Easier driving — it makes sense
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Keyless entry with push-button start first appeared in 1998 on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Branded by the manufacturer as Key-Less-Go, it’s now fast becoming the norm for new vehicles.
Once you experience it, you can’t help but feel a bit put out when you have to remove the remote key from your pocket to be able to start the car by putting the key in the ignition.
But how does this technology work? The magic lies in a small transponder chip tucked away inside the remote — also known as a smart key. This communicates with the proximity sensors to enable the doors to be locked and unlocked.
It also allows the vehicle to be started, and this can all happen without the remote leaving your pocket or bag. It’s also a great way of incorporating engine starting system immobilisers to prevent vehicle theft.
Some vehicles have a small button on the door handle or a capacitive sensor that you simply touch in order to activate the locks.
The boot can be opened with a wave of the foot under the bumper sensor, or if you stand near the boot for a few seconds, it will beep and open hands-free — not so handy when you’re washing the car and you’ve forgotten to take the remote out of your pocket.
Mirrors on some luxurious car models fold out and lights can activate as you walk up to the vehicle.
Cars also have the functionality to automatically adjust settings based on the user preferences stored on the remote, such as the seat and steering wheel position, exterior mirror, climate control temperature and stereo settings.
Some of the latest vehicles have the ability to prevent maximum speeds being exceeded as well, depending on which remote is used to start the engine. In today’s market, remotes are used to park a vehicle in tighter spaces where it could be difficult to open the doors once a manoeuvre has been completed.
If the battery or the system in the remote malfunctions, it usually contains a small, metal key that can be released so you can still open the door.
Depending on the vehicle model, there’s usually a feature to still be able to start the vehicle as well. Most of the time you just hold the remote chip directly over the push button to activate the ignition.
Something so simple has changed the lives of many drivers, but whatever you do, try not to lose all the remotes or take one swimming. A replacement can cost at least $300, plus there’s usually an additional recoding fee to get the new remote to communicate with the car and match the spare.
In extreme cases, a full body control module and remote replacements may be required, which can rack up a bill that’s in the thousands.
This will cost you time as well, of course, as typically you’ll need to wait for the parts to arrive from overseas.
So, if you buy a used car, check it has two remotes or buy a second before you need it, as it’ll help avoid all of the inconvenience that comes off the back of losing one.