Dead Key Fob? You Can Still Unlock and Start Your Car

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Person holding a car key/Image Credit: Kaboompics .com from Pexels

If you’ve just found yourself locked out of your car with a dead key fob, we may be able to get you going.

Remote key fobs are great until they fail. When they do, you may not be able to enter the car. Then, if you get inside, getting the car started can be foiled by a dead START button. We’ve got loads of solutions here, so find the one that most closely fits your scenario.

These are the most likely solutions:

Swap the Battery

If your remote key fob has given up the ghost in the parking lot of a shopping center, you may be in luck. The battery may have failed, and getting it to work again might be as easy as replacing it.

To access the battery, you’ll have to open the fob. Typically, you have to use a coin or a small screwdriver to pry the battery cover open. The battery will look like a silver button. Look for the numbers on the battery and match those to a replacement battery.

Unlock the Door Remotely

Many manufacturers have remote door unlock services that can get you inside the car if your key fob is disabled, or if you’ve locked your keys inside. If your car doesn’t have an advanced remote unlocking system, roadside assistance can still get you inside. All of these services require that you have set them up ahead of time, and generally require a PIN.

Here’s how to access those services:

Audi

Using the myAudi App, Audi owners can utilize remote unlocking services if the key fob is dead, or if the key is inside the car. You can learn more about the app and sign up at Audi’s website.

Acura

Vehicles equipped with AcuraLink can receive a remote unlock signal to get into the car if the key fob is dead. The service is available through the app, or via PC. Learn more at Acura’s website.

Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, RAM

Stellantis vehicles equipped with Uconnect Access are eligible for remote unlocking services if you’re currently a Uconnect subscriber. For more information on the program, visit the Uconnect website.

BMW

BMW offers remote unlocking services via its Connected Drive program. For more information on BMW, visit the Connected Drive website.

Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC

Most GM vehicles come with OnStar and Connected Services available. However, the lock/unlock feature requires a paid plan. For more information, visit the OnStar website.

Ford, Lincoln, Ford Trucks

Select 2017 and 2018 models are equipped with SYNC Connect. For 2018 and later Fords, it’ll be called FordPass Connect. Newer Lincoln Models have the Lincoln Way App. They all work basically the same way: sign up in the app, create a PIN, and activate the service. For more information visit the Ford website or Lincoln Website.

Honda

Select 2018 and newer Hondas get a free trial period for the HondaLink app which, among other things, features keyless entry and remote assurance from almost anywhere. It also features 24-hour roadside assistance. Check your compatibility and find more information on the service on Honda’s website.

Hyundai

Hyundai’s Bluelink services include a remote unlocking feature if your key fob is dead. You can access services from the app, a PC, or by phone. For more info, visit Hyundai BlueLink.

Nissan, INFINITI

Nissan Connect allows owners to unlock their cars remotely via the app or the web portal. For more information, visit Nissan Connect. INFINITI vehicles have a similar service through INFINITI InTouch. Find out more at the INFINITI InTouch website.

Jaguar, Land Rover

Jaguar’s InControl Remote & Protect services include remote unlocking if the key fob is lost or damaged. Visit Jaguar’s website to learn more.

Land Rover offers the same program. Visit the Land Rover website for more information.

Kia

Kia vehicles equipped with Kia Connect have remote unlocking services as part of the program. You can learn more about how to access the service at Kia’s website.

Lexus

The Lexus Enform telematics system features remote unlocking services. You can learn more about the program at Lexus Enform’s website.

Mazda

Similar to many of the other apps listed above, the MyMazda app allows you to lock and unlock your vehicle with your phone. Learn more on the MyMazda website.

Mercedes-Benz

Newer Mercedes-Benz models come equipped with the Mercedes me connect app. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to remotely lock or unlock your vehicle, start the engine, and more. Learn more on the Mercedes-Benz website.

MINI

MINI also has an all-in-one app with the ability to remotely lock and unlock your door with your phone. Learn more about the service on the MINI website.

Mitsubishi

The My Mitsubishi Connect Mobile Application allows you to remotely lock and unlock your vehicle as well as contact roadside assistance when you need it. Learn more on the Mitsubishi Connect website.

Porsche

2017 and newer Porsches can be equipped with Porsche Connect. Among its many features is the ability to lock and unlock the vehicle with your phone. For more information, visit the Porsche website.

Subaru

Subaru owners with a malfunctioning key fob may be able to unlock the car remotely if they’ve subscribed to StarLink. You’ll access the feature using the MySubaru App. For more information on the program, visit the StarLink website.

Toyota

Toyota’s Remote Connect service allows you to remotely lock/unlock your doors with your smartphone in the Remote Connect app. Learn more at Toyota’s website.

Volvo

Volvo On Call provides remote unlocking services when the keys are lost, inside the car or the fob is damaged. Visit the Volvo On Call website for more information.

Volkswagen

Vehicles equipped with Volkswagen’s Car-Net service can remotely unlock their vehicle using the app on their phone. Learn more about the service on the VW Car-Net website.

If you don’t have one of the services described above, you can still try calling Roadside Assistance. The number is typically posted on the side windows and in the owner’s manual.

Unlock the Door Manually

Barring that, try holding your dead fob up against the driver’s door handle and pulling.  Sometimes there’s just enough juice in the battery to unlock it at a close distance.

Diagram showing how to remove mechanical key from a Lexus Smart Key remote/Image Credit: Lexus

If that fails, look closely at the fob.  If it has a leather jacket on it, remove it.  Almost all automakers hide a small mechanical key inside the fob.  There is usually a small catch that allows the spare key to pop out.  If you can expose the little mechanical key, you can then insert it into the lock opening in the driver’s door, and you’re in.

How To Start a Car With a Dead Key Fob

Once you’re inside, getting the car started is actually pretty easy. Automakers know that your keyless ignition may need to work if the fob dies, and the system has been designed to work even with a non-functioning remote. Some cars are equipped with a means of starting the car manually, and some have a backup built into the key fob that works without a key.

Even if your car has keyless entry, you may not have noticed that there’s actually a key slot somewhere on the steering column. Many Mazda vehicles, for example, are equipped this way. The “switch” you turn is actually a plastic cap that pops off, revealing a key slot underneath.

If your keyless entry works with a START button and there isn’t a mechanical key slot, there’s still a way to start the car. Use the key fob to push the START button. Some manufacturers have a backup system that allows this method to work if the key fob battery is dead. For example, many newer Fords have a pocket in the center console or a slot on the steering column for you to insert the fob itself and start the vehicle.

Slot for Ford’s Intelligent Access key to start vehicle/Image Credit: Ford

Carmakers have been moving on from the traditional key for several years now and there’s no scenario they haven’t seen by now. If you find yourself locked out or unable to start the vehicle, visit the OEM website or contact roadside assistance. They’ll get you back on the road in no time.

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