How to Reset Your Remote Car Starter

Nothing's more frustrating than a dead remote. Here are some tips.

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So you want to reset your car’s remote-start fob? If your car is five years old or newer, you're likely in for a trip to the dealership; many new transponder keys can only be reset by the service department. But for older cars, The Drive’s crack How-To department is here to help and get that remote working once again. 

Since automakers haven't standardized their remote key fob programming procedures, check your owner's manual for instructions or consult ProgramYourRemote.com to see if your car's procedure is listed. Entering a car's programming mode requires a sort of rub-your-tummy-pat-your-head sequence that usually involves turning the key one click to enter Accessory mode (the one lets you listen to the radio when the engine's off) a few times, plus other machinations.

Assuming you've checked the instructions for your car or aftermarket remote-start system and come up empty or confused, we've compiled some general remote-reprogramming tips you can use.

Basics

Estimated Time Needed: Less than a half-hour.

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Ignition

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Safety

Working on your car can be messy and dangerous. Always take necessary safety precautions.

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Everything You’ll Need

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done. 

Tool List

Parts List 

  • A new battery, if needed.

You’ll also want a flat surface, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we ain’t getting your car out of the impound yard.

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Arranging Your Workspace

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

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Here’s How To Reset Your Remote Car Starter

Let’s do this! 

Turning It Off and On Again

  1. Pop the cover off your remote and pull the battery.
  2. Wait 15 seconds. 
  3. Put the battery back in. Replace the cover.
  4. See if that worked.
  5. If it did, great. 
  6. If it didn’t, let’s try a few other things. 

Check the Battery

  1. If you have a second remote that works, pull it out.
  2. Swap batteries with the first remote.
  3. It worked? 
  4. Great, all you need is a new battery. 
  5. It didn’t? Let’s try something else.

Resetting Your Remote Starter

  1. Consult your owner's manual or ProgramYourRemote.com to find your car's remote programming procedure. Replace the steps below with the specific procedure for your car make and model.
  2. Grab all of your car’s remote-start fobs.
  3. While in the driver’s seat, close the driver’s side door.
  4. Insert your ignition key and turn it to Accessory (or press the start button once without pushing the brake pedal).
  5. Press the Lock button on your remote car starter. 
  6. Within five seconds of turning it on, turn your key back to the "off" position (or press the start button again). 
  7. Repeat the on-off cycle three more times—you’ll do four in total. 
  8. On cycle number four, you’ll hear a noise (a "ding" or a "ping" or a "buzz") when you select the Accessory position. You are now in programming mode.
  9. Press and hold the Lock button on the remote(s). 
  10. Within ten seconds, turn the car off.
  11. Step out of the car, shut the door, and test the remote.
  12. If it does, great!
  13. If it doesn’t, it’s time to call the dealership.

You’re done, congrats!

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Tips From a Pro

Over the years, The Drive’s editors have done it all and seen it all, buying, selling, and reviewing just about every car on the planet. We’ve also had our issues with remote starters, including one time where a Tesla Model S decided it didn’t detect its remote atop a mountain at midnight and Tesla’s over-the-air network couldn’t connect—fun. So here are our top tips on what to do when you have to reset your remote car starter. 

  • The biggest one is to check the battery. Newer remote starters rarely need resetting, but they run through juice like Minute Maid in the Mojave. The easiest and simplest way of checking is to swap a good remote’s battery for the other. Or just buying a new battery online because they’re hella cheap.

Life Hacks

Since you may not have access to the right tools, or have a friend you can bum a wrench off of, we also compiled a list of our best hacks to make your life easier and drain your pocket less.

  • Put your car remote under your chin for increased range—you act as an antenna.