How Do You Know If The Dealership Turn Your Car Off


When you buy a new car from a dealership, you expect it to have all the features you paid for. But some dishonest dealers turn off certain features before selling the car. They do this so they can advertise features that are not really available.

This bait and switch traps customers who want extras like heated seats, remote start, or advanced driver aids. But then the buyer gets a car without the expected features. Fortunately, tampering often leaves signs you can spot.

Missing menu choices, error messages, or controls that don’t work are clues. This guide will help you inspect your new purchase closely. You can make sure nothing unwanted was turned off.

Understanding Remote Disablement

Dealership contracts often allow disabling vehicles remotely for missed payments, unfixed recalls, or theft. Disabling is done through telematic devices installed in newer vehicles that connect to the engine computer.

Dealers can send a signal to the device that stops the engine from operating. This gives them power to protect financial interests, address safety issues, and recover stolen vehicles. But it can leave owners stranded without notice if used inappropriately.

Warning signs include engine problems, dashboard messages, and dealer notifications. To re-enable the vehicle, outstanding issues must be addressed as required by the dealer.

Prevention involves making payments on time, understanding contract terms, communicating with the dealer proactively, and paying off loans fully. Staying informed, diligent, and assertive with dealers can help avoid the inconvenience of unexpected remote disabling.

Understanding Remote Disablement
Understanding Remote Disablement

Ways Dealerships Can Turn Off Features

  • Remote start
  • Heated/cooled seats
  • Navigation system
  • Built-in wifi or satellite radio
  • Advanced safety features like lane-keep assist
  • Performance modes

How dealers can disable cars

  • Telematics/GPS tracking device
  • Shut off ignition system
  • Block fuel pump
  • Immobilize starter motor
  • Restrict key fob or key codes

Signs Your Car Has Been Remotely Disabled

If you suddenly find your vehicle is difficult to start, entirely unwilling to run or experiences other strange issues, it could mean your dealership has remotely disabled it.

  • The most obvious sign is an inability to start your vehicle at all. You turn the key but the car makes no attempt to crank or turn over the engine.
  • Your engine may stall while idling or driving under power, suggesting the computer controlling the engine has received a disablement command.
  • Persistent warning lights, error messages or alerts related to the computer system, battery charging or immobilizer can indicate remote tampering with your car’s electronic components.
  • Electrical issues like lights, windows, radio or other accessory components failing to operate properly. Remote engine disablement can disrupt various vehicle systems.
Signs Your Car Has Been Remotely Disabled
Signs Your Car Has Been Remotely Disabled

Consider Why It Was Disconnected

Assuming you do verify that your car’s battery was temporarily disconnected at the dealership, remember why. In most cases, it’s for a good reason to safely complete maintenance or repairs.

Cutting power avoids the small risk of an accidental short that could damage your car’s delicate electronics. And if you needed major engine work, they may have also reset your car’s computers by disconnecting the battery.

So while it’s good to be informed, keep in mind that a brief battery disconnect is standard practice at most dealerships and repair shops. It’s not a sign of deception or that your car was mistreated in any way.

Check the Odometer Reading

One of the easiest ways to identify if your car was switched off or driven excessively by the dealership is to check the odometer reading when you pick it up. Compare the mileage to what was shown when you dropped it off.

Most repair orders will include the vehicle’s current mileage both at drop-off and pickup. But it never hurts to verify the before and after readings match what you expect based on the work that was performed.

Excessive unexplained mileage could be a sign of abuse or negligence. At the very least, you may be entitled to compensation for the extra wear and tear on your vehicle.

Check The Odometer Reading
Check the Odometer Reading

Call Your Salesperson with Concerns

If the dealership avoids answering your tough mileage questions, contact your salesperson for help. They want to preserve your relationship as a customer.

Your sales agent can advocate on your behalf to management. They’ll likely request solid evidence that any excessive mileage accrued was necessary. If the dealership can’t justify it, the salesperson can lobby for compensation.

Consult Your Owner’s Manual

For specific high-mileage scenarios like breaking in a new car, check your owner’s manual. This provides guidelines on acceptable mileage put on by the dealer during prep and service.

For example, Mercedes-Benz allows up to 1,200 miles for pre-delivery inspection and new vehicle road testing. So read your manual to understand manufacturer policies and what is normal or concerning.

