What Is Keyless Entry And Do You Need It?


How a keyless entry system can affect your car ownership experience

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Keyless entry is a much-appreciated safety and convenience feature these days. Central locking has been around for ages, and was considered a luxury for quite some time, while remote car-unlocking dates back to around the '80s. However, actual keyless entry is still a relatively new technology. By definition, it allows you to literally open your car door without ever handling the key or fob, which is quite different from using a remote to lock your car door, or unlock it. Luckily, it is no longer the reserve of high-end sedans and sports cars, but rather a common feature on many family haulers or small commuters like the Nissan Versa. Since your choice of cars with keyless entry is growing by the minute, it is essential that you understand exactly how it works and what it adds to your vehicle in terms of convenience and safety.

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How Does Remote Keyless Entry Work

So, what is keyless entry? The electronic chip in key fobs functions as an RF transmitter emitting a wireless signal that communicates only with the correct vehicle once it's in close range. This allows you to gain access to the car with the smart key in your pocket, simply by operating the door handle. You just get in and start the car via the keyless ignition and drive away, without ever needing to insert a key.

How to Use Keyless Entry

Remote keyless entry eliminates many of the usual steps to make it even easier to enter and start your car - here, there is no key that needs to be inserted into a lock. How to use keyless entry is extremely simple:

Start Button with Keyless Nissan

Gaining Entry

  • Approach the car with the key on your person
  • The key fob doesn't need to be presented to the handle or car body - it just needs to be within range for the sensors to pick up the signal
  • The door should unlock once your hand is presented to the door handle
  • Open the door as normal

Locking and Leaving

  • Once the car is shut off, with the key fob on your person, exit the vehicle and close the door
  • Most modern cars require you to touch a certain point on the door handle or swipe a finger across it to lock
  • Wait for the vehicle's confirmation that it's locked
  • Locking (and unlocking) can also be done by pressing the relevant button on the fob, if you are unsure that the doors have locked or unlocked

Although manufacturers may have their own unique variants of keyless entry, most modern vehicles and even electric cars, such as the Tesla Model S, follow these same basic principles. An app on your smartphone may even be available to lock and unlock your car.

Keyless Tesla Tesla

Strengths and Weaknesses of Keyless Entry

Auto manufacturers try to make these systems fool-proof, since they serve as more than just a convenience but actually a security feature, too. However, no system is perfect, and we often see that leaning too hard in one direction can reveal flaws at the other end of the spectrum. Here are the benefits and pitfalls of keyless entry systems.

Pros and Cons

  • Convenience. Not having to fumble with a key in a handbag or pocket or a keypad on a door (remember those?) is a major selling point of this technology.
  • Security. Since you can gain entry so much quicker, you spend less time out in the open where someone might try to rob or hijack you.
  • Remote starting. With remote start offered on the best of these systems, you can start your car and warm or cool the interior while it's parked in your driveway.
  • Leaving the engine running. People have exited their vehicles without realizing the engine is still running, which is especially dangerous in enclosed spaces.
  • Forgetting to select park. People might miss that the engine is still running and get out of the car to open a gate, not realising the vehicle is not in park. The car can roll away and cause damage, injury, or death.
  • Could be hacked. Security is improving, but some systems have been susceptible to hacking and cars have been stolen this way.

Keyless-Entry Car Installation After Purchase

There are many keyless options available on the market and you don't even need to have an OEM system when you purchase your car. If you decide to add the feature as an after-market add-on, you can choose from several. One type of kit unlocks only the driver's door while the most advanced ones offer remote starting. Some open the trunk, offer smartphone connectivity, or include an alarm. Find the system you want and make sure it will work on your car before buying it. Read product reviews on it and buy it from a reputable dealer.

So, how much trouble would it be to add keyless entry to a car yourself? A keyless entry system can be installed and set up at home with the right tools. Nevertheless, professional installation is recommended to ensure it is done right without causing any collateral damage. Read the instruction guide to ascertain whether you can tackle the job yourself and follow it to the letter. If you are keen to try it yourself, the process will likely look as follows: disconnect the vehicle battery before starting, connect the appropriate wires, make the connection to the door lock, and test the system. You will probably need a wire cutter/stripper, soldering iron, electrical tape, harnesses, and clamps.


Keyless car door locks are becoming the new normal, serving as a replacement to the previously standard remote unlocking systems. We will soon forget the time when we still fumbled with keychains and operated keys. Modern systems can unlock one or multiple doors and feature remote start. One day, our cars will probably collect us and take us to our destinations without any human intervention, at all.


Will my car switch off if the key is out of range?

No, in the interest of safety, the engine keeps running and the car can still be driven when the key goes out of range. This is a necessary safety precaution, so you're not stranded or the engine dies suddenly if the key's battery goes flat while you are driving. So, the key gives you keyless access and engine starting, but is not needed for continued operation. However, once the engine is shut off, it cannot be restarted without the functioning key in range.

Is keyless entry more secure than traditional systems?

Based on most studies, no. In fact, some of these systems have been hacked, but most have been updated to be at least as secure as traditional systems.

Can I accidentally lock my key in the trunk?

No. Each keyless system has its way to alert you that your key is in the trunk and will allow you to open it to retrieve it.

Is keyless entry really necessary?

In most places, it is not a critical feature or expected in normal cars yet, unlike air-conditioning and ABS brakes. However, systems with remote start are valuable if you live in very cold parts of the US and your car is parked in the driveway, allowing you to start and warm it up before you get in.

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