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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Key Fob Not Working? 4 Fixes For A Broken Car Key Fob

by Ralph June 21, 2021

Is your car key fob not working? Have no worries, because there are many solutions for replacing a broken car key fob. Some solutions may save you a bit of money on replacement parts, as well as fixes that require no new parts at all. Let’s get to the root of just why your car key fob is not working and find the solution that fits your needs.

The most common fixes for a car key fob not working include:

  1. Replace Batteries
  2. Reprogramming
  3. New Key
  4. Fix The Car


Are there any quick fixes for a key fob not working?

Temperature affects batteries by causing them to fluctuate in the charge they hold. If there has been an abrupt temperature change, you might be able to heat up or cool the battery to get a momentary charge. You can also take the battery out and put it back in to get a temporary signal. Once the car is started, the signal can drop out and the car will still run.

Does a key fob need to be reprogrammed after a battery change?

Changing the battery on your car may reset your car’s onboard computer. If this happens, all paired key fobs will no longer work with the vehicle. The key fob’s battery dying may also affect the pairing. Not every key can be reprogrammed to another vehicle, but most key fobs can be re-paired to the vehicle they were already programmed to.

What is the fastest way to replace a broken key fob?

Calling a locksmith is the quickest way to get a replacement key fob. There are no other key fob replacement options that will transport the replacement parts to your location in a matter of minutes. Besides providing a new key fob, a locksmith can program all new parts on sight when they arrive.

Is there a way to drive my car if my ignition fob is not working?

Most new cars with push-to-start ignitions have to have a working key fob for the car to start. The physical key blade that some of the key fob has sheathed in the shell is meant to be used for the door locks, but there is no keyed ignition to use the physical key. 

Can you repair a broken car key fob without replacing it?

It is possible to make repairs when a car key fob is not working. But this will not be the case for every circumstance, nor will it be an option for every person based on their knowledge of electronics. If you take a remote apart and can tell there is something wrong with the circuitry, you can try and fix it. If you can’t figure out the issue, don’t attempt the repair.

Methods of Diagnoses

Without properly diagnosing the reasons for a car key fob not working, you can end up spending time and money on things that will not fix the problem. The ways to handle the troubleshooting can essentially be broken up into two categories: what to do when you have a spare key fob and what to do when you do not have a spare key fob.

With A Spare Key Fob

A spare key is going to be the most straightforward way for most people to troubleshoot a car remote issue and get to the bottom of why a key fob is not working. The test is simple. Use a second car key fob and see if the issue with the first fob persists with the second. After this test, you will have an answer that leads you away from certain conclusions.

When one key works and the other does not, you can be almost certain that you are dealing with a key issue. The key fob not working will need to be addressed further to figure out what solutions will work best, but the focus should be on the key. Thankfully, with a working key, you will have an easier time with programming and replacement in general.

If the second key fob is not working either, then there is most likely something wrong with the vehicle and not the keys. You may be asking if both the original key and the spare may be experiencing the same problem? It is possible but highly improbable. You can try replacing the batteries in one of the fobs, but chances are it is not a key problem.

No Spare Key Fob

You are going to have a much more difficult time getting to the root of a key fob not working if you have no spare car key. There is very little that you can know for sure by looking into the problem by yourself. Most likely you will need the insight of a locksmith, dealership technician, or mechanic.

If you were to try and figure out why you have a car key fob not working by yourself, the process would require you to either work your way through the list of fixes or invest in some equipment. Ideally, you would want to purchase a remote-tester. They are around $30 and you just turn the device on and click your car key buttons while both instruments are in close proximity.

A remote tester will indicate when a signal is being sent out. There will be no indication on the tester if the signal is not being sent. If no light goes on when any of the buttons are pressed, the battery is dead or the key is broken. If some of the buttons work and not others, the key is damaged. If all the buttons send a signal, something is wrong inside of the car. 

Beyond the Key 

Before you go looking for a key made near you, remember the problem is not always with the key. The issue may lie with the car itself. If you have found that there is nothing wrong with the key, it is time to consider if the car may be at fault. Often electrical malfunctions that result in a car key fob not working will be from a faulty fuse.

The electrical system is likely being interrupted at the point of the ignition or door locks, depending on what buttons are not working on your key fob. If you have a key fob not working in any capacity, even though there is nothing wrong with the key itself, the key may have become unpaired from the vehicle.

