Cell Phone Based Car Starter, Another Take

[Dave] Had been working on a cell phone activated remote start for his car for a while when we posted the GSM car starter. While both do carry out the same job, we feel that there is enough good information here to share. He’s gone a pretty simple way, by connecting the vibrator motor leads to a headphone jack. He’s using that signal to then activate the remote start by setting off an extra fob. Though it is amazingly simple, this version does have an advantage. As [Dave] points out, his cell phone has several features which could be utilized to automate some of his car starts. He can set alarms as well as recurring calendar events to get his car started without his interaction. Lets just hope he doesn’t forget and let his car run too long unattended, especially if it is in a garage attached to his house.

56 thoughts on “Cell Phone Based Car Starter, Another Take

  1. all i can say is, with how many “wrong numbers” my backup cell phone gets(yay for tmobile, $10 a YEAR to keep it active) using such a simplistic method is going to use alot of gas due to startup and run till the autocutoff(by the way, why 12-24 min? why not 10-20?) kills it and shutdown with EVERY wrong number
    lets hope he doesnt have it so you can hear him dialing in any videos he posts, could easily decode the number and start his car any time we wanted!

  2. Yeah, as Dantheman2865 is pointing out, most phones allow you to program special ringtones for specific contacts (numbers). He could easily set the ringer to ring normally for all calls except from him, which could vibrate. Although, in the past I’ve only seen phones that allow you to choose a specific audible ringtone, not vibrate. I will go test on a couple of my phones at lunch and see if that’s completely true or not. :-)

  3. The dangers of carbon monoxide from the car in a garage practically now gone as most cars have catalytic converters. These are the best kind of hacks: simple, easily implemented and does the job well.

  4. I found a kit on the market that needs a combination telephone number and pin to authorize any remote start commands. The system is SMS controlled and only costs 40 bucks. The only catch is assembly/soldering required.

  5. “The dangers of carbon monoxide from the car in a garage practically now gone as most cars have catalytic converters. ”

    I sincerely hope you’re not in a position to protect anyone’s safety. Catalytic Converters don’t remove all carbon monoxide from exhaust. In fact, cars with CCs will kill you just as fast if run in an enclosed space and their exhaust is equally as toxic to humans. If your statement were true, nobody would have been able to kill themselves with any car’s exhaust made after 1975.

  6. I don’t think that cars running in an enclosed space is safe at all.

    First you need to light off the Catalytic converter and then get into a closed loop with feedback from the Oxygen sensor.

    Until the catalytic converter is actually warmed up there is nothing stopping the CO production.

    I would not run this in a garage unless the door was open or there is a ventilation system designed to remove all the exhaust gases and replace with fresh air.

    1. @clark,
      I was noting that if he set up a recurring event, there is a possibility of forgetting it and having it run when unexpected. For example, on an odd day off. This would only be a problem, if it were located in his garage at the time. I guess I wasn’t very clear.

  7. I think Nanomonkey has pointed out that elephant in the living room. If you’ve got a complaint about this hack, it’d better apply to some situation that could happen in real life.

    … if you’re so lazy that you won’t start a car in your enclosed garage, maybe you’re too lazy to actually complete a hack. … Just sayin’.

  8. anyone think of the fact that it is pretty easy to spoof phone calls now a days? spoofcards cost money but you would only need to use it once, maybe you could use it online for free and then get it. So yeah, if you got the number of the phone and a number on the white list then you would be able to start the car… just a thought.

  9. I think using this method to remote start your car is really bad. There’s no way of keeping your number out of reach of telemarketers and such and if there is, there’s always the danger of some dialing wrong number.

    People, don’t try to make your car remote startable like this.

  10. The proper way to do this would be via SMS with a password/keycode, and an app that ran on the client phone.

    You could still add in calendar events, etc, and it would all be configurable on the client phone (the one with the car’s password programmed into it). It wouldn’t prevent a brute force attack, but it would prevent a lot of random trouble.

  11. @Entropia
    He has it set up to where ONLY the phone number he calls from will vibrate. Anyone else calling will not set it off. Security thru obscurity, but it works in this case.

    While you can spoof callerid (I can do this right now with my VOIP line), I’d be very surprised if anyone bothered. You need to know A. the cellphone and B. the whitelist numbers.

