Travel & Day Trips

Is Remote Starting Your Car Against the Law in California?

Remote car starters have become increasingly popular over the years, providing drivers with the convenience of starting their cars from a distance, warming up the engine and interior, and in some cases, even turning on the air conditioning.

However, with the growing use of remote starters, questions have arisen about their legality in different states, particularly in California.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the legalities surrounding remote car starters in California, and provide insights into the relevant laws and regulations. The law here might surprise you.

Remote Starting Your Car in California: The Basics

In general, remote starting your car is not against the law in California. The Golden State does not have specific legislation prohibiting the use of remote car starters. However, it is important to be aware of other laws and regulations that may apply when using a remote car starter in California.

Idling Laws and Emissions Regulations

California is known for its strict emissions regulations, and these laws can impact remote car starters. Idling laws, in particular, are designed to reduce unnecessary emissions by limiting the amount of time a vehicle can idle. In California, idling is restricted to a maximum of five minutes in most cases. This means that if you remotely start your car and leave it idling for longer than five minutes, you could be in violation of the law.

There are some exceptions to this rule, such as when your vehicle’s engine needs to run to power auxiliary equipment, or when the vehicle is being serviced or inspected. But in most cases, it’s important to limit your idling time to avoid breaking the law.

Safety and Security Concerns

While remote car starters are not illegal in California, using one can create safety and security concerns. For example, if your car is left running unattended with the keys inside, it could become a target for theft. In fact, California Vehicle Code Section 22515 makes it illegal to leave a vehicle with the engine running and the keys in the ignition if it’s unattended on a public street.

To minimize these risks, many remote car starter systems are designed to work without the keys in the ignition, and some even have security features to prevent unauthorized access. Make sure you choose a system that provides an appropriate level of security for your needs.

Especially with property crime on the minds of many Californians, it’s important to be extra safe.

Installation and Tampering Laws

While remote car starters themselves are not illegal in California, it’s important to follow the law when installing these devices. California has strict regulations regarding vehicle modifications, and tampering with your vehicle’s emission control system is illegal.

Installing a remote car starter should not involve tampering with your car’s emissions system, but it’s essential to work with a professional installer who understands the relevant laws and regulations.


In summary, remote car starters are not against the law in California, but it’s essential to be aware of related laws and regulations. Limit your idling time to avoid violating emissions regulations, ensure your remote starter system provides adequate security, and work with a professional installer to ensure compliance with all relevant laws.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the convenience and benefits of a remote car starter without breaking the law in the Golden State.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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