Key fobs, also known as electronic car keys, are standard for new vehicles these days. These handy tools allow you to unlock your car, open your trunk, or even start your engine remotely. Faster than using a standard key with the added benefit of having a panic button on them, we rely on key fobs for convenience and safety in our daily drives.
But what if something goes wrong with the key fob? Perhaps it malfunctions, loses its signal, or you need a replacement. Can the key fob be reprogrammed to reconnect with the car? Can it be reprogrammed to work with a different car?
The short answer is: yes. But it might not always work as smoothly as you hope. Here, we break down exactly how to go about reprogramming your key fob, when it is best to spend money on a professional, and some tips and tricks to make this process easier.
Steps to Reprogram Your Key Fob
Here is a general guide for reprogramming your key fob. This works for the vast majority of cars on the market. However, there may be an exception with your specific type of vehicle, so it is worth taking the time to check to ensure yours is not unique. Consult the car’s manual or the online manual to verify this. These steps should work for reprogramming to a different car as long as the key fob will function the same way. For example, you could not reprogram your key fob to a car that was never set up for one to begin with.
- Step One: New Batteries
Put in brand new batteries before reprogramming your key fob. Losing power in the middle of reprogramming could cause issues.
- Step Two: Enter the Car and Turn on the Ignition
Get into the driver’s seat with your key fob and car keys, if they are separate. Close all the doors during this process. You won’t want to be distrubed, anyway. Turn the ignition on so that all the car’s electrical aspects are on, but do not start the engine.
- Step Three: Turn the Ignition On and Off
With your key still in the car ignition, press the lock button on the key fob. Then, turn the car key so the car goes off completely. Now, turn the electrical system back on, but again, do not turn the engine on. Once again, press the lock button on the key fob and turn the car off. Repeat this once more, so that you have done it three times total. The purpose behind this is so that your car recognizes it is your key in the ignition and your key fob locking the car. This data gets saved.
- Step Four: Programming Mode
After this process, you should hear a lock sound. This means that your vehicle has entered programming mode. Press the lock button on your key fob immediately following the sound to ensure programming is successful. You will want to do this within five seconds. Also, if you have more key fobs you want to program, press the lock button on them as well within 10 seconds of the lock sound. This should accurately program them all.
- Step Five: Remove the Key
If all this has gone well so far, remove the key from the ignition. This will end the programming process.
- Step Six: Test
Exit your vehicle and close all the doors. Now test the locking and unlocking functions, open the trunk, and start the engine, if applicable to your key fob. Be careful not to lock yourself out.
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If this doesn’t work the first time, try a second time. It could be your timing was off, or something simply did not register properly. But if you are continuing to have trouble, your vehicle or key fob could be atypical. In that case, you will need to consult with a professional.
Hiring a Professional
If doing the steps above does not work, you will need to go to a professional to have it reprogrammed. The cost and the labor will vary depending upon your unique situation and where you live, but here is a general guide for what to expect.
Completely replacing your key fob could cost up to $100 for the product itself, but it could be more, depending on how it is made. A more expensive key fob does come with an added perk. That means it will be much, much harder to break into your car because it is more unique. A simple reprogram might be free from a car shop, but mostly likely they will charge you for their labor. This should not take longer than an hour.
Dealerships, car shops, and auto locksmiths should all have access to the machines needed to reprogram key fobs, going above and beyond the normal steps you would take to do it yourself. So you may be charged a bit for the use of their machine.
You don’t necessarily have to take your car into the shop to have this done. Calling a locksmith will save you the time of driving to the dealership or other auto repair shop. They may charge you between $90 and $120 overall for the part, labor, and time.
If it comes down to the type of key fob you have just not working with the new car, you may have to purchase a new one entirely, or even change the car’s locks. This could cost hundreds of dollars, so be sure not to lose your key fob.
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Types of Key Fobs
Standard Remotes: This type of key fob is completely separate from the key. It usually has buttons for locking and unlocking, a button to open the trunk, and a panic button. These are the cheapest kind, and are typically not over $50.
Flip Keys/Switchblade Keys: The key and the remote are part of the same package with this. It comes with all the same buttons as the standard remote, but the key is built in and can be pulled out with a flick of a button. These are more expensive, ranging a bit under $100.
Fobiks: Still in the $100 range, these key fobs use infrared technology to unlock your car rather than a key. However, they also feature a secret standard key just in case the technology has an issue. And, of course, they come with all the buttons of the standard key.
Remote Head Keys: Keeping within the same price range as the fobiks, these have both the remote and key attached. But the key is not hidden, unlike flip keys; the standard metal key sticks out.
Smart Remotes: These can cost up to $200 and are the fanciest of the bunch. They will unlock your car based on your proximity to the vehicle, and can even start it remotely. LIke the fobiks, they feature a hidden metal key just in case there are technology issues.
Tips & Tricks
- Consult the car’s manual before you begin. This will save you time if you determine your key fob is atypical and needs to be programmed a different way.
- Don’t give up the first time. Your timing may have been off, so it is always worth a second or third go to get the programming done correctly.
- Don’t turn your car engine on during the programming process. You only need the ignition on.
- Replace the key fob battery before beginning. If it doesn’t seem to be working, that could be the only issue.
You can reprogram your key fob to a different car. It takes a few steps and a careful attention to detail, but the majority of the time, you will be able to simply do it on your own in just 10 minutes.
However, there are exceptions to this. You cannot reprogram the key fob for a car not built to take it, or that takes a different kind of electronic car key. Consult your car’s manual to be certain. If you are unsuccessful, taking it to a professional should resolve the issue, but you will have to pay for the labor. However, that is better than buying a brand new key fob.