File a Complaint with the Manufacturers

For an unresponsive dealership, file a formal complaint with the vehicle maker’s corporate office. Write to them explaining the situation and how the dealership has failed to justify abnormal additional miles.

The automaker has an interest in policing their dealer network and will likely intervene. Corporate can remind the dealership of proper service practices and mileage documentation policies. This adds pressure for them to resolve your complaint.

How to Confirm Disabled Features

  • Review paperwork and compare features listed to actual car
  • Ask dealer directly about any missing features
  • Have an independent mechanic inspect the car
  • Check for toggles/settings in infotainment system
  • Contact manufacturer and provide VIN to check enabled options
How To Confirm Disabled Features
How to Confirm Disabled Features

If Features Were Turned Off – Next Steps

  • Demand dealer enable features or refund cost
  • Report dealer to manufacturer
  • File complaint with state attorney general
  • Leave negative reviews and report experience to others
  • Consult lemon law/consumer attorney for legal remedies
Warning LightCheck for any warning lights on the dashboard
Unusual BehaviorNote any unexpected changes in your car’s performance.
Owner’s ManualReview your car’s owner’s manual for relevant information.
Contact DealershipContact the dealership or manufacturer for clarity.
Vehicle Tracking AppIf your car has a tracking app, check for remote options.
Third-Party ToolsConsult with third-party experts or tools for verification.
Legal AgreementReview any agreements you signed with the dealership.
Signs Dealership Turn Off Your Car

Why Would a Dealership Disable Your Car?

Missed loan or lease payments – Failing to make monthly payments on time can trigger remote shutdown. This compels the owner to pay the past due amount. Reported stolen vehicle – If a financed vehicle is reported stolen, the dealer may disable it remotely to assist with recovery.

Unresolved safety recall – Dealerships can disable vehicles to force compliance with an open safety recall repair. This protects owners and other motorists. Suspected insurance fraud – Rarely, remote disablement exposes fraudulent claims that a vehicle is inoperable.

Protect financial interest – When loan terms are violated, dealers use disablement to mitigate losses. Last resort measure – Shutting off cars remotely is a drastic step taken only after other options are exhausted.

Avoiding remote disabling

  • Make payments on time
  • Proactively communicate with lender
  • Resolve any discrepancies quickly
  • Refinance loan if needed

Vehicle Breakdown: Steps to Take in Times of Trouble

If your car is remotely disabled by the dealer, it’s best to stay calm and take proactive steps to resolve the situation. First, contact the dealer to confirm they shut down your vehicle and find out the reason, which is usually non-payment.

In most cases, you will need to comply with their demands and pay the owed money before they will re-enable your car, so get their instructions for payment in writing. If you cannot pay the full amount immediately,

try negotiating a partial payment and repayment plan. If you disagree with the dealer’s actions, consult a lawyer to understand your legal options. However, the quickest resolution is likely to pay what you owe promptly and get your vehicle driving again.

Vehicle Breakdown: Steps To Take In Times Of Trouble
Vehicle Breakdown: Steps to Take in Times of Trouble

Prevention Measures

To avoid this issue going forward, mark your odometer reading on the repair order when you drop off your vehicle. Also take photos of the current mileage that you can reference later.

Clearly instruct the service advisor to minimize non-essential driving and contact you if extensive diagnosis is needed. Being proactive helps set clear expectations for the work you authorize on your car.

How to Avoid Issues in the Future

  • Test all features before leaving lot
  • Compare features to window sticker and owner’s manual
  • Get promises of included features in writing
  • Consider third-party vehicle inspection before purchase
  • Only buy from reputable dealers with transparent sales practices

Removing Dealership Tracking Devices: Possible?

It is generally not advisable to tamper with or remove a tracking device installed by a dealership on a vehicle you are leasing or financing through them. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Legality – Removing the device could be considered breach of contract or theft of property, since the dealership owns the vehicle until you finish paying it off. You agreed to installation when signing the paperwork.
  • Disablement – Many tracking units are tied into the starter or ignition system. Removal may disable the vehicle from starting or running normally.
  • Increased fees – The dealership will likely charge elevated fees or penalties if they discover the device is missing or disabled.
  • Repossession risk – Disabling the unit removes the dealer’s ability to locate the vehicle for repossession if you default on payments. This may prompt them to take more aggressive repossession actions.
  • Insurance issues – Your insurance company may refuse a claim if the vehicle is discovered missing the tracking unit. It raises concerns of fraud or intent to conceal the vehicle.
Removing Dealership Tracking Devices: Possible?
Removing Dealership Tracking Devices: Possible?


