Do I have to pay a subscription fee to use my vehicle’s remote starter?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who was shocked to learn about a fee.

2019 Toyota RAV4. Toyota

Q. I purchased a 2019 Toyota RAV 4 in October of 2020. It came with a factory installed remote starter that I used a few times last winter. When I went to use it this winter, it would not work. I found out I was on some kind of service contract – good for six months. After calling Toyota’s service line I found that in order to use the remote starter, I had to pay $8 per month or $80 dollars per year. I almost fell off my chair. I never heard of such a thing. I was also told that other companies are doing the same thing. Have you ever heard of such nonsense? 


A. Toyota received a lot of backlash over this decision. The remote start feature is tied into the phone app, which is subscription based. It is my understanding that the key fob should still activate the remote start, even without renewing the app. While Toyota is trying to make up its mind on this issue, try this trick. Using the key-fob, press the lock button twice quickly and then once again for a longer time. Regarding more technology nonsense, I read recently BMW was charging to use Apple CarPlay, and again after pushback from their customers, eliminated the $80 annual fee. Readers, have you experienced a surprise with a subscription-based system? Let me know.

Q. I own a 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5 hatchback with approximately 37,000 miles on it. Although it runs fine, and I stay on top of all maintenance, I reviewed the Subaru recommendation for replacement of the timing belt – 105 months or 105,000 miles. My car is now 168 months old and I had the belt checked recently by my mechanic who said it looks good. To be safe, I plan to replace the timing belt, drive belts, and water pump with all new components.  I trust my independent mechanic to do the work with specified components. Would you agree with this approach?


A. If I recently purchased your low mileage, 14-year-old Subaru, the first thing that I would do is exactly what you are planning. Although the belts may last longer, to reduce my anxiety about possible timing belt failure and catastrophic engine failure, this is money well spent. 

Q. I have a 2018 Subaru Forester I recently purchased for my daughter’s use. I understand the CVT transmission fluid is changed at 100,000 mile per Subaru North America. When looking online, the recommendation is quite different in Japan and Canada where the recommendation is to drain and refill the fluid at three years or 36,000 miles. Do you have an opinion on this matter? 

A. If this were my car, I would follow the recommendations in the owner’s manual that came with the car. Certainly, replacing the fluid every three years can’t hurt, but it doesn’t seem necessary. 

Q. The key fob for my 2005 Chevy Cobalt needs to be replaced. I’ve been using my key to unlock my door. There are times when my key won’t turn. Is WD-40 OK to use to lubricate the lock? Where do you recommend going to get a new key fob? 


A. As good as WD-40 is, I prefer to use a dedicated “dry” lock lubricant. I have found that WD-40 tends to wash away some of the factory lubricant and also can attract dirt and over time cause more sticking. The dealer or a full-service locksmith can replace your key-fob. You can buy an aftermarket fob for as little as $25 online, but it will require professional programming. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected] Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at


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