The Pros – and Cons – of Keyless Car Keys

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Many new cars don’t come with keys.

At least, not a traditional physical key that goes into an ignition switch that you then turn to start the engine. Instead, you get a transmitter fob – carried in your pocket or purse – and there’s a button you push on the dash to start the engine. Some of these buttons don’t even require that you press them continuously until the engine starts. Just touch them lightly, once – and the computer will then spin the starter until the engine fires. Pretty neat! Some of these systems also make it possible to start the car’s engine remotely, too – so you can warm the car up on a cold day without having to go outside to do it.

That’s one upside.

Another is that it’s harder to steal the car.

Forget about reaching under the dash and cutting a couple of wires, then splicing them together (or, if you had an old Ford, running a wire from the remote-mounted starter solenoid right there under the hood to the car’s battery). If the car’s computer doesn’t receive the right code from the transmitter fob – the one electronically keyed to it – the engine will not start. Some systems are even smarter than that: The computer will disable the ignition circuit if someone tries to do an end-run around the transmitter fob.

It’s proved to be a very effective theft deterrent. The pros can still beat it, but most car thieves are not pros. Hot wiring is not what it once was.

Keyless ignition is also convenient. No more fumbling in your purse or pocket to find the key. So long as it’s somewhere in your pocket or purse, you’re good to go. The fob will transmit the “ok” code to the car’s computer, allowing you to push the starter button and be on your way. No more struggling to get into the car when it’s dark or cold or wet outside, either. Most late model cars that have keyless ignition also have keyless entry. The system senses your presence as you approach the car (well, the car’s computer can sense the transmitter fob)  and will automatically unlock the doors for you. You don’t even have to push the “unlock” button anymore.


But as with almost everything, there are some downsides.

First, there’s the price tag. You probably won’t notice it up front, because the cost of keyless entry/ignition is usually folded into the price of the car itself, or hidden as part of a package that includes other stuff such as a sunroof or heated seats. But don’t doubt it: You are paying for the convenience. How much, exactly, is hard to pin down. But all the components involved most definitely cost more than an old-style lock tumbler and a $10 physical key.

And if you keep the car long enough – or are the kind of person (like me) who loses things like car keys – you’ll be noticing the cost down the road. When it becomes necessary to buy a new fob. Or when the “start” button stops working. Check IGA Catalogue and ALDI Catalogue.

Unlike old-style keys –  which you could get copies made for a couple of bucks at any hardware store – electronic fobs often cost $100 or more each to replace.  And  because the technology is often proprietary your only source for a replacement key may be the dealership. It’s not like your TV/DVD player – for which you can buy a cheap universal remote if you lose or break the original.

That can be a huge hassle – in addition to a big expense – especially if you lose your only remaining fob in some out of the way area, far from an authorized dealership. Or during off hours, when the dealer is closed. Then you’ve got no choice but to wait for the dealership to open in the morning – and pony up whatever he asks for a replacement transmitter.

Maybe you’ll never lose your fob. But eventually, the fob will stop working – or at least, the more time that goes by, the more likely it will be with each passing day that at some point, it will stop working.

You can insure yourself against this eventuality by haggling for an extra set of  fobs at the time of vehicle purchase. This is the one time when you have some leverage in your favor. Make the most of it. If closing the deal on a $40,000 car is going to take the small additional concession of supplying you, the buyer, with an extra set of $100-$200 electronic transmitter fobs, you can bet most dealers will grit their teeth and make it happen – in the same way they’d have “thrown in” floor mats or an undercoating job back in the day.

That leaves just one thing – the push-button starter itself. Eventually, that’s going to fail, too. Just like old-style ignition switches in the steering column eventually failed. The big difference, Then vs. Now, is that you probably won’t be able to fix it with a screwdriver by the side of the road. Which is why, as convenient and Star Trek-cool as this stuff is, I’d personally rather have the old-style ignition switch. And a simple metal key I can get copies of made at any hardware store for about $5.

Throw it in the Woods?



  1. Another thing. Most men don’t carry a “purse” around that contains their key fob. It is usually in the pocket. It is plain awkward driving with keys in the pocket when you used to put the keys in the ignition. Now, if you don’t want them rubbing against you in your pants pocket, you have to put them on the dash, in the console or outside by the transmission shifter. So, when you take a turn, the stupid thing disappears. You have to hunt and search for the idiot thing after you have stopped. A car with ignition keys doesn’t have this problem. Key fobs are the reason I don’t buy cars made after 2007 or so. It’s a damned joke.

  2. Two manufactures have already lost my business because of telemetry keyless ignition systems, I wanted to replace my wife’s 2013 Honda CRV with a 2017 CRV. Vehicle was not available with a regular key type ignition, sorry NO sale. I also really liked a new BMW motorcycle until the salesman showed me the new keyless ignition system. No sale. I like my new Yamaha bike. Hi-tech is great, when it works! but when it fails, techs at the dealership have no clue how to fix it! I have never had a conventional metal key ignition fail. I also have a 1947 willy’s jeep, No plastic or electronics, It still runs and works. Better built than any new truck. Something to be said for that!

    • While I have had a keyed ignition switch fail, more than one, it’s such a simple fix it’s barely worth mentioning. I have an extra key all the time…. in my wallet. I’ve had many of the Hide a Key things but they don’t stay on a pickup. The best luck I’ve had with one was sticking it to the bottom of the bed rail but even there it gets jarred off and while you probably won’t lose it, I see no reason to advertise to some thief they can have my pickup just for picking the thing up and getting the key out.

      Nearly 40 years ago I started keeping a spare key in my wallet. The last one I bought wasn’t available without the bs plastic on the end so I just ground it off. I have ground that end down to just a nub too to make it less obtrusive in my wallet. I don’t need the extra ignition key since both keys are on the same ring. I’ve considered getting a fob for the pickup and probably will but just for the wife. She can stand it, I can’t and I’m not the one who has to spend money getting one opened cause I left the keys in it. I always thought being left at the farm with only the Jeep was fine. Hell, I liked the Jeep even if it didn’t go but 30 mph, it seemed a lot faster. My view on the Jeep changed one day during one of those infamous west Texas thunderstorms…..with plenty of hail. At least it’s easy to get under.

  3. I am going to tell you right Now FOBS Suck. Reasoning. 2014 Kia Sorrento. Wife’s Car. Battery dies in the FOB every 2-3 Months. Inserting it in Armrest never works. Keep Extra coin cells in the glove compartment. Tired of Getting calls from the wife on this. I will NEVER buy another stupid Keyless start again. The battery needs to be good for a year before this is a good solution.

    • Right on brother. 2015 Journey fobs eat batteries. I think it’s because it’s basically a transmitter that is always on. Stupid arrangement and I also will never buy another keyless ignition equipped vehicle.

  4. Hi!
    I’m total agreement with you that the key less fobs suck big time. I love my 2012 Grand Cherokee but, you guessed it. Sad to say it’s got that key less system in it. I would dearly love to install a conventional key and tumbler system if it’s possible. Eric is this possible and can you advise me on this please?

    • It would be model specific. If the mechanism is based on an earlier key system it may be easy to do by acquiring the missing and/or changed parts and installing them. If not you’ve got a design project on your hands.

  5. Where can I hide a spare keyless entry fob on a 2015 Suburban? Everyplace I have tried inside the vehicle still allows anyone to start the car at the push of a button. When I place it outside the vehicle along the bumper it does not activate the start mechanism which is good, but I don’t know where to attach it. I want to have a spare along, just in case I lose the primary one. Thanks.

    • Hi Roger,

      I’m not 100 percent certain about this – maybe others will chime in – but I see no reason why a magnetic keybox wouldn’t work.You used to be able to buy these at auto parts stores and assume you still can (or online). Put your key in the box, then attach it to the frame rail or some other place. Should be good to go…

      • I have a brother Remote Passat 2009 stopped working does not open nor closed, but opens the door with the key and the car running on the remote remote and changed the battery but to no avail?

      • Like I said in an earlier comment Hide a Keys are notorious for falling off. I even had one in a hollow bumper that disappeared. There is one easy way to keep a key or both keys outside and that’s to wire or tiewrap them to the frame. I guess if you had something to keep the fob from the elements it could be done the same way. You do carry a knife….don’t you? Don’t know of a thief who checked the frame of a vehicle for a spare key. I recommend one end or the other. Should be plenty of holes to use for this. I’ll continue to use my extra key I keep on my person. Wrangler watchpockets are great for keys. Keys are so cheap I have more than one ring with both keys. But the billfold key is one I Always have.

    • Roger,

      I do not know how this will work: If you put the FOB in a lead pouch (used for photography to protect film), this might prevent the car from reading the FOB.

      Just a thought

    • Remove the battery from the fob. Most fobs have a way that you push the button with the fob itself and it acts like the same security in the chipped keys. Further most keyless fobs have a hidden key that allows you to manually unlock the drivers door. No battery means the wireless signal will never reach the computer and the car won’t start.

    • Roger, why hide it anywhere? I just take my spare key along with me, in another pocket away from where I put the primary key. It doesn’t make sense to me to hide a spare key in or on the car itself.

    • Use the Onstar Remote link app on your phone. Its free for 5 years and you can unlock, lock or start your suburban with it

  6. There are so many scenarios where this keyless system could cause great harm to it’s users. The key gets dropped into a puddle of water on freezing wet night and it don’t work and you are trapped outside your car in the wet and cold . You drop your key while getting into your car , the car still starts and you drive off , some distance down the road the car may shut down leaving you stranded in gang land and no idea of where the key is. You get back to your car to find the main car battery is dead and you are once again locked out this could be a very dangerous situation for anybody . I shudder to think what will happen if criminals can get hold of technology to remotely shut down a car .
    If have just bought a new car with this stupid dangerous system I had no choice on the model I wanted but I will be installing an isolated twin battery system that can be switched into the system from under the car in an emergency .

