You’ve probably just driven someone else’s car and their car has a push-button start system. So now you’re thinking “oh wow, that’s very convenient.” And you’re also probably thinking can you convert your car to push-button start? How much will it cost? Is it even worth doing?
If you have an older car and thinking of converting your car to a push-button start system, this post will help you decide. We’ll go through the pros and cons, how to do it, and how much it will cost you. Here’s a table of contents to help you find what you need:
Push Start Button
A lot of modern cars now come with a push-start button (or sometimes called keyless ignition) as standard. Once a luxury only for the most expensive cars in a brand’s lineup, it’s now a common feature even in mid-range small hatchbacks. But before we delve further, let’s learn a bit more about how car keys work.
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The keyless system works essentially the same way as most standard car keys. Since the early ’90s, most cars came with transponder keys. This type of key has a transponder that communicates with the receiver in your car.
The transponder uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. When it’s in the ignition, it will send a radio signal to the receiver. If the identification matches, then the immobilizer in your car will disengage. This allows the ignition system to work, and you can start the engine.
The keyless system works essentially the same way; by using radio signals to identify the key fob. The difference is that the keys can communicate with the car from a further distance; as long as it’s in the car, the receiver can communicate with it.
Once the car detects the key, you can turn the ignition on and the car will disengage its immobilizer. Afterward, press the brake (and the clutch if you have a manual), then push the starter to turn the engine on. Pressing the brake to turn the engine on is a safety measure to ensure the car doesn’t jump/creep forward when you start the engine.
Some systems take this further by allowing you to start or turn off the engine remotely with the key fob. As long as you’re within a certain distance, the key fob can communicate with the car and you can start the car with the key fob before you get in it.
This can be convenient in several ways. For example, you can start the car which turns the air-conditioning system on and allows the cabin to cool down. So, by the time you get to your car, you’re greeted with a nice and cool interior.
You can also use it to warm the car on a cold morning as you prepare for your commute. While modern cars can immediately drive 2-3 minutes after starting, it’s still a good idea to warm it up first on cold mornings to make sure everything’s up to temperature and working properly.
Convert Car To Push Button Start: Pros & Cons
The system sounds sweet and very convenient. But let’s take a look at the pros & cons, shall we? Here are the benefits of using a push start button:
- Convenience. There’s no need to use the key to start the car, so you can keep it in your pocket or your bag at all times and there’s no need to take it out.
- Unlike older keys, keyless systems can better detect when your car keys are inside the car. This prevents the car from locking the doors when the key is still inside the car.
There are not a lot of benefits to discuss, since its main benefit is really just the convenience. Now, let’s take a look at the downsides:
- The keys are typically more expensive to replace. It’s especially expensive if you have a factory system and want to replace it with OEM keys. Usually around $300 – $400.
- The keys won’t work if the battery dies. Meanwhile, conventional transponder keys often don’t require a battery to work.
On a personal note, I’d like to add that I’m not a big fan of keyless systems. I always attach a small wallet to the key fob which is where I keep my car’s registration, and I don’t like having it in my pocket while driving. This means I have to find somewhere to place the key and wallet if I have a keyless system.
Not a big deal if the car has a lot of storage space, but in a car without a lot of storage (such as MINI Coopers, for example) then it can be a bit annoying. Again, not a big deal, but if you have the same habit as I do then it’s something to keep in mind.
Keyless Ignition VS Keyless Entry
One last thing we’d like to note is that these two terms mean different things. Keyless ignition is another term for push-start button systems. This means you don’t need to turn a physical key inside an ignition slot to start the car. However, the car will still require you to press the key fob to lock and unlock the doors.
Meanwhile, keyless entry refers to unlocking the doors by using a key fob. Old cars require you to unlock the doors by turning the key in the door handle, but most cars use a keyfob since the late ’90s and you can lock/unlock the doors by simply pressing a button.
An advanced version of this is the Passive Keyless Entry (PKE) system. This system will lock and unlock the doors automatically as long as the key is within proximity of the car, usually about three feet. This is what most people mean when they say keyless entry.
Push Start Kit
So, can you convert your car to have a push start button? Yes, you can. There is a lot of aftermarket push-start kit that you can buy. And chances are there’s one out there that can fit your car. Most of them are universal and will fit in almost any relatively modern car.
However, you should note that installing this requires quite a lot of modification to the car’s key system. In some cases, you’ll also need to swap out the immobilizer. So, the process isn’t as simple as slapping a push-start button and can be quite complicated.
Additionally, this may compromise your car’s security system. While factory systems are not fool-proof either, they generally work pretty well and are trouble-free. Aftermarket ones though can be a bit more unreliable. At best, the alarm may sound for no apparent reason. At worst, it can make your car easier to steal.
With all that being said, here are some aftermarket push-start kits you can consider:
1. Compustar CS4900-S
The Compustar CS4900-S is their mid-range product. This doesn’t come with a start button. Instead, you’ll start the car using the key fob. So, you’ll still need to take out the key fob to start the car. However, you won’t need to turn any key as you start with the push of a button on the fob.
