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Old 11-25-2014, 06:03 PM   #1
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Alarm/Theft Systems

I'm relatively new to this forum, and we're keenly interested in the Airstream Interstate, esp. the Grand Tour version. It looks ideal for us. Probably 6-9 months away.

One thing for sure, this RV is a significant financial investment. I sure would hate to lose it to the hands of a slippery thief. What protection comes with the vehicle? Have some of you installed aftermarket alarm/theft deterrent devices? The LoJack system, although a little pricey, seems to be the way owners of high-end sports vehicles go; is this true for you AI Owners as well?

Thanks for your input! If this topic is covered previously, please point me in the right direction.

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Old 11-25-2014, 08:08 PM   #2
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Welcome to the Air Forums.

There's at least one member, Protaganist, that has installed an aftermarket alarm system. He'll probably weigh in and let you know. You could search the forum as he did a write-up on it.
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Old 11-25-2014, 08:44 PM   #3
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A good car alarm will help but who reacts to car alarms anymore??? So the perp has enough time to pop the hood and kill the alarm.

The most effective anti theft system (other than a bloody big dog) is a fuel shut off switch. Find the wire that feeds power to your fuel pump in the tank and add a switch in that line. With no power to the pump the engine will turn over and may start for a few seconds but the Interstate will not go anywhere. The perp will deduce that you have installed a fuel shut off switch somewhere, so you have to be savvy in how you install the switch...

If you're lucky and have a switch blank in your dashboard, think about buying an OEM fog lamp, rear heater switch or defroster switch that only you would know operated the pump. The perp will go looking everywhere but right in front of his or her face as everyone else will put the switch in the footwell or somewhere hidden. This leaves the switch easily to operate for you and very secure.

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Old 11-25-2014, 09:21 PM   #4
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Is there an electric fuel pump on the Sprinters?
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Old 11-25-2014, 09:39 PM   #5
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Put the switch on another power line like the main feed to the engine management board or the "engine run" line
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Old 11-25-2014, 10:29 PM   #6
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Is there an electric fuel pump on the Sprinters?

Yes there is - but I would not recommend messing with it unless it is done by a reliable shop that has a track record of installing such a security measure without damage to the vehicle. The Sprinter is a complex computer controlled system that does not react well to alterations to the electrical systems.
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Old 11-26-2014, 06:34 AM   #7
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There's at least one member, Protaganist, that has installed an aftermarket alarm system. He'll probably weigh in and let you know.
That was a pretty safe prediction. I read every post in the "Sprinter and B-vans" forum, and being a know-it-all (or at least "know-it-some") engineer, I can't resist weighing in on topics of interest.

I have a high-end Viper alarm system. Which I have to update now that I have a smartphone. A smartphone interface sends you a text message anywhere in North America whenever the alarm goes off, as long as both you and your protected vehicle are within range of a cell tower. If you can't store your Interstate at home, or if you still work for a living and can't be home when the alarm might go off, this is the best feature to have. If nothing else, you can call law enforcement or a trusted neighbor to check on your vehicle whenever an alarm is triggered.

Other key features of my Viper system include:
- A glass-break sensor. This is sensitive enough that if you tap on the glass with a coin or key, the alarm sounds. It's an audio sensor specifically keyed to the sound frequency of breaking glass.
- A tilt sensor. This will detect any attempt to hook the vehicle up to a tow truck, or to jack it up to steal those expensive aluminum rims.
- An internal motion sensor. If someone manages to get in without triggering any other sensor, this will detect them moving around. It will also detect a door opening. Downside is, you can't turn on the alarm while you're inside the vehicle, so it's not a lot of use while you're camping. The way I figure it, if someone breaks in while I'm inside, I have my own means to protect me and mine.
- A battery power sensor. If someone disconnects the power, it triggers another alarm powered by its own internal battery.
- Alarm sirens both inside the vehicle under the dash and outside the vehicle under the hood. At 135dB, this alarm is loud enough to cause physical pain to anyone inside the vehicle except hard-core rap afficionados who are already half-deaf.
- A bright flashing "Viper" logo decal on the windshield. An alrm system works best if you advertise that (1) you have one, and (2) it's active.

Two features I didn't get are the proximity sensor and the remote start.
- Proximity sensors detect when someone is close to the vehicle and give a warning, "Step away from the vehicle." I hate those, after all the times I've triggered one when the guy who has one parks next to me, and going back to my car triggers his alarm. As far as I'm concerned, that sensor is only good for convertibles, open-topped Jeeps, and pickups with no cover over the cargo bed, where a burglar doesn't have to smash in order to grab.
- Remote start enables the engine to be started without the chipped key. In other wods, it defeats the vehicle's manufacturer's own anti-theft devices without replacing them with something equal or better, so it's less secure. I'd rather have to manually start the engine, with the right key.
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A good car alarm will help but who reacts to car alarms anymore??? So the perp has enough time to pop the hood and kill the alarm.
As noted above, top-end alarm companies like Viper and Drone have thought of that. Any attempt to disconnect the battery triggers another alarm, powered by its own internal battery. The downside is that I can't use the disconect switch by the accelerator pedal, either, because it triggers an alarm, so there's a limit to how long I can let my Interstate sit without running down the battery. I can safely go about three weeks and still have enough power to start the engine, but just to be safe, and to prevent the dreaded Airstream Separation Anxiety, I drive my Interstate somewhere every two weeks or less, even if it's just to the grocery store. It is terribly handy to have an on-board fridge when buying groceries, you know.
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The most effective anti theft system is a fuel shut off switch. Find the wire that feeds power to your fuel pump in the tank and add a switch in that line.
Not necessary. Newer vehicles with ID-chipped keys include a fuel shut-off, including Sprinter vans. If you attempt to start the engine with the wrong key— or no key— the ignition switch prevents both the electric fuel pump and the starter from getting any power.

