YONKERS, N.Y. – A mystery force field that blocks wireless car keys from working has Yonkers Avenue business owners, residents and even the police commissioner stumped.
Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner visited the area near Yonkers and Page avenues on Tuesday after reports surfaced that drivers were unable to unlock or start cars with their wireless key fobs because of some kind of radio interference. Gardner left as baffled as anyone else, but ordered the department to begin an investigation and notify the FCC and utility companies, police said.
Drivers were left wondering what renders their keyless remotes useless on the block. Many have been left stranded, but when their cars were pushed or towed a few blocks away from the mystery zone, the remotes suddenly work again. The zone stretches approximately from Yonkers Avenue and Orient Street to just past the intersection of Yonkers and Page avenues.
Jane Holden became the latest victim of the dead zone Tuesday afternoon when she tried to lock her doors with the remote. Holden, who lives on the opposite side of the city, pushed the remote repeatedly but to no avail.
“It’s frustrating,” Holden said. “I was about to go buy a new battery. I’ve never had this problem before.”
Eric Marden, manager at Marden Hardware, said that is the common reaction from drivers. The store sold dozens of batteries for the remotes in the past six months before employees suspected something was going on. Now, the hardware store refuses to sell the batteries to stranded motorists.
“We could have sold hundreds more,” Marden said. “We had to tell people every day ‘you don’t need a new battery.’”
Marden said the hardware store suspected the problem was caused by interference from a utility pole in front of the store. But a radio frequency expert hired by the owner of the utility pole determined the source was coming from across the street.
Vic Joseph, a clerk at Yonkers Mini Mart and Deli, said the problem needs to be fixed soon because the deli has lost some customers who had to have their cars towed away.
“It’s a bother because some people say they will not come back to the store,” he said. “It’s not good to have this.”
Though uncommon, these events are not unheard of. In 2004, The Washington Post reported similar problems in Waldorf, Md., after residents were left by the roadside when their remote starters wouldn’t work. That same year, residents in Las Vegas, Nev., reported similar problems that were later determined to be caused by a faulty radio signal repeater, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
Three years earlier, thousands of drivers in Bremerton, Wash., were left without access to their cars, according to multiple reports.
In the past, however, faulty keyless remotes may have been simply an annoyance, as drivers used their standard keys to unlock the doors and start the engine. But today, more and more cars depend on the keyless starts.
An Edmunds report shows the number of car models offering keyless start has grown from 40 in 2006 to 163 last year, more than half of all new cars and trucks sold in the United States, the site reports.
Those car owners might want to think twice about driving to Yonkers, though.