The Escort ZW5 wireless laser shifters are a unique set of laser jammers. (Escort refers to jammers as “shifters,” but they’re the same thing.) The special thing about these jammers is that they wirelessly communicate to an Escort radar detector on your windshield without having to run any wireless through your vehicle’s firewall.
The benefit of having a wireless setup like this is it makes the installation simpler. Without having to run any cables through your vehicle’s firewall as you would with a wired jammer, installation is easier, faster, and cheaper, plus there’s less potential drilling you’ll need to do to your vehicle. Otherwise the functionality and performance is (mostly) the same as a traditional wired jammer.
Escort ZW5 Pros
- Wirelessly communicates with your radar detector on your windshield
- No running cables through your vehicle’s firewall necessary
- Installation is easier and cheaper than a wired jammer
- No dedicated control pad necessary to install in your cabin
- Effective against most laser guns on the market including many DragonEye guns
- Updatable via USB
- Available in both a cig. lighter and directwire version
- Price is comparable to the competition ($849)
Escort ZW5 Cons
- Limited to 2 heads max, so best suited to small vehicles
- Protection available for the front of your vehicle only, not for the rear
- You must bring your computer out to your car to update
- No indication of which laser gun you’re being shot with
- Excessively long alert latch makes it impossible to know when you’re no longer being targeted
- Not automatic disarming of the jammers, they must be disabled manually
Escort ZW5 Overview
Here’s a 5 minute overview video where you can learn about the ZW5’s, how the wiring and wireless functionality works, and you can see the jammers firing and then being manually disarmed.
Escort ZW5 Wiring & Wireless Communication
Wiring up the ZW5 is pretty straightforward. There’s two halves to the system that communicate wirelessly, so let’s look at each half separately and how everything connects.
Laser Jammer Side
The two included laser jammer heads are installed in the grill area of your vehicle. The heads both plug into the ShifterMax Bridge Box (the same box used in the wired ZR5’s and the Max Ci’s ShifterMax jammers). The Bridge Box then connects to the ZW5 interface which is what wirelessly communicates with the other half of the system.
For power, the system connects to a power source such as your battery. If you choose a power source that is always on, then to ensure the jammers don’t drain your car battery while you’re parked, once you turn off your car and the jammers lose connection with your radar detector, the shifters automatically turn off two minutes later. Then once you start your car up next time, they automatically turn back on.
Radar Detector Side
On your windshield you mount a compatible Escort radar detector.
The radar detector needs a special power cable that has the wireless communication capabilities built-in. (The tube-shaped thing in the middle of the photo above is where the wireless part is.)
Escort sells two different power cables for the ZW5, one with a cig. lighter cable and another with a smart directwire cable for a more permanent installation. In the photo above, you can that I’m using the directwire option. Here’s what the plug-in cig. lighter power cable looks like:
ZW5 Wireless Communication
The laser jammer heads themselves are wired. The wireless part comes into play to allow you to bypass running a cable through your vehicle’s firewall.
The ZW5 wireless interface box installed in your engine bay wirelessly communicates with the cylindrical tube built into your radar detector’s power cable.
Here’s a look at my complete setup with the ZW5 and Max 360c (with the hardwire power cable).
Using the Escort ZW5’s
Now let’s take a look at the ZW5’s in action. Here’s a demo video using an IR-sensitive camera (iPhone 8’s selfie camera) so you can see the laser shifters firing. As soon as I trigger the shifters with my laser tester, the shifters start firing and the radar detector (a Max360 in this case) visually and audibly alerts. Once you slow down and are ready to disable your jammers, you double press the mute button and the jammers will stop jamming.
The video below shows the entire process, including the (excessively) long alert latch that continues after the officer stops shooting at your car, as well as the messages you’ll eventually see about the shifters being off and then eventually turning back on automatically.
A single press of the mute button simply mutes the alert. A second press of the mute button disables the jammers. You can press the mute button either on your detector or on your power cord. Both work the same.
One feature that Escort’s latest gen shifters don’t support (including the wireless ZW5, the wired ZR5, and the ShifterMax used with the iX Ci, Max Ci, and Max Ci 360) is the ability to have the jammers automatically disarm after a set period of time such as 4 seconds. You’ll need to manually double press the mute button (a feature not even mentioned in the ZW5’s manual for some bizarre reason) in order to disable your shifters. I have no idea why this feature is missing and not even mentioned because it’s going to lead Escort’s customers to preventing an officer from being able to get their speed whatsoever which is a terrible idea for many reasons. (This video explains why you should always slow down and disable your jammers when shot.)
Why a Maximum of Only Two Heads Are Supported
Now interestingly enough, the ShifterMax Bridge Box physically supports up to 4 heads total, but Escort says to only run two heads max with the ZW5. The Bridge Box is the exact same one used in the Max Ci and the ZR5 which have no problem running 4 heads. With the ZW5, however, ports 3 and 4 come covered with removable rubber caps. If you wanted to, you could buy two additional heads and plug them in to the ZW5.
I tried this and it turns out all 4 heads fire normally when connected.
All 4 heads detect and transmit laser just fine. If you then remove heads 3 and 4, the detector will even throw an error on startup, telling you to check sensors 3 and 4. As far as I could tell, everything looked completely normal.
