Does my car have an immobiliser? – How to find out if your car has a factory-fitted immobiliser

Car insurance companies often ask you if your car has a factory-fitted immobiliser when you get a quote. If you are unsure about how to answer, read our guide below

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Having an insurance-approved immobiliser fitted on your vehicle will greatly reduce the risk of you becoming a victim of motor theft.

When purchasing car insurance, an insurer will often ask you if you have a factory-fitted immobiliser. They ask this not just out of curiosity, but because they often give discount to those who do, as cars that have them are much more secure against thieves.

Despite them offering great car insurance discounts, many of us do not know what a car immobiliser is or how to find out if our vehicles have one fitted.

By finding out whether or not our cars have an immobiliser fitted, we could potentially save money on our car insurance premiums, therefore, if we do have an immobiliser fitted, it is important we all know how to find out the information.

Below, we explain everything you need to know about car immobilisers, and show you how to work out if your car has a factory-fitted immobiliser.

What you will learn…

What is an immobiliser and how does it work?

An immobiliser is an electronic security device which will stop a vehicle from starting if the wrong key is used.

Details of exactly how car immobilisers work are not known – this is to prevent motor thieves becoming wise to the complicated mechanisms put in place to keep vehicles with immobilisers safe.

At a basic level, there is a rough understanding of how car immobilisers work.

A vehicle has different components which need to be activated in order to get moving; specifically the ignition, the fuel system and the starter motor.

When we put our key in the ignition, a code is sent from the key to the cars electronic control unit. If the code matches, all is well and the vehicle will start.

However, if the wrong key is used, say by a thief, the immobiliser will kick in and disable two of the three main components and the car will not start.

What about keyless cars? How to prevent keyless car theft

The keyless entry system on most keyless cars can be disabled for security purposes, however you can also invest in an Autowatch Ghost Immobiliser – this is a pricey solution to keyless car safety, using a sequence of buttons in your car (volume, electric windows etc.) to unlock your car.

This type of immobiliser can also be connected to your smartphone, but is only available on selected vehicles and costs in excess of £399.

How do I find out if I have an immobiliser? Do all cars have immobilisers?

Car immobilisers have been compulsory on all cars made since 1998.

If an immobiliser was fitted after this date and at the time of manufacture, it makes it a ‘factory-fitted immobiliser’.

If you have purchased a brand new car since 1998, chances are you will have an immobiliser fitted. However, if you have bought second-hand car, there is a chance the car may have been tinkered with in some way and a car immobiliser is no longer fitted.

Finding out if your car has one fitted can be done quickly and easily by checking your vehicle handbook.

If your car was made before 1998, it is likely that you will not have an immobiliser fitted. You can however purchase one and get it fitted. Some immobilisers are more secure than others, so if you are thinking about getting one fitted you should opt for a ‘Thatcham approved’ alarm. This means that they have been approved by The Thatcham Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, which is an organisation connected to safety and security equipment for cars and other motor vehicles.

Is it worth getting an immobiliser fitted?

The main benefit of having an immobiliser in your car is that it brings added security – which will usually translate into cheaper car insurance premiums.

If your car doesn’t have an immobiliser and you wish to have one fitted, then you need to make sure that you opt for a Thatcham-approved immobiliser – as this is an industry wide seal of approval that your system is effective.

It’s worth noting though, that an immobiliser isn’t the only security measure you can take on your vehicle to help reduce car insurance premiums.

As well as immobilisers, Thatcham’s also rates and approves security devices like steering wheel locks and car alarms that can also help you get cheaper insurance quotes.

Thatcham’s security certifications work by classing car security systems in different categories – the lower the category rating, the better the overall security and therefore, the better the potential premium reduction.

Here’s a breakdown of the different Thatcham device categories:

Thatcham category 1 – electronic alarm and immobiliser

Security systems listed under ‘Thatcham category 1’ are the most complex and effective ones on the market.

A ‘Category 1’ car alarm will have advanced features like ignition detection and perimeter detection, as well as movement, tilt and glass break sensors.

The alarms siren will also run off the power of its own battery supply.

The immobilisers in ‘Category 1’ have to conform to certain criteria, including being automatically set without any intervention from the driver.

Thatcham category 2 – electronic immobiliser

Car alarms are not required as part of a category 2 security system, but an immobiliser is.

To be deemed a ‘category 2’ system, the immobiliser needs to conform to all the same criteria as a category 1 product.

Thatcham category 2.1 – electronic alarm upgrade

As you have probably guessed, this category rating is achieved by upgrading a category 2 system with the addition of an electronic car alarm.

If your car has category 2 status, then adding an alarm (which conforms to the criteria of category 1 systems) upgrades the security rating and can lead to reduced premiums.

Thatcham category 3 – mechanical immobiliser

Unlike category 1 and 2 immobilisers, those in category 3 are mechanical – which means they are physical devices that need to be set and unset.

Category 3 devices come with steering wheel and gear level locks as well.

Thatcham category 4 – wheel locking

Many modern cars that come with alloy wheels can benefit from wheel locking nuts, which make it much harder for thieves to steel your wheels because they need a special, unique, key to remove one of the nuts holding the wheel in place.

To qualify as Thatcham-approved category 4 devices, the nuts have to be reliable and durable. The manufacturer also has to have a safe and secure key replacement process in place.

Thatcham category 5 – post-theft tracking and recovery

These types of systems are able to track where a stolen vehicle is – using GPS trackers – and also have the capability to immobilise the car remotely.

This means if your car is stolen, at least you can find out where it is and recover it – and stop it being driven any more – which can convince your insurer to lower your premiums.

Thatcham category 6 – stolen vehicle tracking

Category 6 vehicle trackers are able to locate where a stolen vehicle is, but they are unable to remotely immobilise the vehicle (as in category 5)

Thatcham category 7 – stolen vehicle location

This is a simpler form of locating your vehicle.

Q class ‘aftermarket’ systems – non-categorised

These systems include ‘aftermarket’ alarms and immobilisers – which means ones that are fitted after the car has been built (rather than ‘factory-fitted).

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