Suffering through a life-altering event, like a California DUI charge, can be stressful and confusing. Even after the court proceedings are concluded, there are many rules and regulations an individual must adhere to in order to remain in the good graces of the law. Most recently, California legislators made an ignition interlock device mandatory for some convicted of DUI. This means that, for many of you, an ignition interlock device will be a part of your life for some time to come.

You’ll no doubt have questions about having a car breathalyzer, or ignition interlock device, in your car. Luckily, we at Smart Start of California are here to help you, just like we’ve helped thousands of our clients get back on the road while fulfilling their legal obligations, insuring that they stay out of trouble with the law.

As a service to our clients, we offer the following answers to our most frequently asked questions

  1.  Can someone use a balloon or other air source to mimic human breath?
No. All Smart Start devices have anti-circumvention techniques, which cause the Ignition Interlock Device to abort phony breath samples.
2. Can a person with an Ignition Interlock Device restriction have someone else take the breath test for the driver to start the vehicle?
Not legally. California Vehicle Code 23247 makes it unlawful for another person to blow into an Ignition Interlock device or to start a motor vehicle to a person whose driving privilege is restricted. If the car was started illegally, the person who started it or another sober individual would have to ride in the vehicle because the unit will randomly ask for a “rolling retest.” If a test is not taken or if the test is failed, the unit will log a violation. California law imposes fines and/or jail for individuals assisting in the circumvention of the IID.
3. Will the Ignition Interlock Device unit lose all memory if the battery is disconnected?
No. The unit has a backup lithium battery to protect the data log’s memory.
4. If a driver gets stranded and thinks the Ignition Interlock Device unit is causing the problem, is there anything he/she can do?
Some units can self-diagnose problems and the driver will be able to confirm if the unit is having problems by the condition of the service light. The driver can also call a service provider to help determine if the unit requires service.
5. Can a participant leave his/her car running outside of a bar, while drinking inside, and then drive away?
The unit will randomly ask for breath tests while the engine is running. If a sample is not given when requested, the device logs a violation and with some devices, the horn starts to honk until the vehicle is shut off.
6. What happens when the driver forgets his/her service appointment?
The device will prompt the driver. For example, a device may flash or the light may stay on and a tone will sound if it needs service. If the IID is not serviced, the device will go into lockout mode and the driver will not be able to operate the vehicle. Then, the vehicle would have to be towed to the service center or the service center technician would have to perform remote service.
7. What if the driver is taking a medicine with an alcohol base?
Alcohol is alcohol. If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration, as measured in the breath, is over the preset level, the driver will not be allowed to start the vehicle. During the training session, drivers are particularly cautioned about common substances that contain alcohol and the use of mouthwash.
8. What if the driver uses mouthwash in the morning and the mouthwash has an alcohol base?
Again, alcohol is alcohol. If the driver does not allow sufficient time for the alcohol to dissipate from his/her mouth, a FAIL will be registered as a violation.
9. What happens when a driver fails the breath test?
The ignition interlock device will enter a short lockout period of a few minutes for the first failed breath alcohol test and a longer lockout for any subsequent failed breath alcohol test. This permits an opportunity for the alcohol to dissipate from the mouth and for the driver to consider the reason for the failed breath alcohol test.
10. Can others besides the participating driver drive the IID-equipped vehicle?
Yes. However any intended driver must take and pass a breath test in order to start the vehicle. All other possible drivers should be trained on the operation of the device. The person with the Ignition Interlock Device restriction is responsible for all readings recorded by the device.
11. What happens when the IID-equipped vehicle needs repair?
The driver needs to contact the device service provider before having repairs conducted on his/her vehicle in case the repair shop has questions about the IID. Documentation from the repair shop must be provided if the power to the vehicle is interrupted. Any time the power is disconnected the lithium battery will record a violation.
12. If the interlock device unit malfunctions, will it shut the vehicle off?
No. The IID unit has no means of interrupting vehicle operation once it is started.
13. What do I do if my unit is in “Lockout”?
If your unit is in lockout, you will need to call (800) 880-3394 for a one-time 6 hour lock out code to take your vehicle to the nearest Smart Start shop for servicing. You will have 6 hours after entering the code to take your vehicle in. If your vehicle isn’t serviced within that 6 hour window, it runs the risk of becoming inoperable in which you will have to tow it to the nearest Smart Start shop at your expense. Please note:

  • The unlock code is a ONE time, single use code
  • The unlock code does not bypass the functionality of the device. A passing breath test must be provided
  • The unlock code will only work once. State regulations define the time period.  Check your states’ regulations for specific guidelines
  • The unlock code expires after 6 hours.  If this occurs, you will be required to tow your vehicle to a Smart Start facility at your own expense
14. What happens if the vehicle stalls in traffic?
The Ignition Interlock Device unit permits the driver to restart the vehicle without having to conduct another breath sample, but a breath sample will be requested shortly after restarting.
15. What happens if the driver is out of state and experiences problems with his/her ignition interlock device unit?
Most states currently have Ignition Interlock Device programs with service centers to assist them. Drivers are instructed to contact the primary service center to be routed to the closest center for assistance.
16. Will installation of the Ignition Interlock Device damage the vehicle?
No. The IID unit is only connected to the wiring under the dash and under the hood. At the end of the program, this wiring is restored to pre-IID installation conditions.
17. Will the requirements to take a “rolling retest” cause the driver to take his/her eyes off the road creating a hazardous situation?
No. When the Ignition Interlock device signals for a retest, the driver has six (6) minutes to provide the sample or to pull over to the side of the road in a safe area to provide the breath sample. There are no buttons to push; the driver must only breathe into the unit to complete a breath sample. This is much simpler than using a cellular telephone or tuning a state-of-the-art car stereo.
18. How often does the device need a calibration check?
Typically, every 30 days.
19. Can the device be tampered with by computer?
No. Proprietary software and a special interface connection are needed to communicate with the device.
20. What does “SLOCK@2d” or “SvcLock48hr” mean on my Smart Start unit?
This means you are in service grace period count down and you have 2 days remaining before you lockout.
21. What does “VLOCK@2d” or “ViolLck48hr” mean on my Smart Start unit?
This means you are in your violation grace period countdown and you have 2 days remaining before you lock out.
22. What does “LOCKOUT VIOL” mean on my Smart Start unit?
This means you have lost all your points and have exceeded the violation grace period. You must now call 1-800-880-3394 to obtain a one-time unlock code in order to take the vehicle to a Smart Start service center.
23. What does “LOCKOUT SRVC” mean?
This means you have missed your monthly service and have exceeded the service grace period. You must now obtain a onetime unlock code to take the vehicle to a Smart Start service center. Call the Smart Start corporate office to obtain this code.
24. How do I check my appointment time?
Press the # key, then the 1 key on the keypad to display you appointment time.
25. What do “Blow Harder,” “Hum Stronger,” “Blow Softer,” and “Don’t Inhale” mean on my Smart Start unit? What does “ABORT LOCK” mean?
Blow Harder means you stopped the breath sample too soon. Blow Softer means you are blowing too hard. Hum Stronger means that the hum tone is too soft. Don’t Inhale means you sucked are out of the unit. For instructions on how to operate your Smart Start unit, visit our Ignition Interlock Video page.  ABORT LOCK means you have exceeded the allowed number of aborts during a fifteen minute period.
26. How do I check my remaining violation points.
Press the # key and then the number 3 on the keypad.


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