This remote start function works up to 3,000 feet, which is the same as their flagship product, the CS7900-AS. The difference is that the flagship product comes with a keyfob that has a touch screen on it, which we think is completely unnecessary.
The Compustar will set you back $129. However, this doesn’t include installation costs. And their Amazon product page recommends that you have a professional install this for you. Some cars also may require extra parts that are sold separately.
2. Easyguard EC002
If you want a more traditional push-start button rather than a remote start, consider the Easyguard EC002. This comes with a push-start button that you can install in the car, but it also still has a remote start function if you’d like that.
It also has PKE technology, and the system will automatically lock/unlock as long as you’re around 3 – 10 feet from the car. The system also comes with a touch-sensitive keypad that you can install on the car, but you don’t need to install it if you don’t want to.
This will cost you $119 before installation. Additionally, it requires a separate bypass module (around another $20) if your car has a chip immobilizer in the key fob, which is the case for most modern cars.
So, that brings the total to about $140 before installation. If you’re feeling confident, you can install it yourself. Their product page states that a wiring diagram is available upon request.
However, Easyguard doesn’t state whether this will work with manual-transmission cars. But the product page does state it won’t work with cars that have an OEM push-start system. And for some reason, it won’t work with vans either.
3. Viper 4105V
If you want a remote start key fob, take a look at the Viper 4105V which has an Amazon’s Choice badge. This comes with two key fobs, both with a remote start function. So, you don’t need to install a push-start button in the car.
Viper claims that it’s good to use for gas, diesel, and hybrid cars. But it will only work with automatic transmission. There’s not a lot to say, other than it’s highly rated with a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars.
Note that the remote start only works up to 1,500 feet which is respectable, but less than the Compustar’s 3,000 feet range. That being said, it’s more affordable at just $89 before installation costs.
Convert Car To Push Button Start Cost
As per usual, the total cost consists of the parts and labor costs. The parts are anywhere between $45 to $150 depending on which push-start kit you decide to purchase.
Before buying, always check if your car is compatible with the kit. They normally don’t list down the specific car make and model that can use, but if you’re not sure, then try contacting the seller.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to try and find a review from a customer that has the same car as you and see if they’re happy with the result. If you can’t find the information you need, try looking and asking around in owner forums. They’re usually very helpful.
As for the labor cost, this heavily depends on how complicated it is to install in your car and the shop’s labor rate. But as a general rule, wiring jobs usually cost about $100/hour, and installing a push-start kit can take up to two hours to finish. So, you’ll be paying anywhere between $100 and $200 on labor.
You can do the job yourself if you’d like. However, we generally don’t recommend this unless you have advanced skills and knowledge in electricals and wiring. Additionally, we can’t provide you with a precise guide as the exact steps will differ depending on your car’s make and model.
How To Convert Car To Push Button Start
If you’re interested in knowing how to do it, here’s a general guide on how to do it:
- Remove the steering column cover.
- Test the wiring harnesses with a multimeter by connecting the positive (red) lead to the pin and the negative (black) lead to a grounding point. You’ll need to find which wire is the 12-volt power supply wire. Having a wiring diagram of your car will help speed up the process.
- Once you find the wire and mark what each ignition wires do, disconnect the negative battery terminal.
- The push-start kit should come with instructions and a wiring diagram. Connect the corresponding wires from the kit to the ignition wires in the car. Note that this process will usually require a wire stripper and a soldering iron.
- Push-start systems require you to press the brake to start the engine, so you may need to connect a transponder to the brake switch to complete the connection.
- Connect the push-start button to the rest of the ignition wiring. Note that if you’re using a kit with a push-start button, you’ll need to make space on your dashboard to install the button. If you’re using a remote start kit, then you don’t need to do this.
- Reconnect the battery and try to start the car. Once you’ve made sure everything works, reinstall the steering column cover.
The video above shows how to install it in a Honda Civic EK. Again, the process will likely differ depending on your car’s make and model. It’s likely more complicated in modern cars, and you’ll often need to buy a separate bypass module for cars with an immobilizer chip in the keys.
We think it’s not worth the hassle and you’re better off paying a professional to do the job for you.
Cars With Push Button Start
If you’ve been thinking of replacing your current car, why not replace it with a car that has a factory push-button start system rather than fitting your current one with an aftermarket system?
OEM systems generally work better than aftermarket ones. And while they might not be any more secure, they’re usually more reliable than aftermarket ones. That’s my experience anyway. Here are some recommendations:
- 2016 Mazda 6 or newer comes with push-button as standard. Higher trim versions also have a remote-start system. Prices start at $18,000 but lower mileage ones are usually above $21,000.
- 2012 – 2015 Lexus RX. The facelift version of this third-generation Lexus RX mostly came with a push-button start system as well. Prices usually start at around $20,000.
