the alarm (and siren)

7. You should install it your self!

I've got no problem with professional installers. If you have the money to have the alarm installed by a quality shop, then go there!

However, this is written for people like me that have more time than money. I'd be afraid to add up the amount of hours I've spent installing alarms!! Even at 5 bucks an hour, I couldn't afford it.

So, here is the thing; Take your time and first figure it all out. Then spend the time to do it correctly. By doing it correctly, you will have to rip apart a lot of the interior and such. Do you really think that the installers at Circuit City will spend the time?

The electrical knowledge required to do a reliable alarm installation isn't that hard to figure out!!!

8. Components for the alarm system should be hard to locate!

Some alarm installers just place the alarm module under the dash. All a thief has to do is look under the dash, grab the module, and rip it out.

So, for god's sake, don't mount it there!

Don't make it easy for the thief to just follow the wires to the module.

Buy an alarm that has an "antenna / receiver" that can be mounted away from the alarm module.

Here is what I did (not to be read by thieves!):

a. The alarm module is located in a metal box, next to the spare tire. Even if you know it's there, the box is not easy to get into.

b. The "antenna / receiver" is a small module installed near the rear-view mirror. It gets good reception there. Plus it doesn't give any idea where the main alarm module is located.

c. All of the wiring running from the alarm module (at the rear of the car) going to under the dash run through the car's body cavities. They go up through the pillar, behind the rear window, through the cavity above the door, down through the pillar at the side of the windshield, and up high under the dash. Even if you removed the headliner, you can't get to the wires!

9. Don't put the siren under the hood!

It's not realistic to believe that you can make the hood on a Honda secure!!

If the thief sees your siren, all he has to do is rip out the wires. He doesn't even need wire cutters.

So, mount the siren some other place. I read once where a guy mounts the siren in the door. That's a good solution.



More to come;