Have you noticed a blinking red light on the dashboard that is causing you major distress? And you are probably thinking that this light is because something is really wrong with the car and this problem needs addressing ASAP? If that is the case, we should tell you in advance that there is no reason to worry and in this article, we are going to explain to you everything when it comes to this blinking red light on the dashboard problem.
- Blinking & Flashing Red Light
- Engine Immobilizer System
- Blinking Red Light Symptoms
- How To Fix This?
- Final Conclusion
Modern cars have a ton of lights and features in them and frankly, it is difficult to keep up with the innovations that come each year. Car manufacturers don’t give us time to take a breath and learn these features that are included in their new products. They throw a new product every six months which is crazy.
So, keeping up with the technology might come to be a bit difficult at some point. Especially when there are a ton of lights on the dashboard that we don’t know what do they mean in the first place. And when it comes to a red color the first thing we associate with red color is a possible problem that might be there. But you shouldn’t worry, we are going to explain everything.
In this article, we are going to learn what is the blinking red light on the dashboard and why is it there. Then we will learn how does it work in practice. After, we are done with the blinking red light on the dashboard. We will focus on some other things, more red lights, and their meaning. So, if you are interested to learn more, follow along.
Blinking Red Light
So, what is a red blinking red light on the dashboard? Let me tell you first that there is no reason to worry about when it comes to this light. This light is only there to tell you that some of the defense systems and mechanisms of the car are armed and active.
By armed we don’t mean that they carry guns and they will shoot a potential attacker. We just want to tell you that the car is prepared to react if there is a possible theft.
Modern cars are nothing like the cars we saw in movies as kids. If you recall, when there was a car theft there was a guy that was breaking in, connecting two wires and the car would start. And frankly, this wasn’t just a movie trick for us to think that this is possible. But it also happened in reality. Old cars were so easy to break in and be stolen.
That’s why car manufacturers have decided to do something when it comes to this problem. They looked for a way of how to protect their customer’s cars and the only way to do this right was to install an anti-theft system called an immobilizer. When this system is armed, you will notice that blinking red light on the dashboard. This means that the doors are locked and the system is on.
Stealing a car with this system is much more difficult. But how this system works? Let’s find out in the next chapters.
An immobilizer is an electronic device that is installed in motor vehicles. This electronic device makes sure that your car doesn’t end up stolen. This immobilizer device will prevent your car from being started with the hot wiring method that we described in the previous chapter.
This system is extremely old, more precisely it was invented and patented by two scientists in 1919. But even though the idea of an immobilizer is that old, it only saw a mass production in 1998 when Germany mandated that all cars should come equipped with an immobilizer device that causes that blinking red light on the dashboard to show.
Soon after that, a lot of car manufacturers followed with this immobilizer device and made it mandatory globally. Nowadays, there are not a lot of vehicles that do not come equipped with an immobilizer from the factory.
This device saved a ton of cars from being stolen during these long years of use. As we said, this device makes the hot wiring method that was used on old cars impossible to do and there is less chance of your car getting stolen. That’s why if you see a blinking red light on the dashboard, you shouldn’t be afraid and look at this red light as something positive that will protect your car.
But what is the method of action of the immobilizer? That’s what we are going to learn next. After that, we are going to see if this immobilizer is crackable and whether it offers perfect protection or not.
How Does An Immobilizer Work
So, how does this system work in practice, what is the method of action in other words? In this chapter, we are going to cover precisely that and learn what magic happens to make your car theft-proof and make sure that it doesn’t get stolen by using the hot wiring method. So, let’s get into it.
The immobilizer works with the help of a transponder. Every key in the key fob has a transponder in it. This means that the device on your car is recognizing this transponder that is on the key. Soon after it recognizes the transponder, it allows the engine to be started.
The early models of immobilizers used a static code that was located in the ignition key. Then this code when inserted into the key ignition would be recognized by the immobilizer and the ECU if there is a match in the system. If there wasn’t a match, the car would simply not start since no fuel would be allowed to enter the combustion chamber.
Modern keys do not use a static key like the earlier models and they are using something known as rolling codes. This means that there is more than one code used. Making cracking of the code much more difficult to do. Also, some manufacturers are using cryptography and other techniques that are extremely advanced and very hard to crack. But not impossible. More on that later.
