Take Care with Keyless Ignitions
Today’s systems are convenient—but they come with some precautions. Here’s what you should know before starting your car.
For many drivers today, starting their car is simply a matter of pushing a button. Keyless ignition is currently offered on more than 160 vehicle models.
Advantages of a keyless ignition system
In a keyless system, drivers carry a transmitter fob instead of a key. A customized chip in the fob “talks” to sensors in the car and allows the driver to start the engine with the push of a button.
The benefits of these systems are appealing. The car senses the presence of the fob—even when it’s in a purse, pocket or briefcase—so there’s no need to fumble for it as might be the case with a key. Drivers with arthritis find it easier to push a button than turn a key. And thieves have a much harder time trying to steal a car without an ignition lock to pick.
Safety issues with keyless ignitions
As convenient as they are, keyless ignitions aren’t without drawbacks:
- A technical glitch may result in the car not recognizing the presence of the key fob. In this case, the car won’t start or the engine could lose power.
- Drivers might shut off the car but forget to put it in Park, which could allow the vehicle to roll away.
- A driver may park the car in an attached garage but neglect to turn off the engine. This dangerous situation has led to accidental deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Playing it safe
As keyless ignition technology evolves and becomes more widespread, new practices are helping to make the systems safer:
- Manufacturers have started adding warning sounds and lights to alert the driver if the car hasn’t been powered off or the vehicle is not in Park.
- Newer systems take less time to power down the car in an emergency. Drivers often have to depress the button for three seconds to turn off the engine—but in a panic, they may press the button for only a second. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is promoting standardized operating procedures to enhance safety, such as enabling a driver to kill the engine in as little as a half-second while in any gear.
- Carmakers are educating drivers on new habits to make part of their driving routine—for example, putting the car in Park and pushing the button to power-down the car before exiting the vehicle.