What to Do When Your Car Immobilizer Malfunctions


We’ve all been there; you drive an older vehicle and suddenly, without warning, your car won’t start. The first suspect with an older vehicle is usually the starter. Second, the alternator.

But what if your vehicle isn’t that old? Or, you have never really had any issues with it starting? Or if you take exceptional care of your car and get it serviced routinely? Then what?

If the usual culprits aren’t responsible for your vehicle failing to start, the next most likely thing to consider is whether or not your immobilizer is malfunctioning. Believe it or not, it’s a fairly common occurrence. And one that we’ll explore in detail further throughout this blog post.

If you happen to be one of the unfortunate people to have a vehicle with immobilizer issues that are going to be expensive to fix, you can sell your car to More Cash For Scrap instead. We offer MORE cash for cars than any other used car buyers in the Lower Mainland.

What Does an Immobilizer Do for a Car?

First and foremost, to better understand a vehicle’s immobilizer, you must first understand what it is that it specifically does for a car.

A car immobilizer is a security system that prevents your car from being started by someone who doesn’t possess the correct key or fob. It works by communicating with a transponder chip inside your key fob or smart key.


If the chip sends the right code to the immobilizer module, the engine will start. If not, the engine will actually remain locked. Thus, prevent car theft, and unauthorized access to your vehicle by anyone.

What Causes a Car’s Immobilizer to Malfunction?

There are many different reasons why a vehicle’s immobilizer may malfunction. The first thing you need to be sure of is if it is indeed the immobilizer causing your car not to start.


One of the most common signs that it is in fact the immobilizer malfunctioning, is that when you try to start your car, you’ll hear absolutely nothing. Typically, when it’s something like your alternator, battery, or starter failing, your vehicle will try to start, but is simply unable to complete the starting process.

So, you’ll hear your car’s engine trying to turn over. When the immobilizer is the cause of the issue, you won’t hear anything because the engine is locked by the immobilizer.

If, however, you notice that the issue you’re having is engine related, the good news is that we buy scrap cars with engine problems. We even buy vehicles with major immobilizer issues! If you want MORE cash for scrap cars in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley, sell your car to More Cash For Scrap.

Most Common Reasons for Immobilizer Preventing Your Car from Starting

1.Low or Dead Battery on Your Fob

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This is the absolute most common issue consumers have when their immobilizer is causing their car not to start. Just like when you try to open your garage door, but it won’t open because of a dead or low battery on your fob, it works the same way with a car fob that controls the immobilizer.

Usually, you’ll notice that there may be a delay in starting your vehicle as the fob battery is dying. This is a good indicator that you should get a new battery, or possibly a new fob if it happens to be an issue with the fob that isn’t battery related.

If you have a second fob for your vehicle, try using it before changing the battery. If it works, that could indicate it’s either your other fob, or the fob battery that’s not working.

2.Fob Malfunctioning

As mentioned a moment ago, you may experience problems with your fob that are not related to the battery. Like any form of technology, things can go awry simply because they do.

Fobs are made up of several different delicate components, as well as a mini motherboard. When we are shoving these devices in and out of our pockets, purses, consoles, and bags, this causes wear and tear on them.

Over time, some of the components can break down or become damaged. This leads to fob failure or malfunction.

3.Dirty Key Fob

Believe it or not, something as simple as a dirty key fob can also cause issues with starting your vehicle. That’s because when there is dirty on your key, it can cause a severed or weakened connection. It makes it difficult for the car to get the code that’s being transmitted to it from your fob device.

If you’ve found that you car suddenly won’t start, and you know it’s not the fob battery, try cleaning off the key and see if that helps.

4.Interference from Other Devices

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In a world that is based so much on technology these days, you’d think that one device wouldn’t really interfere with another, but you would be wrong.

Many other devices relay communication through a variety of freqencies. These signals sent out by devices like cell phones, laptops, tablets, other fobs, or even bluetooth speakers, can create a jumble connection from your fob to your vehicle, making it unable to communicate properly. Thus, your vehicle won’t start.

If you have other devices on you or in your car, or even close by in your home, try turning them off, or turning off their internet connection at the very least, and see if that does the trick.

5.Key Programming

If you’ve recently changed fobs, or are using one that originally came with your car, but was never actually used, that could be part of the problem if your car won’t start. The fob itself may not be programmed correctly, which means it can’t properly communicate with your vehicle.

Just like when you buy a universal remote for your television, it needs to be programmed specifically to interact with your T.V. The same principle applies to a vehicle’s key fob.

If you suspect that your fob’s programming may be the reason your car won’t start, take it to a mechanic pronto for an inspection. They have special tools to diagnose the issue and get you back on the road in no time.

Bad Immobilizer Symptoms on a Car

Now you know what an immobilizer is, and what it does for a car. You also know what the problem could potentially be when your vehicle won’t start as a result of a malfunctioning immobilizer.

But how do you know if it’s the immobilizer without taking it to the mechanic? There are a few tell-tale signs that your car’s immobilizer has either failed completely or is on its way out.

1.Your Dashboard Warning Light Comes On

For all those non-vehicle savvy drivers out there, we are fortunate enough in this day and age to have dashboard warning lights on nearly every vehicle. They can tell you if you’re low on oil, if your tire pressure is low, if you’re having engine issues, and yes, they can even tell you that your immobilizer is malfunctioning.