So, to sum things up. If the immobilizer doesn’t see a familiar key, it will not shut off and allow the engine and car to start. This makes the chance of starting the car almost impossible without the right key inserted into the system. The blinking red light on the dashboard will continue to blink in this case.
Does An Immobilizer Actually Work
We learned what is the blinking red light on the dashboard. Now let’s see the vulnerabilities of the immobilizer. Still, nothing in this world is perfect, Neither is the case with the immobilizer. Even if you make protection against 99% of the cases of theft, there would still be 1% of thieves that are a step ahead of you and make your protection vulnerable.
It doesn’t matter how good these systems get. There will be a ton of thieves that can penetrate these systems. How these systems are penetrated is by hacking the car. Hackers have a ton of different techniques on how to clone an existing key and make the car start.
Some cars are using a way to remember the last key they have been started with and will not start with a non-transponder clone key. Which is a good feature that works.
Rolling key codes on a keyless entry are also crackable. The signal can be intercepted by thieves when you lock and unlock the car. Once intercepted, they can use this code to enter the vehicle.
That’s why it is useful to spot if there is somewhere around you while you are using this system to intercept your code. In this case, you should watch out where you park your vehicle and make sure that it is not some suspicious place.
But as we said, nothing is perfect and cars are still prone to theft. According to one research, there was a 40% reduction in car thefts in the US since the immobilizer was a thing and started to be massively implemented by car manufacturers. Which is actually a good thing for us the car owners. But can this device break? Let’s see.
Symptoms Of A Bad Immobilizer
The immobilizer is not a perfect device and can break and cause several issues to appear. This can be a frustrating thing to deal with, to be honest since you will be highly unlikely to be able to start the vehicle if there is a blinking red light on the dashboard after you unlock the car and get the key in the ignition.
But what are the symptoms of this problem with the bad immobilizer? How to know when the immobilizer is not working right? Let’s find out in the following chapters.
Bad Immobilizer Symptoms #1. Blinking Red Light On The Dashboard
If the immobilizer is broken, you will experience a red light on the dashboard. Why is this the case? This is the case because the immobilizer doesn’t turn off when it senses your key fob.
The system is malfunctioning and doesn’t work. Or the device in your key fob is malfunctioning as well making the key fob unusable.
This in other words translates into problems of operating the vehicle. Electronics can malfunction, especially in older vehicles. There are a ton of semiconductors that after a certain age tend to fail and make this system your enemy rather than something that will protect you and your vehicle when it comes to thefts.
That’s why the blinking red light isn’t always a lifesaver. Something can mean that there is something really wrong with the system and make your car undrivable. When you have a problem like this, a new immobilizer would need to be installed and new reprogrammed keys along with it. To have some insight into how the communications system works, check out our U0073 code guide.
And this can be a rather expensive thing to do. That’s why some people are installing immobilizer bypass modules to bypass the immobilizer and be able to start the car with a button. Take note that these immobilizer bypass modules are for chip keys only and will not work with other immobilizer types.
- BANVIE Car Immobilizer Transponder Bypass Module
- Fortin – EVO-ALL – Universal All-In-One CAN Bus Data Interface And Transponder Immobilizer Bypass Module
- EASYGUARD BM001 Universal Immobilizer Bypass Module
Bad Immobilizer Symptoms #2. Problems With Locking And Unlocking
Another problem can be with locking and unlocking the vehicle. The car will simply do not like to lock and unlock the doors.
This can be a big pain to deal with because you will not be able to lock the car if you don’t put the key into the door lock. And considering that most modern cars do not have door locks. You will not even have a key to do this task.
Overall, a bad situation that could leave you also unable to enter your car and drive off. If it’s the middle of winter or late at night, you will be quite furious about this. You don’t want to be in this situation at this point.
The only way to enter your car would be to call a locksmith to break into the car (or if you want to figure out how to break into your car) and open the doors for you. In this case, the best thing would be for you to use this chance to tell the locksmith to program a new key that will allow you to open the doors of your car and start the car.
