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Hardware Hacking Transportation Build

The DIY $10 Prepaid Cellphone Remote Car Starter 454

An anonymous reader writes "Wish you could start your car via your cell phone, but don't feel like ponying up the $40k for a Chevrolet Volt or $499 (plus $29 a year) for an aftermarket system from Viper? This hack relies on a cheap prepaid cellphone that has had its vibration motor surgically removed, replaced by a couple of leads triggering the car's starter. Whenever the phone receives a call it starts up the car — a somewhat dodgy proposition if a telemarketer ever gets hold of your number, but an interesting solution nonetheless. Total cost of the project: $71.03."
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The DIY $10 Prepaid Cellphone Remote Car Starter

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  • Too cheap of a hack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maxrate ( 886773 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:16AM (#30890322)
    In my opinion this is far too cheap of a hack. You need more control. I've personally built a very elaborate text message based system that incorporates anti-theft features/GPS/door lock/un-lock and other features. Costs $11/month in a prepaid sim card. Was great fun to construct using a microcontroller and various other parts. I was planning on building a website documenting it - but I'm horrible at putting webpages together. Other than the GPS, the cost wasn't that much more - but the unit does far more for me. Working out the bugs however took a long time, so if you're in a hurry to get remote cell based car warm-up, this project is a start.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:17AM (#30890332) Journal
    There is this strange theory, widely accepted in certain circles, that using machines to handle mundane, tedious, or otherwise undesirable tasks is a good thing. Having a machine handle transmission shifting seems to fall into the same vein as having a machine handle most of my floating point math.

    If you happen to enjoy twiddling a transmission, more power to you, we all need hobbies to fill the void between birth and death; but for those of us who don't care, labor saving devices are progress.
  • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:20AM (#30890380) Journal

    You should come and experience the stop and go "driving", that constitutes Los Angeles. I dearly love manuals, and have often thought of switching to automatic. I have a performance type car, and replacing a worn clutch disc after 35k miles was not pleasant. And Yes I do know how to drive, and have taken two other manuals over 100k w/o wearing the clutch, until I came to LA. The dealer said I was doing averag in clutch wear for these cars, here in LA.
    So an automatic would be cheaper in heavy stop and go commutes

  • Title? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:28AM (#30890522)
    Ok, so they did this for $71, not $10. Why even put that $10 price tag in the title? Because one component costs $10?
    That makes about as much sense as quoting the price of a whole car that can remote start out of the box.
  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:00PM (#30891070) Homepage

    My 22-year-old Citroen CX usually cleared the windows within 30 seconds or so, even in the -20C mornings we had over our fairly brief winter just there. In the cold weather it took longer for hydraulic system to bring the thick, cold, gooey oil up to pressure.

  • by name_already_taken ( 540581 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:15PM (#30891372)

    Parts of this country get very, very cold in winter. It can take a long time for a car to warm up to the point that ice on the windows will melt. Weather conditions vary but I've personally given up on scraping very thick ice off of the windows a few times. Warming up the car can be the only way to get the windows clear.

    I have had remote start systems in the past, but this year I installed a parking heater [webasto.com], which is basically a tankless water heater with a circulating pump. It runs on gasoline and warms the car's coolant up before I get in and start it. It can be operated by a remote or by a timer on the dashboard. It seems pretty efficient, as what's coming out of its exhaust pipe is barely lukewarm. Once the coolant is warm it turns on the car's heater blower and will defrost the windows and warm the interior.

    It's a lot better than a remote start - uses less fuel, and there is never a cold start of the engine.

    Downsides - the cost. I bought mine on eBay, brand new for about $275 from a car dealer who was going out of business. Normally these heaters are not sold directly to end users, you have to get it installed (usually at a heavy truck parts supplier), and the cost for one including installation ranges up to $1800. It took me 9.5 hours to install (at no cost other than a full day's time). Supposedly the factory installers take about the same time to do it.

    Electric engine block heaters are a lot cheaper (can be under $50) - you just plug them into an extension cord, but most people can't do that in their work parking lot.

    With the remote I can start my heater from up to 450 feet away (and I have). The heater I have is German made and conforms to their stringent safety standards, plus it sounds like a tiny jet engine. Similar heaters are used on big diesel trucks to provide heat when parked, in areas that do not allow the trucks to idle their engines.

  • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:18PM (#30891456)
    Top fuel and funny car classes don't have a transmission at all - they're one speed. There is a clutch pack that slowly engages - automatically, the timing is programmed by the mechanics before the run. That hardly qualifies as either manual or automatic.

    Rally cars have a manual transmission, shifted by a paddle to the right of the steering wheel. Watch any of the TV coverage, you'll see them shifting with the right hand without having to remove it from the wheel. Rallying is, in fact, an example of why manual transmissions are better for racing - when broadsliding around a dirt road corner at 120 MPH, you really don't want the car to suddenly shift gears.
  • by newdsfornerds ( 899401 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:28PM (#30891638) Journal
    I'm from Boston, and so are Tom and Ray. I have lived in Boston most of my life.
    Tom and Ray are automotive mechanics and have been working on cars since the NINETEEN SEVENTIES. Tom has an engineering degree from MIT. I trust them not to spew disinformation.
  • Theft solution? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lafflam ( 1729416 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:30PM (#30891676)
    I think I 'd rather use a cell phone like this to remotely STOP my car in the event of theft.
  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @02:06PM (#30893176) Journal

    I live in New England (Maine, specifically), and I personally see little use for a remote starter. But I purchased a car that was meant to be used in this climate (glow plugs for the Diesel engine, heated seats, heated side mirrors, and a small electric coil in the windshield defroster to clear the windows quickly). But a lot of cars simply aren't equipped that way. Volvo, Saab, VW, and maybe a handful of other brands really know what cold weather means, and give you the tools to compensate for it. With a lot of other cars, warmup is as much a safety issue as it is a comfort issue.

    Heaven help you if you get salt or something else on the windshield and try to wash it off, only to discover that your windshield is cold enough to frost up your wiper fluid when spread thinly enough. Instant, near-total blindness.

    It's unfortunate that more auto manufacturers don't offer cold weather packages, but even when they do they can get expensive (more so than a remote starter). It's probably cheaper to just run the thing for 10 minutes the 20-30 times a year you might need defrost. It's not like it consumes gallons and gallons of fuel.

    Having said all that, remote starters can and do get "abused". If you're remote starting your car when it's well above the freezing temperature of your washer fluid, you really need to rethink how much that is costing you (in my opinion). But, hey, it's great living in a free country where people can legally do things I consider stupid. :)

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian