Problems With a Toyota Smart Key

by Michelle Keefe

Smart keys used with Toyota vehicles are electronic devices that allow car owners to unlock, lock and start vehicles without the need of a standard key and key-entry process. The keys emit a radio frequency that is picked up by a vehicle antenna. When the vehicle senses the device is in proximity, the doors are unlocked and the engine can start without the need of a standard key. These devices make Toyota vehicles more technically savvy, but they also come with an array of issues.


When the smart key is within acceptable vicinity of the vehicle, the antenna on the vehicle will pick up the signal transmitted from the key. This signal allows the car to unlock the door or engine to start. When the key is not within range of the vehicle, the car remains locked. Because electrical signals from the key are sent through the air, similarly to radio frequencies, there is a chance they could encounter interference from other electrical frequencies. It has been reported that gas stations, military bases and airports, all locations with heavy radio frequencies and traffic, can interfere with the functionality of the smart key. When in a location with interference, the smart key may not function remotely and will require the traditional use of the key to unlock and start the vehicle.

Battery Replacement

Smart keys function by emitting a radio frequency to the vehicle, requiring batteries as their source of power. Toyota smart keys remain dormant or powered off until they receive an electrical ping from the vehicle that prompts the key to send a signal back to the vehicle. Theoretically, the battery power of the smart key would only be used when in the process of entering or operating the vehicle. However, numerous electrical devices such as cell phones and Bluetooth devices transmit electrical pings. When a smart key is near other devices that emit pings, the smart key does not remain dormant and uses small amounts of battery power. Over time, the battery power will diminish in the smart key, requiring battery replacement. The more your key is around other electrical devices, the more frequently it will require battery replacement.

Smart Key Replacement

Smart keys are unique to each Toyota vehicle that they are programmed to unlock. A Toyota smart key could not unlock another Toyota vehicle, as the keys are unique to each vehicle, just like standard keys. When a smart key is programmed, the key and the vehicle must both be adjusted and tuned to the same radio frequency. When replacing a smart key, the replacement process is not the same as with traditional keys. A vehicle owner can expect a large bill and a trip to the Toyota dealership to replace a smart key. To replace one, the vehicle requires reprogramming at a dealership and then the new smart key must be programmed to match the frequency and codes of the vehicle. For a smart key replacement, a vehicle owner can expect to pay a few hundred dollars to a Toyota dealership or Toyota authorized service mechanic.

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