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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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  • by janek78 ( 861508 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:55AM (#30889996) Homepage

    On many phones you can group contacts and assign different ringing profiles. You could just program in allowed numbers and set all other calls to "silent".

    I personally leave my car in gear (with the reverse locked in if I leave it for extended periods of time), so this would not be very practical. :)

    • Remote starters are generally limited to automatic style transmissions...

      • by xaxa ( 988988 )

        Why would you want this?

        I don't own a car, am I missing something obvious?

        • by bmo ( 77928 )

          Because in any place that has a winter, it's a lot nicer to get into a warm car that's ready to drive instead of waiting for the engine, and you, to warm up. And no, it doesn't contribute to global warming/wasteful, because the car is going to idle the same amount of time regardless of you being there or not.

          Either you live where the sun shines all the time and it never gets below freezing, or you're a snow bunny.


          • According to Consumer Reports AND The Tappet Brothers (Tom and Ray Magliozzi) it's bad for the engine to "warm up" your car by letting it run idle in park. It's also a waste of time and gasoline.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:33AM (#30890610)

              According to me it is bad to drive with near zero visibility due to condensation or frost on the interior of the windshield. My life trumps the life of the engine.

              Anyways a bock heater or garage is the way to go, at least if parked at home.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Ever start your car in temperatures below -40? And that's not counting wind chill. Your engine will not like it if you jump in, start and go with zero warm up time. That being said, 30 seconds to 2 minutes is all the time needed to get the juices flowing.

            • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:34AM (#30890630) Homepage
              I agree. I just scrape the ice off and drive off right away. Of course, then my windscreen fogs up on the inside due to chilling from the airflow over it, but fuck you or your kids if you happen to walk in front of me: better you die than I "waste time or gasoline", right?
              • Oh, please (Score:3, Insightful)

                by sean.peters ( 568334 )
                I've owned and/or driven in a LOT of cars, and the problem of "the inside fogs over" clears up in about 30 seconds of running the defroster. So: hop in the car, start, turn on defroster. Put on seat belt. Turn on radio. Inside of the windshield is already defogged. Give me a freakin' break.
            • by Chirs ( 87576 )

              It's definitely a waste to let it sit there for long periods of time. At -40 my experience is that it can be useful for the engine itself to give it a couple minutes...with many vehicles you can hear when it's ready to drive--the note of the engine changes slightly.

              I then warm up the rest of the car by driving very sedately for quite a while until the transmission and suspension stop feeling so stiff.

            • by EatHam ( 597465 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:44AM (#30890802)

              According to Consumer Reports AND The Tappet Brothers (Tom and Ray Magliozzi) it's bad for the engine to "warm up" your car by letting it run idle in park. It's also a waste of time and gasoline.

              Those guys can eat my ass if they think I'm driving around in a cold car I can't see out of. They are also welcome to scrape my windshield for me.

          • by jridley ( 9305 )

            I live where it gets plenty cold, and I have one thing to say:

            People are just wussies.

            No, it's NOT going to sit and idle the same amount of time. When I start my car up, it idles for about 10 seconds; that's how much time it takes to circulate the oil. By then I've scraped the car already on the outside. The inside won't fog up if you put the defroster on medium or high to keep moist air away from it, and crack the rear windows a bit.

            I actually ride a bike to work most days (regardless of temp, I've ridd

        • In colder climates you could start the car to warm it up before you venture outside or you could possibly have the AC running in hotter climates.
        • People who live in cold climates (especially those with a car with a few miles on it) who frequently park outside like them.

          You really shouldn't drive away until your car has had some time to warm up and reach a stable idle. Your car is also really cold so you don't want to sit in it for a couple of minutes while the engine warms up when the heater core also has to warm up. Hit the remote start button while you are putting your coat on and your car is ready to go when you get there. Also a lot of peopl

        • It is as useful as the CD tray opener on your CD remote control. You still have to go to the device to put a CD in. In the car analogy, you will still have to go to the car to drive it.
        • by vvaduva ( 859950 )

          When it's 0 degrees outside and you want to get in a warm car, it comes in handy...

          • by jridley ( 9305 )

            I hate scraping cars off. If it's that cold out I ride my bike instead (yes, I'm serious).

    • by zoloto ( 586738 )
      I did this with my first gen iPhone jailbroken and unlocked using t-mobile and using iBlacklist, essentially allowing only my number to dial in and make a noise/vibration. It's an amazing little hack.
  • a somewhat dodgy proposition if a telemarketer ever gets hold of your number

    That alone is enough to doom this project from the start - telemarketers are relentless, and they will get your phone number even if you haven't given it to anyone. Hell, you could also get trouble from people dialing wrong numbers, or from people miswriting/mistyping their phone number when giving it to somebody else (I get a phone call in Spanish every so often, and at one point they confirmed that they had indeed dialed my numb

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      telemarketers are relentless, and they will get your phone number

      I've never seen a phone (at least since the analog cell phone era) that you coudn't program to ring differently with different numbers. Set it to "vibrate only" from your other cell phone and you're good to go; telemarketers can call all they want, and all that will happen is they waste their time. The call won't even cost you minutes, since it won't be answered.

      • Naturally, I realized that immediately after I posted my comment and saw janek78's comment right above my own.
    • by Amouth ( 879122 )
      Or - they fact that cell companies like to reuse numbers quickly - it used to be that the phone company would wait 1 year before reissuing a number after it is disconnected. i want to say the cell phone companies wait 30 days? if that it seems.
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:59AM (#30890060)

    Wish you could start your car via your cell phone

    No, not even remotely.

    Heh heh... remotely...