    I think it’d be easier to just not piss someone off enough to where they feel the need to make you waste gas/idle. Failing that, change the # of the remote starter.

  12. @Rainman – it is illegal to leave a vehicle running without being in full control when in a public (or publicly accessible) place – i.e. even stepping out of it and leaving it running next to you.

  13. It depends on the cars remote start system. Most will leave the car running but undrivable until the key is put in and turned. The remote start system starts the engine but wont let it be taken out of park for auto transmissions, or from what I can remember accept input from the throttle pedal. Thus all it can do is sit there and idle.

  14. @Brian – no, it is still not in your control, if you ask the likes of Clifford (the alarm chaps) they’ll sell you one but you’ll find it invalidates your CAT1 immobilisation rating (despite being from the same people). It’s a minefield. Yes they can limit movement on autos fairly easily but since they are in the minority (by like 90% in the UK) its not really important. As I say, you’d still have to prove it in the even of an “incident”.
    @David S – cars in teh UK are not remote start as standard, yes I’m talking about outside, I said in the UK :)

  15. I personally would’ve used the Auto-Answer function on the phone (if available) with wired headset connected to DTMF Decoder that is connected to (what else) an arduino. You can set a PWD that way which you can transmit using your phone’s (that you are calling from) keypad.

  16. Edit – further reading suggests that not only is it illegal to leave a car running unattended in the UK, its also an offence to leave it running while stationary for more than a reasonable time (i.e. you should technically turn it off in traffic jams by law) but also most insurances only cover you if you leave the car secure and not running, if you leave it in any other state you’re invalidating your insurance meaning your could also technically be “had” for that too.

    Personally I don’t see the point in remote start anyway, but I’m sure its helpful at times in some circumstances, each to his own etc.

  17. Pretty naff hack imho.
    You could have done this with a phone and a pic via ATA sms commands and had a secure system without opening the phone at all (or use a gsm modem module if you want imba neat.

    potentially a wrong number its foreseeable that it may start your car start your motor ,, bad idea.

    I did a version of this ages ago using a gsm modem and MCU , you had to send a code followed by “start” or “stop” (lock , unlock for doors , lights on/off) and if the SMS didnt come from a designated number (i.e phone registered to the system , then the code would do you no good even if you had it on another phone any detection of forced entry into a running car and it killed and immobilised the engine and triggered the alarm.

    Come on a hack is a little more than soldering a couple of wires.

    Thats how to hack a remote ignition

  18. @concino

    I agree. The best way to do this hack is using DTMF decoder. You would not even need to open the phone to do it, jack into the headset, DTMF listens to the output , you can then do the whole menu thing, press 1 for alarm/on/off , 2 for engine start, etc.
    Parts cost is probably $5 for a dedicated decoder or could easily use an arduino to signal back beeps to let you know the status.

    If someone calls the phone by mistake nothing would happen because they would not know the correct tone sequence to start the car.

  19. SchrodingersCat is correct. Catalytic converters remove enough carbon monoxide from exhaust that you basically can’t kill yourself that way anymore – unless the catalytic converter fails, of course. Most garages recycle air at a rate which prevents buildup of CO.

    Most deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning related to vehicles now occur in the movies. Most real deaths from carbon monoxide nowadays actually occur due to malfunctioning heaters in homes and fires – not from vehicles.

  20. Interesting feedback. I would in no way call this a groundbreaking idea, or even a ‘hardcore hack’, but I had fun doing it. It was just a simple solution to a minor problem.

    I don’t have a garage. If someone calls my phone by accident, it’ll shut off again in 15 minutes; and honestly, since I am using the scheduler I don’t really see HAVING to call the car much, if ever.

    Also, how is using a DTMF easier? It would totally be more elegant, but who wants to go through all that when you can just crack open a $10 phone and solder some wires? This is not a long term solution, and is only in my car that I drive to and from work. The family car, on the other hand, is going to have a remote start installed soon, and I am working on a simple way to incorporate DTMF into one of my old Sprint Phones. $10/month add-a-line is cheaper than prepaid anyhow.

    Thanks for the feedback all!

  21. Also, contrary to what the blurb above says, I am not using the phone to activate a spare fob. I am directly interfacing with the Remote Start Activation Input; or what you would connect to an alarm system that could trigger the remote start.

