What Do the Immobilizer Warning Lights Mean?

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A vehicle can be a big investment so it is important to make sure that no one can take your car without your keys. Nowadays, almost all vehicles have inbuilt immobilizer systems which prevent the engine from starting unless the correct key is being used.

Early systems had a simple code stored on the key which was read by the computer while trying to start the engine. Now, more advanced methods of encryption are used, so it is much harder to trick the system these days. The overall idea is the same though, whenever you turn the key, the car’s computer reads a code from the key and checks it against the codes that are currently known. If the computer finds a match, it will let you start the engine.

If a key match is not detected, a few things can happen. The engine may start and run for a few seconds before dying or the engine may not even turn over at all. A warning light is included on the dash to let you know how the system is reacting.

What the immobilizer warning light means

The indicator for the immobilizers behave similarly between different vehicles, but refer to the owner’s manual for specific information on your vehicle’s system. Generally, when you first start the engine, this light will illuminate for a few seconds showing that the correct key has been used. If the computer doesn’t recognize the code on the key, the light will flash multiple times. You won’t be able to start the engine until you use a recognized key.

If you have a keyless ignition in your vehicle, make sure that the key is close enough to register with the receiver inside the car. Even if the key fob has low or no battery power, most vehicles have a backup procedure so that you can still start the car. Information on this procedure will be included in the owner’s manual.

All vehicles can have multiple codes registered at a time so that you can have multiple keys to use the car. A factory scan tool or an already known key is needed to teach the car new codes.

Is it safe to drive with the immobilizer warning light on?

This warning light usually only comes on when the key isn’t recognized so you shouldn’t have to worry about this light coming on while you are already driving. If this happens, try taking the key out and reinserting it if you are having trouble getting your car started. If you are experiencing any troubles, check and verify that the key fob isn’t out of power.

If your car’s immobilizer system isn’t working properly, our certified technicians can help you diagnose any issues you are encountering.


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Matthew

31 years of experience
640 reviews
Matthew
31 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
First off he was on time....actually 30 mins early which was great. Everything he described was what I was going through and he knew exactly what I needed before he even looked at the car. Other mechanics i feel were trying to take advantage because I am a woman but he made me feel comfortable. Still have to get work done on it but at least I know exactly what the problem was.
Chevrolet Tahoe - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Very detailed and takes the time to explain what is being done. Willing to answer any questions you may have. I would definitely use his services again and have already been telling my coworkers about this site. I have a unique electrical situation going on with my truck that none of the dealers could assess. Just by Matt doing some general maintenance , my truck is already driving smoother. Matt asked that I monitor things to make sure we don't need to troubleshoot anything else. I feel quite confident.

Travis

11 years of experience
54 reviews
Travis
11 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz C230 - Warning Light is on - Charlotte, North Carolina
Travis came out to determine cause for the Check Engine light. He did so and told me what needed to be done and the cost.

Juan

7 years of experience
19 reviews
Juan
7 years of experience
Suzuki Grand Vitara - Warning Light is on - Durham, North Carolina
I won't go into details about the actual work performed - the result was completely satisfactory. Juan is knowledgeable about how these computerized engines work . He's very personable, polite, patient with my questions, and when I need service again, I'll request Juan. He put in more time than originally scheduled and seems to want to see things through and honest enough to tell you if the job is beyond his expertise and suggests taking car to dealer for more extensive diagnostic tests. I am well pleased.

Robert

11 years of experience
2 reviews
Robert
11 years of experience
Buick Encore - Warning Light is on Inspection - Manteca, California
He was great because I didn’t have to go anywhere I just stayed at home and he took care of everything

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