    • I’m with you, Juan –

      Even if the problems you describe never crop up, the replacement cost alone is just ridiculous. Is it any wonder people are broke when a freakin’ car key costs $150 (or more) to replace?

      I’ll take the Old School key – which you can get a copy of made at Lowes or any hardware store for $5 or so.

      • Reprogramming keyless entry/ keyless ignition system for my 2013 BMW 3 series cost $1600. Parts had to be shipped from New Jersey to CA, which took about a week. Fortunately, my comp insurance had zero deductible.
        Needed to reprogram the system because my house was broken into, and thieves stole the spare fob.

        • Hi Turtle,

          Hideous – but not at all uncommon. Like electric cars, electric keys cost orders of magnitude more than physical keys. And don’t last nearly as long, either.

          I have the original keys for my 1976 Trans-Am. They were cut sometime in 1975, so about 44 years ago. They still work as well as they did 44 years ago.

          And if I need new ones, I can get duplicates for less than $10 at any hardware store.

  7. We both are hearing impaired.

    Cannot hear engine on or off.

    We prefer key ignition cars.

    I use a long chain to my pant belt

    Wife uses a leather chain hooked to her purse.

    I loose my pants if failing to shut engine off.

    Wife need purse to enter home

    Problem solved.

    No Keyless ignition for us


    • Hi Al,

      There are numerous good reasons to prefer a physical key – and that’s one.

      What gripes me most about this and similar stuff is that it goes from being a feature found in higher-end cars, or an option, to a commonplace standard that is almost impossible to avoid.

      Not because it’s a real improvement, a step forward in design. (I don’t object to, as an example, the development of five or six-speed transmissions, etc.) But only because – like $400 sail fawns and other electronic baubles – the masses have been marketed into believing they have got to have the latest electronic gadget else they are not “hip” and “with it.”

      What improvement in function does one get with a keyless ignition? Yes, I know one does not have to physically insert a key in an ignition lock in order to start the car. Was that a time-consuming, tedious task? Really? I don’t get it… .

      But I do get being able to have a replacement/duplicate key cut for $5 at any hardware store – which one is able to do when one has a physical key.

      As opposed to paying a dealer $150-$300 for a replacement “fob.”

      Plus – mark me – these pushbutton deals are going to fail after eight or ten years of button-pushing. Yes, I know. Mechanical ignition locks/cylinders also fail. But usually only after 20-plus years or more. I doubt very much the dash push-button will operate problem-free for decades. And while a replacement lock cylinder is typically a $30 part and an easy install, these electronic gizmos are apt to cost a great deal more, and require the services of a dealer, too.

      So, count me out also.

      • “Yes, I know one does not have to physically insert a key in an ignition lock in order to start the car. Was that a time-consuming, tedious task? Really? I don’t get it… .”

        Me neither.

        These days we are getting too many solutions to non-problems, and no solutions to real problems.

      • My 1960 MGA had a push button to engage the starter.
        Mechanical key, of course.
        1. Insert key in dashboard & turn 90 degrees.
        2. Listen to click click click of electric fuel pump.
        3. Push button on dash to engage starter.
        4. Turn key 90 degrees opposite way to kill engine.

  8. Hello,

    Just bought a Nissan Altima 2008 model from the auction but when it came,it was not with the Nissan Intelligent Key® with Remote Engine Start System.

    The VIN is 1N4AL21E78N476817. I’m in Nigeria presently and the car is here with me. I wouldn’t mind if i have to place an order for the Intelligent Key® with Remote Engine Start System.

    I will wait to hear from you soonest.

  9. I would like to keep the key as an option in new cars. FOB’s will fail, as with everything theses days seem to fail more frequent than the old reliable. I just had to repair my key on my 93 chev lumina. Turns out that it wasn’t the key cylinder, it was the rachet inside the colum.. so the whole colum had to be remeoved and replace with a new key cylinder, and wrachet. The total cost was about 400. Not bad considering its 93. What would the cost be for something similar in a new car 10yrs down the road or more??? I hate to think. But would it even last that long.. I doubt it…

  10. I have a buddy whose vehicle has keyless entry and push button start. He has his key separate from his other keys and when he gets in the car he throws the key into the cupholder. What happens to him and the countless others like him when they eventually forget the key in the car? They are leaving a car that will not lock and can be started at the push of a button by anyone.

    The physical key and having to remove it from an ignition is how some people make sure they take the key/lock the car.

    BTW I ran a cross a mid 90’s Jaguar with keyless, which was great except that the transmitter bit in the key fried (got wet) and the car will only lock with the button on the key, if you tried to physically put the key in the door and lock it the locks would trip then unlock a second later, leaving a car that couldn’t be locked until a replacement key/transmitter could be got (only) at the dealer for way more than reasonable (over $300)

        • Hi Debbie,

          There should be a manual release lever inside the car… assuming you can get inside the car. If you can’t (no keys, car’s locked) you’re gonna have to call AAA, a locksmith or a dealer, unfortunately.

          • There’s a really simple way. Leave the fob or key anywhere you like outside or on your person. You can still get into the car but it won’t do jack. Why?, simply because I used a disconnect on the battery terminal. You can use the mechanical key to unlock the door but it’s no go till you raise the hood and flip the disconnect closed. Yep, you may have to reset the clock, so what?

  11. It is cool how the topic, a keyless remote door system ended up about restoration and old electronics. Maybe in 20 years, if those cars are still around, the guys then will be wondering where to find parts, people who know anything about electronics in general at that time, who knows what they will have in 2032 🙂

    One of my friends had an independent shop in early 80. He was able to do ok, until they started coming out with more and more electronics in the car. Some of the tooling, scanners, test gear , was almost prohibited in Cost at the start. The same stuff he was paying 3000 dollars for now, you can find at some garage sales for 20 bucks or so. To say the least, he finally went out of business, it was just to expensive to convert from Carburetion to Injection systes. You need different training and thought process. A lot more to go wrong.

    I guess the gist of this entire discussion is the future of electronics like this. At what time will the Keyless Fob die on you. It will and how much will it cost you to replace or fix it ? Or a better question if you can even find replacements ?

    Another interesting tidbit about the C4 Corvettes. There are about a dozen or so issues that come up rather regularly on how to fix them. New people ask the same questions again and again. There are inherent design faults in most cars. Just visit any forum on the net for any year, model , car and the same issues come up and up again and again !

    But thanks for having such great articles about varied topics. 🙂 I love car discussions.

    PS. My neighbor is out tinkering on his 66 Mercury with the hood up, every 20 minutes or so, one of our neighbors wander over and start talking to him looking at his engine. Oh the simplicity of those old engines. My neighbor is trying to fertilize his lawn, but ends up chatting more..

  12. @ Eric I started to redo the interior of my 87 Vette. The parts alone were about 4000 or so. Exact figures, I dont remember, but the Carpeting and Door Panels alone cost me 1100 . The other trim pieces were expensive too.

    One of the pieces of advice frequently given on any C4, like my 87 is to make damned sure the interior is in decent shape along with decent paint, like being a 10-footer or better. [ For those who dont know, a 10 footer means the paint looks like a new paint job from 10 feet away, you get much closer and you start seeing scratches, paint chips, imperfections in the paint ).

    I had to rebuild the transmission in my 87, and it cost me like 1500. The kit to rebuild a Vette automatic transmission is a bit more expensive than any other Chevy. It has a few different different parts, even though the same configuration, just different in shift points.

    A few parts for the TPI of an 87 are in short supply too. or were, some of the switches, connectors, and the like.

    Also, I should bring out, some folks are taking out the TBI of the 84 Vette and replacing it with a standard intake and carburetion system.

    In fact, the 4000 you put into your 76 TA, can buy you a fairly decent early year C4 Corvette btw.

    I love the fact you are an old car guy 🙂 If I only had some of the cars I had in the mid 70’s. I bought a 69 GTO in near perfect shape for 1100 in 76. Cars like that, that are worth up to 20K or more today, were a dime a dozen. I tell young guys to think of the 1998 to like 2004 Mustangs, but a bit cheaper than those even. I owned other classics like that too 🙂 Most found their way into ditches, telephone polls, etc.

    • Trim stuff can eat you alive! Also the electronics (such as climate control AC).

      There’s a lot of aftermarket support for the older (pre-’80s) cars, which brings down the cost and also makes it unnecessary to scrounge for difficult to find NOS stuff.

      With a car like my TA, the fuel delivery system amounts to:

      Quadrajet four barrel – easily rebuildable for about $75 in parts.
      Cast iron intake – re-usable almost indefinitely; virtually zero expense (other than gaskets, etc.)
      Mechanical fuel pump – About $40

      So, I can restore to “new” condition the entire fuel delivery system in a car such as my TA for less than $200. How much would it cost to restore an ’86 IROC-Z (or same-era Corvette’s) TPI system? How much do the individual injectors cost? The MAF sensors and other sensors? The computer to run the thing… etc.

      • Eric .. You mentioned Cast Iron Intake Manifolds. There is an almost unlimited number of combinations available for most Chevy Small & Big Blocks. 2 barrel, 4 barrel, tri powers, dual quads, high rise, low rise, ultra high rise, rectangular ports, oval ports, round ports !

        In fact, you can usually find what you need at most larger car swap type meets and fairly cheap, some vendors are just happy to get rid of them to make space for more !

        You asked how much it would cost to restore the TPI system, actually not a lot, but and the big but, the sensors, such as the MAF on my 87 cost around 320 bucks, yes. 320 bucks .. That is for the GM version, which is made better than the cheaper knockoffs and seems to last longer. The injectors .. roughly 45 a piece, times 8 .

        About the only thing going for the TPI of the Vette like I had, most parts from 85 to 91 are interchangable. There are some year variances, but for the most part.

        Also, there arent as many aftermarket systems available for the TPI as there were for earlier small blocks.

        If you do some mods on a TPI, you have to reprogram the MEMCAL unit of the ECM. Another expense. The list goes on and on. Unlike with your TA, you just give her a tune up, change the dwell, maybe timing a bit, and off you go 🙂 You need to spend a lot more.

