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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.


Automotive Remote Programming


Does My Remote Require Programming?

Nearly all replacement car remotes require programming.  Most automotive remote transmitters do not work right out of the box.  Think about it . . . if they did, anyone could open your vehicle simply by buying a replacement keyfob.  There are only two situations when programming is not required:

1.  Some older fixed-code aftermarket alarm systems use remotes that are "hard-coded" to broadcast a unique signal that is matched to the receiver.  If this is the case for your system, RUI will ask you to provide us with a code number from inside the case of your original remote and we will pre-set the replacement remote to transmit that specific code.

2.  For some other old fixed code systems, replacement remotes are no longer manufactured.  If this is the case and you have an original remote that will still broadcast at least a weak signal, RUI will ask that you send us the working remote to copy.  The replacement remote will be an electronic "clone" of your original remote, so it will not require programming.

Apart from these two circumstances, any car remote you purchase will require programming.

What is Programming?

Programming is the process by which a replacement part is "synched up" with the receiver in a specific vehicle. The general process is as follows:

1.  You do something to signal to the control module in your vehicle that you want it to enter "Programming Mode".  This process nearly always requires the presence of your car key in the ignition; that is the "security" control that prevents an unauthorized third party from programming a new remote for your vehicle.  When you have entered programming mode successfully, the system indicates this to you in some fashion - such as the door locks cycling, the alarm siren chirping, or some other visible or audible signal.  Important note: Some factory keyless entry systems can only be placed into programming mode with use of a computer device (known as a "scan tool") that connects to the vehicle's central control module. Vehicles with these systems cannot be programmed by a consumer.

2.  Once in programming mode, you press one or more buttons on each remote to be programmed.  This sends encrypted identification information from the transmitter to the receiver, which, because it is in programming mode, the receiver then stores as a new acceptable transmitter.  With some aftermarket alarm transmitter, you may have to go through several steps to program each function to a specific system channel.

3.  When all remotes are programmed, you leave programming mode by removing your key from the ignition.  Most systems also have automatic "time-outs"; that is, the system leaves programming mode automatically after a set time period.

In most cases, that is all that programming involves.

Can I Program My Replacement Remote Myself?

In many cases, a consumer is able to program a replacement part without professional assistance.  RUI calls these situations "User Programmable".  We include step-by-step programming instructions with all parts that are user programmable.  RUI also provides phone technical support to walk you through the programming process if you need assistance. Both the instructions and technical support are provided free if you buy a part from us.

Virtually all aftermarket alarm system remotes are user programmable.  However, if you buy a replacement remote that Remotes Unlimited has made from a code you supply or by cloning a working remote that you send in, no programming will be necessary at all.

For factory keyless entry (FKE) remotes, whether a replacement part is user programmable or not depends upon the "application" - the Make, Model and Year (MMY) of the vehicle.  Many FKE applications are user programmable and require only a working key to enter programming mode.  At the other extreme, there are FKE applications that are not user programmable under any circumstances and, instead, require an expensive computer "scan tool" to put the system in programming mode.  (To program a new remote for those systems, you will need to take the vehicle and all remotes used with it to the dealer for programming.  It is their way of locking you in to using their service department and, they hope, to buy the part from them as well.)  In between these extremes are systems that are user programmable, but with more stringent requirements than simply having a working key.  For instance, some older FKE systems require that the user close a circuit on the datalink connector to access programming mode.  Also, manufacturers occasionally utilize other very specific requirements.  Some GM systems, for example, are only user programmable if the vehicle is equipped with the factory radio or a Driver Information Center.  Some Chrysler systems require that you have a working remote or two working keys to put the system in programming mode; otherwise, a scan tool will be required.  Finally, there are situations where some of a replacement part's functionality is user programmable and another aspect of it is not.  For instance, some proximity and keyhead remotes allow a user to program the remote transmitter functions of a new part, but require a scan tool for programming the transponder on the replacement key.

So, with all of these different programming situations, it is best to buy the part from a knowledgable seller and make sure you understand what may be required before you purchase a replacement remote.

How Will I Know If My Keyless Entry System Is User Programmable Or Not?

When you use our Fob Finder to search for the correct replacement part, several helpful notes will appear.  One of those, displayed in red, is a programming note that will indicate the method of programming that applies.  If you have any question about programming after reading the note, please do not hesitate to contact us for help.

