How to Buy and Install a Remote Keyless Entry System in Your Car

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A keyless entry system is a great way to get quick and easy access to your vehicle without having to fumble for a key. While these systems are increasingly becoming standard options on many new vehicles, older models with power door locks don’t always offer this feature. With some minor mechanical know-how, it is possible to install your own remote keyless entry system.

Choosing a Remote Keyless Entry System

There are several different options for remote keyless entry systems. You can find basic systems that will only lock or unlock the driver-side door, or full systems that include remote start capabilities so you can warm up your car on a cold day or cool it down on a hot one from an average of 500 to 800 feet away.
To choose a remote keyless entry system, follow these tips:
Tip 1: Get the right product. Not all remote keyless entry systems will work on all makes and models of cars. Be sure the products you are looking at will work on your car. If you are still unsure, contact your car’s manufacturer for help.
Tip 2: Pick your options. Some options to consider for remote keyless entry systems include:
  • Single-door or multi-door unlock
  • Remote start
  • Ability to open the trunk (if applicable)
  • Connectivity to a smartphone app
  • Transmitter range
  • Alarm system
  • Number of transmitters (some systems come with only one transmitter, requiring the purchase of additional units, while others come with up to four)
Tip 3: Read the reviews. Once you have narrowed down the possible systems for your specific car and the options you would like, read the reviews and ask around. Specifically, check for information related to whether a system is difficult to install or user-friendly, and if they worked at the range advertised.
Tip 4: Use trusted suppliers. In addition to using reputable providers of remote keyless entry systems, it is recommended to also use trusted auto parts stores, such as Pep Boys or AutoZone. These establishments may offer additional warranty and return options should the product be defective or not correct for your vehicle.

Installing a Remote Keyless Entry System

While not the first job a home mechanic should attempt, those with basic mechanic skills should be able to install a remote keyless entry system in their car. Most manufacturers recommend professional installation, but with the right tools and by closely following directions, it’s possible to get the system set up without an appointment.
You want to make sure you have the right tools to complete the job before starting. The tools needed may differ depending on the system, but most often will include:
  • Wire cutter and stripper
  • Electrical tape
  • Clamps and harnesses
  • Soldering iron and solder
Remember, be extremely cautious when you are working with your car’s electrical system. The following steps are not specific to any one remote keyless entry system, but they can be used as a general guideline for what you can expect.
Step 1: Read the manual. Be sure to follow the specific instructions in your system’s manual. Each system can have different features and connections, so be sure you are following the directions specific to your system and vehicle.
Step 2: Disconnect the vehicle’s battery. Because you will be working with the car’s electrical system, be sure to disconnect the battery from your vehicle before tampering with any electrical connections.
Step 3: Make the wiring connections. Prepare the wiring needed for the system by stripping the necessary wires and connecting them to the wires in your vehicle, per your instruction manual.
Step 4: Connect to door lock. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) use one of three door locks. Determine your door lock type for proper connections.
Step 5: Test the system. Once you have installed all of the components, test the system to ensure it works correctly.
It can be hard to remember to lock every door, but even one unlocked door is a potential invitation to a thief. A remote keyless entry system can make locking all of your car doors as easy as pushing a button. One way to keep insurance premiums low is by never having to use your coverage, so avoid calling in theft-related damage by keeping your car locked and secure with a remote keyless entry system.

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