        • Yup!

          Chevy made some pretty good cast headers for the original small block – just like Pontiac did for its V-8. I’ve used both tube headers and the factory “ram air” cast iron headers and come to much prefer the cast iron units. Yes, they’re heavier. That’s a downside. But they are much less likely to develop leaks (or crack) and rust-through is a non-issue. They also fit better. The Pontiac V-8 is a wide V-8. It is a real PITAS to get headers on (and off) without either raising the engine, using a ball peen hammer on a tube or three or “adjusting” some other component – at least, in the Firebird. Ground clearance is another big issue with headers that’s no problem with the factory manifolds.

          Best part: The RA manifolds are available on the aftermarket as reproductions – and the repros are slightly better than the originals, as well as less expensive.

          • I much preferred the 2 1/2″ downswept SBC cast iron performance manifolds. They flowed as well as I could tell as the aftermarket tube headers but were a bolt-on and forget part. You can’t find them now. They were quieter too. I’d bet money right now those cast iron short headers were way lighter than the tube headers. They also gave you room to keep your exhaust pipes up outta the way, as opposed to headers that would catch and bend and leak if you caught something backing up. Right where my exhaust pipes turned to go horizontal I grafted on galvanized couplings that pointed straight with the lead off pipes and had 2 12″ plugs to screw into them. it accomplished straight “open” pipes on original exhaust pipe that worked as well or better than unbolting exhaust pipes from tube header collectors. They looked great at night with fire streaming out. The DPS took exception to them and now cut-outs are illegal in Tx. although not specifically because of me. A big adjustable wrench, some welding gloves and you could remove the plugs any old time……and not cut off the engine. I used them to clean my dad’s driveway after mowing and trimming.

      • Could also be OEM materials.

        Cast iron and even aluminum can live forever in the right environment and put up with metric shit-tons of abuse. Plus, the engine designs were at least still understressed, though not to the level of say, a 440 Chrysler.

        Ever strip the threads out of a cast-iron 350 block? Me neither. But with the advent of polymers, that durability receded.

        Now, I’m an advocate of making as much of the car out of carbon fiber, Kevlar and nanocarbon as possible, F1 style. I think polymers and nanocarbon are the future.

        But the plastics of the ’80s were just starting to see respectable chemistry and design. So of course they cracked and disintegrated from heat, UV, thin walls and undersized radii.

        Connectors, gaskets, O-rings and even entire intake manifolds, in the case of the 3800 Series II, failed with regularity.

        If that was OEM, I wouldn’t put that on my resto.

        So, just another idea.

  13. Eric .. I am on a few different Corvette forums. Few people are interested in restoring a C4 ( 1984 to 1996 ), unless, it is a somewhat unique car, such as a ZR1, Callaway Corvette, and a few other series. It is just to costly to do so and justify the cost. Some of the issues are the electronics on them. The digital dashes, AC Controllers are some of the things that are hard to find, if you can at all, or you need to send them off to be repaired. Some people try and go broke doing so. It is just as cheap to buy a good solid C4 Corvette than to try and rebuild on or restore one.

    However, people are still restoring the earlier Vettes, from 54 up to around 73 or so. Those are easy to work on, parts are easy to find and no electronics to go bad or just act up. Also you can recoup your restoration costs as those cars in high demand.

    • Thanks for the input Harry – it pretty much confirms what I’ve suspected: Cost is (and lack of return on investment). I can (and have) rebuilt/restored the engine and transmission (including all accessories) in my ’76 TA for about $4,000 (not counting my labor; just parts and machine work, etc.) I doubt that would even get you started on something like an ’86 TPI IROC-Z.

      • Eric,

        If I remember correctly, you once wrote that modern, electronically-equipped vehicles suffer from “dating” – that their technology is valid only for a certain amount of time before it passes into obsolescence and becomes expensive and difficult to acquire.

        Despite my earlier comments, I do agree with you regarding the cost dimension of a restoration.

        A full-on return to factory specifications for a Grand National, C4, TPI Z28 or 5.7 GTA is very expensive and time-consuming if you’re trying to find the exact types of obsolete OEM systems these cars came with.

        It just makes so much sense to get an LS1, a T56 and a conversion kit to put that ’85 Carlo SS back together when you find out that going the restomod route costs no more, and sometimes a lot less, than getting a factory-correct LG4 and 700R4, especially when the aftermarket parts will give you about double the performance.

        Hell, I tried in vain for months to find a fuel gauge sender for my dad’s ’88 Grand Marquis. Ford told me it’s an obsolete part, so that means junkyard or eBay. They we’re a lot of help.

        NOBODY makes a new one, and considering how many Box Panthers were made and are still on the road, something mundane like a fuel sender should be EVERYWHERE.

        I finally just cleaned and rewired the damned thing, and it works great.

        Yeah, your TA is essentially endlessly rebuildable, but with electronics, sometimes you have to upgrade.

        • I agree on resto-mod and that was even the case for 60s and 70s cars at one time and often still is.

          For obsolete parts they are often sitting on dealership shelves. There is a website, I think it’s called partsvoice or something like that which if you know the part number you can do a search and it will turn up dealers that have it.

          This is how I got a backup light switch for my column 3spd ’73. I found another on ebay.

          • I have no issue with resto-mod here, either (hell, my car isn’t stock either; it has an overdrive transmission, for one thing). Who am I to dictate what someone else does with their car?

            But the thing I was getting at is the lack of interest (from everything I’ve seen) in restoring the ’80s-era cars to stock. I’ve been involved in the car hobby my whole adult life and this is the first time I’ve seen this happen. These cars are now well over 25 years old; an ’82 Indy Pace Car Camaro is 30 years old. You see preserved examples. You see modified ones. But I’ve yet to see (or even read about) someone restoring one. Why? They were slow doesn’t cut it. A ’78 403 Olds powered Trans-Am with automatic and 2.41 gears was slower. People lovingly restore cars like that anyhow. Certainly enough time has passed. People were restoring cars like my ’76 Trans-Am in the ’90s – when it was only 20 or so years old. The ’80s-era performance cars were just as poplar in their time as cars like mine were in their time – maybe even more so. Just as the Boomers grew up with Mustangs and GTOs and remember those cars (and their youth) with fondness, the Gen Xers like me who were in high school and college during the ’80s have great memories of IROC-Zs, Trans-Am GTAs, Mustang 5.0s, Monte Carlo SSs, Olds 442 and so on.

            The only thing I can come up with is that these cars are too difficult/expensive for most people to mess with because of their computers and electronics. Parts are either harder to get or not available at all (the aftermarket is not going to make a $500 part that hobbyists won’t buy enough of to make the manufacturer a profit). People are more intimidated by the greater complexity. And unlike previous generations that grew up working on cars, most people stopped working on cars beginning in the ’80s – so now they’re unable to do a resto themselves and paying someone to do it is cost prohibitive.

          • But the electronics thing is mostly just in people’s heads. Today teenagers are blowing up their engines with ‘tunes’ 🙂

            80s stuff is being restored otherwise there wouldn’t be companies like “Late Model Restoration” Maybe it’s a mustang thing but there’s still thriving 80s-90s 5.0 business out there and it’s been moving more and more into reproduction stuff.

          • Lots of stock parts being reproduced. The modded ones aren’t generally using carburetors. They are still running EEC-IV on push rod ford small block engines.

            Also what was done in the 80s? It was buy a new mustang and mod it the day you got it.

            That said, there are stock restorations.

            Simply put, the people in the businesses that profit from people restoring cars are seeing something very different.

            Meanwhile, in 1985 nobody would restore these:
            And they’ve probably been sitting there since before 1985. Today someone will.

        • Yup!

          It’s a shame, because the history is less accessible. I mean, I can attend a car show and see a meticulously restored ’69 GTO Judge and in this very real and tactile way, experience 1969. But the ’80s (and newer) stuff is fast receding into mere memory – books and pictures. That’s a shame. It’s fun to revisit the past, to see what things were like “back then.” And also to drive something from “back then.” Sure, an ’85 SS Monte Carlo with a crate LS1 and Tremec is a blast to drive but it’s just another modern performance car. It’d be fun to “go back in time” and drive a stock ’85 SS with the carbureted L69 and 2004R.

          • Guess I got the powertrain codes wrong…

            In the end, I suppose I don’t really KNOW why the ’80s cars languish while the ’60s and ’70s cars get their day in the sun.

            It might be a cultural thing.

            My theory is that the ’80s are somehow a verboten decade, in ways the ’60s or ’70s aren’t. Notice how the popular culture of that time gets mocked and derided, while the excesses of the ’60s and ’70s get a pass, and that might be bleeding over into the cars of the time.

            I hate mullets, but Oh My God do I hate afros and sideburns. At least the mullets looked cleaner and healthier. And how you see big, sloppy helmet hair and tight clothing everywhere, but no one’s advocating a return to neon green and orange parachute pants, praise the Lord.

            Maybe those cars are too closely associated with said big hair and loud colors?

            So who knows? I don’t. All I could do would be to theorize.

            But cost may be the biggest parts of it, as you say.

            • ’80s music has endured! Heck, people are rediscovering it – the golden age of pop (pop that actually was good – unlike C/rap “music”).

              The performance cars of the ’80s were also cool in their own right. The third gen. F cars are good looking – and very fun to drive (I had an ’86). And the intermediate muscle coupes such as the Monte SS, Olds 442 and GN are certainly as cool as mid-late ’70s stuff. Then there’s the GMC Syclone and Typhoon – fierce, turbo powered cars whose performance would still be solid even today.

              I don’t think there’s any reason other than the cars from this era are not being supported by the aftermarket – because there’s not much support for OEM restos – because the cost of doing an OEM resto is prohibitive as well as beyond the skill set of most people. A circular spiral.

          • I knew I wasn’t the only one!

