Like all other modern car manufacturers, Subaru has adopted remote keyless entry (RKE) systems for their vehicles. However, when the RKE system does not work from the key fob, what should a Subaru owner do? If you're a Subaru owner, worry no more because we've done the research for your reading pleasure.
Even if the Subaru key fob's remote functions stop working, you can still lock and unlock your vehicle using four different methods.
Use your spare key fob.
Use the emergency mechanical key on the malfunctioning key fob.
If equipped and configured, use the vehicle's PIN access.
If subscribed and configured, use the Subaru Starlink app.
However, aside from using the spare key fob, all other methods will not allow you to drive your Subaru. You will still need a mechanical key or a key fob to start the engine.
Would you like to know more about your options when your Subaru's remote key fob doesn't work? If yes, then do read on, and we'll help you understand these convenient Subaru features.
How Do You Unlock A Subaru With A Dead Key Fob?
Whether your Subaru key fob is old or new, locking and unlocking the car is its most basic remote function. In case your key fob's remote lock and unlock function fails, however, you still have other options.
Most of the time, key fobs malfunction because of weak or dead batteries. However, we will also discuss other RKE problems later in this article. First, let's get you inside your Subaru.
Spare Key Fob
Most Subaru dealers should provide two sets of keys or key fobs to their new car buyers. If your main key fob malfunctions at home, then you can try using your spare key fob to unlock the door remotely.
In case you do not have a spare key fob, it may be a good idea to purchase one now. You may visit your Subaru dealership to have a new one programmed, or you may purchase and program one yourself.
Depending on your Subaru's model and age, you may have a key and remote combo or a fully-integrated smart key. Either way, you still have a mechanical key.
For Subarus with a keyed ignition system, your physical key can open your door and start your engine. However, for Subarus with push-button ignition systems, your mechanical key can only open the door.
To start a push-button ignition Subaru, you need to use the key fob itself to push the "start/stop" button.
Check out this video on how to unlock and start a push-button ignition Subaru using a dead key fob.
Subarus that came with the Keyless Access (smart entry) feature also offer the PIN Access feature. Subaru started offering this feature in higher trims of select models starting 2013.
Check your Subaru owner's manual to confirm if you have the PIN Access feature. For your convenience, we've listed the steps to configure your Subaru PIN Code below.
First, disable the keyless access system by opening the driver's door and pushing the door lock button manually to the "lock" position.
On your key fob, press and hold the "lock" and the "trunk" button together until you hear a chirp from your car.
Once you hear the chirp, go the rear hatch or tailgate of your Subaru.
Press and hold your key fob's "lock" button, and then press and hold the rear hatch's lock button. Wait for another chirp.
After hearing the second chirp, press the "unlock" button on your key fob.
You are now ready to program your 5-digit PIN Access code using your rear hatch's lock button.
One press on the rear hatch's lock button will enter "1".
Two presses on the rear hatch's lock button will enter "2".
The number of consecutive presses on the rear hatch's button will enter a single digit of your 5-digit PIN code.
After entering each digit, wait for a chirp from the car before entering the next digit.
Once you have entered the 5-digit PIN code, a series of chirps will sound from your car.
Repeat step 6 to re-enter your 5-digit PIN code.
After re-entering your 5-digit PIN code, your Subaru's door locks will cycle. Your PIN Access code is set.
If the three previous options do not work for you, then you may try unlocking your car using Subaru Starlink from your phone or tablet. Subaru Starlink is one of the features of the MySubaru phone app.
Check out this informative video about some of the convenient uses of Subaru Starlink.
How Can I Tell If My Key Fob Is Bad?
As we mentioned earlier, your key fob is only one part of your entire RKE system. To isolate your problem's source, you will need to test which part of your system is failing:
Your transmitter (e.g. your key fob or your app)
The receiver (your car's RKE module)
The physical car component you are controlling
The easiest way to test your primary key fob is by using your spare key fob. If your spare key fob works properly, then you can already isolate the problem to your primary key fob.
Before testing your key fobs, always make sure that they have fresh batteries.
Use A Radio Frequency Remote Tester
You can use a portable radio frequency remote tester to see if your Subaru key fob transmits its signal properly. Check out the video below to see how you can use a remote tester for your key fob.
Use A Smart TV
If you don't have a remote tester, then you can use a household appliance to test your key fob transmitter.
However, this simple technique requires you to know your key fob transmitter's frequency. U.S. and Japan key fobs use 315 MHz, while European key fobs use 433 MHz.
Check out this video to learn how you can use your smart TV to test your key fob.
For your convenience, we've listed the steps below for the smart TV method.
Have your key fob and TV in range of each other and turn on your TV.
On your smart TV, navigate to "Settings," "Tuning," "Manual Store" and then "Search"
Choose your key fob's transmission frequency.
Press and test each button on your key fob and observe the TV.
If the key fob is transmitting, each press should garble the smart TV's screen. This means that your key fob's signal is interfering with the smart TV's preset reception frequency.
How To Interpret Your Key Fob Testing Results
After using either of the testing methods above, you can start interpreting the results to isolate your RKE system's problem.
If all key fob buttons are transmitting but your Subaru is not responding to any commands, then you may have one of the following problems.
Your key fob needs to be reset or reprogrammed, or
Your car's body control module (BCM) or RKE module have problems, or
One or more of your vehicle's fuses have blown, or
Your 12-volt car battery is dead.
In case all your key fob buttons are transmitting weakly or intermittently, then you probably need to replace your key fob's battery.
If you notice that all the key fob buttons are transmitting, but your Subaru responds only to some of the commands:
You need to reset or reprogram your key fob, or
Your Subaru's BCM and/or RKE modules have problems, or
Some of your Subaru's electromechanical components (e.g., alarm, rear hatch, door locks, etc.) may have failing parts.
If you notice that only some key fob buttons transmit a signal but your Subaru is responding properly to these transmitted commands, then you may have two possible key fob problems.
Some key fob buttons may be dirty or damaged, or
Your key fob's circuit board might be dirty.
Finally, If none of the buttons are transmitting any signal, then you have four problems you may look at.
The key fob's battery is dead
Your key fob's RFID transmitter is broken, or
Your key fob's has a lot of dirt or moisture inside, or
Multiple parts of the key fob are damaged. In this case, you really need to purchase a new key fob.
How Do I Reprogram My Subaru Key Fob?
You may need to do some reprogramming work if you change your key fob's battery or if you bought an aftermarket key fob. Different manufacturers have different key fob programming steps.
Check out this video to learn how to program a keyed ignition Subaru.
If your Subaru's keyless entry seems to be malfunctioning, then there's a big chance that your main key fob has a problem. Oftentimes, key fobs stop working because of discharged batteries.
In case your main key fob goes bad, you can still use its mechanical key to get in your car. Alternatively, you can use Subaru's PIN Access system or the Subaru Starlink feature to unlock your car.
Thank you very much for reading. We hope we were able to help you solve your Subaru key fob problems.
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