Keyless Entry Troubleshooting

by Elizabeth Falwell
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keyless remote image by Ray Kasprzak from

Most late model cars on the market come with remote keyless entry capabilities. This feature allows the car owner to lock and unlock the vehicle's doors, pop the trunk open or set off a panic alarm with a remote control device. If your keyless entry system is not working properly, you might save money by troubleshooting the problem before taking your vehicle to a garage for expensive repairs.

Step 1

Make sure you're using your remote properly. Different brands have different ranges of use, but typically work best at distances of less than 100 feet. Make sure your remote is fully removed from your pocket or purse and pointed directly at your vehicle. Remotes work best when they have a direct line of sight to the vehicle.

Step 2

Replace the battery in the remote. Keyless remotes take batteries similar to those found in wristwatches. Consult your remote's user's manual to see recommendations on a specific size or brand of battery. Separate the two halves of your remote, either by hand or by using a small tool like a screwdriver. Remove the old battery and insert the new battery in its place.

Step 3

Check the battery for signs of corrosion. Sometimes, batteries will burst inside a unit, leading to damage. If you notice any signs of corrosion or damage, use a soft cloth or a cotton swab to remove it. Avoid using commercial cleaners, which can cause further damage or leave residue. Snap the two halves of the remote back into place. Test the remote to see if it works.

Step 4

Clean the exterior of the unit. Use a dry, soft cloth or a cotton swab to trace the outline of any buttons on your remote. This may remove dirt or dust that prevents a button from being fully engaged.

Step 5

Try using your keyless entry at close range, listening to your vehicle as you press the buttons. You should be able to hear the vehicle make a "click" when it receives the information from the remote, which will tell you that the remote is working. If this is the case, the issue is in the car rather than the remote. Also, inspect your car for any dust or debris that could be hindering the remote. For example, if you are able to lock and unlock doors and set off the alarm, but are unable to open the trunk, there may be a problem with your trunk's latch. Make sure the latch is clean and free of debris.

Step 6

Test out other keyless entry remotes you have for that same vehicle. If one remote works, but the other doesn't, you may have a problem with the transmitter in the broken remote.

Step 7

Reprogram your keyless entry system. The exact steps for this vary from brand to brand and model to model, so consult your user's manual first.

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