            Hell, I grew up on Hair Metal and STILL love it. It’s got an inspirational, optimistic sound that just makes you want to slam the throttles wide open!

            Like I said before, I love the third-gen GTA. One of the best-looking cars The General ever designed.

            And heresy though it may be, to me the word Camaro will always inspire images of the ’87 IROC, not the ’69 RS/SS.

            The GNX is one of my Top 5, but I’d be happy with a clone I can USE in the real world. The concours guys would go all torches-and-pitchforks if they knew how I want to modify one.

            • I saw Van Halen at the Capital Center in 1984 – good times!

              Also got to drive (furtively) a few brand-new mid-’80s performance Chevrolets, including an L69 HO 5-speed Z28 and Monte Carlo SS. A friend’s dad had a brand-new ’83 Daytona Pace Car – all white, with the TBI 305. It wasn’t fast, but it sounded great and the TBI set-up looked every bit as cool as the dual four barrels on a ’69 Z28 with the cross-ram intake!

            • The L69s (305 HO, basically a 305 with the L-82 350 Corvette cam and some other tweaks) was available with a five-speed. I’m pretty sure even the standard LG4 305 was available with a five-speed after 1983. The ’82s had either a 3-speed auto or four-speed manual.

          • Sure, but I’ve lived in NJ, PA, CT, SC, FL, IL, MO, KY and OH and I’ve literally never seen one.

            I thought they were a myth.

    • How many 60s muscle & pony cars & corvettes went to the scrap yard when they were just used cars with no significant value?

      Today someone will pay good money (thousands of dollars, about what they cost new in nominal dollars) for a rusted out stripped hulk of a ’69 mach 1 mustang and many other cars and restore them. Back then these cars were still complete but required significant repair in every area… and they were disposed of. Not economically feasible to repair. But today one can dump a ton of money into a rusted out hulk and even make a profit some times when selling it.

      Even as late as the early 90s people would just do quick cosmetic rust repair on 60s cars and just leave the rotted frame rails and such. It wasn’t economically feasible to do that job. I passed on some cars because of that. Today if that’s what’s wrong with a complete car there’s a good chance it will be repaired. But not then. Wasn’t worth it.

      Cars at the bottom of their value curve will never be economical to restore. Parts will be difficult to come by. Model unique parts will be difficult and expensive.

      That bottom of the curve goes a lot longer now because the cars themselves last a lot longer.

  14. Speaking of evading the Man, I’m reading a CJ Box novel called ‘Below Zero’. Two people are in a pickup. He writes:

    “He shut the lights off, and the gravel road vanished into darkness.

    ‘Hey,’ she said. ‘How are we going to follow them in the dark?’

    ‘An old Indian trick,’ Joe said while he reached under the dashboard and found the toggle switch for his sneak lights and turned them on. The sneak lights threw an orb of light down from under his front bumper into a pool immediately in front of the pickup. It was enough light to see to drive but because the beams pointed down into the dirt they were difficult to see from a distance. The sneak switch also disabled the taillights and brake lights, so that if he slowed down or stopped, there would be no indication from flashing red.”

    This is a work of fiction, so for all I know the author made it up. Are there such things as sneak lights?

    • With the advent of low-cost high-output Infrared LEDs, it would be better to build a big IR illuminator, and then either rig up a simple black and white CCTV cameras and dash-mount LCD display, or just put on a pair of night-vision goggles.

      Overall, however, if you’re smart enough to build all this stuff, you probably are smart enough to know that fleeing and evading the police is typically not a wise move, as most traffic violations are misdemeanors, and trying to run from the po-leese is a felony in most places.

      Note that police cars have a 500,000 candlepower spotlight as well as a radio that can call a helicopter with computer-stabilized FLIR. If the spotlight does not spot you and if not the chopper pilot will.

  15. You also have to think about what will happen as the cars age and the parts become harder and harder to find, if at all.

    I owned an 87 Corvette and I found some of the electronics on that hard to find and even harder to find someone who knew how to actually fix them. Luckily I did a few years ago, but what is going to happen when the technology is improved and the keyless fob idea is old old hat ?

    I feel sorry for the owners of those cars used.

    • Harry,

      I’ve ranted about this at length!

      In particular, I am confident it’s the reason why the car restoration hobby is effectively frozen in time. The ’80s were 30 years ago – yet you never see (well, I have never seen) restored cars from that era. Why? Is an ’85 IROC-Z (or Corvette) any less desirable as a restoration project than, say, a ’76 Trans-Am such as mine? Surely, the people who were in high school in the early ’80s and who grew up with cars like the IROC-Z, Mustang 5.0 (and so on) who are now in their 40s have the same fond memories of the cars of their youth as previous generations had of the cars of their youths. Yet you just don’t see them – restored, that is. I attend antique car shows and sure, you see “survivor” cars from that era – low mileage, well-preserved Fieros, IROC-Zs and so on. And modified ones – their stock drivetrains long gone. But I have yet to see a restored to factory condition car from that period. I suspect the reason for this is that it’s cost prohibitive – orders of magnitude more than the cost to restore a car such as my TA.

      • No, I suspect you’ll never see a chalk-marked, numbers-matching resto on an 80s car because other than the GN and GNX, their powerplants and transmissions all sucked.

        You pretty much have to do a resto-MOD on a Carlo SS, Z28 or Trans Am GTA because their original engines we’re best described as “Limp-wristed nancy wankers!,” backed up by underbuilt slushboxes. Yay life!

        For the life of me, I still cannot understand why Chevy even ENGINEERED the 305.

        They could’ve just slapped that emissions gimp harness on the 350 and called it a day.

        Now, i think that the era produced some beautiful-looking cars. Personally, I think the 80s had the best-looking NASCAR racers of all time, Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Charger Daytona notwithstanding.

        The style and proportions of the G- and F-bodies, Fox 5.0s and Crown Vics are classic and lend themselves to great projects.

        And nothing, and I mean nothing, looks meaner and less reputable than some shitbox 85 Cutlass with four shades of black primer and a set of white-letter tires on Cragar SS wheels.

        But who the hell thinks a stock LG4 305 is worth dollar one?

        • I’ve heard this before – but here’s why I think it doesn’t fly:

          The mid-late ’70s stuff also sucked, performance-wise – in stock form. Certainly relative to today. And even relative to the ’80s-era stuff. Consider: A stock ’76 Trans-Am like mine had 185-200 hp. Yet these cars are lovingly restored to stock.

          Meanwhile, the more powerful/quicker stuff from the ’80s isn’t. Why?

          They looked cool and were very popular (keep in mind the F-cars of the ’80s and also the Mustangs of that period sold in huge numbers). Remember the ’84 Daytona Pace Car Trans-Am? Surely it’s at least as neat a car as the ’80 Daytona Trans-Am. The ’80 Pace Car gets restored – do a quick Google search and you’ll find several examples. But no dice finding a restored ’84 Pace Car TA. Why?

          Just one example. There are many: Mustang SVO, GMC Syclone/Typhoon, L69 HO Z28, Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe… etc. etc.

          These cars are remembered with fondness by people who were around then – especially people who were in high school or college back then.

          But… no restos… why?

          Answer: The cost is prohibitive. Not just for the parts, either (assuming you can even find them – and my guess is for many you’d need to find good used parts because new/NOS stuff’s not available). But also for the labor to have someone do the work. Anyone with basic mechanical aptitude can restore a ’70s-era muscle car. Not so with an ’80s-era muscle car. The electronics are much more complicated.

          Just saying.

          There’s no reason other than cost to account for the lack of interest in restoring cars built after about 1981 – coincidentally, right around the time that computers became standard equipment in most new cars.

          • I think you’re right; cost may be prohibitive, if you’re going for a factory-correct restoration.

            Which, as I said, is what I would call a fool’s errand when we’re talking 180 horsepower from a small-block V8.

            Me, I’d love to do this: My first car was a 1985 Firebird 2.8, so I’d get another one and seam weld the body, then fit the ground effects and wedge wing from an ’89 GTA and the asymmetrical hood scoop, modified to functionality, from an ’84 TA.

            Then modify the floorpan to accept the engine, transmission and final drives from an R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R.

            The two cars are within an inch of each other regarding track and wheelbase.

            I’ve got this thing for turbo straight sixes and with an HKS 2,800cc stroker kit, I could legitimately tell the insurance company I’m running a 2.8 liter six cylinder!

            Yeah, I know this sort of thing grossly violates the Brand Loyalty Blood Feud we car guys are supposed to subscribe to, but fuck that noise, man.

            I want something unique!

            • Why is it a fool’s errand? Part of the fun is the time capsule aspect. Most of the ’60s stuff is slow compared with even medium-warm new performance cars. And the ’60s stuff handled worse than even the shittiest new economy car. Yet they are restored to stock because it’s cool to see (and drive) something from another time.

              Mind, I’m not against modding – I do it, too. I’m just trying to come up with a reason that explains why you never see people restoring cars built after the early ’80s… and the only reason I can come up with that makes sense is that it’s too expensive/complicated.

              • While the old 77 Elco SS was slow from the factory it wasn’t hard to double the effective output or at least it felt like it. Once I stuck a really hot 350 in ours that output 400 hp it wasn’t a slouch. No, it wasn’t a screamer either but I taught a guy a lesson in a Turbo Toyota Celica GT with 2 Yamaha racing carts in the bed and the old lady’s fat ass along with suitcases and clothes and guns and ammo for an extended trip.

          • My point is that I want to build something unique, and not be limited by what SOMEONE ELSE thought the car in question should be.

            Heresy though it may be, I don’t really care about the collectability of a car down the road. It’s mine and I’ll do what I like with it.

            I’ll let the non-enthusiast lawyers and doctors fight over numbers-matching restos at Barrett-Jackson in three decades.

            Maybe it’s conceit, but I think I can beat the factory at their own game.

            It’s also a workaround for certain ugly realities I can’t fix.

            For example, I want an R34 Nissan Skyline. The Fedgov says I can’t have one. Fine, I’ll BUILD one using a Trans Am and the Internet. Problem solved.