I asked Escort about why they recommend running only 2 heads and they explained that it is a power draw issue. While the Bridge Box itself can physically support 4 heads, the wireless interface box draws power too and there’s not enough power to reliably run both the wireless interface box and 4 laser jammer heads and so you’ll eventually start running into issues down the line. So it’s not the fact that system technically doesn’t support 4 heads. It’s that the power that the system would used to power heads 3 and 4 is instead being used to power the wireless communication interface.
If you need 4 heads, Escort recommends going for a wired system like the ZR5 or the ShifterMax included with the Max Ci 360. You can also go for any other competing laser jammer as well that supports a minimum of 4 heads.
Limitations of Running Only Two Heads
Since the ZW5 supports a maximum of only 2 heads, it limits your ability to protect yourself against both the newest DragonEye guns as well as on larger vehicles including trucks and SUV’s.
(Being limited to 2 heads total also prevents you from running the additional 2 heads to the rear for both front and rear coverage, but running the wires all the way to the rear defeats the purpose of going for a wireless install in the first place so the main issues are DragonEye protection and larger vehicle coverage.)
Limited Protection for Larger Vehicles
Larger vehicles like trucks and SUV’s have a bigger surface area than smaller cars and so two heads may not be able to provide sufficient coverage to protect the entirety of the front of the vehicle including the headlights on either side and the grill / front license plate in the middle. If you drive a large vehicle, it’d be a good idea to opt for a traditional jammer that supports more heads.
Escort advertises the system as being able to jam the DragonEye with 2 heads. Generally speaking, particularly with the latest version of the guns, you’ll want a minimum of 3 heads to jam the gun well, especially for larger vehicles, but this also applies to smaller vehicles. You see, in order to jam the DragonEye, the laser jammer heads operate independently and perform different roles so you’ll need more heads than normal to give you sufficient protection. Being limited to only 2 heads means that you’ll be much less likely to consistently and reliably jam the DragonEye gun, even if the jammer is technically capable of jamming the gun.
Escort ZW5 Jamming Effectiveness
In my testing of the Max Ci 360’s ShifterMax and the ZR5 (same thing as the ZW5’s, just with a different interface for the driver), the jammers are pretty effective.
These jammers are capable of jamming most guns and in many situations they’ll do a great job. In terms of effectiveness, they’ll do a sufficient job in most situations, but they are not the most effective jammers. In my experience, I find a higher likelihood that Escort’s shifters will lead to a punchthrough (the officer is able to successfully get a speed reading even though the jammer is attempting to jam) when compared to the AntiLaser Priority (the best laser jammer on the market and the benchmark that all others are compared to.)
For example, in one test against two different Tesla Model S’s, one with an ALP installed and the other with Escort’s shifters, with ALP’s I was unable get a reading. With the Escort I struggled to get JTG performance (jam-to-gun, where the gun could never get a reading from the start all the way up to when the car drives up to the gun) even against simpler guns like the Kustom ProLaser III. However, in another test, the Escort successfully achieved solid JTG performance. So it can do it, but I don’t find it to be as consistently effective as I’d hope. Nevertheless, these new generation jammers are significantly more effective than Escort’s earlier gen jammers including the ZR4 and Laser Shifter Pro so they’re definitely a big step forward for Escort.
Is the ZW5 right for you?
So in terms of effectiveness, yes the ALP is a more effective jammer. However, the ZW5 has its own advantages to consider. Here are the situations where you may want to consider the ZW5 instead of another jammer like the ALP:
- You want an easier or cheaper installation
- You use a compatible Escort radar detector (Max360c, Max360, Redline EX, Max, Max2, iX, Passport, X70, X80, or Beltronics GT-7)
- You don’t want a separate dedicated control pad for your jammers
- You drive a small to mid-sized vehicle
- You require front laser protection only
- You need limited DragonEye protection
- You’re cool with manually disabling your jammers instead of relying on an automatic disarm
If all of this applies to you, the ZW5’s could be a good fit for you.
Buying the Escort ZW5’s
If you’ve decided the ZW5’s are a good fit for you and you’d like to pick up a set, there’s two versions you can get, depending on how you want your radar detector to be powered.
Cig. Lighter Cable: Easier Install
For the easiest install, you can get the version of the ZW5 that comes with a cig. lighter power cable for your radar detector. This makes the radar detector power cable install portion pretty plug and play. It takes like 2 seconds and you can focus all your time on installing the heads in your grill and controllers in your engine bay. It won’t be the prettiest install with a power cord hanging down your dash, but this part of the install will be a piece of cake.
Directwire Power Cable: Cleaner & Permanent Install
If you don’t want a power cable hanging down your dash and you want to keep your cig. lighter port free for other devices, you can get the directwire version of the power cable. It’s a hardwire cable that you wire into your vehicle’s fuse box (see my tutorial on how to hardwire your radar detector) and then you tuck the cable behind the trim in your vehicle so it’s out of sight and so you wind up with a nice, clean looking install.
Plus you still have a wired remote control switch with an alert LED and remote mute button that you can place somewhere convenient and use to mute your radar detector or disable your jammers.
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