Genuine Toyota START+ Long Range Remote Starter First Impressions

This morning I got ready for work as usual, stepped outside and instantly regretted not listening to my mother’s constant childhood advice about always wearing a coat. Refusing to admit my mistake, I continued on to my truck, get in and proceed to sit on the cold leather. Apparently leather has a cold-transfer property that allows it to transfer cold straight to your body, bypassing any clothes you are wearing. I quickly started the truck, turned on the heated seats and cranked the heat knowing full well that it would be a long time before it’d have any effect on my dropping core body temperature.

I wasn’t the only one who was feeling cold. The truck wasn’t fairing much better. The frost on the windshield won’t go away despite gallons of washer fluid being blasted at it and the engine felt lacking in power while it warmed up to operating temperature. The steering was a bit stiff and my usually dead quiet 4Runner is creaking and moaning in disgust as I drove over bumps in the road. Nobody is enjoying this drive.

As I shivered my way to the warmth of my office, I realized that I was making terrible life decisions. This year I would have to break down and get a remote starter for my vehicle. As a partsman, remote starters are nothing new to me but I had avoided them for years for a few reasons:

  1. I am nervous about splicing in an aftermarket remote starter. Not because I don’t think the installation would be done correctly or anything but because I spend time offroading in the middle of nowhere. When you are a long ways away from civilization, it’s better to have as few things in the vehicle that can go wrong as possible.
  2. I hate having things on my keychain. Ideally, my keychain would be the smartkey for my truck, a key to my house and that’s it. Adding another remote to my keychain would basically double the size of the whole thing making them un-pocketable. Since I have nowhere else to put my keys, pocketability is a real concern….and a real word for that matter.
  3. Getting a remote starter for my 4Runner would involve having to get one for my wife’s Camry as well. How could I live with myself knowing that I had a nice warm drive to work while she would be still be suffering through the cold.
  4. In theory I still have warranty on my truck and there would be no sense voiding that warranty needlessly. On second thought, I’m not sure why I continued to believe I still had a warranty on my truck despite the various modifications to the suspension and drivetrain. I guess it just felt good to follow Toyota’s recommendations.

So would I be able to find a remote starter to address these concerns? As it turns out….YES! Toyota Canada has been working on releasing 2-way Long Range remote starters for a few years now and this October they released their first batch. At this point they have only released them for the 2015+ Sienna, Camry, Rav4 and 4Runner. I had the starter installed and here’s how my concerns were addressed:

  1. The Toyota starter does not involve splicing into the system at all. It is purely plug-and-play and comes with its own wiring harness that makes the whole installation look like something that was done at the factory. The starter module that controls the system communicates flawlessly with the vehicle’s computer and there is no need to hide keys under the dash.
  2. The new remote starter can use my factory smartkey remote to start the vehicle. It doesn’t allow 2-way communication and the range isn’t stellar but I basically don’t need to add anything to my keychain. However, the starter does come with a long range remote that has a fantastic range and gives feedback on whether or not the vehicle has started. So when I need the extra range, I can take the remote along with me. In reality, I just leave it in my desk at work since that is the only place where the extra range will come in handy.
  3. They still don’t make a Toyota remote starter for my wife’s Camry (only the 2015+) so I guess she’ll have to suffer. Actually, since I put the lift on my truck, I can no longer fit into the garage so she still gets a better deal since her car stays warm all night. Also, her Camry is a hybrid that has an electrical element next to the heater core to help the interior heat up faster than the non-Hybrid Toyotas. Basically, even with a remote starter I’m jealous of her situation.
  4. Assuming that I hadn’t already impacted my warranty with the various modifications I’ve made for offroading, this starter would not impact my warranty at all. In fact, having it installed by a Toyota dealership gives you a 2-year parts and labour warranty on the starter. Not a bad deal.

It’s been a couple weeks with the new starter and even though it hasn’t been that cold out yet, I’ve definitely enjoyed getting into a warm vehicle at the end of a long day at work. This new starter from Toyota addresses all my needs and even turned out to be cheaper than some of the aftermarket alternatives.