Some time ago, for the website, I wrote a piece outlining the Autotext (Eurowatch) tracking system as fitted to UK cars from the factory from 2005, this is an updated and expanded version. It is quite a long piece….
When the DB9 was first launched, back in 2004, it came from the factory fitted with a Tracker Horizon. This was, at the time, the leading vehicle security tracker on the market, although somewhat basic in today’s world, it did what it said on the tin, it tracked the car. Around the time when Vantage was launched, DB9 and Vantage were then fitted with a Thatcham Category 5 device from a firm called Autotxt, this was monitored in the UK by a company called Eurowatch (now part of Teletrac Navman), so it was commonly known as the Eurowatch system, rather than the Aston Martin Tracking II as it was officially titled.
The Autotxt device was connected into the CAN (Controller Area Network) of the car, this would then allow the tracker to immobilise the starter on the vehicle as required by the Category 5 stipulations. The tracker also had ADR (Automated driver recognition) tags, this would indicate when the driver was in the vehicle. If the ignition was turned on and the car was moved without the ADR tags present it would alert to the Eurowatch control centre. If the car was stolen, the Police could ask the control centre to send a command to the tracker to immobilise the starter. In the UK we cannot immobilise the vehicle when its in motion, so the car would run until the engine was switched off and then not start again.
One of the neat features of the Autotxt tracker was its Bluetooth capability, still fairly unique, so rather than using the, quite bulky, ADR tags, the unit could be paired with your phone. However, the unit didn’t come without its problems, more and more of which we are seeing now. Although the tracker came fitted as standard to all UK registered cars, quite a number were never commissioned, because it wasn’t required by the first owner’s insurance company. 3 or 4 owners down the line and when the dealer tries to set up the tracker it has ceased to function because the inbuilt SIM card has disconnected permanently from the network. Others have just randomly stopped working, a lot of the time due to the poor quality components used in manufacturing, failing. This last issue also contributed to the more serious battery drain issues. Components failing would not allow the tracker to ‘go to sleep’ correctly, after the ignition was switched off. In turn, this would stop the CAN from shutting down correctly, a couple of minutes after the key is removed. So rather than the sub 40mA drain that most cars can cope with, the car would draw 1-2Amps and flatten the battery overnight. Often times owners wouldn’t notice because the car was always garaged with a plug-in charger when not in use. The first time it would become an issue would be when the owner went on holiday with the car for a few days and wasn’t able to plug the car in overnight.
When this is the case the tracker needs to be disconnected in two ways, physically and also electronically. If you unplug the tracker, should you be able to locate it…, when you next start the car, the CAN looks for all the devices in knows are on its register, when it can’t see the tracker, it goes into alarm mode and prevents the car from starting on subsequent occasions. So, the tracker needs to be connected to AMDS (Aston Martin Diagnostics System) and be ‘told’ that it no longer has a tracker fitted.
At that point it will prevent any battery drain and further issues. A new tracker, if one is required, can then be fitted in an approved way.
From mid-2013 Aston Martin moved away from the Autotxt unit (the company has since ceased trading) and onto the Cobra CAT 5 system. This still had the start inhibit and the ADR functionality, although luckily now with smaller tags. However, we have now lost that Bluetooth capability, so we can no longer pair with mobile phones. On the upside, Vodafone have an app called ‘my connected car’ that can give you access to location of your car (historic only, not live tracking (too expensive)), also the ability to geofence (put an electronic fence around the car, with the ability to receive alerts to your phone if it moves). The downside is that I believe this is only available on later versions of the S5 and S5+ trackers.
Cobra have now been bought out by Vodafone, so the CAT 5 was rebranded as the Vodafone CAT5. Then in January 2019, the Thatcham security accreditation was changed. Category 5 and the lower level Category 6 were deleted and in their place were S7 (lowest), S5 and S5+ (equivalent to CAT 5). At the same time the rules to the insurance companies were relaxed, no longer was it required to have immobilisation as part of the requirement. All the factory fitted trackers from Aston Martin still have this feature though and any Aston Martin we install trackers to also have the S5+ fitted as standard.
We also have the option to install the (Teletrac Navman) Trackstar S5 tracker, this allows the owner to transfer any outstanding subscription from the old Autotxt to the new Trackstar tracker. But Trackstar don’t offer an immobilisation option with their S5 tracker. Another change that Thatcham made to the Tracker manufacturers was it was no longer a requirement to have qualified engineers install the tracker. Whereas before we had to attend a training course and have our work audited, now anyone can fit any tracker to any car. Please ensure you have confidence in the engineer taking your Aston to pieces!
If you have any questions about Aston Martins and trackers, please get in touch.