            Or maybe I think a Buick Grand National was perfect, except for its lack of a manual transmission and cornering capacity. Go get the MIG welder, I’ve got a idea…

            Don’t get me wrong – I think that there’s absolutely room for all types of car guys. Domestic, import, factory resto and Frankenstein alike.

            • Oh, I agree – absolutely!

              But, I find it interesting that no one’s restoring the after early-80s cars… this is the first time in the history of the automobile that the cycle hasn’t completed…

          • I don’t know if this counts since I’m not really “restoring” an ’80’s car, but I am rebuilding one for stock racing, it’s going through a “parts car” phase right now as I strip it down and re-build each of the auxiliaries, but eventually I plan to put it back together. It’s an ’85 928S, 32v DOHC alusil block that made 300 hp stock, which was pretty good for 1985. I have another one just like it right down to the body color.

            It’s going to be expensive alright, even without trying to restore the interior. The engine will cost me around $10K and that assumes I do *all* the work except boring the cylinders and putting in alusil sleeves. I’ve been told the cams and cranks on those engines are good for 500K or more so most of the cost will be rebuilding the heads.

            I expect it to cost between 20 and 30 grand to put the car on the track. It would easily cost me 40 grand more to fully restore the interior, which would take the whole project close to $80,000. The car sold new for pretty close that in 1985 dollars so it really isn’t too expensive if you look at it that way. I’m not into doing a resto on it because I already have a low mileage garage queen that looks just like it, my point is I don’t see it as being too hard or too expensive. I guess this is where I get into a Brand Loyalty Blood Feud and say something along the lines of “maybe nobody really liked the ’80’s POS cars the big three were putting out enough to put in the effort to bringing them back?” A friend of mine used to drive an ’82 Camero his parents gave him for HS graduation, I remember he was really proud of it but I secretly thought he had shitty taste in cars. I think “Limp-wristed nancy wankers!” describes it very well.

          • Just as an aside…

            I’ve long had a problem with the Brand Loyalty Blood Feud, which I define as being a Ford Guy, a Chevy Guy, a Mopar Guy, or whatever, and hating fellow car enthusiasts because they like another brand. I hate that shit; it’s a grossly limiting mindset.

            There’s room in my world for a 455 SD TA, an 850 Turbo, a ’67 or ’11 GT500, a Civic Si, a GNX, an EVO IX, a Cosworth Sierra, a C4 Corvette, a ’73 XB Falcon, a VW GTI, a ’59 Eldorado and JDM stuff like an R34 Skyline or JZX100 Chaser.

            I have zero patience for the carb-only, straight-line-only, Detroit-only business.

            There’s room for it, but it’s not the whole world.

            • I’m not a Porsche guy – but I respect Porsches. They’re pretty “pure” cars; minimal BS – great performance and lots of ‘tude.

              But the price relative to performance is becoming ridiculous. 30 years ago, ok, a Porsche was a true exotic in terms of what it could do relative to almost any other car. But today? No so much.

              I’d rather have a classic Porsche myself – like an old 928, for instance.

  16. I asked the dealer “this key looks expensive, how much are they?” and he said 10$ each. I said, I’ll take the car, but only if you include 4 extra key fobs. It was HELL getting them to actually come through with the keys, and they charged me $250 each to “program” them.

    • $1,000 for four keys?

      This is why I want no part of these things… for $50 I could buy 10 extra keys for my truck and have enough money left over for lunch, too….!

        • “Got a ticket today on the highway for my radar detector.”

          How does that work? Unless you’re a trucker, I don’t see how a Person gets a ticket for that.

            • I think it’s only VA and CT. Despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary. And yes, there are detector detectors. But I suspect they’re not in widespread use in VA simply by dint of the fact that detectors are illegal and the police assume (rightly) that most of the cattle obey “the law” and so don’t have detectors.

        • What happened?

          FYI: I do not use the factory mounting system – because it’s too visible. After a lot of trial and error, I found that taking a (roughly) 10 inch section of masking or duct tape, rolling it back on itself (so the sticky side is all around) and using that to secure the unit to the top of the dash works really well. It makes it impossible to notice unless you’re within 10 yards of the car (which gives you plenty of time to snatch and stash it if a cop is rolling your way) and eaves no tell-tale Velcro or suction cups for the cop to see.

          • Wouldn’t a dedicated, remote-mount detector (from the factory) be a better choice than using the hillbilly masking/duct tape approach?

            • Yes – except for one thing. In my case, I have to be able to move the detector from vehicle to vehicle. I drive a different new car every week – plus my own vehicles (I have seven). So hard mounting won’t do it for me. The duct tape thing works very well. Been doing it this way for four years now. They haven’t caught me yet!

  17. Your title is somewhat misleading. As if we had a choice. The ONLY choice our totalitarian government gives us is to abort our babies; and I suspect this is primarily to save them money. The feds have crammed all this nonsense down our throats in order to “protect us.” This particular bit of expensive ‘protection’ was forced on us by the $$$ donated by the insurance industry. Every lost car costs them $$ and if they can pass that expense on to the customers, they will!

  18. Eric I prefer it when you rant about government and bad drivers. I like fobs and every non-government mandated gizmo the automakers want to give me.

    Would you also prefer an old-fashioned IBM 8088 with an 11″ CGA tube monitor and 5/25 floppy drive? And a 300 baud modem?

    • Hi Jesse,

      I can’t please everyone all the time!

      My main issue with this stuff is not the stuff as such; it’s that once it becomes popular – as a result of mass marketing, more so than any real need or value – it becomes a de facto part of the standard equipment package (like ABS, for example).

      • And once it becomes popular, it’s turned into a weapon that busybody government nannies can use against their subjects. I can’t think of any useful new tech that *hasn’t* been turned against citizens.

        The only saving grace in the rapid expansion of technology is that maybe someday the government will drown itself in a sea of data it no longer can analyze because there’s just too much of it.

          • Here’s an example from fiction about how going low-tech can save your ass.

            Harry Turtledove wrote an alternative-history sci-fi series called “Worldwar,” in which aliens invaded Earth during WWII.

            Initially they tried to knock out human communications with high-altitude nuclear detonations, but that failed because during WWII, “electronics” had vacuum tubes and were immune to EMP.

            This had never occurred to the aliens because their electronics had always been solid state, so their communication-disruption plan failed.

            And so it is in the real world. An old car isn’t susceptible to the hacking that now threatens new vehicles.

            Old cars can’t be disabled by screwy electronic throttles, or burned-out sensors or to having their AC systems deactivated by a bad touchscreen.

            If you don’t carry a cell phone, you can’t be tracked by GPS. Cash only means no paper trail. Hell, even hats and jacket collar can hide your face from a camera.

  19. Well $200 bucks isn’t too bad. But watch out if you buy the new Austin Marten. Their ‘fob’ is crystal, like Steuben! It will set you back…wait for it… $3300. Yikes!

  20. And of course there will be a back door. Only recently my brother learned that there is a default number, available on the internet, for the door unlock keypad of his Excursion after kids in the neighborhood started playing in it at night. No way to disable the pad or the default number.

  21. Keyless ignition is just another good reason to hold onto your old car as long as possible. Come to think of it, I may have bought my last car five years ago.

  22. Well one thing that concerns me is that the police are sure to get a system for turning off the engine if you are fleeing them. I know that sounds paranoid but oppression can happen here too.

    • They already have that! GM’s OnStar, for one – built in capability. Your GM car can be turned off remotely, at any time, by the OnStar operator. For other cars, an EMP pulse will do the trick – and I have read that they are experimenting with that, too.

      • The principles of EMP have been known for quite a while. There are also countermeasures against it. And, EMP pulses work against unshielded government hardware too — which is why nations continue to develop that crap: they’re always planning for the next war.

        You know, talking about all this reminds me of Scotty’s line in one of the ‘Star Trek’ movies, where the Excelsior is about to pursue the Enterprise: “The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

        I’m not a hacker, but thank god for hackers. Eventually they’re going to be liberty’s last line of defense.

        • Hi Carol,

          There are pros – and cons.

          Obviously, one of the pros is convenience.

          The main con – as I see it – is the potential down-the-road repair/replacement costs. How long do you plan on keeping the car? If it’s about ten years or so, I wouldn’t worry about it. Probably the system will work reliably for that length of time. But if you’re planning to keep the car for significantly longer – and you have the option of going with a conventional physical key – I’d go with the physical key.

          I’d also strongly advice you to haggle with them for extra key fobs before you buy the car – as part of the deal. Many people don’t discover how much these things can cost until they lose one. It’s not like getting an old-style key cut at Home Depot. Some electronic key fobs cost $150-plus each to replace.

  23. I have a 2009 Altima with one of those key fob things. Even though I love the car, I hate the keyless crap. The switch under the brake pedal that enables the starter solenoid has already broken on me, and while it’s not really that difficult or expensive to fix (the switch runs about $40), the car is a really big paperweight until you get it done.

    Every once in a while, the car will say “no key” when I get inside to start it. Then i have to dink around and dig the keyfob out of my pocket and put it in my lap before the car will start. If I get too aggravated, I will just say to hell with it and take my ’89 Jeep grand cherokee instead.

    • Same here, Dan –

      And: I don’t mind this stuff provided it remains optional. But what seems to happen is that it gets introduced as an option (or high-end novelty) and then either gets mandated (air bags, back-up cameras) or becomes a de facto mandate (ABS, “belt minder” buzzer) because advertising and PR gets most people to believe they are “must haves.” As a result, it gets to the point that all or virtually all cars have the item in question.

      It’s getting that way with keyless ignition…

  24. One of the main reasons I chose a 2012 Kia Sedona over a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan was that stupid fob the Dodge has.

    This high-tech junk has a very bad downside: it’s all going to go into Big Brother’s arsenal of tricks.