By the way, if you have more than one vehicle with ID-chipped keys (both my Interstate and my Honda Fit have them) it's best to keep those keys on separate rings. If they're on the same key ring, you can wind up with the ignition switch trying to read both keys because they've both close enough to the ignition switch, and locking out the starter and fuel pump.
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Old 11-26-2014, 06:57 AM   #8
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A Doberman Pinscher always looked impressive behind a sliding glass door. Maybe a windsheild?
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Old 11-26-2014, 07:09 AM   #9
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A Doberman Pinscher always looked impressive behind a sliding glass door. Maybe a windsheild?
The problem there is that you'll have animal-rights activists breaking into your Interstate to free the "poor mistreated" critter, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of an alarm system!
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Old 11-26-2014, 09:02 AM   #10
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- A tilt sensor. This will detect any attempt to hook the vehicle up to a tow truck, or to jack it up to steal those expensive aluminum rims.
Interstates can't be towed, though, right? I was told this by another owner - they have to be moved via flatbed. Towing will cause serious damage for I forget what reason. That's why it's important to have roadside protection. Flatbeds of the size needed to transport an Interstate are very expensive to commission.

For in-use security, we have our sidearms and our dog who, although not as large or as imposing as a Doberman, has proven herself superb at detecting potential intruders. We learned this a few years ago by taking her tent-camping along the Rio Grande. A snarling dog in pitch darkness doesn't need to be a Doberman to send people scrambling in the opposite direction.

For not-in-use security, we pay for garaging in a rental facility - one with an electronic main gate, cameras everywhere, and all storage units with walls that come all the way to the ground and locking up-doors (none of the open bays that are popular among Class A owners for their cheaper cost but which send a visual signal to thieves that there's a lot of wealth stored there). Those could still be broken into, but any thieves would need to choose among a few hundred blind units, which makes Interstate targeting not very likely.
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Old 11-26-2014, 09:21 AM   #11
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Interstates can't be towed, though, right? I was told this by another owner - they have to be moved via flatbed. Towing will cause serious damage for I forget what reason. That's why it's important to have roadside protection. Flatbeds of the size needed to transport an Interstate are very expensive to commission.
They can be towed, using a wheel-lift truck towing from the front (a wheel lift on the rear axle risks crushing the propane fill port). The Sprinter owner's manual recommends limiting such tows to 35mph and 35 miles distance to prevent transmission damage. Towing for longer distances requires disconnecting the driveshaft.

However, someone seeking to tow your Airstream away without your consent is unlikely to care about such niceties.

Also, even if you call for a "transporter" (flatbed tow) when you call roadside assistance, they may send a wheel lift towtruck anyway. That's what happened to me when my starter went out and I had to get a tow. I called, and specifically requested a flatbed tow capable of handling a 23-foot-long van 10 feet tall. They sent a wheel-lift towtruck anyway. I had two choices. Accept the tow and risk transmission damage, or refuse the tow, and find my own tow and pay for it myself.

Because I was concerned about possible transmission damage, at the same time I had the starter replaced, I had Mecedes Benz check the transmission (and paid for the diagnostic; small price to pay for peace of mind). They gave it a clean bill of health, and if that later proves not to be the case, it's on file that they cleared it for use as-is. Had the transmission been damaged, I was fully prepared to sue the towing company for the price of repairs.

And a word of advice, learned the hard way: If you need to have a wheel-lift tow, read the Sprinter owner's manual! There is a way to disable the automatic door locks, and you need to use it. You need to have it towed with the key in the ignition and in the accessory position so that you can move the gearshift to the neutral position, and the doors will lock on their own otherwise. Which could leave you with the vehicle locked with the keys in it and the chassis battery draining itself when the towtruck reaches the destination and drops off the vehicle.
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Old 11-26-2014, 10:25 AM   #12
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........
Also, even if you call for a "transporter" (flatbed tow) when you call roadside assistance, they may send a wheel lift towtruck anyway. That's what happened to me when my starter went out and I had to get a tow. I called, and specifically requested a flatbed tow capable of handling a 23-foot-long van 10 feet tall. They sent a wheel-lift towtruck anyway. I had two choices. Accept the tow and risk transmission damage, or refuse the tow, and find my own tow and pay for it myself........
......

Protag - which roadside insurance do you have? I had mine towed via Mercedes and they sent a special flatbed truck.


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Old 11-26-2014, 10:39 AM   #13
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Protag - which roadside insurance do you have? I had mine towed via Mercedes and they sent a special flatbed truck.
Good Sam Roadside Assistance.

I wasn't even aware that Mercedes Benz offered their own Roadside Assistance program until you mentioned it. After looking it up online, it appears that I'm not eligible for it, unless Foley RV is considered an authorized Mercedes Benz dealership. Which I kind of doubt.
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Old 11-26-2014, 10:45 AM   #14
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I also have a Viper security system. Two interesting features of the system are low battery warning text and smart fence. The first item was a life saver. On a trip to Savannah, GA I left the headlights on while parked. I am sure this has not happened to anyone else. Thankfully I got a low battery warning text which gave me a chance to get back to the vehicle before the battery died. The other feature smart fence sends me a text when vehicle leaves one mile radius from parked location. I can then track vehicle from viper app.




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