Q: How Does a Keyless Push-Button Ignition Work?

asked by on

How does a keyless push-button ignition work?

Push-button ignition system designs are highly technical and vary between manufacturers. Here, in a nutshell, is how they work.

When you push the “engine start” button, that button sends an electrical command (voltage signal) to several control modules (computers). One control module (we’ll call it the body control module) uses antennas located inside your vehicle and sends out a radio signal to the key in your pocket. This reaction wakes up the RFID chip inside the key, and asks it to identify itself. The RFID chip in the key responds to the ID request with a radio message of its own where it sends its ID code back to the body control module.

The other control module that received the “engine start” command is the engine computer. We’ll call it the powertrain control module (PCM). The PCM is ready to start the engine, but it needs information from the BCM first, since the BCM controls the keyless entry system of the vehicle.

If the BCM accepts the RFID code from the key, it communicates this to the PCM, and the engine start is enabled. If an unprogrammed key is used, the BCM rejects the key code. The reject notice is communicated from the BCM to the PCM and the engine start is disabled. All of this communication occurs in less than 1/2 second!

This same process occurs to automatically unlock the doors of your vehicle whenever you grab a door handle.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1,000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. How Does a Keyless Push-Button Ignition Work?

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: How do you clear the MyKeys® from the system?

While your car gives you the ability to create MyKeys® as needed, there will come a time that you want to remove the restrictions from those keys. Whether your teen driver has learned proper control or there’s another reason for...

Q: Power antenna not working

The problem is most likely the motor for the power antenna. Motors wear out over time (28 years) and will eventually stop working. I would first check the fuse to see if it is blown, if so the antenna motor...

Q: Hello I'm planning on buying this 2005 Acura MDX but one of the issue on the car is that it needs the coil pack replaced. Could yo

The vehicle you are looking at has six individual coils (aka, "coil packs", or "coil on plug") one for each of the six spark plugs on the engine. These are frankly mundane devices and if only one is faulty, if...

Related articles

P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...
How Much Does a Mechanic Make in Vermont?
Automotive technician jobs in Vermont have an average mechanic salary of $37k, with some mechanics earning a salary of $53k.