The story of Winnipegger Eugene Skotniczy, who had his immobilizer removed from his truck because he blamed it for constant stalling problems, touched a nerve with readers this weekend. MPI cancelled his insurance after he told them what he'd done.
Turns out he isn't the only taxpayer having immobilizer problems.
"My MPI immobilizer failed three years ago," wrote Ken Charleton. "The first one is free but not the replacement. Plus the tow, lost time and aggravation can add up quick. Mine lasted just over four years and CAA determined that it was defective. They charged me over $400 for a replacement.
"My truck was a 1997 F-150 and if I ever wanted to drive it again in Manitoba I had to have the immobilizer replaced. At the time, I wondered how many others were breaking but it was never in the news. You would think that CAA could tell you as each replacement appears to be subsidized by Autopac.
"I still drive my '97 F150 work truck. I expect in the next year or two to be stranded on some lonely highway in the bitter cold because my immobilizer has failed again. Is that worth a $40 discount on your insurance?"
So, MPI forces vehicle owners to have the immobilizers installed and, when they stop working, the motorist has to pay up? Hardly sounds fair to me.
From Justin Vechina:
"I have had the same issues with my '03 Silverado, which MPI refuses to repair. My truck refuses to start intermittently so I took it back to CAA where it was installed to have it inspected. They told me the immobilizer unit was failing and would need to be replaced. When I went to MPI with this information, they told me it was past the warranty so they would not cover any of the cost of having a new unit installed. Also, I have had to get my command start fixed five to six times because the immobilizer keeps making it lose its programming from the key cycling so many times. I think it is pretty brutal that we were forced to have these immobilizers installed and when they break and start messing up other things on our vehicles it is just too bad for us."
MPI stands by the program. They say auto thefts have dropped 80 per cent since the program began. The immobilizers come with a one-year warranty.
"Read your article and was reminded about my son's experience with his 2001 Alero," says reader Ron Falk. "It was the first car he ever purchased. It never gave him any issue or problem.
"Then, one year came the letter from MPI. They 'forced' him to install an immobilizer as well. For the first year it was OK, but then, he began to experience problems. Periodically, his vehicle would not start and there was absolutely nothing that could be done about it. He took it to a garage and of course it started and they also told him they couldn't do anything about it. We tried to boost his vehicle with jumper cables, and nothing. After a couple of times, he figured out that if he let it sit for 10 to 12 minutes, he could try to start it and then it would start. It could happen at -40 C or when it was pouring, or when he was in a hurry. One never knew. It was so frustrating for he eventually sold the car. Thanks MPI!"
Some helpful advice from Chris Greaves:
"I had a similar problem with my 1997 Suburban and the immobilizer. After trial and error and a few months of frustration, (the problem) was my hands-free device. The hands-free device works through the radio and has a little transmitter in it. When it is plugged in, the truck will often not start. It appears the hands-free interferes with the signal used by the immobilizer. Now I just make sure it is unplugged when I start the truck. Once running, I plug it back in."
Commentor Kaput offered this tale of woe:
"My own vehicle, an older model year with only 25,000 km on it, did the same thing. (N)obody was able to figure out what the issue was and it became dangerous, as my vehicle began to shut down while I was driving. I ended up selling it for just $500, because I'd spent thousands trying to get the issue fixed, and nobody knew what it was.
"The (buyer) got back to me a month later to say the immobilizer wasn't installed correctly, and it was otherwise perfect. I... went into debt for a new (used) vehicle I could actually drive because of the immobilizer installed incorrectly."
When I spoke to MPI about Skotniczy's troubles, they told me only one per cent of immobilizer users have reported problems. Those disgruntled drivers must all have read this column because I heard from scores of unhappy customers over the weekend. On the bright side, their vehicles won't be stolen because no one, not even the owners, can get them started.
Guess the program must work, huh?