Here's the big problem with push-button ignitions. (2023)

Here's What Happens When That Convenient Feature Isn't So Convenient

Author of the article:

Lorena Sommerfeld

Posted on May 17, 2016Last updated on September 6, 20164 minutes of reading

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Here's the big problem with push-button ignitions. (1)

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Power buttons, I'm over you.

I don't mind if you take it personally; in fact, I think you should take it personally. What arguably started as an inspirational moment in the bowels of creation at Hoity Toity Carmakers turned into a pox for much of the rest of the industry. Even if we don't have $80,000 to spend on a car, we want our $20,000 purchase to pretend we do. To help us out, he throws us bones like the XM radio, a faux-fur-wrapped steering wheel, and that starter button. Why flip a switch like hordes of unwashed grannies when you can just push a button?

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In fact, the hordes are thinning out, as 72% of 2014 model year cars offer a push-button starter as standard or optional. It's a natural extension of those fabulous keychains; I remember the joy of being able to lock my car at home, or open a truck door with the push of a button as I approached. My joy was only dampened when I realized how expensive these key chains are to replace - over $300.

Here's the big problem with push-button ignitions. (2)

Several manufacturers have struggled with ignition switch issues (GM is, of course, the most notable), and ditching the key and switch assembly seems like a direct route out of the woods. However, the keyless option presents a whole new set of problems, sometimes with tragic results. Growing pains included cars not having to be parked before shutting down and therefore rolling away ("rollaways"), and engines left running in garages because a driver lost the touch function of turning a key to turn it off. today's engines are incredibly quiet. There have been six deaths from carbon monoxide in the US, although some reports say there are more.

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(Video) How to bypass ignition switch when your Escape wont start. 30 minute push button mod

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  1. Small car details we are grateful for (and some that suck)

More information about the cars

  1. 2023 Infiniti Q50 MSRP $45,195 to $65,795 Explore Vehicle
  2. 2022 Infiniti Q60 Coupe $51,695 to $69,795 MSRP Explore Vehicle
  3. 2023 Infiniti QX50 MSRP from $49,495 to $57,995 Explore Vehicle
  4. 2023 Infiniti QX55 MSRP $54,895 to $62,395 Explore Vehicle
  5. 2023 Infiniti QX60 $56,895 to $69,995 MSRP Explore Vehicle

Less tragic, but still irritating, more than once I've seen an electronic key drive away with someone's jacket, the car it belongs to idling in front of me. Sure, my job means I'm swapping cars more than the average bear, but I also know that this happens during more normal transactions, like parents swapping cars at football practice to take another kid to baseball. More reminders and warnings are being added, but the fact is that a key advertised as smart enough to keep in your pocket means you'll keep leaving it in your pocket.

Sometimes the inconvenience is more mundane but more irritating. Last week, my son inadvertently dropped an Infiniti Q70 key fob from his pocket while bringing out the recycling bins. We were juggling cars and I didn't think much of it for the rest of the night. The next day, his brother went out to dig and came back with the remains of the key ring he didn't even know was missing. If you want to see what an Infiniti key chain looks like after being run over by a snowplow, check out the image below.

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(Video) Making my car a push button start!Ford Focus/escape ignition problems. Hard to start/not cranking

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Here's the big problem with push-button ignitions. (9)

You get a real key hidden in the key ring. This is useful if your remote's battery dies and you need to get in your car. The problem? You can open the car door, but you cannot start the engine. No. Not only had he destroyed an expensive key chain, he now had a car he couldn't move. I love everything technology gives us, but I recognize that every day we move further away from being able to replace even the most basic safety nets with more and more things. It would be better to light a candle than curse the darkness, but no candles would light that car, so I just cursed.

Never mind my inconvenience; The first responders I interviewed report that they now have additional problems when they arrive at the scene of an accident involving a car with a push-button starter: They must locate the key to eliminate any chance of the engine starting if a rescuer hits the push-button car. If you've ever been in or witnessed a car accident, you know that trying to locate something so small that it could be anywhere is an added concern when every moment counts.

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Here's the big problem with push-button ignitions. (10)

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Act continues to conduct extensive testing in vehicle lines, and they continue to find widespread problems with cars stalling with a transmission not parked and the engines stalling. Manufacturers continue to work with them to overcome issues like these, but some current fixes, such as a dashboard warning that unhelpfully signals a driver who has already exited the car, highlight the need for more work.