Why do new cars shut off at stop lights?

Some new cars are equipped with auto start-stop that shuts the engine off at full stops to save fuel, then restarts it when your foot leaves the brake. This green technology aims to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

Can you remotely shut down a car?

Yes, many modern connected cars allow owners or authorities to remotely shut off the ignition if stolen. This car disabling feature provides peace of mind and helps police stop thieves during high-speed chases.

Do banks put trackers on cars?

Banks can install GPS trackers on cars they finance to help locate and repossess the vehicle if payments stop. However, they must disclose and get consent for these tracking devices in loan contracts.

How do I disable my car?

Removing important fuses,disconnecting the battery,or tampering with starter wiring can disable a car temporarily. But doing so is extremely dangerous if you get stranded and illegal if insurers aren’t informed.

Is it against the law to disable a GPS tracking device from your car?

Yes, it’s illegal to tamper with a disclosed, contractual GPS tracker installed by a bank, rental agency, etc. You could face charges for obstructing property rights or breach of contract.

Is it legal for the Car Dealership to disable my GPS days after I made a complaint against them without notifying me?

No, a dealership can’t legally disable features without consent after sale. Write to corporate demanding they reactivate it or compensate you. If no resolution, consult an attorney about consumer fraud options.

Can a car dealership take my car back after handover?

Legally dealers can’t repossess without cause after purchase contract is signed and you take delivery. Barring loan default, it could be considered theft – contact police if this occurs.

Can you remotely shut down a car?

Yes, through telematics systems many modern connected cars can be remotely shut down or disabled from a distance. Car manufacturers and lenders can remotely disable the starter system if payments are missed or if the car is reported stolen. This wireless capability allows them to prevent the vehicle from starting or driving.

Do banks put trackers on cars?

Banks can install GPS trackers on cars they finance in order to locate and remotely disable vehicles if the owner misses payments. These devices allow lenders to monitor location, prevent ignition, and ultimately recover assets in the case of repossession. Tracker installation in the finance contract gives lenders control.

Why do some cars turn off at stop lights?

Some modern cars have a start-stop system that shuts off the engine automatically when the car comes to a complete stop, such as at a traffic light. This is to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. The engine quickly restarts once the brake pedal is released. Drivers can disable this feature if desired.

Why do cars cut off when stopped?

A stall-prevention safety feature will automatically shut off a car that has been idling in park for an extended period, usually over 10 minutes. This prevents unintended rollaways if the brake isn’t firmly set. The engine cuts out to avoid prolonged unattended idling.

Q: What technology allows dealerships to remotely disable vehicles?

A: Dealerships use telematics technology that connects to a vehicle’s electronic control unit and engine computer. They send a signal that instructs the computer to disable the engine and prevent the vehicle from starting or continuing to run.

Q: What are some signs my vehicle has been remotely disabled?

A: Common signs include the engine suddenly stalling, being unable to start the vehicle at all, persistent warning lights or messages, and in some cases direct notification from the dealership.

Q: Why would a dealership remotely disable my vehicle?

A: The most common reasons are non-payment of an auto loan or lease, missing scheduled maintenance for open safety recalls, or the vehicle being reported stolen. Remote disablement gives the dealership leverage to get you to resolve the financial or legal issue.

Q: How can I prevent my vehicle from being remotely disabled?

A: The most effective ways are making your payments on time, communicating proactively with the dealership if you anticipate any issues, understanding the terms of your vehicle financing contract, and keeping your account in good standing.

Q: Is remote vehicle disablement legal?

A: Yes, as long as it is done in accordance with the terms of the financing contract the customer signed. Dealerships have the legal right to use remote disablement as a tool to compel customers to fulfill financial obligations related to the vehicle.


To determine if your dealership has remotely disabled your vehicle, first check for a starter interrupter device installed in the car, as this allows remote shutdowns. Also look for any warning lights suggesting impending immobilization.

Directly contacting your dealership and inquiring about disablement is prudent, in addition to reviewing your contract for any applicable clauses. If you confirm remote deactivation occurred, immediately negotiate with the dealer to resolve the outstanding issues,

or risk further damages like vehicle repossession and credit impacts. Overall, vigilance in inspecting your vehicle’s devices and status indicators, paired with proactive communication and swift action if disabled, can help protect your access and ownership.

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