It is 6am and you need to go to work. You go to open your car and the alarm starts blaring. You lost your remote or your remote does not work all the time. You are waking your neighbors and it is embarrassing. How many of you have been there? I have not myself, but I have heard this story at least a dozen times from customers.
I hope that the advice below will help you out so you can start driving to work. Nevertheless, before I forget:
On a related note, yesterday a customer with a factory alarm had a similar situation and even though he had a factory keyles entry alarm remote, he insisted he wants to open the door with the key. I tried to explain to him that if he locks the door with the remote he has to unlock it with the remote – not the key. Well, 20 minutes into the call I’m not sure if he really understands and he confirmed it by entering the car with the key and setting off the alarm while I’m on the phone. Don’t be that guy. Use your remote if you have it. I won’t even tell you him dumb reason for using the key instead of the keyfob.
Let me start by saying there is no one way to turn off the alarm. What I will do is take you through my process if I were in the situation. First, we need to know what we’re dealing with. Is it a factory or aftermarket alarm?
Factory means it is the alarm system that was installed at the time the vehicle was built. Aftermarket means it was installed in a shop after the vehicle was first bought.
If your factory alarm is blaring because you locked the car with the remote (and it armed the system or if the system arms itself) and then you open the door with the key instead of the remote, then in most cases starting the car with the key will stop the alarm from blaring.
If not, close the door and turn the key in the driver’s side door lock twice - like this: LOCK UNLOCK, LOCK UNLOCK.
If that doesn’t work and you can still use the radio, jot down all your programmed stations because what I am about to suggest will make you lose them. Disconnect your battery for 5 minutes.
Disconnecting the battery for 5 minutes will usually (maybe 7 times out of 10) reset the alarm and resolve the problem. Some cars have a radio security feature called radio lock. If your radio gets locked you can call your local dealer parts department, give your VIN and they will give you the radio unlock code.
If not, and if this is an older car from the 90s you may be able to disconnect the system. I won’t give you advice on that because I’m afraid you’ll screw up your car and blame me. See an alarm shop, qualified mechanic or preferably an automotive electrician. In most cars from the 2000s to now, the factory alarm is integrated into the car’s computer (sometimes called PCM, BCM, or ECM) and trust me you do not want anyone messing with it. You can see the dealer for option programming. This means they hook up a proprietary scan tool to the car and communicate with the car’s computer to tell it how to behave - in this case to disable the alarm. Not all vehicles have this option available.
In the end if none of this works for you then the dealer can replace the system for you – probably at an outrageous cost.
There are so many different brands and models of aftermarket alarms that this advice may not apply to your system. However, I will “guesstimate” that it applies to 90% of systems out there.
The first thing to try is to put the system into valet mode. Valet mode is the state of the system you want to put the car in when you give your car to valet parking. That way you just give them a valet key and no remote (so there is nothing expensive for them to lose.)
As I said, there are many different systems and so there are many ways to enter valet mode. The most common is described below:
1. Open the driver door.
2. Put the key in ignition and turn to ON. (ON is where the dash has power but you are not cranking the engine yet.)
3. Press the valet button or switch one time
Variations to try:
• Don’t open the driver door in step
• Turn engine ON instead of just the dash.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about when I say valet button or switch, check out these pictures:
With the brand and model name of your system, you can search online for the owner’s manual of the system. It will say how to enter and exit valet mode with exact instructions for your system. The brand and model name of the system are located on the receiver. Maybe only the brand will be on the remote – if anything. The FCC ID or part number on the back of the remote will narrow down the search to a few systems but it isn’t enough to isolate one particular system. Most remotes work on a bunch of different systems. The receiver is located under the dash. Stick your head where your feet go and look up.
Even though the proper installation of the system includes the valet switch or button, not every installer uses best practices when installing the system. If you can’t find the valet switch, see the following article: TROUBLESHOOTING WHEN YOU CAN’T FIND THE VALET SWITCH.
If that doesn’t work then we move on to try to reset the system. If you can still use the radio, jot down all your programmed stations because what I am about to suggest will make you lose them. Disconnect your battery for 30 minutes. Normally 1 to 5 minutes will suffice but many alarm systems have a battery backup to prevent car thieves from disconnecting the battery.
Disconnecting the battery will usually reset the alarm and resolve the problem. Some cars have a radio security feature called radio lock. If your radio gets locked, you can call your local dealer parts department, give your VIN and they will give you the radio unlock code.
Let’s say that doesn’t work. My next question is whether your alarm is just blaring a siren but you can still drive, or is there a starter cutoff associated with the alarm as well.
If you are not dealing with a starter cutoff and your alarm has its own siren, then you can just snip the wire about an inch before the siren. If your alarm uses the car’s horn then do not tamper with that – it is probably illegal in most states to disable the horn.
If you do have a starter disable with the alarm, then cutting the siren will not do any good – unless you’re so sick of hearing it you’ll feel immense relief knowing you’ll never hear it again. You still won’t be able to start the engine and drive.
Aftermarket alarms are not integrated into the car’s computer so there is no harm in simply disconnecting it. They have wires plugged into the receiver (the brain of the system.) Simply unplugging them will do the trick. The receiver is located under the dashboard – usually on the driver’s side. Put your head near the pedals and look up. If you don’t see it, try the passenger side. The receiver won’t be under the hood or in the trunk.
The receiver (a.k.a. brain or control module) is a plastic box with wires coming out of it. If will usually have the brand and model name on it. Therefore, if your remote says Viper and the box says Viper, you know your looking at the right box. It may be approximately 3” x 5”x 1”. Sizes vary greatly but it will definitely be significantly smaller than a box of tissues.
If you find a smaller box – maybe the size of a pack of cigarettes or smaller – it is not the receiver. That is probably a shock sensor or some other accessory module associated with the system. However, follow the wires from that module to the receiver of the system. If you know where your valet switch is, or you see the LED light from the alarm, then follow the wire from that to the receiver.
Some installers put the system so deep into the dash you can’t find it without taking off the lower dashboard cover or kick panel. I hate when they do that. If that is the case for you then my suggestion is not to take apart the dash and instead go to an alarm shop, automotive electrical shop, or very qualified mechanic.
There is one more situation that can cause the alarm to go nuts. I call it "Everpress." This is where a defect with the remote causes it to constantly send out a signal. It isn't very common but I've seen it few times. When it first starts, it is not possible to detect unless you have a
. But after about 24 hours you can tell because the battery in the remote is dead. It is caused by a faulty button or excess moisture making contact for the button. If Everpress is causing your alarm to go nuts then just take the battery out of your remote and order a new one. If you just changed the battery of your remote and are having everpress for the first time, then you probably closed the remote poorly and one of the buttons is in the pressed position.