Keyless entry systems on the blink in Tinley Park store lot
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org March 11, 2013 6:39PM
Tinley officials are trying to determine what 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
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:39AM
It may be Tinley Park’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. Or maybe it’s the UFOs that reportedly have been spotted here. Then again, it could be pirates.
Apparently a mysterious force in at least part of a parking lot at Brookside Marketplace is suddenly rendering keyless entry systems on vehicles impotent.
Shoppers have been stranded — unable to get into or start their vehicles, and forced to wait for a tow truck, only to realize that their vehicles work just fine once they are away from the parking lot by Kohl’s department store in the shopping center at 191st Street and Harlem Avenue.
“It’s really weird,” Tinley Park resident Joe Karczewski said. “I’ve been a mechanic my whole life. I’ve never seen anything like this, and I thought I’ve seen everything.”
His wife went to Kohl’s on Sunday and hit the remote to lock her 2010 Buick LaCrosse, but it would not lock. No problem, she thought, since she would only be gone a few minutes.
When she returned to her car, which was parked near the front of the store, she couldn’t get in, Karczewski said. Even the OnStar system installed on her car — to aid her in such emergencies by unlocking the door remotely — was rendered useless.
Thinking the battery was dead, Karczewski went out there with another remote. While tinkering with his wife’s car, Karczewski saw two more cars being towed, and noticed that as one was leaving the lot, the headlights came on and the engine started running.
“It’s almost spooky that it’s just right there (in Kohl’s parking lot),” he said.
Spooky certainly, but also a “huge safety concern” for shoppers who cannot get into their vehicles or access OnStar, he said.
After a few hours of trying to figure it out, he just had his car towed, only to have it operate just fine once he got to the dealer’s lot.
Don McNeely, head of Tinley Park’s building department, was at the parking lot Monday hoping to find the culprit. His wife, too, had problems with the remote on her Jeep Liberty on Saturday, but fortunately had an old-fashioned, non-electronic key to operate her car, he said. That was the first time he was made aware of the problem.
“It’s baffling,” McNeely said. “Something is disrupting the frequency between the remote and the vehicle. I don’t know what it is.”
He has no idea how many vehicles had such problems, because not everyone reported it, but Karczewski, who talked to a tow truck driver, said it was “several.”
McNeely and the village’s electrical inspector are looking at every possibility they can think of. They are talking to the manufacturer of the electric car charging station that Kohl’s installed about six months ago. They have talked to the manager about the store’s sensory system that signals shoplifted merchandise. They have even looked into the possibility of pirate radio stations messing with frequency, McNeely said.
An illegal radio station jammed the signals of several makes and models of cars in Hollywood, Fla., he said. Hollywood police found the pirate radio station operating on the roof of an eight-story building, according to an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
But “if it was pirate radio, why is it just Kohl’s?” McNeely said.
Other stories on this topic have blamed NASA satellites, government aircraft, power lines, radio and TV transmitters, and yes, even aliens.
An assistant manager at the Tinley Park Kohl’s store referred questions to the corporate headquarters. Kohl’s corporate officials could not immediately be reached for comment.