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How Do Keyless Cars Work & Are They Secure?

Friday, October 26th, 2012 by | Filed Under: I've Always Wanted To Know...

I’ve Always Wanted To Know:

How do keyless cars work & are they secure?


If you’ve went car shopping in the last few years you’ll see a number of cars now come with the option of a keyless system. The odd part of these keyless system is you still get a key but it’s just a remote control to lock/unlock the car it has no physical key you must put in the car to open it or start the engine. How do they work though? Is it secure? Can someone walking by record your key number and then open your car using a generic transmitter?

The key fob (a small remote control sometimes with a backup manual key if the system does fail) has a radio chip in it which the car can sense and communicate with. If the car does not sense the fob with your unique factory programmed code in it the engine will not start and the doors will not open.

You may be thinking “What if they just scan my  while I walk around? Won’t they have my special unique code?” The good news is security experts in the car industry thought of that and when you turn off your car a special secondary unique code is transmitted to the key fob. The car needs both the factory programmed code and the unique one time use code to start the engine or open the doors. Every time you turn off the engine the code changes so the thief would never be able to scan your key fob, make a replica key fob, program it and access your car before the next time you drove your car.


Worried about the battery in the key fob dying? Don’t worry, even if that happens the car can still program and read the chip inside the key fob to start and open the car you’ll just need new batteries to remotely unlock the car.


Do you have a general technology or electronics question you always wanted to know like “How does a Microwave work?” or “Why do LED’s last so long?” Write me at and your question may be answered in an upcoming “I Always Wanted To Know.” For specific computer support questions ask our writers by clicking here.

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One Response to “How Do Keyless Cars Work & Are They Secure?”

  1. Charlie Toniatti says:

    This system is on my 2010 Toyota Prius and it works great. I think in the future most cars will have this technology.

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