By on September 9, 2016

16 - 1986 Lincoln Town Car in Colorado Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Ford’s electronic keypad is a delightful throwback to the days when drivers would proudly unlock their new Town Car by punching in a code on the window sill, or just below the door handle.

However, a Ford patent published by Autoblog raises the possibility that the automaker might do away with the time-honored feature.

The patent details a new electronic locking method that places the keypad on the key fob, rather than the door. It seems the aim is provide the user with more available codes, instead of just a range of numbers.

The fob would feature a multi-touch screen, not unlike a your average smartphone. This way, Ford could offer a more complex security system, utilizing keystrokes and swipes in a variety of combinations. It’s possible that other vehicle systems could be unlocked by the fob, not just the doors.

It’s also possible that Ford will continue to offer door-mounted keypads alongside whatever new feature comes of this patent, or independent of it. Ford keeps the keypad around because buyers claim they like it. Still, technology marches on, and the keypad already seems anachronistic in the age of keyless entry.

Maybe the keypad fob will be offered on cars targeting Millenials, while Lincoln buyers get the real deal. Time will tell.

 

[Image: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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78 Comments on “Does This Ford Patent Spell the End of the Door Keypad?...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    the whole point of the door keypad is to let you get in to the car if you don’t have your key with you, or if you lock the key in the car. What use is a keycode on a key fob if the fob is what lets you into the car in the first place?

    • 0 avatar
      benders

      Multiple drivers for the same set of keys? Put in your code, it sets the seat to your memory position, radio presets, etc. If it’s your kid, speed is limited to 75 mph.

      • 0 avatar
        jeanbaptiste

        That makes sense, instead of having to code the keys to do that customization, you code ALL the keys to do that.

        I still appreciate the keypad on my wife’s truck. It is used religiously for exactly the reasons that JimZ spells out. I hope they don’t do away with it.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      I agree JimZ
      Although I understand the reasoning for having multiple uses, like limiting driver(like kids) speeds and whatever…but I like not having to have the fob in my hand with my MKS. I programmed the code and all I do is quickly swipe the pillar and everything happens as I coded.

      A simple swipe is way better than having to hold anything, regardless of the benefits.

      Unless we are not fully aware of the new tech.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        You know our particular Dystopia has become a sad place, when seemingly sentient people run around babbling about the wonders of “limiting” others, as if it was some sort of a good thing…..

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Agree, Jim.

      This news busts my heart. Ford’s is the only true keyless entry system you can buy. By which I mean this:

      Only in a keypad-equipped Ford can you lock your keys in the car as your locker and then go swim at the beach. In any other car, you can’t lock in the keys or you can’t get back in (notwithstanding that the transponder won’t let you lock the doors at all for your own protection anyway). And if you could, the water would destroy the electronics in your fob or key.

      If you need the key or its fob, it ain’t “keyless.”

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        Geez what else are they going to put on a key fob. They are already big and bulky to have to carry around. In the good old days you had a couple of keys on a small key ring that would get lost in your pocket amongst the small change. Now they are a pain to carry around.

        My elderly father-in-law drives Lincolns and loves his door keypad. He would have a hard time trying use small keys on a key fob to accomplish the same task due to his eyesight.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        +1000! Other brands have remote entry, Fords (at least some) have keyless and remote entry.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Jim is correct. This entire article is based on a misunderstanding of the core reason behind the keypad.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Amen. The keypad on my “87 Sable wagon saved me many walks back to the house to look for the car keys. It also saved me a few calls to the locksmith when the keys were locked in the car. (I never asked how it happened, probably why I am still married.)

  • avatar
    FBS

    I look forward to being locked out of my car because I forgot to charge my key fob and the battery died.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Because you have forgot how to put a key in the door and turn it? Last I checked even the cars that don’t use a key to start the car still store a headless key in the fob and have a slot in the driver’s door. I highly doubt that feature is going away anytime soon since to store the vehicle the norm is to disconnect the battery.

      • 0 avatar
        MrGreenMan

        You have not checked recently. This is a FORD specific discussion. Check a new FORD.

        My 2015 Taurus has only a key fob. Take the fobs apart, as I have, and there’s only a battery in there. There is no external lock tumbler.