This will cost you $200 or even more in some instances. But in my opinion, it is worth it. You don’t want to have a malfunctioned door lock system and a blinking red light on the dashboard. But what about the other symptoms of a bad immobilizer? Let’s see in the following chapters.
Bad Immobilizer Symptoms #3. The Key Doesn’t Want To Turn
If you put the key into the ignition and it doesn’t want to turn, there could be a sign that there is a problem with the key fob or the immobilizer.
The immobilizer basically doesn’t recognize the key fob and doesn’t want to work. The car is thinking that this is some thief trying to steal it. Bad situation, to be honest.
You will not be able to start this car until you fix this problem. And how you can do this work we are going to explain later in this chapter where we will talk about the possible solutions for the bad immobilizer and the blinking red light on the dashboard.
Bad Immobilizer Symptoms #4. Car Alarm Problems
The last problem would be is with your alarm. If the car is equipped with an alarm. Since not a lot of cars these days are using alarms as they did in the past.
The car alarm will turn on after you put the key in the ignition because the car will think that this is a thief who is trying to steal it. Another embarrassing situation. If there are people around you, they will probably think that you the owner are trying to steal the car.
Some even could call the police and report you. You don’t want that. Also, the car alarm could fail and not turn on when the immobilizer is faulty. It will not react if there is something wrong and someone is trying to steal your car. So, the best way to overcome this problem is to try and solve this issue. And how you can try to fix this problem is by checking the following chapter where we will cover this in detail.
How To Fix A Blinking Red Light
Are you tired of the blinking red light on the dashboard and do you want to get this issue with the immobilizer sorted? There are a couple of ways that you can try to solve this problem with the bad immobilizer and overcome this issue quickly and effectively.
In the following few chapters, we are going to cover how you can overcome this issue quickly and effectively. It is important to note that each one of them will cost you a penny and some of them are not cheap. So, without further ado, let’s get into the ways of fixing this issue.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard Fixes, Option 1 – Replace The Battery Of The Key Fob
The simplest thing you can do is to replace the battery on the key fob. Replacing the battery is the solution in most cases. Why is this the case?
This is the case because the battery is powering the chip that is located in the key fob. So, if there is no power to the chip, you will not be able to start the car.
These batteries cost only a few dollars and are worth the try if your battery hasn’t been replaced for a long time. These batteries usually have a few years’ worth of lifespan. Basically, the more you press on the button to open the doors, the more the battery drains, and in the end, will cause problems like this with the blinking red light on the dashboard and the inability to enter and start the vehicle.
So, if you want to give it a try, get a battery of the same size and replace it with the new unit. These key fobs are relatively easy to open and you will only need a screwdriver to pop the cover open, then remove the battery and get a new one based on the old one.
After, install the battery and give it a test. If it works and there are no problems then you don’t have to worry about anything. You are good to go. If you haven’t solved your problem. Move on to the next step.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard Fixes, Option 2 – Install An Immobilizer Bypass Device
Another way to solve the problem with the blinking red light on the dashboard and be able to start the car is to install an immobilizer bypass device.
There are a ton of these devices online and they are a replacement for your key. They hack into the system and make you able to start the car with the press of a button.
Basically, no key is needed to start a car with an immobilizer bypass device. You go into the car and press the start button and you are good to go.
What is bad though, is the difficulty of installing these systems. There is some plumbing to be done to get them well installed and the car to work properly. The best way is to get them installed by a car electrician. If not, there is a manual that comes with these units and you only need to follow their directions and install the components accordingly.
If you install it the wrong way, you can make a short and pop out some fuses. So, pay attention when it comes to installing. In the previous chapter above we linked some of these products from Amazon with the best reviews.
Also, for safety, you can install a kill switch that will make your car not able to start if the kill switch is on.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard Fixes, Option 3 – Get A New Reprogrammed Key
The best way to solve this problem would be to get a new reprogrammed key. You can get a key with a new chip in two ways. Either by getting one of the dealerships for a ton of money.
Or call a locksmith to code a key for you. A new key can be coded for about $250 or more depending on the make and model. Which is a lot cheaper if you go to the dealership and pay more than $500 for a new key.
