Dead Key Fob? Here’s How to Unlock and Start Your Car

Key Fob Dead

Today’s cars have advanced equipment that seems to make everything easier until something goes wrong. While the key fob has been a great innovation and makes it so much simpler to get into the car, it’s a real pain when it dies. A dead key fob is enough to ruin the day.

If you know what to do with the key fob that’s dead, you can resolve the issue quickly. In some cases, the solution is simple. We provide you with some possible actions and answer your top questions. 

What To Do If You Have A Dead Key Fob

Start by moving closer and try to use the key fob again. If that doesn’t work, replace the batteries, remove the mechanical key, and remove the door handle cover. You could also remove the ignition lock cover, remotely open it with an app or call for roadside assistance when all else fails. 

Let’s begin with the most basic options and move on from there. 

1. Try Using The Key Fob Closer

open car key fob

Is it possible that you haven’t gotten close enough to the vehicle to use the key fob? With some fobs, you need to be within ten feet for the buttons to work properly. 

Additionally, if the battery is dying, you may need to get a little closer because the signal will be weaker. Try getting really close to the car before pushing the button and see if that helps. 

It’s important to note that key fobs notoriously require you to get closer as the batteries are dying. If this is the case, you need to move on to the next step before it dies. 

2. Replace Key Fob Batteries

key fob battery

On average, the key fob battery may last between two and five years. Yet, once it dies, it can become nearly impossible to get into your car. The only solution is to replace it. 

Here are some simple steps when it’s time to replace key fob batteries.

  1. Find the right type of battery. Make sure you only use a compatible type and choose a quality brand. Not all batteries are the same, no matter how similar they may look. 
  2. Find the seam located on the side of the key fob.
  3. Pry at the seam with a flathead screwdriver or a key. Don’t apply too much force or you could break the clips.
  4. Take out the old battery. Make sure you dispose of the battery properly. 
  5. On the battery, there will be a plus and minus sign even though it’s flat. Make sure you replace the battery by putting the new one in the appropriate orientation.  
  6. Snap the key fob back together.

Now it’s time to test out the key fob. If it’s working, there’s nothing else to do. Otherwise, keep working through our steps. 

3. Remove The Mechanical Key from the Key Fob

key cover in fob

What most people don’t realize is that many key fobs also have a key within them. If your key fob has one of these designs, you can take the mechanical key out and use it on the doors or to start the engine.

To remove the key, you may need to push down on a small button. You can use a paper clip or anything else that won’t cause damage. 

If you aren’t sure whether your fob contains a key, you can look in the owner’s manual. There are also plenty of posts and videos online about every different type of car. 

4. Remove Door Handle Cover

door handle cover

You may also think that your vehicle doesn’t have traditional locks on the outside, but that’s not necessarily true. Even if the handle looks completely smooth, there’s likely a door lock underneath the cover. However, this isn’t true with all models, so you need to do your research first.

Look at the driver’s side door to see if you can easily remove the cover. You may need to pry it off with a car key or screwdriver but use caution so you don’t create any damage. If there’s a lock, you can use the key found within the fob to open the door. 

5. Remove Ignition Lock Cover

ignition lock cover

It’s a relief once you get into the car, but now you need to think about how to start it. If you were only using keyless start before, you might think that there are no other options. Yet, some people realize that the manufacturer placed an ignition lock behind a cover in the steering column. This isn’t true with all cars, so once again, you need to do your research first.

If there’s a lock behind a cover, you can physically use the mechanical key to start the engine for now. Otherwise, try to hold the keyless entry remote closer to the ignition. Maybe you are able to get enough of a signal out of it to start the engine. 

6. Remotely Open the Vehicle

call mechanic

Many automakers now offer remote functions that allow you to unlock the cars and even start the engine. You have to see what’s available with your car brand and you have to register ahead of time. Here are some possibilities. 

These technologies are only available on certain model years, as determined by the manufacturer. You may also be responsible for paying for the service. 

7. Call Roadside Assistance

If nothing else works, you may need to get roadside assistance involved. If you pay for a membership to AAA or another plan, lockout services may be included. These services ensure you get back into your car when the key doesn’t work or if it has been lost.

Whether you have roadside assistance or not, you are going to need a new key fob. With some vehicles, you can order a key fob online and use the programming procedures in the service manual to pair it with the car. Other times, a locksmith or dealership is needed to get the two working together. 

The average cost of a new key fob can be anywhere from $100 to $750 because of how many variables there are. The cost depends on your vehicle type and whether it needs to be professionally programmed. It also makes a difference if you call a locksmith out after hours because you will pay more for this service. 

Can you use a dead key fob?

If your key fob has a hidden key in it, you can use that mechanical key in the locks and ignition. However, not all key fobs are equipped with a key. If the battery dies or the fob stops working, you may not be able to get into the car. However, a remote app from the manufacturer works on many newer cars to unlock the doors. 

Do you have to reprogram a dead key fob?

You shouldn’t need to reprogram the key fob if the battery dies and you change it. However, if there’s any damage to the key fob or electrical malfunction, it may need to be reprogrammed. The same is true when you replace the key fob. Sometimes, you can program it yourself, while others will need a dealer or locksmith to run the programming. 

How do I know if my key fob battery is low?

When your key fob battery starts to die, the signal strength is reduced. You may need to move closer to unlock and lock the doors. It could also require multiple clicks to work and you’ll notice inconsistent operation. The key fob may work fine one day and then fail the next day. To avoid being stranded, replace the battery at the first sign of trouble. 

How much does it cost to replace a key fob battery?

It should only cost you $10 to $25 to get a new key fob battery, depending on what vehicle you drive. You can gently pry open the side of the key fob to insert the new battery. Just make sure you put it in the correct direction and you only use a compatible battery. It’s also helpful to buy brand-name batteries if you want them to last longer.  

Can I start my car without my key fob?

It’s possible that you don’t need the key fob to start the vehicle. If your car has a place to put the mechanical key, you can crank the engine this way. Otherwise, there are some manufacturer apps that allow remote start on select vehicles, but these programs often require a subscription. 


If you have a key fob, you probably won’t need to think about changing the battery or getting a new one often. In fact, you may not think about it at all until you lose it or it dies. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to change the battery and you shouldn’t need to reprogram it after the battery is replaced.

However, if you need to get a new key fob, you can expect that a reprogramming will be necessary. In some cases, this process is simple to do and the manufacturer offers the instructions for your car. Otherwise, a trip to the dealership or a locksmith is necessary since they have the right tools for the job. 

Categories: Electric, Troubleshooting

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