What Is Scan Tool Programming?

For some factory keyless entry systems, the vehicle manufacturer has designed the system so that an automotive computer tool - commonly called a "scan tool" - must be hooked up to the vehicle's electronic control module for the system to be placed in programming mode.  (If you're wondering, yes, this is just a cynical move to increase dealer service revenue under the false cloak of "providing greater security", even though it makes programming a replacement remote less convenient and much more expensive for the vehicle owner.)  Only vehicle dealerships and some well-equipped mechanics and locksmiths have scan tools. So, if your replacement part requires a scan tool for programming, you will have to take the vehicle and all of its remotes to one of these providers for programming.  Dealerships typically charge $25-100 for this service even though the process takes them no more than a couple of minutes. You can usually still come out ahead by buying the part from RUI, though, because we generally charge less for the part than a dealer would.

Is Programming Different If My Transmitter Is A Keyhead, Switchblade Or Proximity Remote?

Somewhat.  The difference relates primarily to the key that is part of a keyhead, switchblade or proximity remote.  In the past decade, many car manufacturers have switched to keys that have transponders in them.  A transponder key is sort of like a passive remote, in that, when it is in or near the ignition, it establishes electronic communication with a receiver in the vehicle that identifies it as an "acceptable" key.  Transponder keys also must be programmed to work with a vehicle.  In most cases, programming a transponder key requires a scan tool or some other special device.

In many cases, the remote functions of a keyhead or switchblade remote are user programmable.  (Proximity remotes nearly all require a scan tool for programming.)  And, in some cases, a working key blade can be separated from the old keyhead or switchblade case and inserted into the new one.  For these situations, a user could program the new remote functions and insert the old key blade, thereby avoiding having to go to a dealer for assistance.  More frequently, though, a user will have to take the new transmitter and key (and all of the old ones) to a dealer for programming with a scan tool.

Is There A Limit To The Number Of Remotes I Can Program To Work With My System?

Yes.  Most systems allow up to four (4) remotes to be programmed at any one time, but some systems limit you to as few as two (2) remotes and others will accept up to six (6).  If your system is limited to four remotes and you tried to program a fifth keyfob, the system typically would erase the first remote; that is, the first one programmed that was being stored in the first memory slot.

Can I "Erase" Programming Of A Remote?

Most systems provide for eliminating or overwriting the memory of a previously programmed remote.  It is quite common for systems to automatically erase the programming of all prior remotes when you enter programming mode and program a new remote.  This is so that your security can be maintained if a remote is lost or stolen.  For these systems, if you want to program a new remote to work with the system, you must have all other remotes you plan to use with the vehicle present at the time of programming so that they can be re-entered following the automatic erasure.  RUI's programming instructions will indicate if this is the case with your system.

Can My Remote "Lose" Its Programming In The Course Of Normal Use?

Most remote transmitters do not "lose" their programming.  The memory chips used on most transmitters will continue to store the coded information for quite a long time even if the battery in the remote loses its charge.  However, it is possible for the control module in your vehicle to "lose its memory" of which remotes it is synchronized with if your car battery is disconnected or goes fully dead.  So, if you have car work done that requires disconnecting the car's battery, you may have to re-program the system to recognize your remotes.

There is a situation in which a remote may appear to have lost its programming.  If you have more than one rolling code remote for a vehicle and you do not use one of them for a long time, it may fail to work because the code it sends is no longer in the range expected by the control module.  In this case, the remote does not need to be fully re-programmed, but it may need to be re-synchronized by pressing the lock and unlock buttons on the transmitter simultaneously.

While automotive remote transmitters generally do not "lose" their programming, it is very common for a key fob to stop working because of physical damage.  Water and other fluids can cause a short circuit.  Button contacts sometimes break or malfunction.  Cases break.  We even see entire circuit boards broken.  Some of these situations were undoubtedly caused because the user had a weak battery in his/her remote and tried to make it work by pushing the button harder.  Tip: If a previously working remote stops working or works intermittently, try installing a new battery before doing anything else.

Have Questions or Need Live Assistance? Call 877-719-1900

Keyless Entry Remotes | Car Alarm Remotes | Key Fobs | Batteries | Programming Instructions

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