Is an FM radio station behind Amherstburg’s dead zone?

Town of Amherstburg sign. Photo courtesy

A local man is investigating whether a faulty FM radio signal is to blame for a mystery plaguing drivers in Amherstburg.

In a parking lot on Sandwich Street, car alarms are going off unexpectedly, vehicles lock on their own, and key fobs do not work.

It is the kind of puzzle that gets Lucas Jones excited. His hobby is radio frequencies, and for the past few days, he has been conducting his own experiments in the parking lot.

“My brother came out just to help me out, and I was testing with one car; he brought another,” Jones explained. “As we were going through one of the demonstrations, my brother’s car was unlocked. Now, every few minutes, it would lock on him.”

While the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, formerly Industry Canada, is investigating, Lucas has a theory.

“I have been able to identify what station it was,” he said while referring to a wide FM band signal emanating from the Detroit area. “At this time, I’m not mentioning what station because I could be wrong.”

However, he stresses, at the point, it is just a theory, and Hans Parmar with the ministry told the cause has not yet been confirmed.

“To be honest, I’m trying to prove myself wrong,” laughed Lucas. “I’m covering my bases.”

Key fobs for North American vehicles typically operate at a frequency of 315 megahertz, far higher than the FM band, which runs from 88 to 108 megahertz.

While no new FM radio stations have joined the airwaves in Detroit recently, Jones said it is possible the interference is coming from an established broadcaster.

“It could be the tower, something with the tower not operating properly,” he said.

In an email Thursday, Parmar explained, “incidents such as these can be caused by a defective radio frequency transmitter in close proximity… or uncertified radio equipment not approved for use in Canada can cause other radio devices, such as key fobs, to malfunction.”

If the cause is traced back to a faulty radio transmitter tower, the ministry said it works with U.S. agencies to address the problem.

Parmar added it is unlikely the disruption in radio frequencies will impact communications devices used by first responders.