    I would imagine that when I’m ready to buy the next new family minivan, I won’t be able to avoid that stuff any more — which means it will be time to spend the $20k on a complete resto on one of my old AMC Ambassadors, and just drive them full-time.

    • “…it will be time to spend the $20k on a complete resto on one of my old AMC Ambassadors, and just drive them full-time.”

      An excellent plan! Except, I anticipate they’ll outlaw vehicles built before a certain date, that don’t have a computer, or GPS (or some such along those lines.). I just wrote about that the other day…

      • Speaking of the thugs with badges shutting down your car via remote whatever, I’m thinking a good old mechanical fuel pump, like almost every vehicle had till electronic fuel injection came along with a magneto instead of a distributor wouldn’t just leave them out of luck? I like mag’s anyway since my old Lincoln SA 200 would run for decades without doing anything to the mag. I never noticed, as some people say, that a magneto eats up spark plugs much faster than other types of ignition and even if that were so, extra plugs are cheap, especially if someone changes their old ones because they’re anal and not because the plugs are worn out. What have I failed to account for here? I intend to drive my ’93 Chev. one ton 6.5 L diesel with no computer till the wheel fall off. What can they stop on that? I wouldn’t think the lift pump would have a problem with EMP and the mechanical injection wouldn’t know it existed. Does that mess in the dash that controls the speedo and lights and what not mess with a mechanical diesel ? Seems like all it would do mess up the speedo and lights although I guess it could turn the switch off but I’m not too sure about that either since the gas trucks like that will still go when that thing is messing up, they just don’t shift right and the dash lights and gauges go kinda crazy. I have a manual tranny and an extra set of driving lights hooked to the battery with a simple on/off switch would keep me in lights. If they turn off all my signal and other lights, so much the better. In the old days I had switches on the running lights and the brake lights and one of the best ways to get rid of a cop is to go down a road with lots of turns with the running lights on and the brake lights off and go as hard into the turns as you can and if you get out of sight of them just turn off the running lights and it’s tough to see headlights from behind a vehicle, especially on a really bright moonlit night when you just don’t use the headlights. Chasing speeders or people you want to hassle is dangerous work and the faster you go the more dangerous it is as many a cop back 40 years ago found out when they lost control and hurt their car real bad along with fences, highway signs, etc.

        • eightsouthman wrote, “I intend to drive my ’93 Chev. one ton 6.5 L diesel with no computer till the wheel fall off.” etc…

          Love your attitude, man.

      • Eric,
        Is there a problem with your time stamp on replys?
        I commented to Marc and it says 3:10pm, it was about 9:00am on 4/10/12 when I posted here in sunny Southern Idaho

      • Growing up I was a car nut from the age I can first remember. Naturally I a Chevy, a 1500 Apache with custom cab, wrap around rear window and a 4 speed hydramatic transmission that didn’t hold up to farm work. About a day after the first 911 hit the news I wanted one. When I was 10 I devoured Sports Car Graphic, Hot Rod and something else I forget right now, maybe the precursor to what used to be AutoWeek that all of a sudden turned into Auto Bi-Week at which point I wrote them and said they had ripped me off since I hadn’t paid all that money for a bi-weekly mag. Of course I got the run around and they lost a customer even though they offered me all sorts of deals. I don’t go for changing horses in the middle of the river. What I’m getting at is there were all sorts of cars I liked, loved in fact but the AMC Ambassador slid under my radar. I remember the local Chevy dealer brought an AMC of some sort for the family to try and I did like the 4 speed tranny but it didn’t have the power the v-8 Chevy had and seems like it didn’t have a/c, a must in west Texas. It seemed smooth as best I remember but my mother didn’t go for manuals. I guess she got too good to drive one. Seems like my dad sorta liked it and the 4 on the tree was a real novelty to me, really intrigued me and I loved OD cars. The dealer next brought a perfect few months old Riviera, a ’63 that was stunning and had lots of room. It only had a few hundred miles on it and they wanted $400 more than a ’64 Bel Air with a 283 and a powerglide. That’s what we got and I was disgusted even though I wasn’t allowed to drive it. I had driven a couple of years and had just reached 14 so I could get my license but I had no say. I always wondered what people liked about AMC’s and I guess the Ambassador was the hot item. Someone tell me what made them so good. Seems like I remember them having a driveshaft that was in a tube and sorta bent around under it, much like the little Olds of 64 or ’65 that later became their speedster. I do remember no one having as good of glass in their cars as far as tinting and no distortion as GM did at the time and continued for many years.

        Can someone tell me the good points of the Ambassador? I do remember they were supposed to have a more sophisticated ride and better handling than most other cars but that isn’t necessarily accurate since it’s been nearly 50 years ago for me. Did they have the old square a/c compressor that didn’t work that well and didn’t last very long. I do remember nobody had as good an a/c as GM with their 4 and 6 cylinder long housings and smooth, long life.

        • eightsouthman asked, “Can someone tell me the good points of the Ambassador?”

          No, but I’m a bit envious you could get a drivers license at 14.

    • You probably won’t have long to wait! Seriously. Many new cars already have voice-command for many functions – everything from controlling the radio to making a phone call. I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

    • DAVE: Start the Engine, Hal

      HAL: I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave

      DAVE: Is there a problem?

      HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

      Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?

      HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

      Dave: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.

      HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me. And I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.

      Dave: Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?

      HAL: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.

      Dave: All right, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.

      HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.

      Dave: HAL, I won’t argue with you any more! Open the doors!

      HAL: [almost sadly] Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye.

  25. My wife has bad arthritis, and can’t turn the key in my Camry’s ignition. Her thumb isn’t strong enough, she says. But she has no trouble pushing the start button on her Prius. I looked into getting a spare fob for it, but the cheapest I could find (on eBay) was $150, so we are just real careful not to lose it, I have a sticker with her name and phone number stuck to it.

    When you walk up to the Prius with the fob in your pocket, the interior lights come on. You put your hand right next to the door handle, and the doors unlock. To lock it, you press a little rubber button on the door handle, after you get out.

    The car can tell if the fob is inside or outside of the car, the car won’t start if you are holding the fob at arm’s length out the window. Likewise, you can’t lock the door if the fob is inside the car.

    I have wondered what would happen if you started the car, then tossed the fob out the window while you were driving along, but I haven’t been curious enough to try it.

    • In such a situation, the fob/push button start is genuinely helpful – no doubt.

      On this: “I have wondered what would happen if you started the car, then tossed the fob out the window while you were driving along, but I haven’t been curious enough to try it.”

      I can tell you! Because I have done it – more or less – to see what would would happen. I start the car, then put the key on the workbench in my garage and drive off down the road. What happens? Some cars will beep unhappily. Others won’t. But they all keep running – probably will keep running, until you shut off the engine.

      • My Nissan will keep going just fine, but the red ‘key’ indicator flashes on the dashboard anytime the car cannot see the key.

  26. Yut-Yut…That 1968 VW Beetle looks better all the time.

    You also have to worry about the car battery going dead if you don’t use your car for an extended period since there is always a current draw. There have been many people complaining about dead batteries after a few weeks of non-use. A friend of mine wired in a toggle switch and momentary switch in an old Mopar…Seemed to work OK for just a couple of bucks and no key required.

    • I didn’t realize the system drew current even when the car is off – but I suppose it needs to in order to do what it does (unlock automatically, etc.)

      That’s a really good reason to avoid the system, too.

      • My wife has a new Toyota Venza keyless, all electronic. It seemed obvious to me that when (not if) the battery goes south one can’t open the door to pull the hood latch which is required to replace the battery. I’m certain the designers thought about this, but other than using a can opener (or chainsaw or axe)a dead shorted battery cell sounds like hell awaiting.

        Maybe I should just rebuild my old 95 F150 with crank up windows and a 5 speed, even with 220k miles on it.

        • In my nissan, there is a small conventional key inside the keyfob which lets you lock/unlock glovebox, as well as unlock door with dead battery.

          Of course most cars have a little plastic cover you pop-off on the console near the shifter to release the electronic shifter-lock for towing with dead battery.

        • The Venza has a key hidden in the fob. I use it daily because it is the only way to lock the door with the engine running (I live in Phoenix, its hot here). Dead battery, whip out the key.

      • I’ve picked up a lot of good reasons to avoid this system reading the article and the comments. It grabbed my attention because I’m still shopping for a mid-size sedan that gets decent mileage and won’t take 5 years to break even with $4.50/gallon gas prices. The owner of that ’99 Audi 1.8L turbo A4 I thought was in the bag two weeks ago backed out of the deal.

        Lately I’ve started looking at later model Volvo S60’s, the 2.5L turbo AWD versions (about twice the price of the ’99 A4, but 300 hp!) Heavy buggers though. And they *all* come with keyless entry stock. So depressing…

        • Hey Scott,

          Are you only interested in a luxury-sport car? If not, there are some very good alternatives – well under $20k. Example, the Mazda3 SkyActiv. About 40 on the highway and a fun car to drive. Interior room up front is comparable to what you’d get in the compact A4 – and the back seats are usable. With the hatchback layout, you also get a decent amount of cargo capacity as well.

          Just a suggestion…

            • The 3 is a very nice car – fun to drive; pretty good on gas – stylish. I’m a big fan of Mazda’s. Let me know what you think after you’ve had a chance to check ’em out.

          • I should mention that what *I* really want is a Datsun 510, but the car is for my wife. I started looking at Volvo’s recently because my Mom also wants to retire her ’75 Buick Electra (which just happens to be in Concourse condition) and replace it with something that gets better millage, but she’s fixated on safety since the Buick is a tank. Naturally I thought of Volvo and was really surprised when I found the S60. Kind of a hot car! Who’d have thought? Now I’m thinking about getting one for my wife too (saves on the cost of service manuals).

