Are Car Keys Magnetic? [Here’s What They’re Made Of]

It’s easy to drop car keys into tight spaces or lose them entirely. So, you might look for ways to fish them out. Since most keys are metal, can a magnet help you find them? We looked into it and did the research to find out if magnets might be a natural tool to keep on hand for missing car keys.

Some car keys are magnetic while others are not. It mostly depends on what materials the key is made of. To be magnetic, the key needs to be one that you physically insert into the ignition. If it’s composed of nickel or iron, then magnets will work on it. Other metals have a tiny chance of being magnetic.

If you still have more questions about car keys and magnetism, don't fret. Below, we’ll go more in-depth with which metals are magnetic, how likely they are to be in your car keys, and provide some solutions to finding lost keys. Just keep reading!

Car key with notebook calculator and pocket money on wood table, Are Car Keys Magnetic? [Here's What They're Made Of]

Common Metals Used In Car Keys

Car key and remote with car keychain on an old wooden table, Where Should You Leave Your Car Keys At Night?

First, we should define magnetic. You’re probably thinking of what’s called a permanent magnet. This refers to the kind where you place something on your refrigerator and it sticks. There are other kinds of magnets that involve magnetic fields and electric currents, but those won’t help you get your key out from a tight spot.

The most popular types of metal used for car keys are steel or brass. Brass will never be magnetic. Steel has the potential, depending on how it’s manufactured. The major component of steel is iron, which is very magnetic. However, the key’s coating can possibly block the magnetic properties.

You might chance upon an iron car key for very old models, but you’re likely to find them as antiques more than anything else. Traditional keys for expensive car models might be made of silver, but those aren’t magnetic either.  

There’s a decent chance that your car key is made out of nickel. This used to be a popular metal for keys because nickel holds up very well after being inserted and pulled out of the ignition over and over. Nickel is magnetic, but it can be mixed with some silver. So, it might be very magnetic or hardly at all, depending on the nickel to silver ratio. The easiest way to test your keys is to place it on a common fridge magnet and see if it sticks.

Can A Metal Detector Find Car Keys?

A man using metal detector on grass lawn

Yes, metal detectors can find car keys. Even if your keys aren’t made from a permanent magnet! Every metal gives off some form of a magnetic field. Metal detectors can pick up on those fields or use other techniques for finding metals, even if they don’t stick to your fridge.

It’s not the easiest to find your keys using a detector. It's helpful to have previous experience tuning one to find the type of metal your key is made of. A detector is best used if you’ve already narrowed down the area to where your keys are. Otherwise, you’ll be sorting through a lot of useless junk trying to find them.

Can Magnets Ruin Car Keys?  

It’s very unlikely that magnets will ruin your car keys. Magnets usually only affect electronics that can store some sort of data. Most car keys come with transmitters that send a small signal to the car with a unique identifying code that allows you to open it or start up the ignition. They don’t need to store data, so run of the mill magnets shouldn’t affect them.

Car key fobs might seem more susceptible, but they aren’t prone to damage from normal magnets either. We don’t recommend rubbing strong magnets against your keys, but they should generally be okay.

Can Key Fobs Be Tracked?

It is technically possible for key fobs to be tracked, but once again it depends on the type of key fob. Some fobs only send out a signal when you press the button, and those can’t be tracked. The other type of fob works by allowing you to unlock your car just by having it in your pocket. Those can be tracked. It’s usually not worth it though. 

The best way to track your keys is by buying a small tracker that goes on your key ring. The Tile Mate is an excellent option. You can download an app and make the Tile Mate beep so you can find it. Or you can even reverse the signal and press a button on the Tile Mate to find your phone instead. 

Click here to see the Tile Mate on Amazon.

Do Car Dealerships Make Keys?

Car dealerships can make new car keys, but they’ll often charge you a lot for one. If you’re looking for a key just to get into your car or a key with the transmitter that lets you start the engine, you might be able to go to a local locksmith and have them craft you one for a cheaper price. They have the tools to program the new transmitter to work with your car. You might also be able to find the instructions in your owner’s manual as well. For a keyless entry remote, the manufacturer and affiliated dealerships will be your only option to get a new one.

If you’re in need of a new key, we have a guide that explains Where To Get Car Keys Made.

Where Do You Put A Magnetic Key Holder On Your Car?

Hiding a spare key somewhere on your car can help save you a couple of headaches if you find yourself locked out of your car a lot. However, leaving a spare key on the outside of your car does leave it susceptible to being stolen if someone else finds it. Only use one if you’re comfortable with your hiding skills. Make sure that the key you hide is one that only gives access to the interior of your car and not one with the transmitter that can actually start it.

You might also find that the places you can put a magnetic key holder are more limited for modern car models compared to older ones. Most new exteriors have plastic or fiberglass coverings. You need metal for the magnets to attach.

Magnetic-based key holders always have a chance of being knocked off while going over a pothole or running over debris while driving, so make sure to get one that has a powerful magnet. They are best hidden under the wheel well, on the backside of your bumper, or somewhere else on the underside of your frame where road debris isn’t likely to hit it.

MagnetPal Hide-A-Key

You can find this magnetic key hider on Amazon.

If you have a hitch on your vehicle, you could also use a storage box. Doing so basically attaches a safe with a combination to the hitch of your truck or car. It’s the most visible option, but one of the most secure since no one without the combination can get in. These storage boxes are made to be durable and waterproof, so they're probably some of the best protection you can find. The downside is that you won't be able to use the hitch for anything else while it's attached.

Beech Lane Storage Box

You can find this storage box on Amazon.

In Closing

Only car keys with nickel, steel, or iron in them will be magnetic. We’ve covered some alternatives for finding lost keys if yours doesn’t react to magnets. And if you’re still having some trouble finding them, take a look at our article Lost Car Keys? Here's What To Do.

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