I don't see the tide turning, ever. We will see more and more button lights. Do yourself a favor and remember how much it costs to replace them, make a habit of leaving it in the same spot when driving, and make sure your car is parked and turned off when you leave. When buying a car, ask about these important considerations and make sure the automaker is as interested in keeping you safe as they are in dazzling you with bells and whistles.

This article was originally published on February 9, 2015.

Here's the big problem with push-button ignitions. (11)

Lorena Sommerfeld

Sommerfeld has been honing her skills as a lawyer for over 16 years, helping to unravel a complicated industry for consumers who need nothing but good information. Twice AJAC Journalist of the Year, ask him anything except to do a car review.

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(Video) Push my button... Ignition button! Switch delete and ripping the ABS off the Aprilia RS660 Supertwin
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(Video) No Crank No Start Push Button Ignition 2008 Toyota Avalon


Are push start ignitions reliable? ›

While keyless push-button ignition systems are very secure, a keyed ignition system will only fail if the key shaft is broken. Keys for vehicles with a security chip in the head of the key do not require a battery and will likely never fail.

Do push to start cars have problems? ›

The keyless systems do have cons. Anyone who has driven a vehicle for some time knows that components eventually break or wear out over time. When this happens, you'll have to use the manual key to start the vehicle until you get the system repaired. Another disadvantage is that the key fob could easily be forgotten.

What is the problem with keyless start cars? ›

Problems Encountered in Keyless Ignition
  • Majority of keyless ignitions are operated through key fob.
  • Keyless ignition systems can be hacked by tracing radio frequencies from key fob.
  • Broken fob can hurdle starting keyless ignition.

Why did my push to start stop working? ›

There may be an issue with the starter

If your push button start works sometimes and not other times, it's possible that the starter in your Honda needs replacing. A bad battery under the hood or in the key fob itself could also be other culprits.

How long do push start keys last? ›

For most car key fobs, the battery life is three to four years with normal use, Freeman says.

Is key start or push start better? ›

Push-button start fobs reduce the chances of car accidents. If you use a keyless ignition system, your engine won't start until you put your foot on your brake and press the push button start key fob. Such vehicles are less likely to work without their drivers' input.

How much does it cost to fix a push to start button? ›

Somewhere between $5 and $500+. Depends on what car it is, what kind of key it has, and where you are getting the key from (dealer will charge much more than a lock-smith, but in some cases, the latter can't make one, because it needs some magical equipment).

What happens if your key fob dies in a push to start car? ›

Put the mechanical key back into the key fob and close it. Use the key fob to push the START button. Instead of using your finger as you normally would, press the key fob against the button. This is a backup system many manufacturers use to ensure the car can start even when the fob is dead.

Which keyless cars are at risk? ›

Car Models at threat to Keyless Car Theft

Any car with keyless entry is at a threat to relay crime. Popular models found to such as a Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus are all at risk.

Can you manually start a keyless car? ›

Automakers know that your keyless ignition may need to work if the fob dies, and the system has been designed to work even with a non-functioning remote. Some cars are equipped with a means of starting the car manually, and some have a backup built into the key fob that works without a key.

Why won't my car start but the battery is fine? ›

If the car makes clicking noises when you're trying to start it and the battery isn't at fault, a faulty starter motor might be the culprit. Plenty of other parts can fail: the fuel filter, fuel pump, timing belt, spark plug, ignition switch, or cables to name a few.

How do I know if my push button starter is bad? ›

One of the symptoms of a bad starter is a clicking noise when you turn the key or push the start button. However, a starter can die without making any sound at all, or it may announce its impending death with whirring and grinding noise—so listen up!

How do you know your starter is bad with a push button start? ›

The most common signal that your starter has a problem is if nothing happens when you turn the key or push to start. Unusual noises, such as clinking, grinding and whirring. If you ignore these sounds, it can eventually lead to damage to the engine flywheel.

Is it more difficult to steal a car with push button start? ›

Keyless entry systems are a great innovation. Yet, they're not perfect. The technology in keyless entry systems actually makes it easier than ever to steal a car. Back in the old days, you needed to either obtain a key or be able to access a vehicle and hotwire it if you wanted to steal a car.