  22. To all who wonder why any one needs a remote start, consider living in a far northern US or Canada. Most people in lower states do not use or care about that feature. But when it’s 0 degrees or bellow outside and you don’t have a heated garage, a remote start is a huge convenience. I do think it’s funny that most remote starter systems don’t allow using them on a diesel engine. How hard is it to implement a delay in start-up to make sure the glow plugs have heated up. Concerning exhaust. Again, it would be a simple addition of a carbon detector to prevent issues. It would probably be a good idea to have it any way even with auto-shutoff.

  23. This idea might appeal to the 80s kid in you:

    1 – attach voice recognition hardware to the phone in the car
    2 – buy a mobile phone wristwatch
    3 – change your car to a black Pontiac Firebird :D

    1. Sorry – totally missed this reply. Old 3310s could store a quickdial under each number key. All you had to do was hold the key down in the “home” screen and it would dial. Hack into a button, short it for 5 seconds – done.

  24. What happens if you forgot it on gear?

    My brother remotely started his bike, the bike took-off on it’s own, and stopped on a car’s rear light, which of course broke into pieces, and then gravity did it’s thing and the bike fell on it’s side.

    Not cool.

  25. @SchrodingersCat and Sam

    Ummm…. last I check, it takes quite a while for the catalytic converters to heat up to the temperature needed to do the job. If you’re thinking that those vents you have would help, consider that your lung will start to make carbon monoxide from all the carbon dioxide that’s in the exhuast. Being that CO2 has a tendence to sink to the floor, your car can make enough to give your body no choice but to extract oxygen from the CO2 to make it into CO which can kill you. This is one of the reasons why most people die from smoke inhalation instead of the actual fire.

  26. @Roman Dulgarov –

    Strangely, my remote start HAS a diesel start-delay feature that is programmable for the amount of delay you want. It also has a turbo timer feature, and it’s probably the CHEAPEST remote start on the market! If you have an installer telling you that they can’t install them on a diesel, they are either ignorant or lazy!

    @Haku – LOL! My friends were joking about that!

    @Ilias – Most remote starts STRONGLY discourage fitting a remote start on a manual vehicle. Then if you do, there are a bajillion safetys that have to be installed. If you still decide to install it, and ignore the warnings and bypass all the safety measures, Darwin will prevail.

    @ex-parrot – Jimmy is right. It takes me 15 minutes to get to my car. When it is covered with ice, I have to stand outside and scrape, hen sit in a cold ass car until it warms up. No fun.

  27. I love this… quick and dirty… yes there are a lot of. Bad things to be said, but I love hacks that go the easiest quickest route to accomplish a goal… phone jack connected to the vibrate… clever

  28. Most modern car security systems depend on having some sort of transponder built into the key fob itself communicating properly with a nearby receiver before they will let the key or anything else start the car. I don’t know how true this story is, but I once read of a dog chewing the only key and swallowing the bit holding the transponder, and the owner being advised to hold up the dog close to the keyhole in order to switch off the security system before the rest of the key would work. Presumably you would have to bypass all that somehow to make this work, which risks some possible future problems with the insurance company.

    ANd modern cars not only have a catalytic converter but also various sensors in the exhaust linked to the fuel injection system which ensure that all the fuel used is burnt into water and carbon dioxide. It’s almost impossible to gas yourself from the exhaust fumes unless some of the sensors are bust or disabled.

  29. Bad thing about this on newer cars you have the challenge/response passive RFID, a chip in the car increases likely hood of the car being stolen if a commercial solution ever become popularized.

    Also despite claims transponder keys that use challenge response can’t be cloned with most public RFID tools, and the logic is in primary ASIC on on-board computers, even on the very first cars that had it ex: ’96 acura rl and mustang. It was actually and option starting in 1994 on a lot of cars even low end hondas.

  30. ex-parrot — remote start is pretty much mandatory in Fairbanks AK in winter if you don’t have a heated garage. Even with the remote starter, my sister still has to have dual 1000CCA batteries, battery heaters, block heater, and oil pan heater to get running on some mornings.

  31. For those of you questioning the wrong number, most smart phones have an app (Android has a sweet one for $2.99) where you can spoof your number that you’re calling from. You could always set the phone to only vibrate when coming from a 12 digit phone number of your liking and using the app to call your car from that number. That solves your wrong number and security problems of anyone else starting it.

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