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The Risk Factors Of A Tracking Unit In Your Car


If you have a tracking unit in your car and it negatively affects the electronics of the vehicle, you may have to fork out to cover the repairs yourself.

This is what happened to a reader recently, after it was discovered that his tracking unit was rapidly draining his car’s battery.

The reader purchased his vehicle in 2016, as a demo model from a well-established manufacturer franchise.

He was told that the vehicle had a tracking unit installed, but this unit would be removed and a new tracking unit would be fitted. After taking delivery of the car, the reader said a tracking company came to his office and installed the new tracker.

All was fine until early in 2019, when the car failed to start after it was left standing for a weekend. A jump start from a friend solved this issue, and the reader assumed he had left his lights on.

In the months that followed, the issue came up again on two occasions – once after the reader left his car sitting for a week while he was on leave, and again after letting the car sit for a weekend.

Daily problems

These battery problems escalated in later weeks, though, and the reader stated that his car failed to start on several occasions.

What was strange was that he said his car would start in the morning when he left for work before 07:00, but returning to the car at around 10:00 would see it fail to start.

The reader booked his car in to be checked on a Wednesday morning – and after arriving at the dealership and parking, the vehicle failed to start five minutes later, highlighting the issue.

Two trackers

Following the dealership’s service department examining the vehicle, the problem was soon diagnosed.

The car had two trackers installed: the original tracker the car came with that had not been removed, and the new tracker which was installed after the purchase.

However, this was not the end of the investigation.

The dealership stated that to ensure the car’s wiring was not to blame, an extensive diagnostic was conducted.

Tests showed that even with the old tracker disconnected, the new tracker was still drawing excessively high levels of power from the vehicle. Compounding matters was the fact that the car’s battery was shot, due to the high drainage it had been under.

The dealership subsequently removed both trackers from the vehicle, checked all affected wiring, and replaced the battery with a new unit.

Not covered

The bill for this was R3,700, which the reader stated he had to pay himself as the car’s warranty and service plan did not cover the wiring and battery being affected by a tracking unit.

The reader said that after discussing the matter with a service agent at the dealership, the dealer said they have had several vehicles in with similar issues – where tracking units were draining cars’ batteries.

In once case, the agency said a new vehicle – which was completely stock except for a tracking unit – had been in several times for battery issues. However, the tracking unit company disputed that their unit was to blame.

Following the tracking units being removed, the reader contacted his insurance company to ensure his policy was updated accordingly. He said that he was concerned his premium would skyrocket, or the insurer would refuse to cover his vehicle.

This was not the case, and the insurer stated that a tracking unit was not required for his vehicle and his monthly premium would only increase by R89 – substantially less than the R211 he paid per month for his tracking unit.

Is your tracking unit even working?

The reader’s story followed shortly after another tracker-related incident which was reported on by consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.

Speaking on Consumer Talk on Cape Talk, Knowler detailed a story about a woman who purchased a vehicle which had a tracker installed.

The owner said when she bought her car it came with a certificate stating it had a tracking unit, and the dealership told her the tracking unit was working.

When she phoned around for new insurance quotes several months later, however, she discovered that the tracker was not activated – while she was paying R170 per month for the service.

The tracking company said the onus was on her to check if the unit was activated, and that they would have “been able to find the vehicle even if the tracker was disabled”.

“This could have been so much worse. If her car had been hijacked or stolen, her insurance claim could have been disputed because of the fact that the tracking device on her car was not activated,” said Knowler.

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