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Keyless, start button cars mysteriously shut down in parking lot -- come back to life when towed away

January 23, 2013|by Jay Scherder, KY3 News | jscherder@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Stranded while shopping -- that's what continues to happen to some customers at the James River Town Center.

It went from a few isolated incidents to dozens.  According to Affordable Towing, the cases are now above the 100 mark.  Shoppers pull into the parking lot and shut off their vehicles. When they come back to them, they suddenly won't start.  

Asked if he had seen anything like this situation before, Affordable Towing driver Chris Burnett just shook his head,

"No. No. That's the first time I've seen that."

Thompson Buick mechanic Phil Davis agreed.

"I've never seen anything like this before. I've been working in the automotive service industry for about 20 years."

Vehicles are making it into the James River Town Center parking lot on East Independence Street, but, for some reason, they can't get out.

Thompson Buick said they first started getting phone calls last Wednesday. Since that time, things have really picked up. They estimate, so far, they've worked on about 25 vehicles that have had this problem.

Not all vehicles are affected. It isn't hitting a specific automaker.

"It's been the Mercedes Benz, a couple of them. Most of them are Cadillac SRX's all wheel drives," Burnett said about his experiences.

Davis says he's heard reports of Ford, GM, Buick, and Cadillac vehicles being affected as well. The common demonimator: keyless entry, push button starters.

"It seems to be affecting everybody with keyless entry and remotes," said Davis, "with push button starts in their cars."

"Once they lock they can't unlock them. It doesn't work. Nothing works on it at all," Burnett said.

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What's causing all this?

A lot of people are pointing their finger at a tower behind the shopping center. But, according to one of our KY3 engineers, that sort of tower would run at a much different, higher, frequency than a keyless remote.

Once you get away from the parking lot, the cars come back to life.

"We'd hook up to it and get out here to Independence and it would start right up," said Burnett.

"Something is going on that we can identify yet," said Davis.

For the meantime, it's a mystery, and it's keeping Affordable Towing quite busy.

"Within the past week, I've probably done about 14," Burnett said.

The company estimates they've towed nearly 100 from the parking lot.

"Technology is better, but when you slip away from the keys and start relying on wireless and radio frequency, "said Davis, " there is a whole lot more of a chance of interference."       

If you have a keyless entry to your vehicle but also have a key to your vehicle, you should be fine. This is affecting cars that have a push button start only.

Again, there is no explanation to why this is happening, but KY3 certainly will continue to follow the story.

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