How to turn on the ignition without a key – is it possible?

Upon seeing this headline, you might immediately think that today’s blog is about assisting car thieves and other unsavory characters. Far from it! We are offering help and advice to those who may, for whatever reason, have lost or misplaced their keys or find themselves without a car key. Is there a way for them to start without it? We’re talking abouthotwiring” the car here? Read on to learn more.

Why do you need to start a car without a key?

Let’s start today’s blog by considering the main reasons why someone might find themselves in a situation where they need to start their car in this unusual way.

You Lost Your Keys

The first and most common scenario is that you have lost your keys or someone has taken them by mistake and you have no spare keys. What happened is irrelevant, because the result is the same, namely, you have a car to start, but you don’t have the keys to start it.

You have a bad ignition switch.

The second scenario is that you have a key but it is not working because even if you turn the key the switch is not prompting the flow of electricity in the ignition systems as it should. A combination of turning the key and turning the ignition switch is required to start the engine. If the key is bad, your key is essentially as useless as having no key at all.

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What are the different types of car keys?

In the 1990s and early 2000s, almost all car keys were the same. The only variation that made it into the mainstream at that time was a remote key fob that you could use to open the central locking system and lock your car after you left. In 2022, however, there are key types aplenty:


Even with the rise of new car starting technologies and keys, traditional keys have withstood the test of time and are still with us, whether it’s in the older models that people still have on the road or in the more entry-level new car models that people drive. that still rely on regular turnkey starting.

Traditional (with remote control)

As mentioned earlier, these are traditional keys that come with a remote control to lock and unlock the car from a distance. These key fobs worked using a basic infrared signal system.

Chip key (transponder)

Chip keys were developed in response to a demand for more secure ways to access cars. These chip keys looked no different from regular keys, with the main difference being their integrated signal chip that matched the receiver in the ignition coil.

Rolling Codes Transponder Key

This was a more advanced version of the chip key. These transponder keys used a newly generated code each time the button was pressed, as opposed to the same predefined code used on regular chip/transponder keys. This prevented clever criminals from predicting what the signal would be and creating a cloned version of it.

smart key

Smart keys first arrived on the scene in 1998 from Mercedes-Benz – just one more thing Mercedes was doing before everyone else. These are keys that can be detected by your car when you are nearby. This means you don’t have to take your keys out of your pocket or purse to unlock or start your car. If the right key is detected, all functions will work.

start car without key

Digital Key

This is the latest key technology introduced in 2020 by BMW. This is a key that uses NFC technology to turn your smartphone into your car key. Using the BMW app, drivers were able to share the key with trusted people.

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What are the main ways to start the car without a key?

The first thing you should expect when answering this question is that starting your car without a key will be a rather complicated task. That’s how cars are designed. If it were a simple matter to start cars without the keys being used or detected, cars could be stolen from their parked places constantly.

1. Using screwdriver and hammer

This is possibly the simplest method on our list, but it can also damage your car, so extreme care is needed. The idea is to use the screwdriver and hammer to disable the lock pin and start the car. If you damage the engine, however, you may end up needing to replace the entire ignition system.

start car without key

One method here involves hammering a screwdriver directly into the ignition lock, which will break the cylinder pins and allow you to turn the screwdriver like keys to start. Another method involves using a screwdriver placed in the top center of the steering column. Once there, you apply pressure on the screwdriver just where the gap separates the steering column and the wheel. From there you can access the solenoid and start your car that way.

2. Hotwiring

This always looks pretty easy in the movies, but it’s more complex than it looks and can be dangerous, which is why you should only attempt this while wearing proper safety gloves. The first step is to remove the bolts that hold the steering column housing. With the screws gone, your screwdriver should now be able to pry open the case, exposing the ignition cylinder and the wires connected to it.

Look for the battery and starter cables. You can confirm which ones are by consulting your car’s manual. Cut the power lines from the cylinders, strip the ends and connect them by twisting the metal ends together. This supplies power to your car’s system. Then cut the starter wires, strip the ends, and then touch them WITHOUT touching the exposed wire – the current in them is active.

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3. Get under the hood

For those who are more au fait with all the systems that are under the hood, one more method available is to open the hood and look for the red coil wire. Once you find it, you can connect it to the battery’s positive terminal to supply power to the panel. If you can locate the starter solenoid, connect that to the positive battery terminal as well before removing the ignition switch wire from the solenoid and shorting the positive post with a screwdriver.

4. Using passive RF chip (Keyless/Smart Key Systems)

Keyless systems often come with a built-in security system to allow you to use them even when their batteries are dead or not working. Inside the device is placed a passive RF chip that, if placed near the “Start Engine” button, should be detected and allow you to start the vehicle.

Some EVs like Teslas allow you to start the car from your smartphone, as long as your phone has been programmed as a connected key beforehand.

start a car

How much does it cost to replace car keys?

The other downside of advancing technology when it comes to car keys is that their replacements have become more expensive than ever! Replacing a traditional car key might not cost more than $20 or so, but replacing a modern smart key can cost as much as $400, especially if you’re forced to go back to the dealership to get them, which you invariably are. On average, you should budget between $100-200 to replace a lost set of smart push button start keys and $50-100 for a more regular key fob from a dealership.

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