            It’s all good. Am I committed to luxury sports cars? Well, I can’t say luxury has always been a factor but I do own two Porsche 928’s. I’ve also owned a 914 and a 931 (924 turbo). I’ve been thinking about an ’89 BMW 635 csi. My wife and mother like luxury cars, I like sports cars. Since I end up working on them they let me pick, but they still have to approve the choice. It’s complicated 🙂

            • I’d cling to that ’75 Electra until my fingernails broke! What a great car. Moe roomy than a new S-Class Benz; simple, torquey V-8. Easy to maintain. No electronic crap. No big brother. It’s also probably safer than the Volvo. Keep it!

              If she has to get a modern replacement, how about a recent-vintage Mercury Marquis or Crown Vic? Similar concept – but updated.

              An A6 wagon is another car along these general lines that I like a lot myself…. with a touch more sportiness/handling elan.

  27. In a hypothetical situation in which I could afford a new car, I couldn’t get any nissan or sedan with a V6.
    Most of the midsize cars force push button ignition on the car if you want 6 cylinders.
    Wouldn’t get any nissan because of this and the CVT… Sad really. They’re putting all thier eggs in one basket.

    • Yeah, I’m of the same mind. I don’t like pushbutton ignition because I don’t like needless, complex technology to do a simple thing – like insert and turn a key. I didn’t mention this in the article, but several of the new cars I’ve driven recently that have this equipment have a delay – not long – but there’s a noticeable lag between the pushing of the button and the starter engaging. I hate that. Sometimes, these systems are combined with drive-by-wire electronic gear selectors – and they sometimes take a second or so to rise up from the console (as in new Jaguars) and you sometimes have to wait a moment before they let you move from one range to the next. And I really hate that!

      • the best answer is duplication — yes keyless entry/start with obvious audio status confirmation — locked unlocked….

        and a key for when the battery on the remote craps out or there is some kind of electronics failure…

      • A solution in search of a problem. Nifty cool stuff you don’t need but haven’t seen before. Some sales guy explains why you should want it, why in fact you really *need* it.

        And you go home wondering why the heck you paid for it.

        • Reminds me of when we bought our 2003 Grand Caravan. The one on the lot they wanted to sell us had a 6-disc CD changer. At the time we didn’t even own 6 CDs. But the salesman said ” even if you don’t use it, it will increase the resale value.” I was almost home when it hit me – I don’t sell cars, I drive them to death. CD changer and any other options are meaningless on a junker.

      • There is a safety issue as well. Toyota had some recent issues with unintended acceleration, and the keyless start was cited as a contributing factor for the family who died in a tragic accident in 2009 when their Lexus rental car electronic throttle got stuck.

        It’s fairly intuitive to shut off the engine by turning the key, but for most pushbutton ignition systems you have to hold the start button for several seconds to stop it (Microsoft Engineers???).

        So if the computer in your Lexus goes all ‘Hal’ on you and locks on full throttle, how many drivers would take one hand off the wheel and hold the ‘Start’ button for three seconds?

        Add to that, if it’s a rental car, half of the people in rental cars cannot figure out how to work the headlights, vs. shutting off the engine in a panic situation.

      • That delay is a safety issue too. If you’re about to be robbed and you run to your car to get away, that delay could mean the difference…

        • If you’re about to be robbed and you’re running for your car, wouldn’t you just rather pull that little .45 twice barrel or that tiny little Police Chief Special out of your pocket and stop the entire situation? One nice thing about being where people are packing heat, the bad guys can’t guess just by looking. Very seldom does it come to the point of having to use it. If you have to use it, just leave and the perp will call for help on their own. If they threaten you after being shot, just back over them before going forward.

          • It is always good policy to have your little friend (or your big friend) with you for just in case!

            You’re absolutely right about the deterrent value of CC. Even better than open carry, in my opinion. Because the would-be scumbag never really knows what he’s up against. And that’s a sobering thought.

            Out here in The Boonies most homes are arsenals. Most people pack, too. And, surprise – not much in the way of violent crime.

            You’d have to be either really dumb – or suicidal – to break into some ol’ boy’s place in the middle of the night….

          • I kind of agree with Brandon about the running tactic. I spent a very long time (or as Harry Ford said in “6 days, 7 nights”, “a long, long, long, long, long time”)studying ways to kill people very quickly with my hands. The first rule of mortal combat should always be to avoid it if possible. You live a lot longer that way.

            This seems to be a baked in problem with guns; you go down to the store, you plunk down some cash and whammo! you’ve suddenly got the ability to kill people. Killing people is serious stuff. Not to be taken lightly. A person who has the discipline to spend 10 years learning how to do it with a well placed finger finds that by the time they can, they no longer want to.

            I’ve always considered that important.

            • Very good advice.

              I’ve found that most CC people (people I know) take the whole thing very seriously – and the very last thing they want is to harm someone. However, they’re determined to not be a victim – and are prepared to do what’s necessary to avoid that.

              The best rtip I’ve ever heard about this subject is simply – be aware. Notice who’s around you. Especially anyone within 10 yards of you. Your “radar” should be active at all times – even in places you’d normally consider safe. If you can sniff danger, you can usually avoid it. Just like rising water or a fire.

          • Scott sez, “A person who has the discipline to spend 10 years learning how to do it with a well placed finger finds that by the time they can, they no longer want to.”

            This may explain why combat veterans are less enamored of war than many civilians.

            And to yours and Eric’s comments: It’s like the guy said, “An armed society is a polite society.”

          • You know already Gail that Hollywood sells wars to young men who are gullible and sure of their own immortality. A person who has any experience at all with war or even serious physical confrontation that could lead to death seeks to avoid it at all costs save his or her own life. There’s nothing glamorous, fun or enlightening in the pursuit. Unfortunately, those few occasions when it becomes necessary make for colorful and fascinating tales to be told by old men in front of comfortable fireplaces on winter nights and so the tradition is continued.

        • BTW, there’s a corollary to the flight alternative in a conflict. It’s important to remember, when running from a Grizzly bear, that you don’t have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun the guy you’re hiking with.

          On a similar note, somebody once asked me if I carried a dive knife to protect myself from sharks (I used to dive the Carmel Canyon near Monterey CA, which is infested with Great White sharks). I said yes and he laughed at me. “What do you think that pigsticker is going to do against a 20 foot shark?” he said.

          I told him the knife wasn’t *for* the shark. I carried the knife so that when a shark showed up I could stab my dive buddy with it and swim like hell.

  28. As a car nut with a backround in electronics, I’m here to tell you that, “passive” is almost preferable to “active,” both in theory and in practice. Keyless ignition is en vogue because it weighs and costs less, to be sure, but the gimmick aspect of it comes into play as well — after all, the passenger automobile is a mature technological platform that requires a certain level of supercilious gadgetry to spur sales. In recent years, keyless systems often appear in tandem with a push-button start function, the latter purloined from racing cars. I have witnessed, and on more than one occasion, nominally mature adults swooning in the manner of infants transfixed by blown bubbles (or Christian footwashers pondering The Rapture) when describing their new car’s beeeg round button. When I mention that turnkey actuation is to be preferred, if only because a switch as durable as the old-school mechanical cylinder would be more expensive (beefier gold-plated contacts, hermetically sealed construction etc.), and that racing teams can afford weekly replacements for their beeeg round buttons, they stare at me as though I’d just broken wind at high tea.

    We live in an Age of Junk, an epoch wherein that which isn’t gilded (our new cars) is gelded (our old politicians).

    I strongly prefer the high-end Eurocars of the 1980s to anything being offered presently, and I’ll stick with my 1980 Astral Silver Mercedes 300SD — a ride that turns heads like no current
    Eurosedan — for so long as I am able twist its ignition key!

    And on a more ominous note, we can be certain that keyless ignitions can be hacked by the bad guys and, even worse, stopped dead in their tracks by Big Brother, although he latter scheme is more easily accomplished via GPS interdiction.

    Cheers, JQP

    • I am also an electronics tinkerer and a car nut. I admit I really like the Nissan smartkey in my Maxima.

      Call me lazy but, with the gizmo in your pocket, you unlock the doors or trunklid via a little rubber button on the outside of the vehicle, and there’s a knob in place of the key that you turn to start the engine (2007 model did not have a button).

      It has some handy features, like if you lock the keyfob in the trunk, the alarm beeps and it opens the trunk. Similarly, if you leave the car running and walk away, the car beeps at you three times. The only quirk, per-se, is that you cannot keep a spare keyfob in the car, unless you remove the batteries from it, or wrap it in shielding of some sort.

      The Nissan system is both active and passive; it uses a passive RFID system for the ignition, and an active system for the locks. This is necessary or a dead keyfob battery would prevent your car from starting. The dash lock indicator flashes to tell you if the keyfob batteries are running low.

      Perhaps to reassure those who are worried about ‘big brother’…most systems of this type have a very limited range since it’s passive RFID to start the engine, with a range of maybe three feet. Therefore unless ‘big brother’ is in the car with you, nothing short of a nearby nuclear blast is going to shut off the ignition in the vehicle.

      The ‘active’ side of the system is for the door locks and trunk, and really I will not lose any sleep if ‘big brother’ decides to fiddle with my electric door locks on my car.

      There is a lot of confusion because some vehicles (GM OnStar) have cellular connectivity to do remote unlock, stolen vehicle tracking, etc. But rest assured, this has NOTHING to do with smartkey technology.

      Gotta love those old Mercedes…built like a tank, but wowza are the parts expensive.

  29. If you walk near your car and it unlocks, will it relock if you turn around without ever entering the car? One more thing to worry about.

    • Good question. If car manufacturers are as careless in identifying requirements for their software-driven components as what I’ve encountered working in the IT industry, then there’s an excellent chance that this is something that no one has even thought about, let alone incorporated into the keyless functionality.

    • Vincent Mohan – I don’t know about the keyless entry doodads, but on my 09 VW, if you unlock the doors by remote, then do not open 1 of them within a certain time (30 sec.?) it relocks.

  30. These keyless entry systems are another example of the null zone man’s technology currently occupies.

    It’s complicated enough to be impossible to repair and exhibit a maddening literalness, even counterintuitiveness, of operation, but not sophisticated enough to repair itself and mimic the anticipatory actions and “intelligence” of a biological organism.

