Rental cars can be a worry when you live in a not-so-safe neighborhood and are worried about theft. Car theft is a real problem and more so if you’re using a rental car.
Because the car belongs to a company and not you, it can be a big problem if the car is stolen from your possession. This is why rental companies often opt to install remote kill switches for their cars.
Before proceeding, you may want to know if all rental car companies require deposits.
Here’s the Answer to Whether Rental Cars Have a Remote Kill Switch:
As you’d expect, rental cars are equipped with tracking software and sometimes, a remote kill switch.
There are different methods to cut a car’s power remotely and one common method involves cutting off the fuel supply to the engine. Thankfully, many rental companies don’t use kill switches today.
Can Rental Car Companies Shut Down a Car Remotely?
Car rental companies can easily shut down a car remotely if it has the necessary hardware installed.
The car can also be tracked and remotely shut down according to what the contract states.
For example, if your contract with the rental company states that the car is not allowed to leave the state. According to the contract, the rental company has the right to remotely shut down the car if it leaves the state line.
There are many cases of rentals that were remotely shut down while on the highway because they were leaving the state. A call to the rental company can be made so that they can switch the car back on.
After the car is switched back on, you are then required to turn back into the state where the rental contract was made. If there are no injuries, then the person has no legal standing in a case against the rental company.
The rental car company will make an effort to call you or send alerts to let you know you are leaving the appointed area.
If they cannot reach you, then they are on their right to remotely switch off the car.
In other cases, the rental car company can remotely shut the car off when you report it as stolen. They can then use GPS tracking to track down the car for recovery.
It is important to note that reputable rental car companies now only have GPS tracking systems and do not use kill switches.
This is because of the danger of having a car lose power when you’re driving at high speeds on the highway. It can potentially put you and other motorists in danger.
It is best to read over the rental contract and find out if your rental is allowed to travel out of state. With that said, also check what penalties you will incur if you do travel out of state and whether the car will remotely shut down.
How Does a Rental Car Remote Kill Switch Work?
A remote kill switch for a car works with a GPS in order to receive commands from a computer or other device.
The computer can then send signals to the car wirelessly to control the components of the car.
Some main components in a kill switch include the starter interrupt device (SID) and the remote for entering a code. The SID is mounted under the dashboard and the remote can be used to insert a code to allow the car to function.
A SID can interfere with components such as the battery, fuel line, spark plugs, or engine sensors. It is connected to the engine and in an open circuitry, the vehicle is rendered inoperable.
A remote kill switch comes in handy in situations that involve car theft. The kill switch can be remotely accessed to cut off power or fuel to the car remotely.
A kill switch module can be set up to either cut off the fuel line to the car or cut off battery power to the car. The car will then be rendered unusable until the kill switch is disengaged.
The rental can also disengage the kill switch remotely to allow you to use the car. This happens when they’ve called you and sorted out the matter and cause of the remote switch.
Kill switch devices are also called GPS disablers or Starter Interrupt and the primary goal is to prevent the car from being operable.
To remotely control the components of the car and switch them off, the SID also works like a GPS to receive signals from a distance. Much like a cellular network, the device can send and receive signals.
Big companies that no longer use kill switches have GPS tracker units installed for their fleet of cars. If the car is not returned for a certain period of time, they notify the police and try to track the vehicle.
Companies such as Hertz, Enterprise, Budget, and Avis also have what they call remote lock and unlock. This comes in handy when a customer has lost their keys or locked them in the car.
With such fears revolving around car theft, one gets curious about whether they can have two rental cars at once.
Under Which Circumstances Do Rental Car Companies Shut off a Car?
Car rental companies deem it necessary to remotely switch off your rental if the contract states that you may not travel out of state.
Thankfully, as stated earlier, they may contact you before they switch off the car to allow you time to turn around.
Other rental companies can even tell if the driver is impaired in any way and shut the car off remotely. This is to avoid the risk of personal injury and danger to passengers and other motorists.
Other than theft and car rental company vehicles, kill switches are also used by auto loan companies. If you miss a repayment, the auto loan company can engage the kill switch and remotely switch off the car.
In the unfortunate case that you are the victim of a hijacking or the car is stolen, kill switches come in handy. If the rental company has a kill switch installed, they can remotely switch off the vehicle and recover it.
Smaller car rental companies are commonly known to install kill switches in their cars. They do this to avoid high recovery fees such as tow trucks to fetch the car when it is off.
Lesser-known companies also use kill switches if you have not paid the amount that is owed to them. This only happens if the company has not taken your credit card information.
Car rental companies that operate in areas that are known to have high hijacking or theft cases also install kill switches. They don’t want to lose their assets and kill switches are a good way to protect the car.
It is a good idea to always have your phone on you when you have rented a car so that you don’t miss their calls and alerts. They commonly send alerts if you’re leaving the stipulated area like traveling out of the state.
They can also alert you as to your driving, that is if they have the hardware to detect dangerous driving. After missed calls and notifications, they will remotely switch off the car in case you are not in possession of it.
How Do You Spot a Kill Switch on a Rental Car?
A remote kill switch in a car can be spotted by checking common areas where important car components are located. This is either the fuel line, spark plugs, fuse box, or battery.
Meanwhile, before renting a car, you should know if rental cars come with gas prefilled.
Types of vehicle kill switches
- Fuse Box Kill Switch
- Car Battery Switch
- Ignition Wire Kill Switch
- Fuel Cut-off Switch
For example, if a car battery kill switch is installed, you will notice weird wiring around your battery terminals.
The switch will turn off the positive terminal of the car when the kill switch is engaged.
For an inline fuel cut-off switch, you can usually see a knob attached to the fuel pipe under your car. This switch cuts off fuel to the engine when the kill switch is engaged and renders the vehicle inoperable.
A fuse box kill switch is attached to the vehicle’s fuse box in the bonnet and engine area. It will trip power to the fuse box when engaged and the car will not operate without the necessary fuses.
An ignition works by disabling the ignition and the car will not start even if the key is used. This is the most common of the kill switches because it is affordable and easy to install.
To spot a kill switch, it is necessary to inspect the car’s important components for unusual equipment that is attached. These can be in the form of wires, sensors, or electrical components that you don’t recognize.
There are sophisticated kill switches that allow being easily hidden in the vehicle. These are more expensive but effective because they can’t be found and are disabled easily by thieves.
Fuel line switches and battery switches are some of the easiest kill switches to recognize. They are exposed and you don’t need tools to expose and see them.
A good idea is to install the kill switch so it won’t be easily spotted by thieves. The side of the vehicle in the engine area is usually a good spot.
Furthermore, remember to check our article where we explain whether rental car companies charge for cleaning.
What Other Forms of Tracking Do Car Renting Companies Use?
Other than remote kill switches, car rental companies use normal GPS tracking to locate cars. A GPS tracker is an affordable way to track or locate a car for recovery or theft.
Many rental companies inform their customers of the presence of trackers in their vehicles. Customers can also find this information in the rental contract.
Modern cars from big-name brands such as Ford, Toyota, BMW, Audi, and VW now come with Wi-Fi systems installed. The rental company can use the car’s network to locate it in an emergency.
GPS tracking is the most commonly used method of tracking vehicle fleets. OnStar vehicle tracking is also a reliable vehicle tracking system.
With OnStar, the vehicle is fitted with a Wi-Fi hotspot so that it is always online and able to receive and send signals.
The system can track, lock or disable the car remotely if the vehicle is on and within range.