DesignTech remote starter

My friend Susie asked me to install a remote start system she had purchased. In preparation I did some internet research on the various brands. There are several makers of remote start systems...Bulldog, Design Tech, Direct Electronics, Compustar, Astrostart...to name some.

As I did research I became interested in a remote starter for my own vehicle. Remote starters can often also be used for keyless entry. Many remote starters are also alarm systems, but I'm not that interested in the alarm part.

After much research I decided to get an AutoCommand 26028 by Design Tech. It has the features I like:
- remote starting
- keyless entry
- 'Pit stop' feature
- will start the vehicle if the battery voltage gets below 11V
- will start the vehicle if the interior temperature gets below freezing
- has a range up to 1000 feet
- also has some alarm features

I also liked the systems by Bulldog. They had external (replaceable) relays, but they didn't have the 'low voltage' feature. Direct Electronics makes good systems, too, but they are fairly expensive and the company is very heavy on the "must be installed by a professional" attitude which turned me off.

Here is the Design Tech AutoCommand 26028 I ordered from Autobarn.com.

Here are the contents. The 26028 kit also includes a siren, shock sensor, and some extra relays for options. The instructions are pretty good.

Removing the cover under the steering wheel reveals the main wires we need for the remote starter installation...Starter, Ignition 1, Ignition 2, Ignition 3, and Accessory.

Starter - Red/blue wire
Ignition 1 - Large Red/black wire...is on in the 'start' and 'run' positions.
Ignition 2 - Black/light green...is on in the 'run' position.
Ignition 3 - Small red/black wire...is on in the 'run' position. We have to add a relay for this wire.
Accessory - Grey/yellow wire

The yellow and light green/purple wires are power wires to the ignition.

An accurate electrical schematic is vital to finding the proper connections. Even then, you need to check the connections with a test light or multimeter.

After studying schematics and deciding which options I wanted, I drew a schematic for my application.

The other wires are not as easy to find. Looking through my Helms manual schematics I noticed most of the wires I needed went through a common connector to the Generic Electronic Module (GEM). This is connector C218. It is the gray connector shown in the picture above.

Here are the wires going into the C218 connector. This is a view looking up from the floorboard.

The parking light wire (brown), the dome light wire (black/light blue), and left door trigger wire (black/yellow) are found here.

There is also a bundle of wires running along the firewall. The C218 wires branch from this bundle. These wires are slightly easier to get to. Between these wires and the C218 bundle I should be able to find all the wires I need except the tachometer wire and the brake light wire.

The door lock (pink/yellow) and unlock (pink/light green) wires are found here. Also the trigger wire for the rear doors (black/white).

Behind the brake pedal is a bundle of wires covered by a plastic protector. Remove the protector and the tape and find the white/pink wire. This is the tach wire. This is also the place to find the 'wait to start' wire for diesels.

The brake light wire is the solid green wire going to the brake light switch. This is very easy to find and connect.

I mounted the control unit and the relays on a board. It will allow me to test/troubleshoot my wiring.

I soldered all the starter connections. On the other connections under the dash I used ScotchLock connectors.

After all the wires were connected I set the various options. I don't care for the way options are set. If you want to change, say, option 24 you push a red button 2 times and a white button 4 times. A light flashes so many times to confirm your choice. It's okay I guess once you get used to it but I'd prefer to use DIP switches so I know for sure what's set.

With the options set I tested the functions. The parking lights came on with the light button. The door lock/unlock buttons worked. Since I don't have a trunk I connected the trunk wire to the door lock wire. This way I can lock the doors without arming the alarm. This worked, too. Now for the biggie...I pushed the 'start' button. Relays clicked, blowers blew, the dash lit up...but the truck didn't start. I tried several things to no avail. Finally, I began checking my wiring. I found that I had connected the tach and brake light wires to the wrong terminals on the remote starter. I corrected this and gave it another try. Nothing...wait...yes, it started! It waits 10-15 seconds after the relays start clicking to actually start. This isn't mentioned in the instructions.

So far I'm really liking the remote starter. The range is supposed to be 'up to 1000 feet' but I'd say 400-500 feet is more realistic. I like the unlock feature better than the factory setup because all doors will unlock with one push of the button.

Update - It's hard to see the parking lights in the daytime, so I modified the circuitry so the foglights will also light along with the parking lights. This works alot better when I use it at work.

I haven't been able to get the 'pitstop' feature to work. DesignTech has decided the remote start has a software problem so I will be sending it back for replacement.

Update 5/2003 - After sending the remote starter to DesignTech the pitstop feature still doesn't work, and they don't seem too interested in fixing it. Also, several times the alarm has sounded for no apparent reason. I'd say if I install another remote starter in another truck it won't be a DesignTech...too many issues.

Update 11/2003 - The DesignTech remote starter is gone and is replaced by a Bulldog remote starter system. I got tired of all the problems with it.

Here are the problems I had with the DesignTech remote starter:

- The pitstop feature never worked, even after the company 'fixed' it.
- The alarm would sound for no reason.
- Sometimes when remote starting the truck, the alarm would sound when opening the door to get in and the truck would quit.
- Sometimes the system would chirp the alarm, sometimes it wouldn't.

So far the Bulldog system works as advertised.

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