Piston Slap: Smart Key Fob or The $30,000 Brick?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Clueless about Keyless writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I recently bought a 2014 Acura TL and am having trouble coming to terms with keyless entry. It goes like this:

You get exactly 2 pre-programmed key fobs, labelled #1 and #2. You can never have more than two active key fobs. You can buy a third, but it once it is programmed to be fob #1 or fob the original fob #1 or #2 will no longer work. There is no back up normal key that will start the car. You will either have one of these two fobs, or your car is a $30K brick.

The keyless systems proximity sensors work well. You never have to take the key out of your pocket. When you are near the door, simply touching the handle unlocks it and once in, the ignition button starts the car. You cannot lock your keys in the car or the trunk, which is nice. But it also means I can’t hide the second key somewhere on the vehicle without enabling pretty much anyone to walk right up and open the door as if they had the key in their pocket.

So here’s my problem. Suppose I am hundreds of miles away from home on a road trip and I lose my key. What can I do? I used to carry a spare key in my wallet for just such situations (the fobs are big and fat and won’t fit in my wallet). Given that a replacement fob has to be ordered from the dealer and the car has to be present to program it, it seems the only strategy for me would be to have the vehicle towed to the nearest Acura dealer. WTF? Am I forced to keep two big fat key fobs with me, in separate pockets at all times, just in case?

So I’m wondering, do you or any of the B&B have a good idea for a makeshift back up plan? Also, is this the way all keyless systems work? It seems to me Acura didn’t put a lot of thought into this.

Clueless about Keyless

Sajeev answers:


You should slap Velcro on the spare fob and an easily accessible location under the car (inside the rear bumper, for example), locking them together after slipping the battery into your wallet. But if someone steals your wallet, or even worse, get rear-ended HARD and then they grab your wallet and keys…ZOMG TEH HORRORZ!!1!

I’m only kind of joking. While Acura insists that you can still start the vehicle with a “dead” keyfob battery, that won’t help if you lose the fob. And if they don’t have it yet, the aftermarket will re-pop an alternative to the factory part: find a trusted locksmith in your area and give ’em a call.

I’m liking the “fob with no battery inside the rear bumper” idea more. If you lose the battery you’ll get another from a local parts store, or drug store with a quick (acura key fob battery 2014) Google search on someone’s phone.

Punt! Best of luck with this one, oh fantastic B&B.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 126 comments
  • Andrew Andrew on Jan 21, 2015

    My 2012 Elantra came with the keyless start as part of the $2,500 'Technology Package' and I'll be honest, I still love having it. All other Hyundai models of similar vintage have a dock hidden somewhere in the dash (either in the console or storage pocket on the fascia) where the key can be placed to start the car in the even the fob battery dies. The Elantra has no such dock. Instead the manual directs me to touch the fob to the ENGINE START / STOP button on the dash in the event the battery dies and it will allow it to start the engine. I'll be honest, I've yet to test this theory. I've had only one glitch with the system in the three years I've owned the car and that was the night in the parking lot at work when I opened the trunk using the fob access button under the deck lid without unlocking the car and the alarm went off. It never did it before and it hasn't happened since. I just replaced the battery as a proactive measure since it was original to the car.

  • Badcoffee Badcoffee on Feb 06, 2015

    While the topic is broached, my 2006 caddy STS came with one fob, has no emergency key built in, doesn't even have an external keyhole, and you cant start (or turn off) the car without a recognized fob. Suggestions?