A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals
A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals
So you lost your key fob. As distressing as it may seem, it isn’t the end of the world. We have the relevant advice you need. And all our tips and information have been split into sections so you can find what is most relevant to you. So whether you have a lost key fob in the car, a stolen key fob, or you don’t know how you lost your key fob, we can help you find it or learn how to replace it.
Find the information you are looking for by jumping to a section:
As car keys become more and more software-based, it makes access to new keys more scarce. Most lost key fobs for newer vehicles cannot be replaced via hardware or online retailers. You will need to get new parts from a locksmith or the dealership. And even if you can get a blank fob, you will still need key fob programming services from either a locksmith or dealership.
There are a variety of ways to start a car with a dead car key fob, but if you don’t have the fob at all, that is a different story. With a lost key fob (different from a dead or broken car key fob), it is not possible to get the car started without it, short of hacking or hotwiring. Not having a key fob for a keyless ignition is equivalent to not having a physical key for an older car.
Most keyless vehicles that are already started can be driven without the key detected. So if you lose your key fob before turning off the car, you should still be able to drive home. But you need to handle your car key replacement because as soon as you turn off the ignition, you will not be able to restart it without replacing the lost key fob.
Lost key fob tracking is not a feature that almost any vehicle manufacturer offers. You can use products to find lost keys. But these only work if you have applied them before losing the keys. Without a key tracker already in use, you will have to find your keys the old-fashioned way by retracing your steps.
The easiest way to steal a keyless vehicle is with a stolen key fob, but this initial theft is not required. Thieves undermine how a remote enhances your security by capturing the signal from your fob and spoofing the key with a relay transmitter and relay amplifier. All a criminal has to do is get in close enough proximity to a key (even through a wall).
Many luxury car brands offer digital keys, which turn your phone into a key fob. You can even purchase aftermarket products for third-party manufacturers that make an ignition compatible with a smartphone-operated digital key protocol. A digital key is a great option for a spare car key. Just make sure to keep your phone charged.
A key fob that is lost in a car is not lost. It is just misplaced. There is no need to panic. The more frantic you are while searching for your lost key fob, the more likely you are to miss it. Take a deep breath and begin searching when you are calm and understand that you will find it.
With a clear mind, begin your search by checking the crevices things can get stuck between. Gaps between chairs, seats, seat-backs, areas around center consoles, etc., are all good places to start. Then check the floor. And check everywhere with your eyes and hands (look and feel), as the black of your fob and black of your carpets might act as camouflage.
You might think there are some parts of the car that you don’t need to check, but check it all. While the car is in motion, things can slide around and end up in unexpected places. Perhaps you lost your key fob when you did not realize. Even if you don’t think you’ve locked your key fob in the trunk, check.
But what if you can’t search the inside of your car? If you have locked your car with the key fob inside, it might be a little out of reach. Double-check that you are really locked out by going to the different doors and trunk. If the keys are in the trunk, that will often unlock even if the doors do not. A supposed lockout might just be one door needing car door lock repair while other locks will open.
In cases where you are truly locked out, this is still not the worst possibility with a lost key fob. All you need to do is get back into the vehicle, which is easy when you call for a car lockout service. Once you are back inside, you can find your keys.
With a car remote that is well and truly lost, you have to look for them the same way you would look for anything else you replaced. How to find lost keys comes down to a clear order of operations thinking back to the last time you undeniably used the key.
If you started the car, then you had the key. If you unlocked your door, then you used the key (even if it was a proximity unlock and the key had fallen nearby). That last time you got your car to perform a function, your key was there. That is where your search should start.
Retrace your steps from this starting point. Do your best to replay your day in as much detail as you can. Check the lost-and-found of any businesses or floors you visited. If you still can’t find your key fob, or you know it is not accessible (ie. Fell down a drain), you can call someone who has a spare. With a spare, car key duplication is much simpler.
You will not need to replace your car key remote if you can find it. But getting this key back is extremely important. If there is a key out there unaccounted for, we recommend that you reset your vehicle so no existing keys will open the doors or start the engine (making sure every car remote is not working) so you can avoid the dangers of a stolen key fob.
Sometimes you think to yourself, “I lost my key fob,” but the key has actually been stolen. The most pressing concern with a stolen key fob is that you need to take immediate steps to prevent your car from being stolen. Even if someone is not going to steal the car, they might still rob you.
Out of all the physical security threats, very little leaves you as exposed as a criminal having access to your keys. Know that a criminal may wait to strike and may be targeting you for more than automotive theft.
Your best course of action when you believe that your key fob has been stolen is to call a locksmith. There might not be enough information to take to the police, but even before that, you need to protect yourself by updating your vehicle’s security.
We are not talking about security updates like you would need to make for classic car security. These are updates that a car locksmith can make by accessing your vehicle diagnostic port (the car’s computer) and deprogramming all existing keys. This means the locks are changed, and the criminal no longer has access.
There are a few things different about general key fob replacement as compared to the specific considerations about lost key fob replacement. With a working key out in the wild, unaccounted for, you should deprogram existing keys so anyone who might find or have taken the key cannot access your car.
If you need deprogramming, this will be the same as having a lost car key with no spare. There will not be an existing key to copy. You will need to access the car’s onboard computer for all of the programming. This will often increase the final key fob replacement cost.
But if you want to pay the least amount of money possible for your lost key fob replacement, look into using a locksmith rather than the dealership. Your dealer will likely claim they are the only one who can program and replace car remotes, but this is rarely the case. Call your local locksmith to see if they can offer the same service for less.
In the future, every single car might use a digital key, which is in your cell phone. Then you will always be able to locate your key and perhaps even move access around without the dealership or a locksmith. But until then, this is what you need to know about lost key fobs.
If there is anything we didn’t cover, be sure to ask about it or share your experience in the comments section below. And for any help with your lost key fob replacement, contact United Locksmith!