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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Auto keyless remote fob - fail and repair

I suppose everyone knows this but I didn't.  And google supplied the answer quickly.  But maybe somebody doesn't know and this post will amuse and help them.   First the funny story of life happens, then my notes on the fix...

We had a record cold day in the midatlantic and my beater car, a 1997 Honda Accord SE was last in the driveway.   The drivers side lock was frozen from the cold.   De-icer and WD40 got the key in, but it wouldn't turn.   Forcing would just have broken the key.  The beauty part is my other cars were blocked in the driveway by this one.

So I used the drivers side door.  The door unlocks and opens but the theft protection beep beep beep goes off. The only two ways to silence it are to open the door with the drivers key, or use the keyless remote entry fob.    I no longer have the fob.   After several painful minutes honking and waking up my neighbors at the crack of dawn it stops.   However I can't start the car, it is in lockout mode.   A couple more cycles of honking, and trying and I realize I'm screwed.  The car is not going anywhere.  A simple frozen drivers lock failure takes down the whole car.    Eventually I have to use the transmission emergency unlock keyhole in the console to put the car in neutral, and push it out of the way so I can drive another car to work.     A few days later it warms up and the lock works fine again.

Why didn't I have the fob?  The plastic hole to put it on a key chain had worn out
and broken.  I had rebuilt it with JB weld and it lasted another year, but broke again.  When
I stopped driving the car on a daily basis, I was tired of having the big ol thing in my pocket anyway so I stuffed it in a drawer and haven't been able to find it since.   Using just the key was fine.

But how to prevent this from happening again?   Replace the keyless entry fob and program it.   It is so easy grandma could do it.   The reason every engineer should drive old Hondas is that used and aftermarket parts are available everywhere for dirt cheap.

Searching ebay there are several options to buy a used remote.  Prices vary, I chose a cosmetically worn one from a highly rated business seller that was only one state away.   It came in a few days.  The batteries are expensive and I didn't want to buy one with a dead battery.
Used and worn for $29, had ebay bucks for $21.   Total cash outlay $8.

Found this link to the programming instructions.  Turns out you really are programming the CAR, NOT the remote.    So if you had two cars of similar make, you could easily program both of them to open with one remote.  That would be awesome.
Note: Entering the programming mode cancels all learned keyless remotes, so none  of the previously programmed remotes will work.  You must reprogram all of the  keyless remotes once you are in the programming mode. You must complete each step within 5 seconds  of the previous step to keep the  system from exiting  the programming mode. 1. Turn ignition switch to ON (II) 2. Press the LOCK or UNOCK button on one of the remotes. (An unprogrammed       remote can be used for this step.) 3. Turn ignition switch to LOCK (0) 4. Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 two more times using the same keyless remote used      in step 2 5. Turn the ignition switch to ON (II) 6. Press the LOCK or UNLOCK button the same remote.  Make sure the power door      locks cycle to confirm you are in programming mode. 7. Press the LOCK or UNLOCK button on each remote you want to program. Make      sure door locks cycle after you push each remote button to confirm system has     accepted the remote.  8. Turn the igniton switch to LOCK (0) to exit programming mode.  9. Test remote(s)

It worked the first time. On this car it is particularly easy. I followed the instructions which boil down to turn the car on, press the remote and turn it off three times. On the fourth cycle any remote you press will be learned by the car and open the car from then on.   If I ever find my old remote, I will have to do this again because old remotes are forgotten in this process.  Hence the reason for writing this post so I still have the instructions.

In the process I learned a better solution I wish I knew before I discarded the old remote. Clearly I'm not the only person who wore out the plastic remote shell. You can buy a replacement shell for $5 and not even have to reprogram the car. Some more motivation to find the old fob.

Also found another website with lots of maker/hacker stuff and a detour into keyless remotes, so a shout out to a like minded guy...