GSM Car Starter

It’s just starting to warm up around here but it was very cold for a long time. We’re not fond of going anywhere when it’s way below freezing but those professional hermit opportunities never panned out so we’re stuck freezing our butts off. Fed up with his frigid auto, [Aaron] installed a remote starter to warm the car up before he got to it. This didn’t help at work because of the distance from his office to the sizable parking lot is too far for the key fob’s signal to carry. He decided to make his starter work with GSM so he could start the car with a phone call.

The first attempt involved a pre-paid cell phone for $30. The problem is that anyone who called the phone would end up starting the car. After a bit of looking he found a GSM switch that just needs an activated SIM to work. When called, it reads the incoming phone number for authentication but never picks up the phone so there’s no minutes used. He cracked open an extra key-fob and wired up the lock and start buttons to the relays in the GSM switch. Bam! A phone call starts (and locks) his car.

Maybe this isn’t as hardcore as body implants but it’s a fairly clean solution. He uses the car’s 12v system to power the switch and pays $10 every three months to keep the SIM card active. There’s an underwhelming demonstration video after the break showing a cellphone call and a car starting.


44 thoughts on “GSM Car Starter

  1. >And, problematic for mechanics (more so than the RFID guy’s car)

    Why? I’d think that this makes it actually easier – if the car can be started with different cell numbers (it doesn’t have to be cellular) then he could just add the mechanic’s cell number to the list and revoke it later. That’s actually more convenient than keys, which a mechanic (or anyone else) could lose.

    Lent your car to a friend? Temporarily add their cell number to the list and they can start it too. Much less of a hassle than getting keys cut or

    I like the RFID idea better for security purposes (it’s harder to fake), but this is interesting for convenience (the ‘key’ is easier to share).

    Also, I’ve not seen anywhere where it was said that the traditional mechanism (key on the steering column) for starting the car was removed – this system could just have been installed in addition to that.

    What might be an interesting blend would be if the car could be started by remote with the cell, but could not actually be driven until the key was put into the ignition (it would just cut out). That way one could have the benefits of remote starting without the threat of theft.

  2. I suppose this is an automatic transmission car. It wouldn’t work in a manual transmission car, because you would have to leave your car in neutral all the time, cause, you know, starting it in gear makes it move :)

  3. @sam

    if you read carefully you’ll notice that the gsm switch is only wired to a relay on a remote starter remote. LIke that it do exactly what you describe (start with a phone but need the key to drive) and btw a remote starter does not disable original way of starting the car

  4. he is only using the GSM switch as a remote way of activating his existing remote start system, so that would lead me to believe it still has all of the standard remote-start features, for example, shutting off the car if somebody tries to drive it without first inserting the key into the un-modified ignition…

  5. @cynic it sounds like a V-8 or a diesel starting cold, as the engine has so much mass it can have trouble getting all the way around but the next cycle starts, thus the rough running sound.

  6. Did anyone notice the update at the bottom?

    1/4/2009 Update

    On one of the colder evenings (about -6F) I tried to start my car before my train arrived and everything seemed fine when I called the GSM-AUTO unit(ie it hung up immediately) However when I got to the station I found my car had not started. I tried calling it again with no luck. I used my regular key fob and the car started. I’m speculating that the low temprature weakend the key fob battery wired to the GSM-AUTO unit so it couldn’t send the signal to the car to start. The next day car started with my phone as normal but of course it wasn’t as cold. As I mentioned above, I need to wire the fob board to the car’s battery with a 12-3v converter. It doesn’t make much sense to have a remote starter that doesn’t work in the cold…lol

    It doesn’t work in the cold. Which kinda defeats the stated purpose.

  7. I don’t like that it just uses the fob to start it.. it’s definitely a hack, that’s for sure, but I would think there’s a better mechanism to be had by directly connecting the device to the remote starter, or at least reverse-engineering the fob and reimplementing it.

  8. Car alarm fobs are designed to be very hard to reverse engineer. That’s why they can charge a rip off price to get a replacement; there usually aren’t any 3rd party replacements.

  9. Many cheap univeral fobs are available online, in fact the one he used in this project only cost him $15. I would not be surprised if some of the higher end cars were different though.

    As for this project, it really looks more like a proof of concept than anything. Wiring the fob into that device the way he did, and not even powering the fob (it still needs the watch battery), it’s some very rough work. He should really figure out how to tie into the remote start module directly.

  10. I used a multi-channel relay from connect2car and a prepaid phone to wire up controls for car start, stop, cut fuel pump, and lock/unlock doors. I also have remote GPS tracking of my car and can access all features from any web browser or my phone.

    All security is taken care of through authentication to the web interface, so no need to worry about random people starting my car.

  11. @Ulrich: who wanders the parking space in the middle of the cold night? i bet there is no police anywhere around to give you a fine. wait a minute, there is no YOU to be fined :-) who would believe a police officer that he saw a car starting itself with nobody inside… hm… o_O

  12. For a slightly more hacky version using the prepaid phone, wire the switch to the speaker instead of the motor, and use a custom ringtone for the authenticated caller consisting of a steady DC signal. Give everything else a silent ringtone.

    Also, I bet the fob batteries are the cheaper alkaline or carbon-zinc varieties. Lithium tends to be much more suitable for cold environments.

  13. I’ve used this sms controller for many projects. It allows to to authenticate, and control several actions and monitor inputs.
    I used it here

    My payg phone gives you a free sms message every time you send one, so is cheap to run.

    They sell for $60 quite cheap.

    you do need quite an old phone

    The SMS controller kit works with Nokia 3210, 3310, 5110, and 6110

    but only a few dollars on Ebay.

  14. I’ve been thinking about this and I decided to make my own, to get around the whole anyone can call the cell phone and start the car, you could just only program your number into the phone and program default ringing as none but you still need to program a microprocessor to actually start the car go to my site if you want to check it out ill repost when i’m done

  15. @americasfuture Most GSM remote starts do not have controlled access so any call made to the GSM remote would activate it, from the manufacturers website “Up to 99 authorized user telephone numbers can be added to the white list, when this function is activated only the numbers in the white list are able to activate the GSM-AUTO”

  16. I didn’t really read all of your comments, but I think it’s fairly obvious this guy should wire in the alarm speaker or something else, to call him when the alarm is tripped. Assuming this is an alarm remote start combo. He is so close it’s painful. My only thought is if done through the speaker he’d have to add a wait command. Otherwise it’d call him everytime he unlocked it. Have it call him for any activation over 5 seconds for instance. Now that, would be amazing. and worth $10 every three months lol

  17. Thanks everyone for the comments! I know there were other ways of doing this. I know several have said this is an expensive way to do this and I agree. At the time when I stared looking around, this was easiest and relatively clean way to do it. Many have also suggested that I get a commercial remote starter. The problem was that I didn’t want to touch the car’s wiring(risking voiding the cars warranty). For those of you interested, I’ve updated my project and replaced the key fob battery with a voltage converter(A much more permanent solution).

  18. Interesting take on this by asbestos-dude. If anyone on this board had a subscription to Hitwise we could prove (instead of “bet”) whether OMX is getting more traffic than Staples or OfficeDepot when someone searches on “office supplies” or “post-it notes.”

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