        There is, however, a door code.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I KNOW this is a FORD discussion. I have checked recently because I have a friend with a C-Max, admittedly a 2014 and it does have a key that slides out of the fob and a key slot in the driver’s door. No I have not looked at a 2015 Taurus.

          https://owner.ford.com/content/ford-dot-com/en/how-tos/vehicle-features/locks-and-security/intelligent-access-with-removable-key-cylinder-cap.html

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Alarms may have improved, but my Saturn’s goes off when I open it with a key if I locked it with a fob.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    Count me as one of those people that really likes the keypad, and actually uses it. It’s not always convenient to carry keys with me depending on where I’m going and doing, especially if there’s a chance they could get wet(specifically the fob). The keypad works great for those times/situations, put the keys in the console, and you can still get in.

    I guess it would suck if someone guessed the code cause then they could just take the truck, but considering the area/time of day/etc when I do it, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    These still have a bit of a cool factor, even if they’re basically pointless today. I’ve noticed them implemented lately in a vertical alignment on the driver’s door window frame, on the B-pillar. But, it almost seems it would be more secure than a wireless transmitter, since it’s hardwired, and the user has to know the code.

    I know that someone else used a keypad for a while, like maybe in the ’90s. I’m thinking it was Nissan, on the Maxima.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yes Nissan used the Ford system on the Maxima and on their version of the Joint venture van the Quest.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I don’t like them on the B-pillar as much, because you’re making that piece of gloss trim all smeary whenever you touch it.

    • 0 avatar
      jetscreamer

      I’d have to disagree that they are pointless. It’s incredibly convenient to leave your keys in the car intentionally (my Edge warns me with a horn beep if I do it, just in case), lock the car via the keypad, and go into the gym/kayaking/swimming/running without having to carry your keychain/fob around. The fobs are rather fragile, bulky, and expensive to replace. This is a feature that I use almost daily, and I’d consider it an inconvenience to not have it on my next vehicle. Just my two cents.

      JS

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      This is far from useless. I love leaving the keys in my car (conveniently hidden under the driver’s seat or floor mat), as I go jogging, biking, running, hiking, or swimming. You know, a typical swimming or jogging wear doesn’t leave much room for the car keys in the pockets. This is also great for situations with “two drivers, but one set of keys” in the same outdoorsy type of settings and activities or when splitting off in a big shopping mall.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I believe the current keypad is now a dealer installed option. I don’t know if something as advanced as a mini touchscreen can still be in that category.

    It will be wonderful when the gorilla glass screen of the touchpad gets cracked and Joe Sixpack takes it through a local car wash…

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      There is an add on system available for some cars which is nothing more than a fob operated by a code that is double stick tapped to the door. However that is for those cars that weren’t available from the factory with the system. The factory installed pad is still available on many models it is more integrated than before being switched embedded in the door pillar trim rather than a separate piece as it was for decades.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Interesting. I know a few years ago when I was messing with the Ford “Build Your Own” on their website and specing out a lowly car (I think a Focus) there was “entry keypad” listed as an option with very fine print saying “dealer installed”.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yeah because it was a Focus a class of car they had never offered a factory key pad on at that point in time.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I`ve been at my local Ford dealer and they had a key pad system on display as a dealer installed option.
          I love the one on my truck. There are times where it is nice to leave the keys inside. it is also convenient if you want to go inside the vehicle without getting your keys.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      So can the current keypad be installed on the new 2015+ Mustang? Because it wasn’t in the Mustang accessory list when I bought it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Most likely no.

        Back when the remote and key were two separate items there were two separate procedures to add an additional key or remote. So to add the remote you had to cycle the key and or do the right combination of presses of the brake pedal and interior lock switch to add another remote. For the key you need two keys and when you follow the procedure to learn the 3rd and if desired 4th remote key the car learns both the transponder code and remote simultaneously. At least that is the way it worked on our 2010 Fusion with the integrated remote key and there was no procedure to program a stand alone remote.

        While we are on the subject get yourself a 3rd key now and add it now. That way if you loose a key you still have 2 keys so that you can add a 3rd again w/o a trip to the dealer and the associated charge. Note it does not have to be a key with a remote, the $12 key you buy on ebay will do just fine as your 3rd key. On the Fords I’ve looked into with the integrated remote key you can have up to 8 keys programmed at a given time but only 4 of them can be remote keys.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Interestingly after a little more research it does appear that there is a way to add a stand alone remote to some of the Fords that came with the integrated remote. Ford just didn’t include that info in the owner’s manual of the Fusion like they did on my other Fords. So maybe there is a compatible version for your 2015 Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      mattdaddy

      It depends on which car. On the Fiesta, it’s a really cheap looking box they add on to the door. One the Escape, it’s in the door frame and lights up behind the plastic. You don’t see it until it’s touched or the door handle is pulled.