1. Replace Batteries

With a key fob not working, the easiest and cheapest solution is to change the batteries. This may not solve the issue, but it is worth trying a troubleshooting measure. Dead batteries are the most common reasons for a car key fob not working. All you need to do is take the shell apart, look at the battery to find the part number, then go to an auto parts store for a replacement.

If your car key fob not working is resulting in the inability to drive your vehicle, and therefore preventing you from being able to purchase new batteries, consider calling in a favor from a friend or taking a ride share service. And when you have the new batteries, hopefully, this will fix your broken key.

When you change the batteries in your key fob, the device may need to be reset or reprogrammed to the car. We will talk more about this in the next section, just be aware that the battery replacement may not solve the issue. The key fob not working after a battery replacement does not necessarily mean your key fob is broken.

2. Reprogramming

Older vehicles have DIY programming procedures for their remotes, but almost all keyless ignition fobs will require advanced equipment. The more complex the remote, the higher the cost to program a car key. With a key fob not working, you may run into problems programming or even reprogramming your existing fob due to modern security measures.

Key fobs for newer vehicles use various signal encryption methods to keep criminals from capturing the car key signals and making unauthorized remotes/fobs. This requires the use of proprietary equipment, restricted to locksmiths and the dealership.

Be aware that without a spare car key, the cost for car key duplication, will likely increase. With a key fob not working, the service techs will not just be able to capture a working signal and will therefore need to access the car’s onboard diagnostic port. This is not something you can do yourself as it requires special equipment.

3. New Key

In the worst-case scenario, a key fob not working will require a full replacement. The cost of replacing a car key fob will vary based on the make, model, and year of the vehicle. You can lower your replacement costs by purchasing aftermarket electronic car keys instead of the official branded products.

Once you have the new key you can still have the professional service handle any programming. But if you are not using the officially licensed car key fob, you may not be able to get the assurance from the service professionals that the key will work properly. For example, the aftermarket key may have the remote start function not working or decreased functionality, if it functions at all.

The only way to be sure that your new key will work is to buy your products from the manufacturer or get a locksmith to recommend products and provide programming. The more of this process you handle yourself, the less expensive it is likely to be when it comes to the cost of parts and service charges. However, some parts and programming methods are restricted to professionals only.

4. Fix The Car

When the issue is with the car itself, the issue is not a key fob not working. Your solution will vary depending on what the car key fob is not doing. For example, is the problem that your car won’t start? This is one of the more extreme issues because it means that you cannot transport your car to a mechanic, but you do know there is likely an issue with the ignition switch/fuse.

If your push-to-start ignition is still functioning with your existing key fob, perhaps your car door lock is stuck in the lock position. You likely need to address the issue with your door lock assembly, which is located inside the car door. The side paneling on the door can be removed and the assembly can be fixed or replaced as needed.

A key fob not working has solutions that are easier to do yourself, but most problems with your car will require the oversight of a professional automotive technician. In some cases, an auto locksmith will be able to help you sort out these issues, but a mechanic may be required if the trouble persists after a car door lock replacement.

Calling A Locksmith

In almost every case of a car key fob not working, a locksmith will be your best option for finding a fix. Unlike a mechanic, who will require your car to be towed to their shop, a locksmith can come directly to you. And you will not be waiting around for parts you ordered online, because your local locksmith should have a replacement key fob in their possession.

A locksmith can also unlock your car, which will be necessary to do any programming. When you do not have a key, it is also a good idea to call a locksmith because they will have no trouble making a key from your lock. But perhaps the most beneficial reason to call a locksmith is to get their help troubleshooting the issue and finding out just exactly what is wrong.

Perhaps you will not end up needing a new car key. As we have already discussed, there are many ways existing keys may decouple from your vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port. A car key fob broken this way is not really broken. In fact, a car key fob not working because of programming error is relatively easy for a locksmith to solve with their tools and training.

Closing Advice

Always start with the simplest solution. Chances are your key fob not working is just the result of a dead battery. It is only after you have changed the battery that you should look into more extensive solutions. When you can’t figure out what is wrong I would recommend calling a mobile locksmith to find your problem and recommend the best fix for you.

Category: Automotive, Car Keys

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