Either way, this is the only way around this if you want to use a key and your immobilizer chip has failed on the key fob.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard Fixes, Option 4 – Check the Alarm System
One common reason for the blinking red light on the dashboard can be the car’s alarm system. The blinking light often acts as a deterrent for potential thieves, indicating that the alarm system is active. If you notice this light flashing even when the car is unlocked, there might be an issue with the system.
First, try locking and unlocking your car a couple of times using the key fob. Sometimes a simple reset like this can solve minor electronic glitches. If the light continues to blink, refer to your car’s manual. Most manuals will have a troubleshooting section for the alarm system.
If all else fails, take your vehicle to a professional. Some car alarm issues can be intricate and may require an expert to diagnose and fix them.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard Fixes, Option 5 – Examine the Alternator and Wiring
A faulty alternator or damaged wiring can sometimes trigger dashboard lights to blink. While the red blinking light typically indicates an alarm or immobilizer issue, it’s worth checking the alternator, especially if you experience other electrical problems.
Test the alternator by starting the car and running a voltmeter on the battery. If the reading is below 13.0 volts, there might be an issue with the alternator not charging the battery properly. Also, inspect the wiring for any visible damage, wear, or corrosion. Damaged wires can short, causing various dashboard lights to act erratically.
If you suspect any problems, it’s best to consult a mechanic or car electrician. They can provide a thorough check and make any necessary repairs.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard Fixes, Option 6 – Inspect the Ignition Switch
Sometimes, the ignition switch might be the culprit behind the blinking light. Over time, this switch can wear out, leading to various issues, including an erratic dashboard light.
Here’s a quick way to check: turn the key to the “on” position but don’t start the engine. Watch the dashboard lights. They should light up initially and then go off after a few seconds. If the red light remains blinking, it’s possible there’s a problem with the ignition switch.
If you’re familiar with car repairs, you might be able to replace the ignition switch yourself. However, given the importance of this component, many prefer to have a professional handle it.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard Fixes, Option 7 – Software Update
Modern cars heavily rely on software. Sometimes, the blinking light might result from outdated or corrupted software. This is especially true for cars with advanced security systems or keyless entry features.
Most dealerships and some auto repair shops can run a diagnostic scan on your vehicle. If they find any software issues, they can update it. Just remember, software updates might come with a cost, especially if your vehicle is out of warranty.
In summary, while a blinking red light on the dashboard often points towards the key fob battery or immobilizer issues, several other components can cause this problem. By methodically working through each possibility, you can pinpoint the issue and take the necessary steps to resolve it. Always remember, when in doubt, consult a professional.
Facts about Red Light Blinking in Cars:
- Automobiles have numerous lights, including LED lights on the dashboard, that make drivers aware of something wrong in the vehicle.
- The red light blinking in a car is the security indicator that works as an emergency alarm light to keep the vehicle safe from theft.
- The security alarm light blinks continuously even when the vehicle is off and is referred to as the immobilizer system.
- The immobilizer system is an ideal safety feature in automobiles and becomes active when the vehicle is locked.
- The red light constantly blinks for hours for protection, and the active alarm system comes in handy in case of a break-in.
- Faulty switches or something wrong with the engine can also turn on the red LED lights on the dashboard.
- The red alert blinking light must be kept in good shape, and the vehicle should be taken to the service station immediately if the light is off or continuously on.
- The red light on the dashboard stops blinking when you turn on the ignition, and the vehicle sirens become active in case of theft.
- Some cars have a blue blinking light on the dashboard as well, which works differently from the red light.
- According to expert maintenance tips, replacing the faulty system is the best way to keep your vehicle safe from theft.
Blinking Red Light On Dashboard: In Conclusion…
In this article, we covered quite a bit when it comes to the blinking red light on the dashboard. We learned what this light represents and why it is there. And we concluded that this is the light for the immobilizer.
Then we learned what is the immobilizer and what is its role. It is an anti-theft device that serves the purpose of stopping perpetrators from stealing your car.
What is bad though, is that it can fail at some points and make your car unusable. If the chip in the key fob burns or the battery drains, you will need to get a new battery, a new key, or an immobilizer bypass device that will help you start your car with a button.