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How to use your Intoxalock Ignition interlock device

One reason many people choose Intoxalock interlock devices, or car breathalyzers, is for their ease of use. While some devices have an intricate LED interface with a full key pad and options to customize the look of the device, these features can complicate the process and make the device more difficult to use.

Let’s walk through how to use your Intoxalock to ensure you feel comfortable with starting and turning off your vehicle and submitting a breath sample.

Starting and turning off your vehicle

Before you can start your vehicle, you need to submit a clean breath sample into the device. Your car will not start if you attempt to do so before submitting a sample, and in a few states, it could be recorded as an unauthorized attempt to start your vehicle.

Some states treat unauthorized attempts as a violation. If you do try to start the vehicle before following this step, take the key out of the ignition and wait for the countdown on the breathalyzer to expire before attempting to start your vehicle.

When you blow into your ignition interlock, the device will analyze your sample to determine your breath alcohol concentration (BRaC). If your sample is within your state’s legal limits, the screen will display your BRaC or a pass, warning or failed message, depending on your state’s requirements.

The unit will then display “PASSED START CAR,” and you will have a two–three-minute countdown to start your car. If the countdown expires before you start the vehicle, you will need to submit another breath sample. If your BRaC is above the state limit, your vehicle will not start. State law varies, and you might get locked out of your device for one or more failed attempts to start your vehicle.

Download the infographic: How do ignition interlock devices work?

When you arrive at your destination and shut of your vehicle, check your Intoxalock to ensure a random retest (also known as rolling retest) isn’t required. Even if your car is no longer running, you must take the test to prevent a possible lock out, if it is prompting you for one.

Submitting a breath sample

For most people, learning how to submit a breath sample may take a little practice. Attempted breath samples will not affect the device and, in most states, will not cause a lock out. An important thing to remember is you will need to use the same technique every time you blow into the device.

  • Press the activation button. The word “BLOW” will appear on the screen.
  • Blow into the device. Your state will require you to either blow one long breath or a blow, inhale, blow pattern. Our state-certified experts can tell you what your state requires.

That’s it — simply blow into the device, provide a clean breath sample and start your car.

Random retests

Each state requires ignition interlock devices to perform random (rolling) retests while you are driving. This simply means that you will need to provide breath samples while the vehicle is running to prove you haven’t been drinking. Every state requires these retests at least once an hour, but you could experience them every five minutes, depending on state laws.

The interlock device will ask for a retest at random intervals by producing a loud beep and showing a message on the screen. Blow into the device as you normally would to keep the vehicle running. If you are uncomfortable providing a breath sample while driving, Intoxalock allows enough time (about six minutes) for you to pull over to submit your breath test. Your safety is always our top priority.

If you do not provide a breath sample when the device asks, it will continue asking for a sample until you provide it.

If you do not provide a sample within a certain timeframe, a few things could happen:

  • The vehicle’s horn might honk
  • The lights might flash
  • An internal siren might sound
  • You may be locked out from the device after turning your vehicle off

If you provide a BRaC that is above your state’s legal limit, you could also experience a honking horn, flashing lights or internal siren that will not stop until you pull over and turn off the vehicle.

If you have questions about how to use your device or your state’s laws, please contact one of our state specialists who can guide you through the answers.


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