My car remote won't work

Updated April 17, 2017

Almost everyone has come to depend on keyless entry car remotes. Gone is the struggle of trying to insert a key into an obscured lock while laden with packages or a baby. Gone is the ring of key scratches encircling the lock on the car door. Still, no thought is given to the lowly remote. That is, until the day it stops working. The car dealer will replace or repair your remote for no cost if your car is still under warranty. Often though, replacing the battery and a little reprogramming will revive your "plip key."

Get in the driver's seat. Start the car, and go for a drive. There is no absolute time required, but 15 to 20 minutes should suffice.

Stop the car, get out, and attempt to lock and unlock the car with the remote. If it works, you have successfully reset the remote timer, and do not need to continue.

Press both the "open" and the "lock" button on the remote, at the same time, if the previous step failed. Keep the buttons held down for about one minute. If the car lights go on and off, you successfully reset the remote.

Change the remote battery. Slide a screwdriver blade into the groove between the two case halves, if present, and twist. Some remotes have a small screw, or sliding cover on the back, for easy battery access.

Insert the new battery while seated in the car, as the next step should be done soon after the new battery is in place. Turn the car on and off, eight times, in under 10 seconds. Leave the car running. Press any button on the remote, for a second, to synchronise the remote.

Turn off the car, and get out. Attempt to lock and unlock the car. If unsuccessful still, you will need to seek assistance from the dealer, as a new remote may be in order.


Before removing the old battery, note how it is in place, so the new battery can be placed in the proper position. Use the camera on your phone to capture and save the size, type and placement, for easy recall.

In order to conserve its battery, the remote's timer turns itself off if not used in eight days. The programming is generally saved, and is restored with a short drive.

If you have more than one remote, change the batteries in all of them at the same time. Have all remotes, and fresh batteries with you, in the car. If not, then only the one just reprogrammed will work.

Sometimes the rubber conductive pads inside the remote wear thin. Some car parts stores carry a remote repair kit containing replacement pads for a DIY repair. Verify that homemade repairs will not void your warranty before attempting this repair.

Some make-specific directions can be found online or in the vehicle owner's manual.


If you feel uncomfortable trying to reprogram your remote, visit your dealer. The dealer will reprogram, repair or replace the remote.

Things You'll Need

  • Car remote battery
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About the Author

Barbara Cannon began writing professionally in 2001, covering medicine and health. She also writes about topics in travel, culture and computers. Cannon holds an Associate of Applied Science in medical technology from Northern Virginia Community College and has completed the Microsoft-certified system engineer program at Glendale Community College.