Only the oldest drivers among us remember the days when getting into your locked car meant inserting a metal key and turning.  Key fobs (aka keyless entry) have been around for a couple of decades now, and it’s hard to imagine life without this ultra-convenient development in car technology.

Yet many people don’t have to imagine such a world because sometimes keyless entry fobs can suddenly stop working.  When that happens, your push-button lifestyle vanishes and things get a whole lot more difficult.

Did your keyless entry stop working?

There are few solutions you can try before you have to call in the experts.  If your fob no longer does its job, here’s what to do.

  1. Did your keyless entry really stop working?   Most car dealers will give you a backup keyless entry, so locate your other key fob.  Try it out to see if the problem really is your fob or something else.  If the backup key doesn’t work either, then your problem lies not with the key fob but something else altogether… inside the car.  This means your problem might be a little more complicated than a broken key fob.  It could be any number of things, such as a faulty memory card, broken locks, burned out switches, burned out lock motors, or a broken transmitter.  For a little more on how key fobs work, check out the handy section after this list of suggestions, towards the bottom of this post.
  2. Check the battery.  Most people, when they hear this suggestion, do a face palm and think “of course!”.  Don’t worry if you didn’t think of this remedy first- most people don’t even realize there’s a battery involved at all! If you’re lucky, your car locks will once again be opening up for you, at the mere touch of a button.  And as for checking the battery?  It’s even easier than you think.  To open the fob up, find the slot on the side and pry the whole thing open (having a fingernail to slide in there or something thin helps a lot). If you have trouble at this stage and you’re afraid of breaking the fob, just take it to a battery store and ask them to open it up for you (of course it would then be polite to buy your battery from them if possible, since they helped you out!).  If you’ve been using your fob for over a year and it stops working, there’s a pretty good chance it’s the battery and you shouldn’t have to call in a car locksmith.  To get a new battery, look at the old one and find the number on it.  That number tells you the size battery you need.
  3. Get it reprogrammed.   Sometimes it’s not the battery but rather a loss of memory that causes your keyless entry to stop working.  You might be wondering what would cause that to happen…several things but usually it’s a faulty battery.  Reprogramming is a little tricky, involving around 5-8 steps and a precisely timed set of actions which are easy for an expert but completely mystifying for most people.  Usually, people go to the car dealer to have this done but you do have the option of calling in a car locksmith to help you out with the reprogramming of your key fob.  You’ll save a lot of money over having the dealer do it, and a ton of hassle over trying to do it yourself.

How keyless entry works.

Remote keys have been around since the 1990s, so we’re all pretty much used to using them by now.  Surprisingly, however, few of us really know what’s going on when we take advantage of this wonderfully convenient advance in technology.  Understanding the key fob might help you understand how they break and how to fix them in the future.

The key fob has a radio transmitter inside- the range is very short, usually about twenty meters or so.  This transmitter sends a unique code that matches the code inside the receiver (which of course is inside your car lock).  That’s why when your remote fob doesn’t work, the first thing to check is to see whether it’s the fob itself or the other end of the “transaction”, the receiver in your car lock.

Pressing the button activates the codes in both ends, resulting in your auto lock engaging to either lock or unlock your car door.  Some remotes work without you having to press a button though.  They’re called “smart keys” and work via a series of low frequency antennas.

If your keyless entry has stopped functioning, perform the 3 steps you just learned.  If you still can’t gain access to your car, call AutoLocks Ltd.  We’ll be there in a flash so you can be on your way again.