  • Phone cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:01AM (#30890096) Journal
    Unfortunately, an AT&T Go Phone costs minimum $100/year. Net10 appears to cost $200/year. Virgin Mobile costs $80, and TracFone costs $100. So it isn't cheaper per year.
    • i don't think tmobile has a minimum
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pretzalzz ( 577309 )

        T-mobile's minimum is $40 a year[$10 every 90 days], or $100 for the first year and then $10 for subsequent years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Your numbers are WAY off for Net10 and TracFone. TracFone's minutes are three times what Net10's are; I've used both. Net10 would be a good bet; you would only need to buy minutes if your card ran out, which iirc is about once a year. So you're talking thirty bucks a year -- you don't spend minutes if the phone isn't answered, and it wouldn't need to answer to start the car.

  • I'd prefer my phone to be able to open my garage door. It should be a cinch, as it's all radio signals (I know, different frequencies, but hey! what about the universal radio chips that were supposed to be controlled by software?), but nope, if I forget my remote, I cannot use my phone.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      How old is your car? Mine's an '02 and it has not one but three door openers built in. If yours doesn't it would be far easier to rig a phone to open your garage; just hook a relay to the button inside the garage and to the opening phone's vibrator (you'd probably need a diode or four too). It would be far cheaper than a remote car starter, maybe five bucks worth of parts, plus the phone and minutes.

  • In Dark Knight, The Joker made good use of some variants of this idea. I'm sure the DHS will be very excited about a bunch of people buying pre-pad phones just to 'wire up yer car.'&sarc;
    • Given that cheap cell phones are already established as the IED remote control of choice, I suspect that they already are.

      Use of cell jammers in combat situations is already commonplace.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:09AM (#30890208) Homepage Journal

    of your standard cell phone triggered terrorist bomb. Nothing new here.

  • 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 Lumpy ( 12016 )

      use a PIC and a phone that is not crappy (I.E. it has HAYES modem set serial out the connector). and you can do this for $25.00

  • DTMF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:17AM (#30890330) Journal

    A DTMF decoder, PIC microcontroller, and a couple dozen lines of assembly code and you could secure the system by requiring a code be entered on the calling phone.

    • by Wingsy ( 761354 )
      I doubt that. Sending DTMF over CDMA or GSM distorts the living daylights out of it. You'd be lucky if your decoder can detect with 80% reliability. Been there, done that... or tried to.
  • Wooo! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:19AM (#30890362)
    The DIY $10 Prepaid Cellphone Remote Car Starter
    The DIY $10 Prepaid Cellphone Remote Toaster
    The DIY $10 Prepaid Cellphone Remote Coffee Machine
    The DIY $10 Prepaid Cellphone Remote Front Door Lock
    The DIY $10 Prepaid Cellphone Remote Laser-enhanced Shark Cage Opening Mechanism

    The possibilities are endless!
  • OK, we've had the telemarketer accidentally starting the car. What about if you leave it in gear when someone accidentally starts it? I didn't see any safety interlocks or checks on this guy's lash-up. What about when the mobile phone company sends you a "helpful" (read: marketing) message to tell you about their wonderful new ways of getting your money .... on the day after you go on holiday for a couple of weeks? And that's leaving out ALL the reasons why you'd have to inform your insurance company so you
    • You safety concerns make no sense. It uses the standard remote starter. And even so, any modern automatic won't start in gear (most won't even let you take the key out of the ignition if it is in gear).
  • Seriously, this is a hack and a half. That's one of the worst soldering and assembly jobs I've ever seen (cat5 for hookup wire?) I don't even see enough parts to make it work at all. You'd need one relay to provide ignition power, then a second to hit the starter. Plus there are no other features here like a neutral/park detect (so the vehicle doesn't start moving), an auto shutdown so the vehicle won't run for days if you accidentally start it and forget, etc.

    A cheap remote start kit like the Bulldog Se

    • by bcmm ( 768152 )

      I don't even see enough parts to make it work at all. You'd need one relay to provide ignition power, then a second to hit the starter

      You missed the bit where he's using a cheap remote-start thing (presumably works like a remote-unlock, and over similar range) and modifying it to work with a mobile phone.

  • 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.
  • I had thought of doing this some time back, what stopped me and apparently the author
    as well is the price of maintaining minutes on the phone just to run a remote starter.

  • by kaizendojo ( 956951 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:32AM (#30890596)
    the do it yourself Homeland Security visit kit.
  • by radish ( 98371 )

    I've only been in the US a few years and I see people with these remote start setups quite a bit. The only thing is I have no idea why they're useful? I've never had any real desire to start my car when I'm walking towards it (which is what most people seem to do with them) and in fact it would be illegal in my home country. If anyone could explain what they're for I'd appreciate it :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by codepunk ( 167897 )

      Outside temperature 20 below zero, think about it. Some areas of the US have very harsh winters, remotely starting
      a car 10 minutes early remotely allows time to warm the interior to something more comfortable say 40 deg. Not
      to mention it is better for the engine to be at least slightly warmed up before placing it under a load.

    • I've never actually seen one, but I've always assumed its for starting it from your house and letting it warm up in the winter.

  • You should be able to set a custom ring/vibrate for numbers in your address book, eliminating the false starts from everyone calling the last person who had your phone's number.
  • In most states letting your car start or run without you present is illegal. (yes, this includes starting your car and running back inside while the ice melts or the air cools). Also, it's not exactly the safest idea if you live in an area with high theft. I read a story a while back about some thieves that would cruise a nearby rich neighborhood and pop a door on a car 'warming up in the drive way' drive off and surprise the owner when there was no car there anymore. This made even easier by people who le

  • 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.
  • Better design (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:45PM (#30892910) Homepage

    Here's a better solution. [] This design connects to the cell phone audio output (so you don't have to open the phone) and has a DTMF decoder chip, so you send it tones to make things happen. That at least gives you some protection against random phone calls.

Forty two.