    The worst of both worlds.

    Personally, I wish we’d either use simple mechanical technology or come up with machines that can imitate the behavior of a dog or cat – it knows you and your habits and ignores other people’s commands.

    I’ll keep my metal keys, thanks.

  31. Will these fobs survive a trip through the washing machine and even the dryer? I am famous for NOT checking the pockets of my jeans before I toss them in the machine – I often find coins that have gone through the whole cycle!

    • If they’re anything like the USB memory sticks I’ve had for the last several years, they’ll survive the washer.

      On the other hand, they’re big and bulky by comparison to a key. The fobs are too much pocket bulk.

    • Noooo. A co-worker washed her Nissan smart key (just like the one in the article photo). The water/soap shorted out the switches in the unit, and it was setting her car alarm off all night (there is a panic button on the remote). She put the unit inside her refrigerator to block the signal overnight. I dissassembled and cleaned out the moisture. The electronics are encased in plastic to be waterproof but the little surface-mount micro switches looked to be standard (non waterproof) switches. It seemed to work onece dried out, but I would not bet on it.

    • Score another one for Nissan. I accidentally washed one of their keyless fobs, and after letting it dry for a few days, there were no apparent ill effects.

      • The thing I’d worry about most is having to pay $$$ for a replacement (I tend to lose things like keys) and also the down-the-road repair/replacement costs (I keep my vehicles a long time – 15 years or more).

        So, I’d rather have a simple, cheap, easy to replace old-style key.

        Does the job just as well – arguably, better – and with fewer headaches.

        • I agree. As far as the “theft risk factor” goes, I have to believe that if you drive something like, say, a Hyundai Excel, an inexpensive model that isn’t known to be a popular target for thieves, having an expensive keyless system as a “security” precaution just doesn’t make sense economically. The costs of replacement, especially as the car ages, wouldn’t be worth the investment. Five-dollar metal key versus one hundred-dollar fob = no brainer.

  32. Meh.

    I already have issues with forced helplessness — being thought of as too hapless to run my own life. Not to mention a visceral hatred of Onstar-type stuff, anyway. I think I don’t want some inanimate object to appropriate my car-entering, engine-igniting decision making.

    I think I will take a moment from now on to appreciate the feel of the Queen’s door handle in my hand, and the good feeling of turning my own key when I decide I want the car to go.

    I ain’t no Pakled!

    • “I already have issues with forced helplessness”

      Helplessness isn’t forced, it’s encouraged.

      I don’t say “You WILL take these food stamps or I WILL SHOOT YOU!”

      Instead I say things like, “well, if you can prove you don’t have a job and you have no source of income I guess I can give you these food stamps but I can only give you a few and you’ll need to bring me the following documents…”

      Yep. Force. Uh Huh. First I tell you how bad you’ve been, then I tell you how I can help you, then I tell you how you’re going to help me. Then we all eat and no one actually has to do anything that might benefit society. It’s a wonderful, wonderful world!

      Forced helplessness? That’s truly rich.

    • I’m sorry Gail. I went overboard with that last one. I just finished reading an article by Gary North about not feeding the dolphins. It made me crazy. Please accept my apologies.

      • Gladly.

        And I’ll tell you, I wasn’t happy with that ‘forced helplessnes’ phrasing, anyway. I was too lazy to go back. I meant to convey something like, being forced to accept, buy, endure one or more forms of ‘help’ from an authority other than myself; to have assistances and supports forced on me that I didn’t ask for and don’t want.

        So your point was well taken, Scott.

        And I felt somewhat militant when I read North’s dolphin essay, too.

  33. I’m driving a loaner Audi A5 with one of these. Overall, kind of a mixed bag. It’s kinda cool to be able to just walk up and open the door, get in and push to start. But it’s not like getting a key out of my pocket was such an inconvenience before. I guess if you’re less organized or unable to grasp the concept of keeping a hand available for car keys it might be a good thing. I would think replacing a simple button would be much cheaper than replacing a starter tumbler lock assembly, but then again this is the automobile industry, so I’m sure it’s attached to a bunch of expensive, propitiatory stuff and can only be ordered as a complete assembly.

    I’m sure the dealer would have mentioned it if I actually owned the car, but I think it automatically locks when you get a certain distance away. Anyone know for sure?

    And then there’s the Top Gear episode when they moved Hammond’s car out into the middle of an intersection because he was sitting close enough to it when in a cafe’.

    One thing, the Audi key comes with a pop-out backup key, and there’s a slot in the dash you can use instead of the starter button, so if the battery dies (on either the car or the fob) at least you won’t be stuck somewhere.

    • I think it’s cool I drive a mazda cx9 suv. Mazda does it differently, they dont have push start but a plastic thingy that you turn like the key, but you still keep the fob in your pocket or purse.If the key fob battery dies you pull off the plastic thingy and use an aux key located in the fob.I like the convenience of the key fob. Remember those old movies of a woman being chased late at night in a deserted underground parking lot fumbling for her keys in her purse all the while the attacker getting closer.Now she has more of a chance to get away, yes it’s more expensive but I think there is a trade off.

    • Same here – but thanks to to the inexorable standardization of this stuff, we end up stuck with it, too. Of the last 50 new cars I’ve test-driven, maybe 10 percent had a physical key.

    • I prefer a physical key.

      Many of the newer keys have a chip (anti-theft) built in that is needed to start the car. It will cost a minimal of $60-80 USD to make extra copies.

      VW charged about $180 for valet key and $300 for regular fob.

      The fob is nice when it works, but otherwise it is expensive.

      I guess it is a trade off of Security vs. Convenience.

      I liked my 91′ Camary. It had regular keys, but there was a chip that had to be inserted. If the chip was not inserted then the car would not start. I think it completed a circuit.
      The chip was not easy to see, especially if you were not looking for it.

      Again it wont stop the pros, but it probably would be good enough against the amateurs.

    • you certainly got that right. I lost the fob for my ford flex i asked ford if there was anything i could do to get myself going their answer was duhhhhh, no . they were going to tow my car to a ford dealer who a s my luck was having it. luckily the store manager found my fob . so it looks like technology really stinks and they don’t have a fix

    • I have a 2013 mercedes and can walk away from my car w/ my fob and car will run all day if I don’t hit the button just right. Also, can’t lock the door w/ car running .I live in the south where it’s very hot so can’t stop by the grocery if my dog in the car. For that kind of money those fobs should be programable to the car and what the owner wants to do.I asked the dealership about it and they looked at me like I was crazy!

  34. Eric,
    I’d like to learn more about this:
    Are the broadcasts encrypted?
    Can the signal be intercepted and “stolen” so that someone could take your car by duplicating your fob?
    Can the “gov’t” can use this technology to open up the car or turn off or on the engine, say if the car was abandoned by the side of the road?

    • From what I’ve been told by the car company PR people, they operate on the same basic principle as your garage door opener. So probably, they can be hacked. And yes – for sure – your vehicle can be unlocked remotely (OnStar touts this feature) and (again, OnStar) the engine can be also be shut down remotely.

      • “the engine can also be shut down remotely”

        That is the one that really bothers me. Imagine Officer Friendly deciding you’re not pulling over fast enough, points his directional finder at your car and pushes his “engine shut-off” button.

    • I don’t much like the whole idea. I can see theives duplicating the card in your pocket or having the card erased somhow. The problem is that it is no more reliable than a key and terribly complex. Computers haven’t replaced tangeable paper and never will. Keys are so much simpler and practical.

    • All of these keyless systems are based upon the same principle – they have been for years. The fob and the electronics in the car share an encryption/decryption “key” imbedded in the firmware. The broadcasts from the fob can not be intercepted and reused by a thief. They only work once. It is the equivalent of changing the key and lockset on your car everytime you open it.
      As far as reliability goes, keyless systems are a vast improvement. Physical keys wear down and locks get sticky and require occasional graphite lubrication. Keyless systems have no moving parts to wear out.
      Technology – in honest hands – is fantastic. The purpose of technology is to make our lives easier. Let us not forget that…
      OTOH – technology can be misused or stolen by smart or powerful criminals (including the government).

      The ideal solution to this problem would be for manufacturers to provide vehicle purchasers a way to change the encryption/decryption keys of their system. This would give the owner exclusive control. Certainly not everyone would want to do this. Taking control of the decryption key means you take ultimate responsibility for keeping track of it. The car manufacturer will not be able to help you recover it, but nobody else will be able to get access to them either.
      Unless – of course, the manufacturer decided to put in a “backdoor”, then you’d have gained nothing. Your perception of total control would simply be an illusion.

      • There are moving parts in a keyless system. All the moving parts of keyed system with power locks are still present except the lock cylinder. That’s the only part that is eliminated for the most part. Usually one lock cylinder is left just in case the battery dies or there is some other problem.

      • There is no such thing as a non-moving part, only parts that are supposed to move and parts that aren’t supposed to move. Electronics aren’t supposed to move, but the realer the world you live in, the more they do move.

        In fact, that’s what electronics are for. They allow a manufacturer to achieve reliability without durability.

          • No. I rely on many things that are not durable. Many reliable things are, in fact, disposable and/or intended for single-use applications such as a q-tip. Some cotton swabs are more durable than others but that is of no consequence when I get out of the shower and I only have one option in front of me.. JS.

      • Just wanted to comment on one thing here. The auto companies can not “backdoor” them or remotely enable/disable them unless there is a more indepth system like onstar installed. I work for Chrysler and the system works by marrying the fobs to an RF Hub. The marrying occurs when the electrical test is run on the vehicle during manufacturing. Once the fobs are married they cannot be unmarried or altered. If a fob is lost during manufacture then the fobs and the RF Hub need to be replaced. The same holds true for so called metal keys, which aren’t even really the keys nowadays. The metal key portion is only used to unlock the doors, while the electronics in the key communicates with the RF hub to allow the vehicle to start.


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