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Key Fob Replacement: A Step-by-Step Guide

BY: Dario DiGiuseppe
A man unlocking his car door with a key fob

As vehicle technology advances, features become more convenient, and design becomes completely geared toward making things as easy as possible for you. Modern key fobs are an excellent example of the advances that have been made in automotive tech.

What was once a simple key has become a control center for many different functions of your car, including starting, window controls, and even remote parking. When something goes wrong with the key fob, you could find yourself unable to access some of the most important features of your vehicle.

Getting a car key fob replacement is fairly simple, but it will be a different process for almost every manufacturer and car model. There are also a few different ways to get a replacement, some of which will be more expensive than others.

Knowing how to navigate getting a new key fob will help you get your vehicle back in good working order and get you back on the road.

Types of Keys and Key Fobs

Most new cars will have security technology embedded in the key fob that helps prevent theft and break-ins. The most basic form of this tech is a security chip in a standard key. This chip interacts with the car through the lock cylinder and ensures that only the key from the manufacturer will open the door. Sometimes, you will have a standard ignition key with a remote that locks and unlocks the doors. These will be the cheapest types of keys and fobs to replace.

Some modern vehicles have the ability to start the car remotely from the key fob. These vehicles have a push-button start instead of an ignition key; the fob is the control center for that function. You may also have a fob that will allow you to start the vehicle with a button or unlock the door automatically if you have the fob on your person. These types of fobs are going to be a little more expensive and complicated to replace if they break or get lost.

Cost of Replacing a Key Fob

The cost of replacing a key fob will depend on factors like what type of fob it is and the model year of the vehicle. For older vehicles with a simple, less functional fob, you can expect to pay between $100 and $150 to have a new fob programmed for your vehicle. If you have a push-button starter fob for a less than five-year-old vehicle, though, it will usually cost between $200 and $400. These prices are for work done at the dealership, which can be more expensive, but you also have other options that you might be able to take advantage of, and they can save you money on the whole process.

How to Know When You Need a New Key Fob

One of the most obvious signs you need to replace your vehicle’s key fob is a complete lack of functionality. If your fob has stopped working, you will want to replace it as soon as possible, especially if it is a keyless entry or push-button starter fob you need to start or get into your vehicle. Should your push-button starter fob stop working suddenly, you may have to get the vehicle towed to the dealership to have a new one made.

Before you do that, though, check your owner’s manual to see if your fob has a physical key hidden inside it that you can use to drive to the replacement shop or if there is a protocol for starting the vehicle with a dead fob.

If you notice that you need to be closer to your vehicle than you usually do for the fob to work, this is another sure sign that it will need to be replaced or that something is malfunctioning with it. The range of the fob is a good indicator of how well it is functioning, and any change should be addressed.

If you lose your key fob, it is also imperative that you get it replaced right away. The dealer will reprogram the vehicle and get you a new fob so that anyone who finds the old one can’t use it to break into your car.

What to Check Before You Get a New Key Fob

Before you take your vehicle to the dealership for a replacement key fob, try replacing the battery in your old one. Sometimes, objects in purses or bags can press the buttons on the fob, which can quickly drain the battery. Most key fobs use flat watch-style batteries that are easy to find at your local hardware store or auto parts store. A new battery may solve the issue; if it does, you can save yourself a lot of money.

You may also want to try resetting your key fob before you get a full replacement. Your owner’s manual should outline the reset procedure, which may help get your key fob back in working order. It is usually just a series of button pushes that you have to do that will set the fob back to the factory programming. If neither of these options works, you may have to get a new fob made.

Where to Get a New Key Fob

Once you have determined that you need a new key fob, where you decide to get it done will determine how much it costs. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, as well as how old it is, you may not have as many options and will instead have to go straight to the dealership. Knowing your options will allow you to shop around and find the best price.

Dealership

For the most part, the dealership will be the most expensive place to get a new key fob made. While it will usually only take between 15 and 30 minutes to get a new fob programmed, it can cost hundreds of dollars.

If your vehicle is ten years old or newer or was made by a European manufacturer, the dealership may be the only place to get a fob replacement. They will have all the necessary programming tools and software to reprogram the vehicle and get you a new fob so you can get back on the road.

Aftermarket Dealer

You may be able to use an aftermarket key fob for older vehicles or vehicles with less functional key fobs. These can be programmed at an independent shop and take the dealership out of the equation, which can save you quite a bit of money.

Before you decide to go this route, though, be sure to call around and find out whether or not a shop in your area can do the reprogramming. Some automakers, such as Audi, only allow for using dealer-made fobs. This makes their vehicles more secure but can also cost you a lot more for the replacement.

Locksmith

In some cases, you can hire a locksmith to make a new key fob for your vehicle. One of the major upsides of using a locksmith is the fact that they can come to wherever your car is. This not only saves you time on going to the shop or dealership but can also solve the problem of being unable to start or get into the vehicle if you find yourself in that situation.

This is usually one of the least expensive solutions, but it is also fairly limited regarding the vehicles an automotive locksmith can make fobs. Key fob programming equipment is incredibly expensive, and not all locksmiths will have access to the right tools for your particular vehicle, so it is a good idea to call around and see your options.

How to Avoid Frequent Key Fob Replacements

If you have to replace your key fob often, it is a good idea to assess how you use it and what you can do to prevent so many replacements. You should always use the exact type of battery that is recommended by your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Using the wrong kind of battery can deteriorate the electronics inside the fob, which will force you to replace it much sooner than you normally would have to.

Environmental factors and where you store the fob can also affect how long it lasts. High humidity, heat, and water exposure can all cause issues with the fob and may damage it to the point that it has to be replaced. Your key fob can also experience interference from other electronic devices, such as mobile phones, which can cause premature battery drain or wear on the components. Storing your fob in a cool, dry place away from other electronics will be your best bet if you want to make sure it lasts as long as possible.

Get Help Replacing Your Key Fob With Endurance

When an issue arises with your vehicle, such as a lost or malfunctioning key fob, you want to be sure that you have the very best help. An extended warranty, which is more accurately called a vehicle service contract (VSC), can help you pay for all kinds of repairs and replacements so you don’t end up stuck on the side of the road.

Endurance has a wide variety of plans for every budget and situation. Starting at just $99 per month, you can get everything from basic coverage for a high-mileage vehicle all the way up to comprehensive protection for a high-end luxury car. Endurance also covers vehicles other VSC providers won’t, like Canadian Gray Market vehicles, cars with a rebuilt or salvage title, or vehicles used for commercial purposes like rideshare or delivery.

Endurance also offers a range of standard and extra benefits for protection plan customers. Every Endurance plan comes with perks like 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage, and travel reimbursement. Plus, you can get Endurance’s Elite Benefits package for a small activation fee. This comes with extra features like tire repair or replacement, total loss protection, and, perhaps most importantly, key fob replacement.

If you’d like to know more about how we can protect you and your wallet from unexpected repair bills, contact our award-winning customer service team at (800) 253-8203 for a FREE quote. You can also shop online to see your price today.

Continue learning about vehicle how-to’s and coverage options, including other provider comparisons for CARCHEX and CarShield, on the Endurance Warranty blog.

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