How does a push button start work?

In the early 2000s, luxury car manufacturers began producing automobiles with keyless ignition. Like other features that initially only appeared in luxury automobiles, push-button ignition has now been included in various affordable cars due to its growing popularity. According to a statement released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were approximately 5,000 vehicles in 2002 equipped with keyless ignition. Ward’s Auto also reported that this number was likely to increase to 4.4 million by 2013. Although push-button start make the driver’s job easier, many people don’t understand the system behind it. Here we will help you figure out how a push button start works.

What is a push button start key fob?

Mercedes Benz was the first luxury car brand to feature push-button starts in its keyless ignition systems. Currently, other high-end automotive brands, such as Lexus, Rolls Royce, and Acura, come with a push-button start key fob. But what is a push button start key fob? A push button start key fob is simply a button that allows the driver to start their car’s engine by pressing what the name implies – a button. That said, you won’t be able to use that start button to stop your car’s engine if you don’t set your parked speed. In addition, the start button will not be able to start your vehicle if you do not press your car’s brakes. Push-button start is unique to a vehicle and very popular in the market, especially among arthritis patients and elderly drivers who find it difficult to start their car engine with a key. It eliminates the pain of turning a key in the ignition. Each key fob has a distinctive signal that links it to the vehicle’s ignition. Therefore, your automobile’s ignition will only be powered on when the start button on your original key fob is pressed. You also need to press the push button start a few feet from where the car is parked.

How do push button start systems work?

The push button usually starts electric motors via a keyless ignition system which tends to only work for the model it was made for. The mechanics can vary from car to car, but all of these systems work to replace the regular metal car key with a keyless fob. For the push-button start system to work effectively, the key fob must be placed inside the vehicle for its computer system to connect to it. This allows the driver to easily start the vehicle’s engine with the press of a button. The key fob can be described as a transmitter that delivers a low frequency signal to the vehicle. This identification signal is unique to each vehicle, so once the key fob is placed inside the car and the start button is pressed, the vehicle receiver receives the signal and transmits the power to the motor. The primary goals of introducing a keyless car entry system were to promote driver comfort and reduce the risk of car theft. This is because the vehicle will only recognize the signal from one key fob, making it difficult for unauthorized people to gain access to your car.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Push Button Starts

Like many new technological inventions, using the start button in cars has a number of advantages and disadvantages. In 1912, Cadillac introduced a push-button electric car start that replaced the cumbersome and dangerous hand crank. Later, in the early 2000s, manual keys were replaced by push-button cars installed on the dashboard or floor of the car. We have outlined some of their pros and cons of key fobs:


  • The technology can easily detect if the key is placed in the vehicle, making it difficult to lock your keys inside.
  • The smart key is equipped with sensors that allow the driver to lock, unlock or start the vehicle while the keys remain in the driver’s purse or pocket.
  • The technology uses the convenience of the remote control, which allows the driver to warm up the vehicle while it is parked and locked in the driveway.

The inconvenients

  • Since there is no standardization in the industry, the key fobs available often have different levels of performance.
  • If the key fob battery runs out, the driver will need to override the system and locate the manual key. The key is usually hidden in the device or contact roadside assistance.
  • Some drivers are not well educated on how to use push button ignitions and usually end up forgetting to turn off their car’s engine, putting them in “park” mode before leaving the vehicle. This would leave the car running, causing it to roll.
  • Lost key fobs are usually more expensive to replace than manual car keys.

Choosing a starter button kit

Here are some factors to consider when buying a starter button kit:

  • Number of key fobs – Most vendors usually include one key fob, but you may need more. So you should check the number of remote key fob.
  • Manual Cut-Off Switch – This allows you to remotely shut off the vehicle’s engine for added protection, especially if the car is stolen.
  • Mobile Compatibility – This increases the efficiency of the push button device and allows you to start, lock, turn off or unlock your vehicle.
  • Operating Range – This determines the distance from which you can remotely turn on your car’s engine.

Using your start button

Below are some of the simple steps to follow when using the start button to start your car’s engine:

  • Step on your car’s brake and hold this position.
  • Press and hold the key fob start button until the engine is on.

To turn off your vehicle’s engine:

  • Set your car to “park” speed.
  • Press and hold the start button until the engine shuts off.

These guidelines are for general purposes only and are not intended to modify the manufacturer’s instructions on each vehicle. Be sure to check your repair guide and owner’s manual first.


With the introduction of push-button starts, the manual ignition key became obsolete. However, as with other technological advances, the adoption of keyless ignition systems has advantages and disadvantages. So every driver should be well educated on how to use them properly.