- 2017 – 2020 Hyundai Elantra. While it’s not the most exciting car in Hyundai’s lineup, the Elantra is a decent car nonetheless. And all trims from 2017 came with a push-button start system, including the base SE model. Prices usually start at around $16,000.
- 2016 Ram 1500 or newer. Note not all trims come with this as standard and you should double-check if the unit has it. And prices usually start above $50,000.
- 2016 MINI Cooper or newer. All Mini Cooper S model comes with a push-start button, but it was an option for the standard Cooper model. Most 2016 MINIs cost between $18,000 and $24,000.
However, those are the ones we think are worth noting. If you don’t fancy the options above, check out sites like Carvana where you can filter the cars depending on the feature that you want the car to have.
Push-Button Start Ignition: Facts
- Converting an older car to a push-button start ignition can be a convenient and inexpensive upgrade
- Push-button start ignitions add convenience and security, as the key fob needs to be within a certain proximity to the vehicle to start it.
- Most push-button start kits in the market will cost anywhere from $25 to $150 depending on the type of kit used. Professional installation can cost around $100 or more depending on labor rates.
- Installation of a push-button start kit requires tools such as a multimeter, wire stripper, soldering iron, electrical tape, 10mm wrench, and screwdriver.
- The installation process includes removing the steering column cover, checking the ignition harness voltage with a multimeter, marking necessary ignition wires, and connecting the kit to the ignition wires on the car.
- One disadvantage of push-button start systems is the risk of losing the key fob or running out of battery, which can prevent the car from starting.
- Installing a push-button start system requires working with wiring, so it may not be suitable for those who lack experience with electrical work.
- The convenience of a push-button start system means drivers no longer need to search for their keys in pockets or purses.
- Push-button start systems are commonly found in new cars, but upgrading an older vehicle can bring some of the same modern technology.
- Different push-button start kits will have different installation procedures, so it is important to follow the instructions that come with the kit.
Convert Car To Push Button Start FAQ
We’re sure you still have plenty of questions about converting your car to a push-button start and about the system in general. You might find these answers useful:
How To Turn On Ignition Without Starting Engine Push Start
To turn the ignition on, simply press the push-start button without pressing the brakes (and clutch if you have a manual). Some cars will turn the ignition on after one press, others require you to press it twice. An indication that the ignition is on is when the fuel gauge and lights on the dashboard turn on. If you have an aftermarket system and it immediately starts the engine after one press, then there may be a wiring mistake whilst installing the system.
How To Turn On Car With Key Remote
The process differs depending on the system and your car’s make and model. Some cars have a separate button on the key fob, others use the lock/unlock button on the key fob and you’ll need to press it in a certain way to start it. For example, late-2010s Hyundai requires you to press the lock button three times to remote start it. Check your owner’s or product manual to be sure, and make sure that your car has the system.
How To Start A Keyless Car Without The Key
Even if you have a keyless ignition system, you still need the key fob to be in the car to start the engine. Without the key then the transponder won’t disarm the immobilizer and the ignition system won’t work. This is why it’s important to always have a spare key on hand.
How Do I Know If My BMW Has Remote Start
You can check by going into a sub-menu in your BMW’s iDrive system. Go to ‘Car’, then ‘Settings’, then click on ‘Climate Comfort’. Afterward, there should be ‘Preconditioning/Ventilation’, and after clicking that you’ll find ‘Remote Engine Start’. Then from there on you can control the settings for the remote start system. If you don’t find the settings, then your BMW doesn’t have a remote start. To remotely start the car, press the lock button three times if you have a standard key. If you have the BMW display key, then go to ‘Preconditioning’ to find the option to start the car.
How Do I Know If My Mercedes Has Remote Start
The remote start system in Mercedes cars only works via its MercedesMe app. You can start signing up by going to the MercedesMe portal on their site and then registering an account. Afterward, download the app on your phone, log in, and you can connect to your car. If the car has a remote start system, then the app will show a button to remote start the car. If the button isn’t there, then your car doesn’t have a remote start. The OEM system cannot remote start by using the key fob.
Converting your car to have a push-start button is not an easy job unless you go to a professional or advanced knowledge about car wiring. If you want my two cents, it’s just better to have a traditional transponder key.
It works just fine, and as someone who doesn’t like having car keys in my pocket while driving, it also means I don’t have to find a space to put my key in. And before you say anything, I also don’t like having the keys in my bag since I tend to forget about it and makes it easier for me to lose it.
Additionally, in my experience at least, aftermarket key and security systems are not as good as OEM ones. Although the push-start button is convenient, aftermarket systems can be a bit unreliable. But the heart wants what the heart wants, right? If you really want a car with a push-button start, then consider replacing your current car with another car that comes with an OEM system.
There are plenty of secondhand cars since 2015 that come with a push-button start as standard. And while you’re unlikely to find a car that costs below $10,000 with this feature, there are a plethora of options under $20,000. If it’s time to replace your current car, then maybe this is the push you need to pull the trigger.