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Given the amount of Ram pickups that have been targeted for theft lately, owners are looking for additional ways to protect their vehicles. One popular method is to add a kill switch. A kill switch is an electrical switch hidden somewhere in the vehicle with only the owner knowing where it is located. The idea being that when it is parked, the switch is manually turned to the off position, severing the electrical connection between the battery and the onboard electronics, hopefully thwarting would-be thieves.

A friend recently purchased a kill switch from an online retailer and had it installed. Immediately after the installation, he noticed his brand-new Ram truck wasn’t quite right. When he reengaged the switch, the truck’s electrical system performed differently. His back-up camera did not work; other warning lights were illuminated on the dash, such as a non-operating lane-departure system. He may have been over thinking it, but he also swore the truck drove differently for the first few kilometres. Eventually, after a half hour of driving, the warning lights went out and the back-up camera started to function again. Every time he used the kill switch the same series of warning lights appeared and the inoperative back-up camera plagued the truck for the first half hour of operation. He revisited the installer and was assured it was indeed installed as per the instructions. He then called his dealership to inquire if the new switch had any potential warranty implications. The dealer staff said it would void all electrical warranties. In a panic he called me. Always looking for ideas to write about, I took up his quest and headed to a nearby Chrysler dealer to speak with the service manager.

His answer was that there was nothing specifically or officially from Chrysler Canada specifying kill switches. But like any electrical modifications, including aftermarket radios or trailer-brake controllers, if electrical problems occur during your warranty period there is the potential for warranty refusal. Unlike decades ago when vehicles had few electronics, computer shutdown procedures in new vehicles don’t occur when the power is abruptly cut. For example, when a power outage occurs in your home and cuts off the power to your personal computer it may not always reboot in its typically manner, and may display a message that the system was shut down suddenly. Something similar is likely happening here.

This explains why the Ram’s back-up camera didn’t work and warning lights were illuminated. He ultimately decided to remove the kill switch and return it to stock as he was worried about failures within his truck that could be blamed on this modification.

My local dealer service management team was working on ideas to aid their customers, as they realize that additional theft deterrents are required, said the service manager. He also confirmed the bulk of their recovered customer trucks were stolen by thieves exploiting the Onboard Diagnostic port.

The theft deterrent ideas being discussed were to relocate the vehicle’s horn to an inconspicuous location as its current location was too easy for a thief to disable. They were also looking for an advanced kill-switch-style device that did not disrupt the vehicle’s sensitive electronics. Another idea was to install an additional parallel circuit to supply power to the vehicle’s GPS locating system that was being disabled by thieves simply by pulling a fuse. Other than the horn relocation, these ideas were in the research phase and had not been implemented yet, said the service manager.

While I’m not completely against the idea, I do suggest caution when installing a kill switch on a newer vehicle, as there is potential for unforeseen problems, especially if it is installed in a poor manner.

Your automotive questions answered

Hi Lou,

I bought a new BMW 328ix sedan which I’ve owned for more than seven years. It only has 32,000 kilometres on it. I have exclusively relied on the BMW dealership who sold me the car to maintain it. Overall, I’ve been happy with the ownership experience, bar one quite expensive thing – my brakes. The front brake rotors and pads have been replaced three times, the rear two times. The last instance was fall 2021 when both front and rear were serviced. While the brake pads were still at 6-8 millimetres, I was told the rotors were too rusty to salvage and the pads too scored to be reused.

The explanation: I don’t drive the car enough. The advice to forestall this issue? Take the car out periodically and work those brakes hard to get them hot so the pads can scrub the rotors. Also, keep the car outdoors rather than in my heated garage, to inhibit rust. Do you agree with this advice, or can something else/more be done? It’s true I use the car sparingly, and even less since pandemic restrictions have kept me working from home with nowhere to go. Has your shop seen any unusual auto maintenance issues related to people using their cars less?

P.S. I’ve learned heaps from your column, thanks. - Michel W.

Having a personal relationship with my customers means I feel bad when things go wrong even when the problem is out of my control. Case in point were rust problems on many customer brake jobs done just before the pandemic plunged the world into a stay-at-home status. I did my best to warranty all the brake jobs on vehicles that had sat dormant for an extended period. When these cars came back on the roads, many people complained of noisy, rusty brakes. Surprisingly enough, brake rotors that were bought from quite a few dealerships had little corrosion warranties past one year although premium components bought from aftermarket suppliers often had two-year warranties. While original equipment parts are usually superior, I found that wasn’t always the case during this high-warranty period.

Not much can be done in your situation Michel as 32,000 kilometres over seven years is low yearly mileage. You would have to completely change your driving habits to work your brakes harder as the dealer is suggesting. Keeping the car outside will also have little impact minimizing corrosion. It’s just something you will have to live with.

Hi Lou,

I am originally from the U.K. and had wondered about the difference in octane ratings between U.K. and Canadian regular and premium gasoline - known as petrol in Britain. Your article explained it to me. There is just a different method of calculation used in the two countries and in fact regular and premium are the same in both countries. Thanks. - Robin A

Just in case you missed it the first time around, here is the article again.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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