What is keyless entry? If you are carrying a lot of bags or your hands are frozen, searching and unlocking the car with a regular car key is challenging. Fortunately, this is becoming a thing of the past as manufacturers install keyless entry systems on their cars. But what is a keyless entry system?
What is Keyless Entry?
A keyless entry system allows you to lock and unlock your car without using a mechanical key. Nowadays, most keyless entry systems use a transmitter fob to generate the lock and unlock signal.
The first keyless entry systems included a numeral pad placed on the driver or front passenger door. Besides locking and unlocking the doors, by entering a code, you could roll down the windows, open the sunroof, or open the trunk.
However, having to manually enter a code every time isn’t efficient, and it doesn’t allow you to remotely unlock or lock your car’s doors. Additionally, there’s the security issue if you’ve bought a used car or if you are lending the car to someone else. While you could change the security code, it’s definitely inconvenient to do it every time.
How Does Keyless Entry Work?
Modern keyless entry systems use a key fob with two or more buttons to control the locks, trunk, or windows. When you push one of the buttons, the key fob sends a radio frequency signal to a receiver unit within the car. Usually, the range is around 15 to 45 feet.
More advanced systems allow you to unlock the doors or open the trunk without having to press any button. You just have to be within 5 to 10 feet of the vehicle and have the key in one of your pockets or in a bag.
When you place your hand on the door handle or move one foot under the rear bumper, the car will detect the movement and send a short radio signal. If the key fob is in range, the doors will unlock or the trunk will open. Furthermore, cars with a keyless system typically don’t use a mechanical key to start the engine. Instead, you can start or turn off the engine with the push of a button.
In general, when locking or unlocking the car, the system will give some kind of audio or visual signal. This could mean flashing the lights or a short usage of the horn, depending on the manufacturer.
Is Keyless Entry Worth It?
Keyless entry and keyless start systems are convenient, but far from essential features. While they do make entering and starting your car much easier, systems like this can come with a mountain of problems.
For starters, if the battery dies on your key fob, this can make it very difficult to enter or start your car. While many cars have the ability to warn you of a low car key battery and others have alternate ways to start the car, there is always the possibility of being left stranded.
Another problem is the rise of keyless entry car theft. Thieves are now able to exploit the technology by mimicking the signal from your key to unlock the car. While there are ways to avoid this, the increased susceptibility to theft may be a concern to some.
What Are The Problems With Keyless Entry?
Your car doesn’t automatically switch off the engine and lock itself if the fob goes out of range. This is to ensure that you’re not suddenly stranded in the middle of the motorway if its battery dies. Keyless cars may also go through key fob batteries quickly, too.
However, this also means that you could drop someone off who has the key fob in their bag or pocket and then drive away. As soon as you turn the engine off, you won’t be able to start the car again. Also, in most cases you will still need to have a physical key fob and somewhere to put it, so you’ll still need to remember where you placed the key before you can hop in the car and drive away.
There are also serious concerns about the security of keyless entry systems, with a number of ways that thieves are able to breach them. In 2011, researchers from Zurich showed how the radio signals emitted by cars could be boosted, tricking it into thinking the key fob was nearby.
Police have investigated criminals who block the signals from keyless devices, so that car doors never lock, and there are also allegations that thieves can intercept the codes that are transmitted between key fob and car.
In 2014, after a spate of Range Rover thefts, police advised owners to fit a steering wheel lock as a second line of defence against thieves who were able to overcome keyless security. Land Rover subsequently issued a fix for their cars.
Security experts recommend that you keep keyless entry keys away from doors and windows to stop thieves from stealing the signal and replicating your key from outside your house.
A shielded protection case can provide additional protection by limiting the distance frequencies emitted by the key fob can travel. The most popular protective cases are called Faraday pouches and can be picked up from auto parts stores for under £10.
Some manufacturers are now including technology that should prevent keyless car theft, such as a ‘sleep’ mode that prevents the key’s signal from being transmitted if it’s not used for a few minutes. But it’s still worth taking your own precautions if you have a car with keyless entry, even if it’s just for your own peace of mind.
What Is Remote Keyless Entry?
You could say the remote keyless entry system is the upgraded version of the keyless entry system. The main improvement is that the remote version can be used over a larger distance. The remote keyless entry (RKE) could also include the remote keyless ignition system (RKI).
So, you can even remotely start the engine and heat up the car, a great advantage during the cold seasons. Instead of sitting in a cold car, you can drink your coffee from the comfort of your home while the windshield defrosts.
Buying The Remote Keyless Entry System
When purchasing a keyless entry system, buy from a reputable company. You want to ensure that the company has been around for at least five years and has plenty of positive reviews from previous customers.
In addition, you should check the warranty on the system before buying it so that if anything goes wrong initially, they will replace or fix it free of charge. Also, check if your car’s radio has an empty slot that fits its specific frequency.