If you see a key symbol pop up on your dashboard when you start up your vehicle, and then begin to slightly dim afterwards, then disappear, that means your fob and car are not communicating effectively.

2.Your Car Won’t Start on the First Try

This can mean a variety of vehicle issues, so don’t assume that it’s your immobilizer right off the hop.

Before discerning if your immobilizer is the issue, you’ll want to check your dashboard for warning lights, and also check the battery in your car’s fob. If the battery is fine, but you notice the key symbol coming up alongside a delay or start up that took place after a few tries, then your immobilizer is likely the problem.

3.Diifficulty Locking or Remote Starting Your Vehicle

The immobilizer works by communicating with your vehicle. However, it doesn’t work directly with the actual immobilizer systems. So, if there is another issue with your CPU, the immobilizer may not be the only thing malfunctioning.

If you notice that your doors aren’t locking or unlocking promptly, it could signal an internal issue.

Similarly, if your vehicle won’t remotely start with your remote starter fob, this could also indicate another issue with your vehicle that will affect how to immobilizer operates.

This particular issue is one that we see quite frequently here at More Cash For Scrap. Many people think that they are having immobilizer issues, when it turns out to be a CPU problem. This usually results in drivers choosing to scrap their car when they are driving an older vehicle.

Fortunately for them, More Cash For Scrap buys cars with CPU issues, and regardless of how bad the mechanical failure is, we’ll always offer you MORE cash for your car than any of our competitors.

4.Electrical or Wiring Problems

If you’ve checked your fob’s battery, and made sure that it is programmed correctly, and that it’s the right key, then it could be an electrical issue your car is having that’s impacting the immobilizer function.

To verify if it’s a wiring or electrical problem, you need to physically inspect the immobilizer in your vehicle. This is definitely a job for a professional. They’ll look for signs of wear, damage, loose wires, and anything else that could be causing a short to your vehicle’s immobilizer.

5.Intermittent Immobilizer Functionality

Does it seem like sometimes your immobilizer works, and sometimes it doesn’t? That could be a sign that it’s on its way out. Much like how a light bulb flickers when you turn it on and off when it’s about to burn out, the immobilizer will be intermittent.

If you’re noticing any sort of inconsistency with turning your vehicle on and off, or setting the alarm, lock, or unlock features, get it in to a mechanic to get it diagnosed.

6.Key Works, But Your Fob Does Not

car key without immobilizer

If you’ve tried starting your vehicle remotely, or tried to unlock your doors, but found that the fob didn’t work, and your regular key did, that’s a clear indicator that your immobilizer is on its way out.

To reiterate, this could also potentially be an issue with your fob’s battery, so be sure to check that first. And again, if you have another fob for the same vehicle, try using it to eliminate whether or not it’s the fob or the immobilizer.

What Do I Do If My Immobilizer is Bad?

Unless you happen to be a mechanic with all the right tools, diagnostic systems, and so pretty expert electrical know-how, you’ll need to have your car looked at by a professional.

Either a mechanic or your local dealership can help diagnose your immobilizer’s issues and advise you to what needs to be done to repair or replace it.

Many times, it’s a simple fix. However, other times, it can be a simple fix, without a simple price tag… Labour for dealing with electrical issues can be quite expensive, plus the cost of parts. This is why so many people who drive older vehicles that are having immobilizer problems choose to sell their car to us instead.

Can I Sell My Car If It is Having Immobilizer Issues?

Yes, you can! You can absolutely sell your car to More Cash For Scrap. We buy junk vehicles in any condition, with any mechanical or electrical problems.

Even if you need a new CPU, or a new immobilizer, or have electrical issues that are so extensive it would cost thousands of dollars to repair.

No matter what kind of issues you are having with our vehicle, you can sell it to us and get MORE cash than with the other guys!

Cash for Cars with Mechanical Issues


From dead engines, to failed transmissions, to immobilizer problems, to faulty CPU’s; at More Cash For Scrap, we always pay MORE cash for cars with mechanical issues, big and small.

We truly don’t care what’s wrong with your car, truck, SUV, or van, we will still offer you the most cash for scrap cars of any kind, with any problem. That’s why we are the Lower Mainland’s #1 scrap car removal company, and have been since 2005.

Sell Your Car Today for MORE Cash!

If you live in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley area, and want to sell a car for cash, give us a call. We are happy to give you an instant cash offer right over the phone.

Simply provide us with the make, model, year, and condition of your vehicle. If it has any sort of problems, advise us of what they are. Then, provide us with the pick-up location of your car.

Our scrap car buyers will make you an instant offer right on the spot. If you accept, we’ll arrange a day and time to have a free junk car towing service come collect your car. Our driver will load up your vehicle, then pay you cash in hand before leaving. It’s that simple!

Call, text, or email our scrap car removal team today for a cash offer (778) 840-6673.

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About the Author: scrapcar

Since 2005, we've specialized in turning our customer's scrap cars into quick cash. We buy vehicles in ANY condition and with ANY issues. We pay MORE cash for scrap cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans than any other scrap car removal company in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island. If you want MORE cash, same day free junk car towing, and a reliable scrap car buying service, you want More Cash For Scrap.