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So how does an Alcohol Interlock Device actually work?

November 1, 2018

Have you even wondered what your interlock device actually is? Not just what it does, but how it even works. We could give a long list of all the standards interlock devices are required to meet, but you probably won't find it as helpful as understanding the nitty gritty of what's going on every time you take a breath test.

So let's start with the basics; you blow into the mouthpiece and if the alcohol in your breath is below a certain level, you can start your vehicle. But how does this odd sniff test even work, and how can we be sure it's accurate?

Well turns out that ignition interlock devices use ethanol-specific fuel cells to detect alcohol. An ethanol-specific fuel cell is basically a little engine which can turn small amounts of alcohol into an electric current. If there's no alcohol present, then no electrical current will be created. On the other hand, if there's alcohol in your breath, the fuel cell produces a current which is stronger the more alcohol there is in the breath sample. The alcohol interlock device measures the electrical current, and figures out how much alcohol had to be in your breath to create that electrical current.

If that amount is under the threshold of 0.02 BAC, the device will allow a signal to pass from the ignition to the starter, and the vehicle's engine will turn on. On the other hand, if the device detects an amount of alcohol greater than 0.02 BAC, it will stop the ignition signal to the engine from being sent, and the engine won't turn on.

If it sounds kind of flaky, don't worry; fuel cell breathalysers are the gold standard in portable alcohol detection. Even the police use them in roadside testing. Not only that, but our alcohol interlocks are high tech pieces of equipment,  independently accredited to both Australian and European standards. Every time you go in for servicing our qualified agents calibrate your device, ensuring the best accuracy on the roads.

Need to Install an Alcohol Interlock?

If you need to get back on the road, Smart Start can help. Schedule your installation appointment today by calling 1300 256 900 or filling up our online form.