What Does the Key Not in Vehicle Warning Light Mean?

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Key fobs have come a long way since they were first introduced. Originally, they were designed to unlock the doors with the press of a button. Nowadays, many security systems are capable of doing much more. Some cars are able to sense when the driver is approaching the vehicle with the key and doors will unlock automatically.

Another addition to this safety system is remote keyless ignition, which allows you to start the car without inserting the key anywhere. The key sends out a coded radio signal to let the car know that the correct key is being used.

What the key not in vehicle warning light means

The keyless entry system may differ from one manufacturer to another, so read through the owner’s manual for more information on how your specific keyless system works.

Cars equipped with keyless ignition will have a warning light on the dash to let you know if the correct key fob hasn’t been detected. Some of these systems may also let you know when the correct key has been detected and you can start the engine. Typically, the warning light will be orange or red if the key isn't detected, and a green light to let you know if the key is in range.

If the battery dies in the key fob, it won’t be able to communicate with the car and you won’t be able to start the car. Try replacing the batteries in the fob if this warning light comes on even when you have the right key with you in the vehicle. If a new battery doesn’t fix the issue, it is possible that the key has lost it’s programming and is not sending the correct code to start the vehicle. There is a procedure to force the key to relearn the correct code so you can start the car again. This procedure will vary between different models and some may require a diagnostic test to be performed.

Is it safe to drive with the key not in vehicle warning light on?

While the car should operate normally, you may not be able to restart the engine if you turn it off. If the key fob battery is low, there should be a backup process to start the vehicle so you can still use it.

If the code has been lost, may need to forcefully re-program the key. In this case, it may be necessary to go to the dealership where they have the equipment to perform the procedure. If your key fob doesn’t register correctly, our certified technicians would be able to help you identify the issue.


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Matthew

32 years of experience
727 reviews
Matthew
32 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
First off he was on time....actually 30 mins early which was great. Everything he described was what I was going through and he knew exactly what I needed before he even looked at the car. Other mechanics i feel were trying to take advantage because I am a woman but he made me feel comfortable. Still have to get work done on it but at least I know exactly what the problem was.
Chevrolet Tahoe - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Very detailed and takes the time to explain what is being done. Willing to answer any questions you may have. I would definitely use his services again and have already been telling my coworkers about this site. I have a unique electrical situation going on with my truck that none of the dealers could assess. Just by Matt doing some general maintenance , my truck is already driving smoother. Matt asked that I monitor things to make sure we don't need to troubleshoot anything else. I feel quite confident.

Michael

20 years of experience
38 reviews
Michael
20 years of experience
Chevrolet Cruze - Warning Light is on - Upland, California
Thank you Michael for all your help and patience. Once this job is completed I will definetly request you again!!!

Quentin

18 years of experience
15 reviews
Quentin
18 years of experience
Volkswagen Tiguan - Warning Light is on - Nottingham, Maryland
Quentin was very professional and meticulous with locating the issues with my car. Great spirit and explained and answered all of my questions.

Travis

12 years of experience
77 reviews
Travis
12 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz C230 - Warning Light is on - Charlotte, North Carolina
Travis came out to determine cause for the Check Engine light. He did so and told me what needed to be done and the cost.

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