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Thread: The Pros - And Cons - of Keyless Ignition

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    The Pros - And Cons - of Keyless Ignition

    Many new cars don't come with keys.



    At least, not a traditional physical key that goes into an ignition switch that you then turn to start the engine. Instead, you get a transmitter fob - carried in your pocket or purse - and there's a button you push on the dash to start the engine. Some of these buttons don't even require that you press them continuously until the engine starts. Just touch them lightly, once - and the computer will then spin the starter until the engine fires. Pretty neat! Some of these systems also make it possible to start the car's engine remotely, too - so you can warm the car up on a cold day without having to go outside to do it.


    That's one upside.


    Another is that it's harder to steal the car.


    Forget about reaching under the dash and cutting a couple of wires, then splicing them together (or, if you had an old Ford, running a wire from the remote-mounted starter solenoid right there under the hood to the car's battery). If the car's computer doesn't receive the right code from the transmitter fob - the one electronically keyed to it - the engine will not start. Some systems are even smarter than that: The computer will disable the ignition circuit if someone tries to do an end-run around the transmitter fob.


    It's proved to be a very effective theft deterrent. The pros can still beat it, but most car thieves are not pros. Hot wiring is not what it once was.
    Keyless ignition is also convenient. No more fumbling in your purse or pocket to find the key. So long as it's somewhere in your pocket or purse, you're good to go. The fob will transmit the "ok" code to the car's computer, allowing you to push the starter button and be on your way. No more struggling to get into the car when it's dark or cold or wet outside, either. Most late model cars that have keyless ignition also have keyless entry. The system senses your presence as you approach the car (well, the car's computer can sense the transmitter fob) and will automatically unlock the doors for you. You don't even have to push the "unlock" button anymore.



    Nice.


    But as with almost everything, there are some downsides.


    First, there's the price tag. You probably won't notice it up front, because the cost of keyless entry/ignition is usually folded into the price of the car itself, or hidden as part of a package that includes other stuff such as a sunroof or heated seats. But don't doubt it: You are paying for the convenience. How much, exactly, is hard to pin down. But all the components involved most definitely cost more than an old-style lock tumbler and a $10 physical key.


    And if you keep the car long enough - or are the kind of person (like me) who loses things like car keys - you'll be noticing the cost down the road. When it becomes necessary to buy a new fob. Or when the "start" button stops working.


    Unlike old-style keys - which you could get copies made for a couple of bucks at any hardware store - electronic fobs often cost $100 or more each to replace. And because the technology is often proprietary your only source for a replacement key may be the dealership. It's not like your TV/DVD player - for which you can buy a cheap universal remote if you lose or break the original.


    That can be a huge hassle - in addition to a big expense - especially if you lose your only remaining fob in some out of the way area, far from an authorized dealership. Or during off hours, when the dealer is closed. Then you've got no choice but to wait for the dealership to open in the morning - and pony up whatever he asks for a replacement transmitter.


    Maybe you'll never lose your fob. But eventually, the fob will stop working - or at least, the more time that goes by, the more likely it will be with each passing day that at some point, it will stop working.


    You can insure yourself against this eventuality by haggling for an extra set of fobs at the time of vehicle purchase. This is the one time when you have some leverage in your favor. Make the most of it. If closing the deal on a $40,000 car is going to take the small additional concession of supplying you, the buyer, with an extra set of $100-$200 electronic transmitter fobs, you can bet most dealers will grit their teeth and make it happen - in the same way they'd have "thrown in" floor mats or an undercoating job back in the day.



    That leaves just one thing - the push-button starter itself. Eventually, that's going to fail, too. Just like old-style ignition switches in the steering column eventually failed. The big difference, Then vs. Now, is that you probably won't be able to fix it with a screwdriver by the side of the road. Which is why, as convenient and Star Trek-cool as this stuff is, I'd personally rather have the old-style ignition switch. And a simple metal key I can get copies of made at any hardware store for about $5.


    Throw it in the Woods?

  2. #2
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    They need something like that for motorcycles.

    -Don-

  3. #3
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    I have to disagree on the difficulty of theft. All a thief has to do is get hold of the fob, like picking a pocket or slipping it out of a purse (very easy since a lot of women hang the fob over the side for ease of getting it quickly) and then walking through the parking lot hitting the unlock button and watching for flashing lights. If the thief then drives in a responsible manner, the police will never notice. Swap the plates with some off another car of the same make, model and color, and that car may never be recovered.