What are the disadvantages of push-button switch? ›

Drawbacks of Push Button Switches

Touching the metal button switch too frequently can cause its metal shrapnel to lose its elasticity, causing the push-on switch to become inoperable. This is a common issue with electronic switches, and frequent usage of any electronic component can hasten inoperability.

Do push to start cars get stolen more? ›

Yes, in many circumstances keyless cars are easier to steal. That said, it also depends on the particular model, as well as the situation. Some models have keyless entry that unlocks the doors when the key is close-by but still have a conventional key that is physically put in the ignition to start the car.

Can you get a replacement push start key? ›

Key fobs communicate with your vehicle's ignition and need to be close by to start your car. If you need a replacement, you'll need to buy a new fob at your car dealership or an automotive store to get one programmed.

What happens if your battery is low on a push start key? ›

Typically, a key fob with a low battery starts exhibiting some or all of the following symptoms: The fob may become less responsive or unresponsive over time. It may not lock/unlock your car easily and may start losing its range. You may have to get closer for the keyless entry function to work.

Why do people like push button start? ›

Advantages of push-button start in cars

The technology will detect whether the key is inside the car — which makes it almost impossible to lock your keys inside your car. Some systems prevent you from locking your key fob inside the car with an alarm that's triggered when the key fob gets abandoned inside your car.

Can I replace an ignition switch myself? ›

You can replace the ignition switch yourself, but it's not an easy task: you will have to remove the steering wheel and work close to the airbag - which can be dangerous. Don't hesitate to call a professional mechanic if you're not feeling confident.

Can a locksmith change an ignition switch? ›

Auto locksmiths can absolutely fix and replace car ignitions. Usually, if there is a problem with the ignition, it's the cylinder that you put the key into. Other times, with more complex issues, the locksmith is capable of doing an entire ignition replacement — wiring and all.

Can AutoZone fix my key fob? ›

AutoZone does provide key copying services for automotive vehicles such as Toyota, Ford, Honda, Dodge, GMC, Mercedes, Kia, and others. These services include automotive key blanks, key duplication, transponder keys, and key fobs.

Can you start a keyless car without the fob? ›

Can a car run without the key fob? Ans. Yes, once the car is started, the engine will run without the key fob. However, once the engine shuts down, you won't be able to restart it without the key fob.

Why is my keyless car not detecting my key? ›

A bad battery in the key fob is most commonly the reason for a failure to send signals to the keyless entry system. If it is available, use the spare key fob to open the vehicle and start the ignition. If the spare fob is not available, use the provided key embedded in the fob to unlock the door.

Where should I keep my car keys at night? ›

Where do you put your car keys at night? Putting the keys near you at night, rather than the front door, is best. Keyless fobs should be placed into an RFID/Faraday box.

Which cars do thieves steal the most? ›

The following are the top 10 most stolen cars in America.
  • Honda Civic. Stats.
  • Honda Accord. Stats. ...
  • Toyota Camry. Stats. ...
  • Nissan Altima. Stats. ...
  • GMC Full-Size Pickup. Stats. ...
  • Toyota Corolla. Stats. Number of thefts: 12,515. ...
  • Honda CR-V. Stats. Number of thefts: 12,309. ...
  • Dodge Full-Size Pickup. Stats. Number of thefts: 11,991. ...
Dec 19, 2022

Where is the key hole in a push start car? ›

Even in cars that use keyless entry, there is usually a key slot located underneath the car's start button or a round plastic cap on the steering column. You can pop off the plastic top and use the physical key to start your engine manually.

What is the correct way to start a keyless car? ›

To use Keyless Start, once you're in the vehicle press the brake with your foot, and press the Engine Start/Stop button at the same time. Just like that, your vehicle will start without ever having to dig for your keys!

How do you tell if it's your starter or ignition switch? ›

Starter motors should make noise when you turn your ignition key fully to activate your car. If you turn the key and do not hear anything, there's a chance that there's something wrong with the vehicle's ignition switch.

How do you tell if it's a battery or starter problem? ›

When you attempt to start the vehicle, is there a clicking sound, but it won't turn over? That may be a good sign. If a jump gets the car running, but won't turn over again once it's shut off, a dead battery is likely the cause.

What sensors can cause a car not to start? ›

One common culprit for this problem is the crankshaft position sensor, which measures the position and speed of the crankshaft. The computer uses the information from this sensor to know when to fire the spark plugs. If the sensor isn't working, the spark plugs won't fire, keeping the engine from starting.

