How to Start a Car Without the Key?

What do you do if you have lost your car key? Is it possible to start your car without the key? Will the ignition turn without the key? You can use different techniques to get your car started even if you lose your car key. The first method is to utilise a screwdriver and hammer / drill.  The second method is known as hot wiring. And finally, you can use the method using the red coil wire.

The method that you employ to start the car depends on the type of car key you had.

Starting a car without a key

Losing the key or having a faulty ignition that doesn’t fire up the engine can be very inconvenient, especially if you are away from home and don’t have access to a spare key. Let’s have a look at the ways to start a car without the key.

Screwdriver and hammer / drill 

This type of technique is one of the easiest methods to start a car without the key. However, you have to be careful not to damage the ignition switch.

Using a screwdriver and hammer may damage the lock pins of the ignition switch and the vehicle ignition switch will be permanently disabled using this method.

If you are using a drill, you will have to make a hole in the inner flaps of the ignition switch almost two-thirds of an inch.

Once this is done, you can remove the drill and insert a screwdriver into the drilled hole and attempt to start the car.

Instead of using a screwdriver, you can even use a piece of flat metal to successfully start the car. If you don’t want to use a drill or don’t have access to one, you can use a screwdriver and hammer. Just insert the screwdriver into the ignition switch and hammer it gently until it gets through.

However, this method is sure to damage the locking pins of the ignition switch. Read also how to prevent car theft simple tricks and devices.

Hot wiring the ignition

This method called hotwiring is ideal for older vehicles. The method of hotwiring involves bypassing the ignition switch and battery wires.

First you will have to take off the plastic covering of the steering column. It usually has 2 small screws that you will have to undo in order to get to the wiring terminal.

It is a good idea to wear protective / insulating gloves because you will be directly handling live wires in this method. Look for the battery wires which are most commonly red in colour. The ignition wires are usually coloured brown and yellow.

Make a tiny slit in the insulation part of the battery wires. Then do the same for the ignition wires. Connect the battery wires with the ignition power wires and twist them together. As soon as you make the connection, the car should start.

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Red Coil wire method

If you are confident that you have as much knowledge as a car mechanic and have the skills of a professional, then this method will work for you.

Open up the hood of the car and search for the red coil wire. Use a jumper starter cable to connect the positive terminal of the battery to the red coil wire. The red coil wire is actually the positive terminal of the ignition coil.

Next, open the plastic cover underneath the steering wheel and find the starter solenoid. The battery positive terminal should then be connected to the starter solenoid. Find the ignition switch wire and connect the positive terminal of the solenoid with the use of a screwdriver.

Now you can apply 12 volts from the battery directly to the ignition switch. The car can be started easily.

Situations when you may need to start a car without the key

There could be certain times when it is necessary to start the car without a key. Car manufacturers usually make this process harder because of security reasons. They just don’t want your car to get robbed by a thief.

However, there are many methods one can use to start the car without the use of a key. Here are some situations:

The car key is lost

The most common reason for trying to start a car without the key is when the vehicle owner has lost or misplaced the key. It can be very inconvenient to lose a key when you are away from home and don’t have access to a spare key. The methods listed above can be used in this case.

Faulty ignition switch

The ignition switch is where a lot of the electronics and wiring can be found in the car. By turning the key, the ignition switch is enabled and power flows from the battery to the starter motor in order to fire up the engine.

The ignition switch also powers the ignition coil and ECU. If the ignition switch turns out to be broken, then you may have to use one of the methods to start your car by hot wiring or using the red coil wire method.

Starting your car without a key fob

In the case of a keyless car, it is possible that your key fob may stop working and prevent you from starting the car. Cars nowadays have provision for starting the car without the key fob. Consider your smart key is not functioning. Either it is damaged or the battery has been drained. Can you still start your car without the key fob? First you have to unlock the car door manually.

Read on to find out how.

If the key fob has a drained battery, you have to hold it close to the door handle and try unlocking the door. It may work because sometimes there is still a bit of battery left in the key fob.

You can also use the mechanical key if your key fob has one. It is sometimes hidden in the key fob assembly and used for emergencies. The doors can be unlocked with this key.

