December 2017

Lexus of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada
Lexus of Las Vegas
Smart-Key Situations
Some expert answers to common questions about Lexus keys

When you stop and think about it, Lexus smart key technology is pretty cool. After all, the SmartAccess[1] key fob lets you lock and unlock your doors and start the push-button ignition without having to remove the key from your pocket or purse.

But as experienced Lexus owners know, key fob questions do arise from time to time, so here’s an at a glance list of key inquiries—and their solutions—commonly addressed by Lexus Technology Specialists:

What to do if your SmartAccess fob doesn’t work and you need to enter your vehicle: The most likely reason for a non-functional fob, says one Lexus Technology Specialist (LTS), is a dead or weak battery, so just in case you weren’t aware, know that all Lexus smart keys have a mechanical key that folds out of the fob, which can then be used to manually open a door.

What to do if your fob battery is dead and you need to start the vehicle: Okay, let’s say your smart key fob battery seems to be dead, but you made it inside with your mechanical key. Here’s how to start the engine, says LTS Rick Barnicoat: “If your fob battery has died, hold the logo side of the fob very close to your vehicle’s Start/Stop button, then push the button—your vehicle should start up.”

What to do if your vehicle refuses to lock: “Generally, your Lexus won’t lock if you’ve left your key fob in the vehicle, even if it’s covered up,” says LTS Bertie Kitts. “There are sensors inside the vehicle that detect the fob to prevent a driver from being locked out. So if you find yourself in this situation, just carefully look everywhere for your fob—between the seats, storage spaces, everywhere. I once helped a Lexus driver out of this situation by finding and extracting a smart key lodged in the seat rail track.”

What to do if your battery seems to die frequently: Lexus key fob batteries should last between one and two years, so if your key fob is getting weak after just a few months, chances are your smartphone is the culprit. Explains one LTS: “Your phone can actually drain your Lexus fob battery—there’s a transponder inside your fob that can respond to phone circuitry. As a practice, keep your fob away from your phone at home or work, and keep these items in separate pockets when you’re out and about.”

How to replace your key fob battery: If your fob battery has died, a replacement can be found at your local Lexus dealership. You can also obtain fob batteries at an electronics or camera store. If you drive a 2010 to current-model Lexus vehicle, look for a CR1632 or CR1616 Panasonic® battery. For vehicles made prior to model year 2010, refer to the DIY section in your vehicle’s owner’s manual (you can also look at the battery type by removing the fob’s cover with a small screwdriver).

How to replace your fob: The place to go for a replacement is your Lexus dealership’s parts department (especially if you’ve taken advantage of Lexus’ Key Replacement Protection option). And even though your dealership service consultants know you, for security reasons you may be required to show proof of ownership: a valid photo ID and your VIN number. Also, if your vehicle has an immobilizer system—which interacts with a built-in computer chip within the key fob—then the vehicle’s computer will need to be programmed with a dealership scan tool, which authorizes the new key to be able to start the engine.

What to do with your key fob if you plan on getting wet: “This often comes up in places near the coast,” says one Lexus Technology Specialist, “but it also applies to wet ski days, hikes in the rain, or soggy bike rides. You can protect the fob by temporarily removing the mechanical key, leaving the fob in the center console, locking your vehicle with the mechanical key (which overrides the anti-lock sensors), and then getting the mechanical key as wet as you want. At my dealership, we call it the ’surfing key’ because some drivers store it in swimsuit pockets. Salt water won’t hurt the mechanical key; you just need to just rinse it off with fresh water afterward.” Depending on your vehicle’s smart key style, the mechanical key will likely have a sliding switch that releases it from the fob—however, refer to your owner’s manual for specific removal instructions.

By Brian Gill


[1] The SmartAccess system may interfere with some pacemakers or cardiac defibrillators. If you have one of these medical devices, please talk to your doctor to see if you should deactivate this system. The engine immobilizer is a state-of-the-art anti-theft system. When you insert your key into the ignition switch or bring a SmartAccess fob into the vehicle, the key transmits an electronic code to the vehicle. The engine will only start if the code in the transponder chip inside the key/fob matches the code in the vehicle's immobilizer. Because the transponder chip is embedded in the key/fob, it can be costly to replace. If you lose a key or fob, your Lexus dealer can help. Alternatively, you can find a qualified independent locksmith to perform high-security key services by consulting your local Yellow Pages or by contacting

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