We’ve been getting lots of reports the past few days that people’s garage door openers and car remotes aren’t working. Generally that happens when an aircraft carrier arrives or leaves the base or shipyard. It’s probably the case this time too, kind of. Work is wrapping up on the USS John C. Stennis and it has been conducting tests, according to the shipyard. Part of the work involved a radar system upgrade, so if they’re testing that, I bet that’s the problem. The Navy’s going to confirm everything for me tomorrow, but I thought I’d give you an educated guess.
The Navy has sent me a statement when this happened before, but I can’t find it right now. It says something like the Navy owns the frequency and the garage door and car people are using it. If you have a problem with it not working when the radar is going, take it back to the manufacturer and have them change the frequency. I wrote a blog item on March 23 that goes into the history of it. I’ll just paste it below.
March 23, 2010-
Many people have learned through experience that when an
aircraft carrier rolls in or out of Bremerton, their electronic
garage door opener or remote keyless entry for their car might stop
It happened again Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, when the USS Nimitz popped in to pick up supplies and family members for a cruise to San Diego.
Chelsea Browning, office manager at Kitsap Garage Door in Bremerton, said she got 25 to 30 calls about remotes going on the fritz. She told them there was probably interference coming from the shipyard and it should go away soon.
It was more of the same at area car dealers. Aaron Taylor, service writer at Grey Chevrolet in Port Orchard, said 10 people came in or called because their fobs weren’t working, and Bay Ford service adviser Dawn Moore said keyless entries wouldn’t unlock any cars on the lot, including hers.
“To everybody who came in we said wait two days and they’ll go back to normal,” Moore said. “They wanted to buy new ones or buy batteries and we said you’re going to waste your money, don’t do that.”
The Navy checked with the Nimitz folks, who said it wasn’t them. Maybe the tugboats or Coast Guard cutters that accompany it were causing the interference.
It’s not that big a deal, really. People can just pop the key out of its fob and unlock the door manually, or get out of the car and operate the garage door. My car is too old to have a fob, and I’d just as soon not have electric windows and door locks, but that’s another story.
Even if it is the carriers, the Navy owns the radio frequencies that are being interrupted. Consumer gadget-makers, including those of garage door openers, have been allowed to borrow them if they keep their signals weak enough to accommodate the military, according to an old Washington Post story.
In 2001, keyless remotes wouldn’t work on thousands of vehicles around Bremerton, Port Orchard and Silverdale from March 21 to 26 and for several hours on April 12. Speculation was that the carrier USS Carl Vinson, which had recently returned to Bremerton, was causing the interference, but Navy officials said there was no evidence that a Navy ship was causing the problem. Nobody every figured out the cause.
And way back in 1995, the Nimitz’s radar scrambled the Kitsap Sun’s satellite data reception and it wasn’t able to print its stock tables. The Nimitz was preparing to go to sea after a long overhaul, and the crew was testing its systems. The paper and Navy had a deal that radar testing would only occur during the day because most of the paper’s material was transmitted at night.
The paper had similar problems two years earlier as the overhaul of the cruiser USS California drew to a close.
It has to be more than a coincidence that a big Navy ship is coming or going, or getting ready to come or go, every time the remotes go dead. It’d be nice to be the guy to pinpoint the cause, but maybe more fun for it to remain a mystery.