Lastly, ensure that the system comes with two remotes, as when one stops working, you could lock yourself out of the car and end up in a tricky situation.
When it comes to price, everything will depend on the make and model of your vehicle. In most cases, expect to pay around $200-$300, but If you already have a keyless entry system in your car, the cost can be as low as $50.
Things Required For Installation
Remote keyless entry systems can vary in terms of features and connections. Hence you will need a manual with programming instructions for your specific car brand and type of remote keyless system. This should be available at the same store as the system.
You will need the following tools and materials in addition.
- Wire stripper
- Wire crimper
- Electrical tape
- Wire connectors
- Crimping pliers
Also, consider investing in a wrench set with metric and English sizes, which should help you with the installation procedure.
Installing The Remote Keyless Entry System
Follow the steps below to install the keyless entry module once you have the required materials.
- Study the wiring diagram and the instructions listed in the manual. It will show you the specific wires to which you are to attach the keyless entry system.
- The necessary wires for installing the system are underneath the cover below the steering wheel. Remove it to gain access to the wires.
- Locate the wires required for the connection, including the main power line. The power line is usually coated in red, but check the manual to know which wires to use.
- Strip a small portion of the necessary wires, including that of the keyless entry module, and make the connections. Once again, the instructions manual will show you the specific wires to connect to the main power line and those that should be attached to others. Since every system is different, you may only use some wires.
- Wrap all exposed wires, including the unused ones with black electrical tape after making the connections.
- Test the system to ensure it works correctly before putting the panels back. Both key fobs should all work properly. When completed, fix the panels back and clean up the vehicle.
That’s all you need to install a remote keyless entry system in your car. If you don’t feel comfortable installing it yourself, set up an appointment with an authorized dealer or mechanic who knows how to program it as long as they won’t charge too much.
Keyless Entry System Advantages
The keyless entry system became so popular that we can’t imagine going back to using a mechanical key to unlock our car. But what made it become so popular?
With keyless entry, you can easily control the central locking unit through the push of a button or a small movement of the hand or foot. And the remote keyless entry system allows you even more control from a greater distance.
Modern systems come with better security as they use a technique known as “rolling code.” By using a rolling code, a random number generator is used to create a new unlocking sequence every time you unlock the car. This way, thieves can’t intercept and replicate the unlocking sequence.
Automatic Locking and Turning Off the Engine
Some cars, especially the ones that use a button to start or stop the engine, come with keyless entry systems that lock the car automatically once you’ve walked away. This will save you from getting out of bed or leaving your office to double-check.
Additionally, the same system will shut down the engine once the key fob is out of range. This is a great feature to have if your car has a silent engine, or if you tend to be a bit forgetful.
Keyless Entry System Disadvantages
While keyless entry systems make our life easier, there are a few drawbacks you should consider.
With a classic mechanical key, there are not a lot of things that could go wrong. You can’t easily break or even bend it, and even if you’ve accidentally put it in the washing machine, it will still unlock the doors and start the engine.
On the other side, replacing the key fob on a keyless system is much more expensive. Also, electronic components might wear over time, and dropping the key on a hard surface might result in a hefty bill.
While car manufacturers are upgrading the security of the system, thieves are trying their best to keep up, and keyless car theft is a serious issue. This is why we’ve listed security as both an advantage and a disadvantage. Thieves can build devices capable of copying the rolling code from the key fob. Once they’ve copied it on their device, they can use it to open and start the car.
Driving Off Without the Key
Some keyless systems allow you to start the engine if the fob is close enough. So, even if you leave your keyless fob on the kitchen table at home, you’ll be able to start the car and get to the office. However, once you stop the engine, there’s no way of starting it again or even opening the doors once you leave the car.
Which Cars Use a Keyless Entry System?
Most modern cars now have a key fob with buttons that allow you to unlock the doors, open the trunk, or roll down the windows. Some models with keyless entry systems include the Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-5, Audi A4, Kia Sedona, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Tacoma, but honestly, the whole list really is now too long to feature.
The bad news is that remote keyless entry systems are usually found on more expensive cars, though as with everything auto-related, it will eventually filter down once hardware prices drop.
What does keyless entry mean?
Keyless entry is a convenient system that removes the need for a physical key to unlock car doors. A “fob” or keychain, whether it’s in your hand, in a pocket, or in your bag, will unlock the door hands-free. The same fob works to start the engine.
What is the difference between keyless entry and remote keyless entry?
Keyless entry systems almost always have a conventional key backup, while remote keyless entry systems may not. Keyless entry systems are only limited to locking and unlocking the door. But remote keyless entry systems may be able to start the vehicle and access some other functionalities.
How do I know if my car is keyless entry?
Other ways of telling if your car has keyless entry is to check with your dealer or in the owner’s manual. Look for a button on the door handles as well, as this is another telltale, or simply try opening your car without touching the key.
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