Earlier this year our '03 VW GTI got broken into (et 4/09). Thankfully, no valuables were in plain sight, nothing was stolen and we escaped with only a broken window. It could have been worse, so we decided to protect ourselves with a more intelligent alarm system.
You can get a basic car alarm without spending an arm and a leg. Most come with shock sensors, a control module, siren and wiring harness for around $50. But let's be honest, most of us tune out alarm sirens. That's why we opted for a two-way system that has the ability to tell us what's going on with the car at all times via a pager.
Zenesis Electronics supplied its new ZN-502 alarm that debuted at SEMA '08. The alarm and starter combination sells for $399 MRSP and includes all the bells and whistles including remote start, keyless entry, valet mode, dual-shock sensor, siren, door triggers, built-in turbo timer and more. It comes with a slim, two-way OLED FM remote in a durable rubber material, so it won't break if you drop it regularly like we do. The remote has four buttons to activate nearly anything on the car and shows the vehicle status as well as the temperature.
The ZN-502 also included a touchpad called the Z-Pass. It's a small, round pad that mounts behind the glass on the car. Through this electrostatic pad, we can engage or disarm the alarm using a PIN code. This way, if we lock our keys inside the car, we can get back in. It's also useful if we forget something in the car when the keys are in the house. The system is a great feature but intended for emergency use. In fact, it can be disabled or left out of the kit.
When it comes to installing the alarm, we weren't confident to do it ourselves. It's not like replacing an exhaust, because it involves tampering with the electronics and hours of wiring. So Zenesis recommended a local shop in Los Angeles called Auto Tint Centers. Operated by Ernie Talmantes, who used to work at West Coast Customs and LA Auto Sport, the shop specializes in alarms, troubleshooting, electronics and custom work. The system took a full afternoon to complete with the help of three of their technicians because our older Mk4 wasn't able to use the CAN-BUS system that cuts the install time in half by using a simple connector.
After months of regular use, the alarm works well. We haven't needed to use the Z-Pass except for testing and showing off. We're also happy with its range. Compared to factory, it's a night and day difference. According to Zenesis, the remote should alert you up to one mile away, depending on interference. We've tested it on multiple occasions from inside a shopping mall or upstairs in an apartment complex and it worked successfully.
The remote start works as advertised but can only be activated when all the doors are closed and the transmission is in neutral. It's a nice feature, but we're old school and like turning the key in the ignition. Overall, the ZN-502 is easy to use and performs all the functions as expected. It's also priced below several competitor alarms, so it's definitely worth a look.
Next Month Stay tuned for an upcoming issue when we install a Momo steering wheel in Project Silverstone.