Key Fob Dead? Here’s How to Unlock & Start it (6 Steps)

Having a car that does not start or unlock due to a key fob will in many cases cause panic. Here's what to do if it happens.

open car key fob

The automotive industry is getting its fair share of modernization.

We have technology such as parking sensors, keyless entry, automatic windscreen wipers, and much more! This really is the age of technology. But no matter how advanced the technology is, there are limits to its functionality.

What good is advanced technology if it is vulnerable? What good is a key fob if it doesn’t work and you’re locked outside your car?

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. We will tell you how to start and unlock a car with a dead key fob.

How to Unlock & Start a Car With a Dead Key Fob

The procedure of how to unlock and start a car with a dead key fob differs heavily depending on your car model. Follow these steps to unlock & start your car with a dead key fob:

Total Time: 10 minutes

1. Replace the batteries

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Inside the key fob, there are batteries for it to function properly. Because it is often pretty difficult to get into a car with a dead key fob, you really want to consider replacing the batteries first. Many do not know that it is often not as difficult as it seems to replace them.

You just have to remove a simple cover in many key fobs to replace them, and you can often buy them at any supermarket or fuel station. Check a repair manual for your car model if you are unsure how or find information online. You can also try to hold your car key very close to the car door when trying to unlock it – to try to get a small signal, which may be enough to unlock the car.

However, if you are stranded away from home, replacing your old batteries with new ones can be problematic, and in this case, you should continue this guide.

2. Remove Key from the Key Fob

key cover in fob

Even if it doesn’t look like it – most car key fobs actually have a key inside them, which you can use to open the doors or even start the car with. This key is often removed by pressing a small button with something small. Sometimes this key is located inside the key fob, which means you have to take it apart. Try to find information about this in your repair manual or online about doing it in your car model. Once you have found the key, you can continue this guide.
RELATED: How to Hotwire a Car in an Emergency Situation

3. Remove Door Handle Cover

door handle cover

One secret thing that you may be didn’t know about your car is that it actually has a door lock behind the cover on the door handle. This does not apply to all car models, but if you can’t find a key lock on the driver’s door, there is a big chance that you have one behind the cover.

It is often located on the driver’s door, and you can often remove it using a screwdriver or the car key, but be careful so you will not damage the cover or the paint. If you found the key inside your key fob and found a key lock behind the cover, it is now straightforward to access your car. If you couldn’t find a lock behind the cover, it is now time to go to the next step.
RELATED: Lost Car Keys – Cost & Replacement Keys

4. Remotely Open the Vehicle

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Another secret thing is that you can get your car remotely accessed on many modern car models. Do you have an app installed for your car? Then it is often pretty straightforward, and you can often unlock it from this. If you haven’t – you can often call your authorized dealer, and they will send you to one who can unlock it for you remotely. You often need your secret code for this, which is probably not something you are walking around with, unfortunately. Call your authorized dealer and ask them what they can do in your case.

5. Remove Ignition Lock Cover

ignition lock cover

Once you have unlocked your car and got into it, you may want to know how you can start the car now when the key fob is dead? The same thing applies here as with the door handle – your car often has a hidden cover that you will find an ignition lock behind. Now when you got access to your car, you can easily find this in your service manual. You can also try to hold the key close to the ignition lock or key start button to try to get a small signal for a small chance for it to start. If you successfully started your car, it is time to drive to the closest place where you can replace the key fob batteries.

6. Call for Help

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If you tried everything in this guide, but nothing worked – it is definitely time to call for help. Either call a towing company, and they may help you, or you can try to find the number to the emergency service for your car model. In most cases, they will send out help fast to either help you get into the car or tow your car to the nearest workshop.

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.