Keyless cars have been around a while, but there’s still a few tips and tricks to learn. But first, what is keyless?

Normal cars require you press a button which unlocks the vehicle, or if they’re really old, actually insert a bit of metal into a keyhole to unlock.

Keyless works differently. You keep the keyfob somewhere on your person, say in your pocket or handbag, and leave it there, never needing to see it ever again.
To unlock, just walk up to the car and pull the doorhandle. The car senses your hand as it wraps around the handle, and scans for the presence of the keyfob. If it’s close by, it opens the door. If not, no joy. And that’s the first keyless mistake – you don’t need to pull the keyfob out and press the fob button to unlock, just go up to the car and open the door.
All you need to do to unlock the car if the keyfob is in range.

Once inside you press a button to start the car, and as long as the keyfob is somewhere in range you’re good to go.  The button will always be in easy reach of the driver but could be on the left or right. 

Then drive as normal, and when you’re at your destination hop out and close the door.  There’s still no need to remove the fob from your pocket – just touch the handle in the right place and the car locks. 

See those two little marks on the top of the doorhandle? Touch those to lock the car. This is a Subaru, but most modern vehicles now use the same convention. Just in case, the Subie also has a conventional keyhole.

The lock button on the fob works, but isn’t necessary in modern systems.  There are however a few slightly older systems that don’t use metal keys but require the keyfob to be placed in a special dock for the car to start, and don’t work on proximity.

And that’s it! Simple and easy to use once you know those tricks, which to be fair are written in the owners’ manual but that’s not for people other than myself to read.

Here’s an LC200. To lock you press this button.


Can’t I lock the key in the car?

The systems within the car are sensitive enough to know where the key is, so it is able to distinguish when the key is inside, outside, by the drivers’ door or anywhere in range.  So, knowing where the key is means that, in theory, you should not be able to lock the key into the car and if you do, then it’ll be in range so when you try and open the car it’ll work.

Can someone drive off with the car after it’s started?

Yes, you can start the car, throw the keyfob out the window and drive off. The car will let you do that but will recognise it’s lost its fob and complain long and loud, so you can’t do it by mistake.  The engine will never stop, but once stopped it cannot be restarted.

How do I know it’s locked?

You pull the handle and it opens…oh dear. You could walk away, drop the keyfob and return. Or if your car flashes its indicators or folds mirrors in you could take that a confirmation. Or try pulling on the handle in such a way you don’t activate the sensor.

What if the car doesn’t sense my hand?

Might happen in rain for example. Just fish out the keyfob and use that as you would a conventional remote.

What cars are keyless?

Just about all cars are now, although many only keyless in the higher-end trim specs.

Can my car be hacked?

We’ve covered that in detail here.

What’s a 2-Point Entry ?

These days, even if we don’t use it, we’re fairly familiar with the idea of having one click on a key fob only unlocking the drivers’ door and then needing a second click to open the rest of the doors. How does this work when you have keyless entry? When you go to open the car door, 2-point entry knows exactly where the key is and which door is trying to be opened. Armed with this information, it can make a decision:

  • If the person with the key is opening the drivers’ door, it will just unlock the drivers’ door, even if someone is also trying to open a passenger door.
  • If the person with the key is opening any door other than the drivers’ door, it will unlock all the doors at once.

…but remember, you need to have the 2 Point Entry enabled in the first place for this to work.  Not all cars have this feature.

What if the keyfob battery fails or doesn’t work?

Hidden inside the fob is a normal metal key you can use to unlock the car.   There will be a conventional keylock on the car, usually the driver’s doorhandle.  You may need to remove some plastic trim to get to it. 

To start the car hold the fob very close to the starter button.  The car can detect the presence of the fob even with no batteries in the fob, and it can then be started.


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  1. I have a 6 year old Mercedes C200. Several times I have locked the keys in the boot when the car was locked. I have to borrow another vehicle to drive home and collect my spare. Each time I have been over 100 Kms from home. Is there a way round this. I have tried unlocking using a cell phone and signal from home from spare, but it doesn’t work.

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