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Parking lot ‘Twilight Zone’ baffles drivers whose cars won’t start

Tinley officials are trying determine if an electric charging statiis causing some sort electronic dead zone where car FOBs stop

Tinley officials are trying to determine if an electric charging station is causing some sort of electronic dead zone where car FOBs stop working as seen near Kohl's in Brookside Marketplace Monday, March 11, 2013, in Tinley Park. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Maps

Updated: March 13, 2013 3:08AM



For shoppers who have been trapped in the parking lot of a Tinley Park “Twilight Zone,” here’s a bit of advice from some auto experts: Read the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

In recent days, several shoppers who parked near Kohl’s department store or Best Buy in the Brookside Marketplace mall have been unable to unlock or start their vehicles with a remote device.

Village officials had not solved the mystery as of Tuesday.

John Howard, service manager at Rizza Buick in Tinley Park, said he hashad about a dozen calls from the owners of various makes and models of cars parked in the lot of the shopping center at 191st and Harlem.

“I’ve never seen this before. But there’s something in that area that is scrambling the signals from the remotes,” he said. “If you get a couple of blocks away from the mall, the car starts up.”

Remote devices simply send a signal to the receiver, in this case, the vehicle. Sometimes that frequency can be interrupted by other radio frequencies, high-tension wires, two-way radios or computers, said Bill Featherston, a service writer at Bauer Buick in Matteson.

Before calling a tow truck, read the owner’s manual, Howard and Featherston said.

The closer the remote is to the module that reads the signal, the better, they said. Most cars have a spot — usually a pocket in the glove box or the center console — where you can place the remote so it is closest to its module, and the engine will start, they said.

Information is in the owner’s manual.

That strategy worked for Maurice Fuentes, of Matteson, whose keyless ignition failed to start his 2010 Buick LaCrosse last week when he was parked in front of Best Buy.

He talked called the dealer, who told him where to find the right spot in the console.

When he did, “The damn thing started,” he said.

“This is strange,” Fuentes said. “I’m afraid to go back to Best Buy.”

Amy Fuller, of Tinley Park, said her 2010 Cadillac does not have that feature.

She parked near the GNC shop, just a few doors away from Kohl’s, and could not get her car started.

“It said ‘no remote detected,’ ” she said.

Assuming the battery was dead, she called a friend, who took her home to get her other remote.

“I just kept hitting the remote button until it finally started. I felt like such an idiot,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

While the village and property managers DDR Corp. try to figure it out, a reader who follows astrology suggested the issue could be beyond human control, pointing out that we are in a Mercury Retrograde, from Feb. 23 to March 17, when planets appear to be moving backward.

Astrologically, it is a time for reflection but also a time when plans can go awry, according to the “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.” Several astrology websites say it’s a time when anything involving technology, machinery, communications and travel can be affected.

Mercury is “recognized as a trickster and prone to misbehavior,” the almanac said.

This occurs three or four times a year. The next Mercury Retrograde will be June 26 to July 20.



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