Remote Start Lights Flash But No Start (3 Reasons)

Remote start is a technological innovation that revolutionized the way people interact with their vehicles. Nowadays, you will be hard-pressed to find a new car that doesn’t come with the remote start feature. However, remote starters are prone to failure. Do your remote start lights flash but won’t start? Then, you have come to the right place!

Discharged batteries, unintentional valet mode activation, and broken hood pins are some common culprits behind remote start failures. If yours is malfunctioning, now you know what to look out for!

What Is Remote Start?

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Let’s start off our discussion by diving into what remote start is. As the name suggests, this technology allows drivers to start their vehicles from afar without being physically present in the driver’s seat.

This feature can be especially useful for those cold winter days. “How?” we hear you ask. Well, with the remote starter, you can start up your vehicle and let it warm up before stepping inside.

The remote start feature comes built-in with the key fob. When you press the button, it signals the engine to start up. Then, the engine will start and keep running for an amount of time, determined by the manufacturer, before shutting off again.

Remote start technology first made its appearance in the 1980s and has become a popular feature that comes built-in with most modern cars. For those of you that drive older vehicles, there are aftermarket kits available for purchase as well.

With that introduction out of the way, let’s move on to the common problems remote start users face.

Common Problems With Remote Start Systems

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Different issues with the remote start system can lead to various problems. Some common malfunctions of this system include,

  • Lights flashing, but the engine not starting
  • No response from the vehicle when remote start is pushed
  • Only the lock and unlock buttons work

Let us take a closer look into the root causes behind each of these issues.

Lights flashing, but the engine not starting

Are flashing parking lights the only response you get from your car when you press the remote start button? In most cases, this happens due to the failure of an in-built safety mechanism.

Remote starter-equipped cars come with either a hood pin switch or a hood tilt switch which are responsible for preventing the engine from being started remotely while the hood is open. This is mainly designed for the safety of mechanics. Think about it, what will happen if you remotely start the car when a technician is already working on your engine?

If the hood pin switch goes bad, it will send erroneous signals to the vehicle, indicating that the hood is open even when it is fully closed. Thus, the remote starter will fail to start the engine.

Luckily for vehicle owners, this is a relatively easy problem to fix. All you have to do is simply swap out the broken hood pin switch with a brand-new one.

No response from the vehicle when remote start is pushed

If pressing the remote start button does not generate a response from your car at all, there is a high chance of it either being in second-car mode or having a programming issue. Let us break these problems down for you.

Some remote starters have the capability of working with two different vehicles. This feature can turn on if you accidentally press a combination of buttons. When the “second-car mode” is selected, the remote starter won’t work on the first vehicle it was used in.

You can easily find out how to disable the “second-car mode” by referring to the remote starter’s user manual. If the remote starter was installed as an aftermarket feature, you might have to call your installer and ask for guidance.

One of the worst-case scenarios that can happen with remote starters is the loss of programming. Although this is a rare occurrence, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities.

Similar to the Read-Only Memory (ROM) on your computer, remote starters also come with a form of non-volatile memory. This memory is used by the remote start system to store important details like remote control codes and other programming related to it.

However, on some occasions, glitches in the remote start system may cause these important details to be wiped from memory. When this happens, the only way to get the feature back is by reprogramming it. Typically, remote starter programming issues are linked to the battery.

Only the lock and unlock buttons work

Most key fobs have several buttons on them, including the remote starter and the lock/unlock buttons. If only the latter pair of buttons work, there is a high chance of your vehicle being in valet mode.

“What is valet mode?” we hear you ask. Well, valet mode is an important security feature that some remote starters come equipped with. This feature disables the ability to start the vehicle remotely and requires the key fob to be present inside the cabin to turn on the engine. As the name suggests, this feature is only intended to be used when you’re getting the assistance of a valet to park your vehicle. Essentially, you can think of the valet mode as a theft prevention mechanism.

Similar to what we discussed earlier, valet mode can also turn on if you unintentionally press the exact button combination. Valet mode may also turn on if you accidentally hit the remote starter kill switch that is usually located under the dashboard.

In any case, turning off the valet mode will activate the remote start feature right away, If you don’t know how to do so, simply refer to the instructions in the owner’s manual.

Next up, we’ll take a look at some preventative maintenance tips you can follow to minimize remote starter problems.

Preventive Maintenance Tips To Avoid Remoter Start Problems

If you are worried about the remote starter misbehaving, here are some things to keep an eye on.

  1. Check the key fob battery
  2. Inspect coolant temperature
  3. Ensure that the starter is functional
  4. Check for ignition issues
  5. Turn off the hazard lights
  6. Make sure the car is in Park
  7. Keep startup attempts to a minimum

1. Check the key fob battery

Drained key fob batteries are among the most common causes that lead to remote start malfunctions. Remoter starter key fobs have lithium coil cell batteries, and they should be replaced every three to four years.

Replacing the key fob battery is a relatively easy task that any vehicle owner can do in the comfort of their home garage. When replacing the battery, make sure to seat it in the correct orientation. Usually, the positive side of the battery should face upwards.

2. Inspect coolant temperature

When the coolant temperature of the engine is too high, the remote start feature will get disabled automatically. The same goes for inadequate oil pressure as well. So, make sure to regularly inspect the engine coolant level to keep the vehicle in proper working order.

If your remote start isn’t working due to coolant temperature or oil pressure issues, letting the vehicle cool down for a few minutes might resolve the issue.

3. Ensure that the starter is functional

If your car’s starter motor is shot, the engine won’t fire up no matter how many times you press the remote start button. Wiring issues, faulty solenoids, or other internal issues can lead to the starter not cranking the engine when it receives the signal from the key fob.

If you suspect that a faulty starter motor is behind the remote starter malfunctioning, have a mechanic take a look under the hood as soon as possible.

4. Check for ignition issues

Similar to the starter, problems with the ignition system might also render your remote start system useless. Faulty ignition coils, bad spark plugs, and issues with the ignition switch are some of the most common culprits.

Once again, seeking the help of a qualified mechanic is the best course of action to take in this situation.

5. Turn off the hazard lights

In most vehicles, the remote start feature won’t work if the hazard lights are on. Simply turning them off will be enough to make your remote starter work once again.

6. Make sure the car is in Park

If your car isn’t in Park, the remote starter won’t work – it’s as simple as that!

7. Keep startup attempts to a minimum

Frustratingly pressing the remote start button on your key fob over and over again will cause you more harm than good. If you do this, the remote start feature will seize to function.

But, don’t sweat it! You can get it to work once again by simply inserting the key into the ignition, turning the vehicle “ON” and then “OFF”

If you already own a car with remote start or planning to purchase one, make sure to keep the things you learned here today in the back of your mind. You never know when you’ll need it!

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Mahir Ahmed


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