Once solely featured in luxury vehicles, push-button ignition has become increasingly common in contemporary cars. Now more than ever, it’s essential for drivers to know how to operate these vehicles properly. If you’re unsure how push-start cars work, then you have to check out the research we’ve done on this topic.
To start your push-button ignition, follow these four steps:
- Grab your car’s key fob, and keep it with you.
- Sit in the driver’s seat.
- Hold down the brake pedal.
- Press the circular “Start Engine” button.
Since push-button cars are relatively new, many drivers have questions about how they work. In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about using a push-button car.
A Push-Start Primer: How Do Push-Button Cars Work?
In this first section, we’ll give you the 411 on everything related to push-button ignition. After covering what cars typically have push-button ignitions, we’ll share valuable information on the key fob.
What Kinds Of Cars Are Push-To-Start?
In the late 1990s, Mercedes-Benz released what many consider the first push-start vehicle: the W220 S-Class model. Shortly afterward, other luxury brands like Cadillac and Acura started experimenting with keyless options.
But it’s not just luxury cars that have push-button ignition nowadays. Recent stats suggest over 60 percent of vehicles now sold in the USA are push-start vehicles.
Here are just a few of the most prominent models that have a push-start option:
- Chevy Camaro
- RAM 2500
- Cadillac XTS
- Acura ILX
- MINI Cooper Hardtop
- Scion iA
- Ford Escape
- BMW M5
What’s A Key Fob & How Does It Work?
Instead of using a physical key to turn your car’s ignition, push-start vehicles come with a handheld “key fob.” Interestingly, these key fobs give off a unique wavelength that your car’s antennae can detect. Your car’s ignition button will not work unless it senses your key fob’s signal.
In addition to sending wavelengths, key fobs usually have other handy features. For instance, most key fobs can lock and unlock doors. There are even a few key fobs that could lower windows or start your car from outside.
Can You Manually Start A Push-Start Car?
Yes, the majority of automakers include a physical key in the key fob if you need to start your car manually. You’ll often find a lever on the bottom, side, or back of the fob that you can pull to release this key.
There’s no standard place where to find your car’s backup key slot, so you’ll need to check the owner’s manual. Here are a few of the most common places manufacturers hide the keyhole:
- On the dashboard
- Underneath the cup holders
- In the center console
- In the glove compartment
When you find the emergency key slot, insert your fob’s key and step on the brakes. You can then push your car’s start button as you usually would.
What Happens If The Key Fob Battery Dies?
If your key fob battery dies, you won’t be able to automatically unlock your doors or push your car’s ignition button. But don’t worry; there are many alternative ways you could get in your vehicle.
First, most car manufacturers have dedicated helplines and mobile apps you could use in case of an emergency. For your safety, it’s a good idea to program all of this info onto your phone immediately after you get a push-start car.
Another way to get inside your car is to take out your car’s manual key, as we described above. In addition to starting the ignition, this physical key can usually fit somewhere on the car door handle to unlock the door. Be sure you read your car owner’s manual to figure out where your model’s side key slot is hidden.
In some cases, you might not have to place the manual key into the car’s key slot to turn on your vehicle. Instead, you could hold your key fob against the push button and wait for a “beep.” This noise indicates the car recognizes the key fob, so you could step on the brake pedal and press the button.
Can I Change The Key Fob’s Battery?
Yes, you can change your key fob’s battery at home. To complete this task, you need your car owner’s manual, a thin-edged screwdriver, and a new battery.
Usually, key fobs have a slot where you could slide your screwdriver and pull the unit apart. In other instances, there will be a “pull” tab on the side you could use to open the fob. If you’re not sure how to open your fob, then you need to consult your car owner’s manual.
Once you have your key fob open, you will usually find a circular battery that you can replace. Gently slide the old battery out with your screwdriver and click the new battery into place. Lastly, assemble your car fob and test to make sure it works on your vehicle.
FYI: fob key batteries tend to last about 3 – 4 years.
What Battery Does A Car Fob Take?
Here are a few of the more common batteries used in today’s key fobs:
In most cases, you’ll need to replace these CR2032 batteries.
Do You Have To Reprogram The Key Fob After A Battery Replacement?
Usually, you don’t need to reprogram your key fob after replacing the battery. Once the new battery is secured, the key fob should work like it used to.
Of course, if your key fob doesn’t work with the new battery, then there might be an issue with the fob’s internal circuitry. Alternatively, there could be a problem with your car’s sensors. Be sure to bring your car to a dealership to diagnose the issue.
How Much Does A Key Fob Replacement Cost?
The cost of a key fob replacement depends on multiple factors, including your car model and who you bring it to (e.g., a locksmith or a dealership). In general, it costs anywhere from $50 – $400 for a replacement key fob. On top of that, you’ll usually have to spend between $50 – $100 on labor.
As you’d expect, newer European-made luxury vehicles tend to have the highest key fob replacement fees. Indeed, with many of these models, you’re forced to work with a dealership because the fob’s encryption technology is very complicated.
You can learn more info on replacing a key fob by clicking on this previous VEHQ post.
Could I Buy A Replacement Shell For My Key Fob?
Often, key fobs become less responsive over time as the exterior shell wears away. To fix this problem, you might want to buy a replacement shell online.
Before you open your key fob and transfer the internal circuitry, be sure to read through any guidelines included with your new shell. Of course, if you have any questions, be sure to speak with a certified mechanic.
Below is an example of a replacement key fob shell that works for car models like the Honda Accord, Civic, and Odyssey.
Common Problems With Push-Button Cars
There’s no denying the convenience of push-button cars, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Here are a few things to look out for when using a push-button car.
It’s Easy To Let The Engine Run
The most significant issue people have had with push-button cars is they forget to shut them down. There have been many cases of people leaving their vehicles in garages without hitting the ignition button to turn them off.
For your safety, please get in the habit of clicking your car’s button before exiting your vehicle.
The Cost To Replace Key Fob Is Expensive
As we already mentioned, it’s far more expensive to replace a key fob than a standard key. You need to keep this replacement fee in mind if you’re going to invest in a push-start car.
Not Entirely “Hack-Proof”
Many car manufacturers like to tout the safety benefits of push-start cars. While these cars may be more sophisticated than older models, they aren’t entirely “hack-proof.” Indeed, there are many techies out there who have already broken into a few push-start vehicles.
Whether you have a push-start car or not, you always need to be proactive about your safety. Be sure to check out this VEHQ post to protect your vehicle from thieves.
From Mercedes To The Masses: Push-Button Cars Are Here To Stay
Even if push-button cars “push your buttons,” today’s car drivers must learn how to start them. True, key-start ignitions haven’t gone extinct, but most automakers appear to be favoring the push-start option. Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand the intricacies of this novel ignition system.