Pros – and Cons – of Keyless Car Keys
Many new cars
dont come with keys.
At least, not
a traditional physical key that goes into an ignition switch that
you then turn to start the engine. Instead, you get a transmitter
fob carried in your pocket or purse and theres
a button you push on the dash to start the engine. Some of these
buttons dont even require that you press them continuously
until the engine starts. Just touch them lightly, once and
the computer will then spin the starter until the engine fires.
Pretty neat! Some of these systems also make it possible to start
the cars engine remotely, too so you can warm the car
up on a cold day without having to go outside to do it.
that its harder to steal the car.
reaching under the dash and cutting a couple of wires, then splicing
them together (or, if you had an old Ford, running a wire from the
remote-mounted starter solenoid right there under the hood to the
cars battery). If the cars computer doesnt receive
the right code from the transmitter fob the one electronically
keyed to it the engine will not start. Some systems are even
smarter than that: The computer will disable the ignition circuit
if someone tries to do an end-run around the transmitter fob.
to be a very effective theft deterrent. The pros can still beat
it, but most car thieves are not pros. Hot wiring is not what it
is also convenient. No more fumbling in your purse or pocket to
find the key. So long as its somewhere in your pocket or purse,
youre good to go. The fob will transmit the ok
code to the cars computer, allowing you to push the starter
button and be on your way. No more struggling to get into
the car when its dark or cold or wet outside, either. Most
late model cars that have keyless ignition also have keyless entry.
The system senses your presence as you approach the car (well, the
cars computer can sense the transmitter fob) and will automatically
unlock the doors for you. You dont even have to push the unlock
But as with
almost everything, there are some downsides.
the price tag. You probably wont notice it up front, because
the cost of keyless entry/ignition is usually folded into the price
of the car itself, or hidden as part of a package that includes
other stuff such as a sunroof or heated seats. But dont doubt
it: You are paying for the convenience. How much, exactly, is hard
to pin down. But all the components involved most definitely cost
more than an old-style lock tumbler and a $10 physical key.
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columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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