If the key fob has a dead battery, there are still chances to start the car. Since the key fob is equipped with a passive radio frequency chip it doesn’t need any battery to start the car. The sensors will automatically pick up the signal so that ignition can occur.

Place the key fob right near the start button. The sensors will detect the RF chip and the car can be started.

However, if you lose the key fob, chances are that you will not be able to start the engine. You would have to contact the authorised dealership for a replacement key fob.

What are the different types of car keys?

As cars get more sophisticated, so does technology that deals with car key. As car key got more practical to use, they also got more security features added to them making it difficult for thieves to steal cars.

Ordinary key

The traditional key is similar to padlock keys, door keys and are in use in most of the older generation of cars. These keys have a special, unique design that fits perfectly into the car door, boot lid and fuel tank cap.

The traditional key is easy to copy for any locksmith, therefore it offers the least amount of security.

Remote controlled ordinary key

With this type of key, you can lock and unlock your car door from a distance using the built-in remote control. The key is also attached to an alarm system that can be used to find the car in a crowded parking lot, and to discourage thieves from trying to open a locked door.

Chip key

This key has a radio frequency chip attached to it that sends a signal to the receiver in the car. It comes with an immobiliser that prevents the car from starting unless the right signal is sent to the receiver.

Smart key

Cars featuring smart keys offer the advantage of keyless starting. The receiver in the car has a proximity sensor, so that when the key is brought near the door, it automatically unlocks and the ignition is turned on by the press of a button.

There are many options to programme with the smart key. They can switch on and off things like the Ac and stereo system as well.

Digital Key

Cars equipped with a digital key have the door locks, ignition and other features controlled by a mobile app. All the car features can be controlled by the mobile phone, making this the most secure type of key.


If you have lost your key, and it happens to be an ordinary, traditional one, there are a few methods that you can use to start the car. One of the methods employed is forcing a screwdriver into the ignition slot with the help of a hammer or a drill. The next method is known as hot wiring where the wires of the battery and the ignition are twisted together to get the car started. The last method is called the red coil wire method where the battery is connected to the ignition coil and solenoid to start the car.

However, as technology has advanced, so has the sophistication of car key. If you lose a key fob or smart key, the only way you can gain access to your car is by contacting the authorised dealership for a replacement key.

The advantages of smart keys are that they are very secure and it is very difficult for thieves to get into the car, let alone start it. The disadvantage is that these keys are pretty expensive to replace because of the complicated electronics built into them. Also read: Anti lock braking system definition components.

Frequently Asked Questions?

Q1. How do I turn the ignition on to start my car without the key?

Ans. Dismantle the plastic cover below the steering wheel which houses all the electronics. Then insert a screwdriver into the ignition flaps and force it in using a hammer or by using a drill first. Then turn the screwdriver in the same direction you would as the car key. This will start the car.

Q2. Can a car run without the key fob?

Ans. Yes, once the car is started, the engine will run without the key fob. However, once the engine shuts down, you won’t be able to restart it without the key fob.

Q3. What should I do if I lose the key fob?

Ans. One solution is to get a locksmith to make a similar key, provided the lost one is a traditional type of key. So, this would work only with an older vehicle. Another option would be to buy a new ignition cylinder from an automotive store.

Q4. Is it easy to hotwire a car?

Ans. The older generation of cars are generally easier to hotwire than newer cars. Modern cars have more electronic circuitry rather than simple wires that run from the battery to the ignition switch. If you don’t have the required experience to hotwire a car, then it is best left to the professionals to get your car started with a key.

Q5. What exactly is hotwiring a car?

Ans. Basically, the starter motor of the car has to be powered. The connection between the battery and the starter motor runs through the ignition switch. When you hotwire the car you are directly connecting the battery to the ignition switch without the use of the key.

Q6. How does a thief steal a car without a key?

Ans. In the case of cars that use a RFID key fob, the thief will make use of an RF repeater to mimic signals sent by the key fob. This will unlock the doors and allow them to start the keyless car by pressing the engine start button.

Q7. What is the benefit of a push button engine start?

Ans. This type of device increases the comfort level for the driver. He doesn’t have to search for the key every time the car needs to be started. There is a proximity sensor built in the car’s receiver. As soon as it detects the key fob is in the vicinity of the car, the door will automatically get unlocked and the engine can be started with just the push of a button.

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