      We’ve had it on the last 3 Escapes and I’ve used it once.

    • 0 avatar
      jaydez

      A friend of mine actually bought one and got it to work with his Frontier. He mounted it in the back of the bed where it was out of sight.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Interesting I would have thought that Nissan stopped using the Ford remote system by the time they started offering remote entry on something like a pickup. I’m going to have to dig out one of the many Infinity remotes I have left over from a make 3 G20s into one project from years ago and see if I can program them to my Fords with either the older “grey” or newer “black” remote.

    • 0 avatar
      CoolCreek

      My Tauras Limited has smooth-finish capacitive-touch numbers vertically next to the window, definitely factory installed. You don’t know it’s there till you look close and swipe the paint to get the keys to light.
      I love the feature and leave keys and everything in the car and I’d leave that advance key-fob in the car most of the time, too.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    Having the code ON the car is the whole point! My wife leaves the keys and Fob in the car at the beach, concert, etc. If you have the fob, push the unlock button.

  • avatar
    gkhize

    I absolutely love the keypad on the numerous Fords and Lincolns I’ve had. I used travel on business for several weeks at a time and I’d just toss the keys in the console and lock the doors at the airport. I didn’t have to worry about losing the keys in the corner of some seedy bar that I’d never see again. The key fob is just one more thing to break and/or lose. Plus, my son still calls and asks for the code to the hand me down Lincoln LS he drives and has locked the keys in again.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Tell your son to program a code that he can remember, it is a quick and easy process to add a code in addition to the factory code. I added the code that was the factory code for my wife’s car to our 3 other cars with keyless entry so she only had to remember the one code and not 4. Of course that car got totaled and the secondary code is still programmed into the 3 other cars.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    This is why you don’t want a 1998 Ford, Mercury or Lincoln. Ford figured that since remote entry was popular and available on competing brands that they did not have to spend the money to have both remote entry and keyless entry. The were very wrong, customers bombarded dealers and Ford saying I want KEYLESS entry in addition to remote entry.

    I was at the local auto show in late 1997 and upon seeing the new Town Car sitting there sans Keyless entry pad I asked the rep WTF where is the keypad??? He said yeah it has been dropped and you are not the only customer who has complained already. So in 1999 it came back.

    Count me in as one who would be pissed if Ford took it away again. Since I have multiple cars I don’t carry the keys to most of them with me at all times so it is nice to be able to open up the car w/o going and getting the key. It was also very helpful when my kids were young and they would need to go out to the car to retrieve what ever the left in it. It is also nice to be able to lock the keys in the car in certain situations as other have mentioned and if you unintentionally lock the keys in the car you are not locked out.

    Yes back on my first 92 CV it got used a lot because that didn’t have remote entry but the pads on our current vehicles still get used if less frequently even with their remote systems.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Once more, my 97 Grand Marquis, the last of the Aero gen Panthers, rests in the sweet spot of Real Cars ™.

      I love the fob plus keypad for all the reasons mentioned by others.

      In particular, the fob is a nice way to light my driveway when I take the trash out after dark, and to make sure the wife or son locked it when they went in it or drove it…doesn’t really matter, because I can lock it from my bedroom.

      And the keys always stay inside at the beach, concert, etc.

      There may come a time when the late 90’s will be remembered as a pinnacle, if not the pinnacle, of automotive engineering and design.

      I wouldn’t trade mine for a new anything under $100K, and not for much above. It just drives and feels “right”.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “This is why you don’t want a 1998 Ford, Mercury or Lincoln. ”

      huh. and here I thought “being nearly 20 years old” was a better reason.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    I taught my Grandpa how to use this function on his Crown Vic in the 90’s. He loves being able to leave his keys in the car and just use the pad. He’s had it on a succession of Crown Vic’s and Grand Marquis – even has it on his current Edge (the Panther is dead, long live the Panther).