Can a push-button ignition switch go bad? ›

Whether you have a mechanical ignition switch or a push-button start starter relay, both can and do fail, Autoblog reports. Mechanical switches, including the ignition lock assembly, simply wear out over time, Autoblog explains.

Are push-button starters reliable? ›

While keyless push-button ignition systems are very secure, a keyed ignition system will only fail if the key shaft is broken. Keys for vehicles with a security chip in the head of the key do not require a battery and will likely never fail.

Which type of ignition system is much more reliable? ›

Finally, the most reliable electronic ignition systems to date were created. These modern systems are known as coil-on-plug (COP). Coil-on-plug fully electronic ignition systems are computer controlled.

Are keyless ignitions easier to steal? ›

Keyless entry systems are a great innovation. Yet, they're not perfect. The technology in keyless entry systems actually makes it easier than ever to steal a car. Back in the old days, you needed to either obtain a key or be able to access a vehicle and hotwire it if you wanted to steal a car.

How much does it cost to replace a push to start key? ›

Basic Key Or Key Fob

Standard key fobs will be the least expensive to replace. The cost of replacing a basic key fob will vary based on the vehicle and the car manufacturer. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $110 to replace a basic key.

Is keyless ignition safer? ›

Any vehicle that has both keyless theft and keyless entry is more vulnerable to theft than a vehicle without either.

What is a common ignition system problem? ›

Faulty Ignition Coil, Spark Plug, or Spark Plug Wires

An ignition issue can be caused by a faulty or failing ignition coil, spark plug, or spark plug wire set. These critical components of your ignition system keep your engine running smoothly.

What do new cars use instead of spark plugs? ›

Some later models have an ignition system without a distributor, but they still have traditional spark plug wires. Newer vehicles use a coil-on-plug ignition system that eliminates electrical problems caused by worn-out spark plug wires.

How often should spark plugs be changed? ›

Ordinary copper and nickel spark plugs should be changed every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, unless otherwise suggested by the spark plug manufacturer. Platinum and iridium spark plugs tend to last longer than standard copper and nickel spark plugs. Expect to change them every 60,000 to 150,000 miles unless otherwise noted.

Where is the safest place to keep car keys at home? ›

If you have a 'keyless entry' car then make sure your keys are kept well away from doors and windows. Keep your car key in a screened box/tin/bag so that the signal can't be 'grabbed' from the outside and used to open your car – and don't forget to do the same with any spare set!

Is push-button start better than key? ›

Push-button start fobs reduce the chances of car accidents. If you use a keyless ignition system, your engine won't start until you put your foot on your brake and press the push button start key fob. Such vehicles are less likely to work without their drivers' input.

How do you stop push-button start car theft? ›

How To Protect Keyless Entry Cars
  1. Put your keys in a blocking pouch. ...
  2. Turn off keyless entry on your fob. ...
  3. Steering wheel lock or alarm. ...
  4. Consider outdoor motion detectors/CCTV.
  5. Store keys away from entry points. ...
  6. Position your car securely.
  7. Keep the inside of your car tidy. ...
  8. Consider etching your windows.

Does AutoZone replace key? ›

But does AutoZone cut keys? Yes, select locations are equipped to duplicate your vehicle key so you aren't stuck without a spare, and often for much less time and hassle you'd experience elsewhere.

How long does it take to program a push to start key? ›

Most dealers we contacted said key-fob programming typically takes just 15-30 minutes, and the whole process, including cutting the mechanical spare key, rarely takes longer than an hour.

Is there another way to start a push start car? ›

If your keyless entry works with a START button and there isn't a mechanical key slot, there's still a way to start the car. Use the key fob to push the START button. Some manufacturers have a backup system that allows this method to work if the key fob battery is dead.

Can a car with keyless ignition be stolen? ›

Keyless theft (otherwise known as relay theft) is relatively simple; all it requires is two small boxes of electronics, which thieves can use to open your car in as little as 60 seconds. Crooks will typically work in pairs to commit relay theft, with one holding a relay amplifier, and the other a relay transmitter.

Why do new cars have push button start? ›

Advantages of keyless push button start features

The feature makes it harder to steal vehicles because the thief would need your key fob. With this keyless entry feature, you get to experience comfort like never before. Just with the press of a button, you can unlock all your doors.


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