How an Electronic Car Key Works
This article was published on: March 23rd, 2015
Last modified on July 18th, 2018 at 12:19 pm
Electronic car keys and key fobs have replaced traditional metal car keys. Now, rather than putting a key into the lock and turning it to access a vehicle, most of us simply push a button or move within a certain distance of our car. But how exactly do electronic car keys work?
Remote Central Locking
Remote central locking is the name given to a system that uses ‘keyless entry’. Most vehicles still give you the option to use a metal key in a lock, but the head of the key typically features a few buttons for locking and unlocking your vehicle.
As well as allowing access, some vehicles now use a remote system to enable you to start the car simply by having the key in your handbag or your pocket.
The Working Range of an Electronic Key
Almost all car keys require you to be within at least a 20 metre range of the vehicle. Some will require you to be even closer, before you can unlock the doors.
How Secure are Electronic Car Keys?
The security varies from key to key, depending on the make and model of your car. Almost all modern cars feature an encryption system that stops hackers from intercepting the signal, and your car key sends a specific code that works only with your car. The newer the car, the more secure it’s likely to be.
How are Electronic Car Keys Programmed?
The car’s on-board computer is typically put into ‘programming mode’. How this is done varies from vehicle to vehicle, and usually involves a sequence of moves or buttons (much like inputting a cheat code on a video game). The key fob can then be linked with the computer, so that the car recognises a specific fob – new car keys can be added at any time, as well as duplicate car keys so that you have a spare in case you ever lose one. Unavailable keys – those that have been lost or stolen – can also have their data removed so that they’ll no longer work.
How do Electronic Keys Work?
The electronic key sends a long code – typically around 40 digits long – to your vehicle. Along with this code is a function code that tells the car what you’re asking it to do. The car key will only work if your vehicle recognises the code that the key fob has sent. Electronic keys can be damaged, and can occasionally also stop working if they’ve been accidentally pressed too many times whilst out of range. In these cases, you’ll need a replacement car key or will need to have yours reprogrammed.
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