Friday, April 21, 2017

Laser Jammer Woes

I spoke recently with a senior installer at a Texas BMW dealer who told me that he installs laser jammers behind bumper covers. Said he's been doing this for years and scoffed at the notion that without a view of the road, a laser jammer is useless

This isn't uncommon. Few installers understand the differences between lidar and radar technology. Many assume that a laser beam passes easily through plastic, just like microwave radar.

Laser jammer kits include bubble levels and directions for alignment, both frequently ignored. Jammer alignment is critical since the pinpoint light beam is dueling with a similar pinpoint beam transmitted by the laser gun. If the jammer can't spot the incoming laser beam, it does nothing.

But I routinely see installers aim laser jammers into the ground; many splay the jammers toward the outside, like they're adjusting the beams of driving lights.

The labor required for a proper installation is considerable. I've spent two days installing front and rear jammers on a Porsche 911 Turbo, for example.

Porsche 911 Turbo, an installer's nightmare

The rear-engine Porsche is a phenomenally difficult car to work on, requiring removal of the battery, trunk liner, spare tire, bumper covers, wheel well liners and rear interior trim. That's merely to gain access.

Routing wires through a packed engine compartment into the interior is an art form. So is protecting everything from exhaust plumbing that can glow red-hot at times.

Regardless, plenty of folks spend big bucks on hardware and then shop around for the lowest bid on installation.

And I have yet to see an installer road-test a finished system with a speed laser. No surprise considering that $3000 police lasers can't be found on the shelf at the local Walmart.

Small wonder that many jammer-equipped cars prove to be no match for laser-toting cops.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Escort Passport Max Ci Review

Escort Max Ci 360 color display in Expert mode shows the posted limit, current speed, radar band (Ka here), signal strength bar graph, the number of signals detected (1) and its direction (front).

We had to pause briefly for a reality check during a recent test of the Escort Passport Max Ci. After 15 years of testing at this site, we know roughly when to expect radar alerts.  And the Max Ci was behaving strangely.

By design our desert site north of Phoenix is a nightmare for radar detectors. The radar car is hunkered down in the middle of a plunging S-curve, the radar beam pointed uphill, off into space and away from the target car's path. Even without using its instant-on feature, the feeble signal often lets the radar clock our target car before the detector goes off.

Here the previous record holder, the Escort Passport 9500ci, routinely spotted Ka-band radar from 2,500 to 3,000 feet away, about triple the range of, say, a mid-priced Cobra or Whistler radar detector.

After several runs the numbers remained consistent; the Escort Passport Max Ci began shrieking a warning while the radar was nearly a mile away and still hidden on the far side of a hill.

This represents the longest radar range we've seen in years. Compared to the Passport 9500ci, the Max Ci had much longer range on Ka band and 27 percent greater range on K band. (The latter contributes to an abundance of false alarms in reaction to the Blind Spot Monitoring lane-change radar found in many cars.)
We took issue with some design features of the Escort Passport Max Ci, but certainly not with its performance.  Read the review.