Can you convert a car to push-button start? - SUV VEHICLE

Can you convert a car to push-button start?

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Car keys are fast becoming a thing of the past. But can you add a push-button start to an older car? We investigate the costs and labour involved.

Keyless start has made its way onto just about every car in 2024 and it’s easy to see why – it makes life easy not having to fumble your keys out of your pocket and instead simply press a little button and take off.

RELATED: BMW to debut remote engine start function, but is it legal to use?

The first car to use this technology was the Cadillac Model 30 in 1912. This was because it was the first car to ever be produced with an electric starter before manufacturers came up with the idea of turning a key to activate the starter, which is the little electric motor that turns the engine over to start it.

It wasn’t until the Mercedes-Benz S-Class W220 in 1998 that we first saw what it means to use a key merely as a transponder with a button to start a car without the need to turn a key in the ignition.

The technology was called ‘KeylessGo’ and used a credit-card-shaped key that needed to be pushed into a slot before the driver could push a button to start their car. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that brands like Audi and BMW began to implement systems that meant the key never had to leave your pocket to unlock the car and start it, using proximity sensors.

The idea of pressing a button to start a car was synonymous with a sports or luxury car, so much so that rapper Wiz Khalifa used it as a ‘flex’ for a line in his 2011 song Black and Yellow in which he raps, “no keys, push to start”.

As of 2024, there are even a few brands like Tesla, BMW and Mercedes-Benz that don’t even need a physical key and run entirely off your phone, and a push-button start as standard is almost a given when it comes to buying a new car – even on lower trim levels.  

Those looking to add a bit of luxury to their older car may be tempted to install a keyless system, but is it possible?

Can you add a push-button start to a car?

You certainly can. There are a number of different ways to convert your car to a push-button start. Some are cheap options, and others may break the bank. It’s a good idea to have a professional install any electrical components in your car. Wiring can be confusing if you’re not a professional, and if you mess it up, your car may not start and it’ll be an expensive fix.

One of the easiest but borderline pointless ways to convert your car to a push-button start is simply by wiring one into the starter signal wire. The signal wire is a single lead that runs from your starter motor to your ignition and tells the starter when to activate. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to do it, or you can pay an automotive electrician to wire one in.

The main issue with this cheap route is that you will still need to put the key in the ignition and switch your ignition on before you can turn the starter over. It’s not unheard of. The Honda S2000 back in 1999 had a push-button start from the factory that required you to turn a physical key before you could press the button to start the car.

Can you add a keyless start system to a car?

If you want the full proximity keyfob, it gets a little more expensive. While you can buy keyless entry and engine start kits on eBay for under $100, we certainly do not recommend undertaking the installation without proper training as an auto electrician.

We recommend going with a reputable brand like Viper instead of a cheap system, since the last thing you want to happen is the system to fail and be left on the side of the road with a car that won’t start.

A branded system can cost between $400 and $1000, depending on how many little gadgets you want with your key, like remote starting, which allows you to start the car from the key without even needing to sit inside the car (you need to use this at your own discretion as some states make it illegal to be further than three metres from your running car).

The installation of one of these systems involves a lot of labour. If it is installed by a professional, expect an extra $200–$600 in labour, depending on your car and the system you are installing.

Will installing a keyless start system void my warranty?

An automotive company cannot refuse your warranty if the aftermarket modification has not caused the warranty claim.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) states: “A car fitted with a fit-for-purpose part will not void a warranty. Should a problem result in the vehicle as a result of the modification, the problem will be covered under the part manufacturer or fitter’s warranty”.

So, if an unrelated part fails, e.g., a gearbox or brake caliper, the manufacturer cannot refuse your warranty. If you run into wiring problems, the manufacturer may be able to prove that it is due to your aftermarket keyless start. In this event, you would need to take up a warranty claim with the installer or part company. This is why using a reputable brand and auto electrician is important.

Should you encounter any issues with unreasonable warranty rejections, the AAAA has a legal assistance hotline that offers advice and help to those who have questions.

The post Can you convert a car to push-button start? appeared first on Drive.

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