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Buying a replacement remote control can be a little frightening. The employees of Remotes Unlimited understand that because we deal with customers all day every day. We hope that our website provides a clear and logical path for you to confidently select and purchase the replacement part you need. If it doesn't, or you feel more comfortable speaking directly to a member of our staff, please call RUI at 877-719-1900.


Types of Automotive Remote Controls


How Many Types Of Automotive Remote Controls Are There?

The answer to this questions depends on what you mean by a "type". RUI distinguishes parts and systems a variety of ways.

1) Manufacturer-Installer - We consider who sold and installed a system when we talk about "factory keyless entry" (FKE) systems, "aftermarket alarm" (AA) systems and "dealer-installed" (DI) systems.  The former are developed by the vehicle manufacturer and installed at the assembly plant.  The latter are add-on systems sold and installed by alarm shops.  The confusing thing is that automotive dealers also sell and install systems, and these systems either could be one developed by the vehicle manufacturer specifically for their nameplate vehicles or could be an aftermarket alarm system.

2) System functions - It gets even more confusing when the functions of the system are considered.  Aftermarket system manufacturers tend to classify their products as (1) "keyless entry" (meaning the door locks can be controlled by a remote); (2) "remote start" (meaning the engine can be started from outside the vehicle); or (3) "anti-theft" (meaning the system has audible alarms, ignition shut-off, and/or other functions to deter theft).  More recently, AA system manufacturers have sold "two-way" systems, for which the remote not only transmits instructions to the vehicle but also receives and displays vehicle status information back from the vehicle.  FKE systems were originally developed purely for remote door lock control and with a panic/car-finder feature, but many of these systems now also include remote start and anti-theft features.

3) Automotive Remote Transmitters - The first remote transmitters were all what we at RUI think of as a "keyfob".  In this sense, a keyfob is solely a transmitter housed in a plastic case that one would attach to a keyring.  Its sole function was to send some kind of remote instruction to a receiver in the vehicle - to turn an alarm system on or off, lock or unlock the doors, or start the engine.  Most systems still use a keyfob of this description.  However, during the past decade, some vehicle manufacturers started tweaking the basic concept.  First, they combined the key with the remote, either in the form of a "keyhead" remote (which integrates the remote transmitter and buttons into a plastic housing that forms the traditional head of the key), or in the form of a "switchblade" remote (in which the key sits inside the remote case until it is flipped out by pressing an additional button on the remote).  Even more recently, some vehicle manufacturers have made the key itself obsolete by simply putting a transponder in the remote to handle the key's security function and placing a push-button ignition switch in the vehicle.  The keyfobs for these systems are typically referred to as "proximity remotes" or "smart keys". Not to be outdone with respect to innovation, some AA system manufacturers have taken the approach of doing away with the keyfob by enabling their systems to be controlled from a cell phone.

4) Transmitter / Security Technology - The final way in which RUI and most industry participants distinguish among types of automotive remote controls is via the form of remote transmission.  The vast majority of automotive remotes use "radio-frequency" (RF) transmission, which places them under regulatory oversight by the FCC in the US and the IC in Canada.  A small number of older remotes used "infra-red" (IR) transmission.  A different technology distinction relates to what signal is being transmitted.  First generation keyfobs broadcast a "fixed code" (meaning the same code was transmitted each time a button was pushed).  Many first generation systems also had "fixed receiver" technology.  For these systems, the receiver only responded to a single coded signal, meaning that replacement transmitters had to be adjusted or physically altered to transmit the single code that the receiver needed.  Realizing the impracticality of fixed receivers, the industry later adopted "code learning" technology.  For code learning systems, the receiver can be put into "programming" mode, which will then allow the system to accept the signal of a new transmitter, even if though the new transmitter sends a different coded signal than other remotes used with the system.  Today, virtually all systems sold employ code-learning receivers.  While fixed code transmitters were quite adequate in practice, security experts generated a scare by publicizing the fact that a remote's code could conceivably be copied, giving thieves access to the vehicle.  (In practice, thieves have numerous means of getting inside a vehicle and very few, if any, ever resorted to copying a keyfob.)  Responding to this perceived security risk, the industry developed a second generation coding approach referred to as "rolling code" or "code hopping". This technology, along with code learning receivers, is now used on virtually all new systems sold.

What is the point in all of this?

Simply that there are many "types" of automotive remote systems and transmitters.  Only RUI and a small number of our competitors have the industry and technical expertise to sell and support virtually all automotive remote products.

What Is A "Keyfob"?

"Keyfob" is an English word common in Britain that, in its most general usage, simply means a device for holding keys - such as a keyring.  US auto makers and aftermarket alarm manufacturers use the word more specifically to mean a remote transmitter.  RUI uses the word generally to mean any replacement automotive remote control but also uses the word as a part description to distinguish parts that are not keyhead, switchblade or proximity remotes.

What Is A "Keyhead Remote"?

RUI and most people in the industry use this phrase to mean one-piece key-and-remote combination parts for which the remote transmitter and buttons are housed in a plastic case that forms the head of the key.  In some cases, the key blade is easily detachable from the key head case that contains the remote, making it possible to replace just one or the other component.

What Is A "Switchblade Remote"?

Switchblade remotes or keys are remote-key combinations which have a key blade that folds or retracts into the remote case.  The key is spring-loaded so that it pops up or out when the switchblade button is depressed.

What Is A "Proximity Remote" Or A "Smart Key"?

Some newer vehicle models have push-button ignition systems.  For these vehicles, the remote is typically referred to as a proximity remote or smart key.  A transponder in the remote passively activates a sensor in the vehicle when the remote is present in the car.  This indicates to the system that anti-theft security is to be turned off, making the push button ignition operable.  (In some cases, such as any recent-year Toyota Prius, the smart key must be seated in a dashboard receptacle to make the push button start operable.)  These proximity remotes generally have the same lock/unlock, rear and panic buttons found on a non-proximity keyfob.  They also generally have an "emergency" key blade inserted in the case that can be used to manually operate doors and the ignition if the proximity feature fails.

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