    I get it that the pad existed before fobs and was an alternative to physically unlocking.. But in the fob era the obvious benefit is getting into the car without keys. Sounds to me that Ford is using the fob as an excuse to delete the pad. They don’t really mean it’s a replacement. At least they didn’t announce that it took #Courage to remove it.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I have a Ford with a keypad and use it a lot. I don’t normally carry the fob, so for instance I use the pad if I need to put something in or get something out of the car. The pad allows people such as friends or your kids to open the car without a key or being able to start it. Or in these days of fob code cracking, lock and unlock without using the fob.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    What is with all the awaiting moderation I’m getting this morning???? I’m not trying to put in links or use inappropriate language.

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    I bought a new F150 and wasn’t happy seeing that old school keypad on the door. Sure it was on the plastic vertical “B” trim area, but why have it?

    After a year of use, I couldn’t live without it! I love that keypad, has saved me many times. Not just from being locked out, but for convenience sake. Especially when you need to grab something inside your car but you don’t have the key anywhere near you.

    Plus the added security of never being worried about locking yourself out of your car.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    There is a keypad on the Ford we bought used and it is incredibly useful. The next step is to let me type in a code inside the car to start it, then I don’t need to carry anything at all.

    It’s about the only option I would consider spending money on when buying a new car.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I *loved* the keypad on my ’89 SHO. I used it every time to lock the car, and to unlock whenever I needed to open all the doors at once.

    But I usually used it to do things I do with the fob (or the lock button on my proximity-sensor cars) today, so I don’t know how much I’d use it on a modern car. The C-Max is too low on the totem pole to get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Interesting that they don’t have it on the C-Max Energi since they have it on the Fusion and they are very close in price when equipped similarly. Maybe they figure the C-Max customer is new to Ford and won’t know the difference while the Fusion buyer is coming from a Ford that had it and will miss it.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Bah! I got tired of all the remote entry/start-stop ignition foofaraw on all the rental cars, a different system on every car. Give me one key that opens the driver’s door and starts the car, and buttons on the driver’s door that unlock the other door(s) if needed. It turns out that’s what’s still available on cheaper rental cars, so that’s what I rent now. People who complain about forgetting their keys, or leaving them locked in the car, or having to walk back in the house to get keys, sound like people too absent-minded or easily distracted to be driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Or you have multiple cars and don’t carry the keys for all of them all of the time, also you give the code to your kids/friends to get the stuff out of the vehicle that they left in there.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        That’s an unnecessary complication for an occasional situation. It’s not a solution, just a potentially expensive alternative to keys and a few moments of inconvenience.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yeah it is a solution to a problem and it is far from expensive in the grand scheme of things. There already is a door lock module for the remote entry system that just needs a few extra circuit traces and pins and a few extra lines of code. The pads are pretty simple and can’t cost that much. If it adds more that $50 to the cost of the car I’d be surprised.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            People stood still for a “modest” increase in price of a few hundred dollars for Fed mandated rear view cameras, just to “try” to keep a few dozen dodoes from backing over their kids, with no evidence that they would look at the rear view camera any more than they would look in their rear view mirrors and would note where their children were when they were backing up.

            And then people want to complain about a keypad/keyfob system with a likely marginal cost measured in just a few tens of dollars.

            Danger, sheep crossing…

  • avatar
    NN

    I had an 04′ Explorer with the keypad that I used all the time. I now have a ’14 Transit Connect with no keypad and I miss it.

    When I go to the beach to surf (multiple times a week) I use a hide-a-key which is much less secure than the old keypad. I’m sure one day I’ll have a break-in from somebody watching. I don’t have any other options for what to do with my key, so I just try not to leave much in the way of valuables in the car. For me, a keypad is a buying decision to take seriously.

    Not to mention, it also is nice to not have to carry your keys around all the time, when you have a tablet-sized phone in your pocket, and 12 bank/credit cards, grocery store discount program cards, insurance cards for the entire family, and all the other crap people carry around.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I put one on my 2010 Focus. The first version of the wireless keypad was chunky and not attractive, there is a newer version that is a bit slimmer, but I still opted to mount it underneath the mirror rather than on the door. I keep a set of keys in the car and it is handy to have. I don’t have to carry bulky set of keys around when going out clubbing, or bike/beach activities. Also in odd situations you can use your car as a storage locker that you can give other people access to.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    A fob with a number pad on a touch screen? How big is this fob going to be?

