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CAN/ULC-S338/98
Creation & Compliance
Information for Manufacturers & Installers
Installation of After-market Systems: Making Sure It’s Done Right
Frequently Asked Questions
Immobilizer FAQs
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Insurance Bureau of Canada's Theft Deterrent Program

Your best defense against auto theft: Immobilizers meeting the National Standard of Canada (CAN/ULC-S338-98)

How do immobilizers work?

  • An immobilizer is an electronic device that arms automatically when your vehicle is switched off and prevents unauthorized starting of the vehicle.
  • An immobilizer meeting the National Standard of Canada (CAN/ULC-S338-98) cuts three vital circuits: the starter, the ignition and the fuel. This makes it impossible for thieves to start your vehicle without the key.  

Having your car stolen is not only emotionally upsetting, but also very time-consuming and expensive. Unfortunately, car theft is all too common and costs Canadians $1 billion per year. 

There are human costs, too. Innocent Canadians are put at risk when a thief steals a vehicle. Each year, 40 people lose their lives and 65 more are injured as a direct result of car theft.

More information about immobilizers

  • Immobilizers are integrated into the vehicle’s circuitry and engine-management system. They automatically interrupt the power to multiple electronic circuits, usually the starter motor, ignition and fuel pump circuits, when the specially coded key is removed from the ignition switch, or the vehicle is shut off.
  • Only if the correctly coded key (or other coded element) is used and recognized by the system will the circuits be enabled, allowing the car to start. Immobilizer keys typically have a transponder or resistor embedded in the head to communicate the code to the engine-management system.
  • If the correct code is not recognized, or someone attempts to start the vehicle by some other means – such as hotwiring or breaking the ignition lock cylinder – the system will remain armed and prevent the car from starting.
  • An engine immobilizer should always be at the core of any car theft deterrent system. It is the most effective means of preventing drive-away theft.

Other security devices, such as steering wheel locks, alarms, tracking systems and parts marking, can be combined with an immobilizer to provide additional layers of protection.

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