Key Fobs: Maintenance and Replacement

Key Fobs: Maintenance and Replacement

With modern cars growing in complexity each and every generation, the number of innovations on each vehicle grows, but so does the list of potential problems. Most people don’t even consider taking proper care of their key fob until it is too late. Every year thousands of key fobs are replaced. These keys are either lost, broken, or stolen. I want to prepare you for proper key fob practices to lower your costs and list of headaches.

Each manufacturer has different designs and engineers so my advice will be a bit broad but should apply to any key fob you may have.

Key Fob and Car Hacking

Many new cars come with 2 key fobs. If you are buying used, I suggest inquiring if there is a spare at the time of purchase. The backup key fob comes in handy when your battery is running low or misplace your key fob. When you first obtain your key fob whether the car is new or used, you should read about it in the owner’s manual. Sometimes, they surprise you with their functions. They may be able to roll down the windows, fold in your side view mirrors, or even remote start. These little things can make your automotive experience more enjoyable and you definitely want to avoid activating them by mistake.  C

I don’t want to scare you with this, but it is relatively easy for an adequate hacker to hack their way into your vehicle. The simplest and easiest way for them to do this is by unlocking your doors when the key fob is within the distance to unlock your car. Some people choose to take preventative measures against this while they are at home. They do this either by keeping their key fob in the refrigerator(the metal prevents signals from the fob from reaching the vehicle) or by wrapping their key fob in aluminum foil which works in much the same way. I don’t personally do this, because although it’s possible for someone to hack into your car and steal it, it’s highly unlikely. That being said, if you are concerned about car hackers, then these methods may help you.  

Dying Battery in Your Key Fob

The most common problem with a key fob is that the battery dies. My key fobs in daily use typically die once a year. Fortunately, they give me a warning before they become completely useless and essentially lock me out of my vehicle. You will notice your key fob needing to be closer to your car for it to unlock your vehicle. It will also start to lose function. You may have to hit the unlock button several times before your car unlocks. These are tell tale signs that your key fob is on it’s last legs. I usually remove the battery and take it with me into the hardware store to ensure that the battery I purchase is the correct size. You may need a small screwdriver to open the key fob.

Do Not Let Your Key Fob Get Wet

Under no circumstances do you want your key fob to get wet. Whether it is rain or the wash machine, you want to take precautions to avoid your key fob from coming into contact with water. With many key fobs, you do not even have to take it out of your pocket to unlock your vehicle. You may even consider keeping it a plastic bag so that you press the buttons through the bag without even exposing it to the outside environment. This might also save your key fob if you forget it in your pocket and it ends up in your washing machine (I’m not making any promises on this one).

Lost Key Fob

The most common problem with key fobs is that they get lost. People lose anything and everything and key fobs are no exception. I am going to give you some strategies to prevent you from losing your key fob:

  • Keep your key fob in the same spot within your home. I keep a console table close to my front door so that I can put them down as soon as I get home and can easily grab them on my way out of the door.
  • Some people purposely keep their key fob on a large key ring with many other keys also attached. The sheer size of the added keys can make it quite difficult to lose or misplace.
  • There are apps available on smart phones that enable you to track your key fob. The way they typically work is by sending you a small trackable chip when you purchase their service. You then place the chip on a key ring with your key fob and the ability to track the chip inevitably enables you to track your key fob as well.

When you lose a key fob, replacing it isn’t your only concern. You run the risk of someone finding your key fob and using it to steal your car. In this case, you may choose to have your car reprogrammed to no longer recognize your old key.

Obtaining A New Key Fob

Okay so you lost your key fob or it is broken beyond repair. You are in for bit of a headache. Most people hesitantly go to the dealership, knowing that they are going to overcharged, charged extra fees for the key fob to be programmed, and be forced until the key is shipped from the manufacturer and required to make a second trip. Some car dealerships charge $500 or more for replacement key fobs and additional fees for programming. The real secret here is that most key fobs are very easy to program yourself. Some key fobs do require diagnostic equipment for them to be programmed but many do not. People go to the dealership because they don’t realize this. In fact you can order key fobs online for lower prices than you can buy at the dealership.

I found a website that sells every key fob that I ever needed for fair prices and includes instructions for programming your key fob to your car (for the key fobs that are possible to program yourself). The instructions have been particularly useful because although it usually simple to program each key fob to the designated vehicle each make and model has it’s own set of procedures to sync the key fob to your car. It is possible to find online instructions to sync key fobs but I have online guides to be hit or miss. Sometimes they can unclear and other times they simply have errors. The website I am referring to is


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