• Hidden Features Your Car’s Key Fob Might Have That You Don’t Know About

Key fobs are more than just for locking and unlocking doors, folks

They’re small, light, and completely inconspicuous. And yet, key fobs have become critically important devices among car owners, in part because of the multitude of functions they now serve. Gone are the days when key fobs could only start a car remotely or lock and unlock doors. That doesn’t happen anymore. These days, key fobs have a multitude of built-in features, some of which owners may not even be aware of. Simply knowing these features opens up a world of convenience that car owners didn’t know existed. The important thing is to know what these hidden features are, how to access them, and how to use them in a way that doesn’t become a source of frustration to car owners. Check out a few examples of some nifty key fob features that you may not be aware of. Just make sure that when you do take the time to practice these features, you’re doing so from the safe confines of your homes. Granted, not all key fobs have these features, but if yours has them and you don’t know about it, now’s as good a time as any to find out.

Open All Windows With Your Car’s Key Fob

It’s a hot day and you know that the moment you get into your car, you’re going to feel like you’re inside an oven. It’s a common occurrence, especially during the summer, but you can mitigate that by rolling down all the windows and opening the sunroof at the same time with the press of a single button. Sure, you can go to your car and do all that by yourself, but you don’t have to if you have a key fob that can do the job for you. This is one of the more common hidden functions of many of today’s key fobs. Part of it is because most automakers don’t bother to mention it and part of it is because very few of us take the time to find out.

Rolling down your car’s windows can be accomplished by pressing the “unlock” button on the key fob once, and then pressing it again within 10 seconds and holding it down until all the windows are opened.

The whole process probably takes around 15 to 20 seconds to carry out, but it is a far more convenient option than, say, going out and doing the deed yourself.

That takes more time and effort, and by the time you’re done doing it, you probably already built up some sweat in your face. Check to see if your key fob has this function. It’s pretty useful if you know how to use it.

Remote Start With Your Car’s Key Fob

Most key fobs actually have the remote start engine start button.

You know it’s there if you see a button with a circular arrow going clockwise. It’s not labeled in the key fob itself, but that’s the remote engine start button. For those who already know about this button, it works by first pressing the lock button, followed by pressing the remote engine start button. Simple enough, right? Other key fobs have a similar button in place but they come with a different sequence to start the engine remotely. Ford’s key fobs, for example, have the same circular arrow logo with “2x” — other fobs are labeled “X2,” which means the same — positioned inside the circle. This tells you that you need to press the button twice for the car’s engine to start remotely. This button is often seen in a lot of key fobs so it’s not particularly considered a hidden feature. That said, there are automakers — BMW mostly — with new key fobs that do not carry the button. Now, just because there’s no circular arrow button to press, that doesn’t mean these key fobs don’t carry these features. In the case of new BMWs, starting the engine remotely can be accomplished by pressing the “lock” button on the key fob in rapid succession. If your key fob has the circular arrow button, you don’t need to get adventurous by trying out this sequence to see if the engine engages after pressing the lock button three times within one second. But if it doesn’t, it does not hurt to give it a shot and see if it somehow accomplishes the task.

Fold Your Car’s Mirrors With the Key Fob

There are some cars, mine included, that come with side mirrors that automatically fold as soon as you lock the doors after getting out of the car.

But some cars don’t have this feature or at least use them as optional features that barely get any attention.

Well, if you didn’t know about it, now’s the time to check out if it works in your ride, especially if you own a new Chevrolet model or a new GMC pickup. The key fobs of these models can fold the side mirrors automatically. All you need to do is hold the “lock” button on the key fob for a full second and watch as the side mirrors fold by themselves. Granted, this feature isn’t as useful as automatically opening all windows and the sunroof to release the built-up heat from inside the car, but anybody who has ever had their side mirrors side-swiped while their cars are parked on the street will tell you that this particular feature is far more useful than most people think it is. It’s especially important for SUVs or pickups with larger-than-usual side mirrors. You don’t want to be that car owner who notices a busted side mirror because you didn’t know that you can fold them automatically using your key fob. Trust me, I’ve been in that position. It’s not a good feeling picking up that side mirror and wondering what the heck happened to it.

Car Summoning and Parking With the Key Fob

This particular feature is unique to Tesla owners, specifically those who drive a Model S or a Model X.

Now, in its infinite wisdom, Tesla decided to make a fashion statement out of its key fob by designing it like the silhouette of a car and not bothering to place any labels on the functions that come with the key fob. Vanity has its price, so they say. It’s a pity, too, because the Tesla key fob is arguably one of the most functional key fobs that’s out in the market today. In addition to locking and unlocking the doors of, say, the Model S, the key fob can also open the funk, charge port, and rear hatch. One other feature it has is the Summon function, which, as the name implies, moves the car in and out of tight parking spaces while you’re standing outside it.

For the record, this function needs to be activated first using the vehicle’s center screen. You only need to do it once so it shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Once the feature is activated, all you need to do is press the button in the center of the fob — think of it as the roof of the car — until you see the hazards light flash. Once that happens, you press the front “hood” of the car if you want your car to move forward and then press it again to make it stop. The same process applies if you want the car to go backward. Press to move, then press again to stop. It’s a useful tool, though it’d be smart on your part to practice how it works before using it near other people’s cars. Press the wrong button and you might end up hitting another car.

You Might Have a Secret Key Hidden Inside Your Key Fob

Hidden Features Your Car's Key Fob Might Have That You Don't Know About
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There are different forms of key fobs in the industry these days. There are ones like Tesla that look like toy cars. There are generic ones that are pretty straight-forward in most people’s eyes.

Then there are ones that have a mechanical key hidden inside the key fob.

For car owners with this type of key fob, it’s a useful tool having a backup key in certain situations, especially when you need to unlock the driver’s side front door in the event the key fob malfunctions or the batteries of the key fob go completely dry. Having that hidden key can be a time-saver; all you need to do is know where it’s located and then take them out when needed.

Most key fobs with hidden physical keys typically store them inside the fob. This can be accessed by a pushing a button on the key fob and then pulling the key out. In some cases, the key automatically comes out. In other cases, you’re going to have to pull it out. Once you’ve taken out the key, the next step is to look for the key slot on the door handle of your car. Again, some key slots are easy to find, but in other instances, you’re going to have to look behind the door handle to find the slot or remove a plastic cap next to the door handle to reveal the key slot. So, if your key fob runs out of battery or malfunctions completely, this mechanical backup key could spell the difference between being able to drive away without a problem and getting stuck somewhere without any access to your car.

Final Thoughts

Hidden Features Your Car's Key Fob Might Have That You Don't Know About
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I don’t want to overstate the importance of these hidden key fob features, but it is essential to know that they exist on some level. Now, not all these features are available to all key fobs so you can at least try out which ones are available to yours. It’s important to know, too, that once you do know your key fobs hidden features, you should be even more careful on how you use the fobs in the future. You don’t want to be that guy that accidentally opens all the windows and sunroof of your car while it’s raining outside. You also don’t want to be the guy who accidentally turns on your car’s engine while it’s inside a garage. The accumulated carbon monoxide alone isn’t good for you or anyone else inside your house. Understand what your key fob is capable of. That should be your biggest takeaway here. After all, when you buy a car, the key fob is part of that purchase. Know what it can and can’t do so you can maximize the money you spent buying the car.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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