    The fob for my 2008 Infiniti is a 1/2″ thick oval slightly less than 3″ x 1-1/2″. I don’t need to take it out of my pocket. If the radio communication fails, it has a key buried inside. A number pad is far less convenient regardless of location.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I remember absolutely loving that feature on my Thunderbird when I had it. It’s one of those things you never thought you would need, but I used it all the time.

    Still, those were the days when keyless entry was only on really high end cars, but having an apartment and coming down to grab something only to forget your keys but have the keypad was a real time saver.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No back in the day, only Fords and Nissans had keyless entry and high end cars had remote entry.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Buick offered pushbutton entry on the ’85 Electra and Park Avenue, not sure for how many years afterward. Nissan had it on the Maxima and 200SX uniquely on both sides of the car.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yeah I always found it interesting that Nissans with the Ford keyless system had to key pads.

          Never heard or seen anything about GM offering a key pad entry on any of their cars of any era.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh my goodness I know something Scoutdude doesn’t know. The Electra Park Avenue was offered for a short while with a keypad.

            https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B38ULhHiIa2IU1dSSGIzVDlZS0k/view?usp=sharing

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I can’t say this is a fact, but I’ve heard that the computer in the keyless entry remembers only the last 5 numbers you put in, and doesn’t lock you out for getting them wrong. So concievably, one could unlock any Ford with the right string of numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No after a certain number of failed attempts the system will shut down for a period of time, 3 min is what I seem to remember it saying in the owner’s manual of my older Fords with it.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Remember, just like with Apple Rumors, “a patent” does not mean “they’re ever making it or having it replace anything”.

    Companies patent new ideas for lots of reasons other than an intent to use them anytime soon (or ever).

    (I love, love, love the keypad on my F250.

    Also, you can aftermarket them on any car, if you want…)

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    The keypads and the box that runs it can be put in other cars too. A friend of mine harvested one from the junkyard and added it to his motorhome.

    I loved having it on the Mark VIII I had, it was nice to not have to carry the keys (eg at the beach) and be able to get back in the car.

  • avatar
    slap

    I have a Sable with the keypad. It’s great to leave the keys in the car when you go out to do watersports, etc. It’s a real feature that makes buying a non Ford vehicle more painful.

  • avatar

    On my Ford Fusion keypad is on the B-pillar and is not visible until you touch it. I use it mostly to lock the car with one touch, otherwise you have to open the door and lock it from armrest which sucks. It is also much more convenient that taking effort to pull key fob out of pocket. I keep key fob always in the pocket and never take it out. Couple of time I forgot to took out key fob amnd left on desk and used keypad to take some stuff out of cabin at parking lot. I like keypad very much and it is one of advantages of having Ford.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I have the keypad on my 95 T-Bird. It has not been set in a number of years so I just use the remote locking key fob. I would like to have it programed however my local mechanic needs to use OBD I test equipment to set it up. Probably the next time I have the car inspected I ‘ll have it programed.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Your mechanic is full of it there is no programming of the Ford Keyless entry system. Either it works or it doesn’t. If you don’t have the code it is on the sticker on the module inside the driver’s door. Also the car was supplied with stickers with the code on them that the selling dealer was supposed to put on the driver’s side trunk hinge or underside of trunk lid.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Sounds like a patent that should have come in 2008.

    The days of a standard separate fob being the majority go to device to gain entry to one’s vehicle are nearly at an end. Similarly for the external keypad.

    Given the ubiquity of smartphones and the rise of the Apple Watch, the new method will be to gain entry via these or a built in feature of the vehicle entertainment system. Perhaps patenting a Plan-C tech is cheap for a big company like Ford but if a touch screen key even sees the light of day I’ll be amazed.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    As an owner of a 2002 and 2008 Ford Explorer, 2010 Taurus SHO (still have) and a 2012 Ford Focus Ti Hatch (sold), I love the keypad.

    I work out and usually my workouts are outside, running trails, hiking, etc. So instead of taking keys and my phone with me, I leave them in the car because I can use the keypad to access the car. Also, on the newer touch versions of the keypad, if you have your keys with you, you can just touch the keypad and unlock the doors.

    I love progress, but I’d hate to see this feature go. I want to see it evolve. A fingerprint reader, perhaps?

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    Both my 2011 F-150 and 2011 Taurus have the keypads. I use them all the time. It’s handy not having to take both sets of keys when I head out into the driveway and realize my sunglasses are in the vehicle I am not about to drive. I type in the code, get the glasses and re-lock the vehicle using the pad. It’s really convenient.

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