Have you ever rented a car and been confused when the “key” they handed you was a little black sensor? Have you purchased a newer model car and been excited to find a push-start button rather than a traditional ignition? Or have you heard about smart keys, but never encountered this relatively new technology?
We have been working with smart keys for years now (for a much lower cost than your car dealer would charge!). Growing and adapting to new technologies is part of being a locksmith, so we’re always excited to share more about the innovation that keeps our business going.
Whether you’re suspicious, curious, or excited about smart car keys, you’re probably interested in finding out more about the history and technology behind them.
From high-end beginnings
Smart keys used to be exclusive to luxury cars like Mercedes-Benz, who first introduced the concept way back in 1997, but now, push-start vehicles have entered the mainstream. They’re available on models from many major car companies all over the world. We see more and more smart keys each year from manufacturers like Nissan, Volvo, and Ford.
What do smart keys do exactly?
Most modern smart keys operate with a small device called a fob, which is a remote-like device without the “teeth” of a traditional car key.
Fobs allow you to do everything a normal key would, like locking and unlocking your car, opening your trunk, and setting off your car alarm. Some smart keys come with even more features than a regular key. For example, Nissan smart keys have a hands-free unlocking system you can set according to your preferences so you don’t even have to press a button on your fob!
Of course, the main job of a smart key is to start your car. As soon as your smart key is in range, you can push an ignition button, or twist a knob, and your engine comes to life. Amazing, right?
So how do they work?
RFID, short for radio-frequency identification, is the primary technology that drives the relationship between your push-start car and your smart key.
There is a small chip, known as a tag, inside the key which sends out a low frequency radio signal. This is an encrypted code that only your car can read with its sensors. The antennae on your car receive this short-distance signal, and the specialized sensor built into your car reads the unique code being transmitted by your key.
To use your smart key, you must be within a certain range of your car. This range is generally about 100-150 feet for functions like unlocking your car and only 2-3 feet to actually start the ignition.
What are the biggest benefits of smart keys?
- Security: Since the RFID signal sent between your vehicle and your fob are unique to your car’s sensor, it’s incredibly difficult to steal a car equipped with a smart key. Even if a thief successfully manages to break into your car and attempt to hotwire it, the engine will not start without the encrypted code from your key within range.
- Convenience: Your car can sense your smart key from inside your purse, pocket, or bag. No more digging and fumbling around for your keys on a groggy morning or a dark night. As long as you have your smart key fob on you, you’ll easily get where you’re going.
- The cool factor: Seriously, how awesome is it to start your car with the push of a button? Just add a pair of sunglasses and you’ll feel like a movie star every time you get in your car! No matter what model vehicle you drive, it’ll feel luxurious with push-start technology, which adds some extra excitement to your daily drive.
As a locksmith, can you really help me with my smart car key problems?
If you’re a push-start vehicle owner, you’ve probably gone down to your dealership to troubleshoot a problem with your smart key at some point. We hate to break the news, but you’re being overcharged!
We can’t speak for all locksmiths, but here at Discount Lock & Key, we work with smart key technology. We believe locksmiths need to stay relevant in our industry as car keys evolve and change with technological advances. So research your local locksmith before you make the emergency call to your car dealer. Trust us, your wallet will thank you.