    My cars are very difficult to steal. At home, they are sometimes chained to a tree but usually I have a couple of hidden switches. One to cut off the fuel pump power and another to ground the primary ignition circuit. More difficult with COP or coil packs but still doable.

    I've said it before and I'll repeat it here. Cars are too easy to drive. This leads to people doing all sorts of things that nobody would have done 20 years ago. I remember hearing panicing drivers with stuck throttles calling 911 because they couldn't stop. Shut it off or put it in neutral.
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    A manual transmission is the preferred anti-theft feature these days.


    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  5. #5
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiph View Post
    A manual transmission is the preferred anti-theft feature these days.


    Chip H.
    In the USA only. Certainly not in England.

    -Don-

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    The remote for a BMW or Volvo costs upwards of $250. If you lose one, or need another it's a big expense. If the keyless system makes these less expensive, it may be a good deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong View Post
    The remote for a BMW or Volvo costs upwards of $250. If you lose one, or need another it's a big expense.
    Similar price for Citroen - we had to buy another as the car was only supplied with one remote key.

    If the keyless system makes these less expensive, it may be a good deal.
    I've had a rental car with keyless entry; it's convenient, but not much more so than normal remote operation, so it's not a feature I'd pay extra for. It should make replacement keys cheaper as there's only the electronics to pay for, not the mechanical bits.

    On Monday I watched an MGB owner walk up to his car & put the key in the door lock to unlock it. "How quaint", I thought!

  8. #8
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong View Post
    The remote for a BMW or Volvo costs upwards of $250. If you lose one, or need another it's a big expense. If the keyless system makes these less expensive, it may be a good deal.
    You said it - my Toyota is only fourteen and a few months years old and already I have had to put a new battery in the electronic key-fob. Jes' one damn expense after another.

    Ken.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

  9. #9
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand View Post
    On Monday I watched an MGB owner walk up to his car & put the key in the door lock to unlock it. "How quaint", I thought!


    You sound like my brother-in-law. I unlocked the door on my Taurus and then turned the key again to unlock all the doors. He marveled that he hadn't seen a door unlock with a key in a long time. Pretty simple and it can't be hacked remotely. A lot of cars, especially GM cars with the remote unlock and start feature via OnStar can be hacked with a cell phone.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    You said it - my Toyota is only fourteen and a few months years old and already I have had to put a new battery in the electronic key-fob. Jes' one damn expense after another.

    Ken.
    Before replacing that battery did you think about buying a trickle charger, and charging that sucker every night? You might be able to get a couple of more years out of it.

    I think Interstate or DieHard make batteries for your remote.

  11. #11
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong View Post
    Before replacing that battery did you think about buying a trickle charger, and charging that sucker every night? You might be able to get a couple of more years out of it.

    I think Interstate or DieHard make batteries for your remote.

    Thanks for your good advice dB. Got me a charger and a set of leads - gonna charge that CR2032 thing up every night from now on!

    Leads.



    Charger.



    Just got to clip off and wire in one end of each cable to the charger.

    Should do the trick I reck'n.

    Ken.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

  12. #12
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    Lol. Those leads would crush a CR2032...

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  13. #13
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    You sound like my brother-in-law. I unlocked the door on my Taurus and then turned the key again to unlock all the doors. He marveled that he hadn't seen a door unlock with a key in a long time. Pretty simple and it can't be hacked remotely. A lot of cars, especially GM cars with the remote unlock and start feature via OnStar can be hacked with a cell phone.
    OnStar works with a Pin number.
    See here.

    "Can car thieves use OnStar?
    Since OnStar can unlock your car doors remotely, some people think that thieves can do the same thing to steal your car. Unlike remote keyless entry fobs, which use RF signals, OnStar's unlock service uses its cellular network to send a signal to the module that controls the locking system. For OnStar to unlock your car, you must give the advisor your account number and PIN. Unless you share your PIN, you are the only one who can get OnStar to unlock your doors. This is also true for the vehicle location service -- OnStar will only track a car at the owner's request (or in some situations in cooperation with the police)."



    It's almost impossible to hack into a car remotely.

    BTW, remotes are much more secure than a key, as locks can be broken into. Yes, they use RF as above says, but that is so misleading I will call it a pure lie.

    Car remotes use hopping code technology. If I record the signal from a remote that just worked to open a car's door and I retransmit the exact same code back later, trying to open the same car door, it will NOT work. There are BILLIONS of codes. See here.

    You're MUCH more likely to win the biggest lottery ever in history than to open a car's door remotely, without having the remote programmed to that car.

