Electronic – What are the ways to allow/prevent a car engine from starting up


Assume that I do not want to replace a factory Engine Control Unit (ECU) with a custom ECU.

What are the other possible intercept points that I can use to allow/prevent a car from starting up? I only want to allow/prevent starting up.

I can think of possibly connecting the car battery through a relay and turning the relay on/off. Any other good ways to do it?

Best Answer

There are many ways to achieve this. Some are better than others in certain situations, and some only work on certain cars. I'll try to describe a few.

  1. This is the most commonly used way. Put a switch (relay, etc.) in line with the starter control signal. This would generally be put before the starter relay itself. It prevents the starter from turning over the engine.
    • Pro: Works on nearly all cars.
    • Con: The car can still be started if you find a way to turn over the engine (pushing the car in gear if it has a manual transmission).

  2. Intercepting a major sensor. These sensors generally deal with crank angle/position. A lot of times a car would only have one, angle or position. They may also be called a cam angle/position. Activated with a switch (relay) intercepting the signal wire coming back from the sensor.
    • Pro: The car will not start no matter what you do since the ECU will think the engine is not turning over and will not provide spark.
    • Con: Only works on cars that use these sensors. Older cars relied on mechanical versions of these.

  3. Intercepting main power like you mentioned. This would require a hefty relay or switch. It is not uncommon for cars to have fuses larger than 100A for the main input.
    • Pro: Would work on most cars.
    • Con: Difficult to do. Easier to find than others (I'm assuming this is to prevent the car from being stolen). Does not work on really old cars that used generators instead of alternators. May mess with modern electronics in the car itself possibly leading to damage.

There are other ways but pretty much all of them would fall under these categories if you want to be able to control it electronically. Don't forget that the car can always just be towed. Once again, I'm assuming you are thinking of theft prevention.