    Modern garage door openers also use this same technology. Now, it is almost impossible to open any garage door other than your own, with your own remote. You have to program the remote to the vehicle or garage door. You have to already be inside to be able to do such.

    Also, there are only so many key cuts, besides the fact that locks can be broken. They should totally get rid of keys, IMO, and that's what they seem to be doing.


    -Don- SSF, CA
    Last edited by DonTom; 04-14-2012 at 04:38 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom View Post
    "Can car thieves use OnStar?
    Since OnStar can unlock your car doors remotely, some people think that thieves can do the same thing to steal your car. Unlike remote keyless entry fobs, which use RF signals, OnStar's unlock service uses its cellular network to send a signal to the module that controls the locking system. For OnStar to unlock your car, you must give the advisor your account number and PIN. Unless you share your PIN, you are the only one who can get OnStar to unlock your doors. This is also true for the vehicle location service -- OnStar will only track a car at the owner's request (or in some situations in cooperation with the police)."


    It's almost impossible to hack into a car remotely.

    BTW, remotes are much more secure than a key, as locks can be broken into. Yes, they use RF as above says, but that is so misleading I will call it a pure lie.

    Car remotes use hopping code technology. If I record the signal from a remote that just worked to open a car's door and I retransmit the exact same code back later, trying to open the same car door, it will NOT work. There are BILLIONS of codes. See here.

    You're MUCH more likely to win the biggest lottery ever in history than to open a car's door remotely, without having the remote programmed to that car.

    Modern garage door openers also use this same technology. Now, it is almost impossible to open any garage door other than your own, with your own remote. You have to program the remote to the vehicle or garage door. You have to already be inside to be able to do such.

    Also, there are only so many key cuts, besides the fact that locks can be broken. They should totally get rid of keys, IMO, and that's what they seem to be doing.


    -Don- SSF, CA


    I don't know about all the above. I have seen a technogeek open a car he had never seen before on a bar bet. Fortunately, he's an honest sort. He's also an alpha engineer. He makes the prototypes for all sorts of electonic stuff for small companies. He about as dumb as a box of rocks in other stuff but he knows his electronics.

    I know GM got hammered a while back as OnStar was tracking the movements of cars that were equiped with the hardware, even if the owner wasn't a subscriber. It also acts as a black box to record systems and controls up to a crash.

    Personally, I can change a light bulb, usually. I can wire a car where unless it's towed off, it won't be stolen. Grounds and drop relays are simple and almost fool proof. Then again, I have been known to chain a car to a tree too. I've had one car stolen in my life and the thief made the mistake of bragging in a bar where some friends of mine were hanging out.

    I never fully trust the battery systems on cars. What if the battery fails? Power door locks and remotes won't work. I bought a retired police car once and went to a lot of trouble to replace the trunk lock as a Lincoln I had once had a bad lock cylinder on the trunk and the battery died. Where were my jumper cables? In the trunk of course. At least the key opened the door so I could open the hood.
    Last edited by grouch; 04-14-2012 at 05:42 PM. Reason: I kant spel wurth a durn.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    I don't know about all the above. I have seen a technogeek open a car he had never seen before on a bar bet.
    I would like the details on that. What year and make car is the main thing I need to know. And what was used to open it?
    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    Fortunately, he's an honest sort. He's also an alpha engineer. He makes the prototypes for all sorts of electonic stuff for small companies. He about as dumb as a box of rocks in other stuff but he knows his electronics.
    I have been into radio & electronics all of my life. Both as a hobby and professionally.
    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    I know GM got hammered a while back as OnStar was tracking the movements of cars that were equiped with the hardware, even if the owner wasn't a subscriber. It also acts as a black box to record systems and controls up to a crash.
    I recall something about that too. Not difficult to do these days.
    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    I never fully trust the battery systems on cars. What if the battery fails? Power door locks and remotes won't work. I bought a retired police car once and went to a lot of trouble to replace the trunk lock as a Lincoln I had once had a bad lock cylinder on the trunk and the battery died. Where were my jumper cables? In the trunk of course. At least the key opened the door so I could open the hood.
    Yes, there are many UNNECESSARY "technology traps" these days. But this can be avoided in almost every case. For an example, I would design a car to use a key but the key would ONLY work when the battery went dead or another malfunction in the system. A good signal to the key switch would prevent the key from working. Yeah, you could cut that wire and make it work with the key, AFTER you get in the car.

    -Don- SSF, CA

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