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Cannot start car if FOB fails

My car was delivered 6 days ago. Last night the car did not recognize the FOB. I was able to open the car door with my iPhone app. Once in the car it said key not present and refused to turn on. Despite 30 minutes on the phone with Tesla, no luck. Had to catch a cab home, get the other FOB and then return to the car, where fortunately the second FOB worked and home I went. Today the Tesla rangers came by and found the FOB had somehow become "deprogrammed".
This episode raises a larger safety issue. All other car manufacturers that use an electronic FOB have a backup mechanical key to both get into the car and to start it. Not so with our Teslas!
They need to have a pincode or similar on the main touchscreen to allow one to start the car in case the FOB fails. Even with the reported upcoming software update allowing Tesla to start the car for you, this will only work if there is a 3G signal. If in the mountains or in a parking garage you will be out of luck..

Of all the proposed software updates this is the most important. The roadside assistant on the phone last night suggested carrying both FOBs for now as a safety! We should not have to do this with such a high tech car. I am hopeful that if others have had this issue and are concerned about inability to start the car in case of FOB failure, they will relay their urgent concern to Tesla for a fix.

They need to have a pincode or similar on the main touchscreen to allow one to start the car in case the FOB fails.

Yes, that sounds like a great idea!

"All other car manufacturers that use an electronic FOB have a backup mechanical key to both get into the car and to start it."

I don't believe this is true. There are a lot of cars these days that have no key to start the car.

I apologize if I was not clear. I currently own 3 other cars with a "keyless fob". All 3 of them however have a hidden mechanical key inside in case the battery dies in the fob. I doubt there are any manufacturers other than Tesla with a keyless fob that actually does not have a bail out key.

"Many RKE devices come with an integrated emergency key that can be used to unlock the car in the event that the transmitter stops working, but often aren't able to activate the ignition.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/07/24/mystery-surrounds-wireless-car-key-blackout-in-new-york-city/#ixzz2LxlDOjta"

Simple solution: put all the features of the fob into the mobile app. It's already uniquely linked to the vehicle and proximity can be determined via Bluetooth. It can be PIN protected, is less likely to be lost or fail, and can have its features updated just like the car software. It already can be used to unlock your car, why not make it able to "start" it?

Continue to provide fobs also to accommodate those who don't have smartphones and for valets, etc.

I did the easier option. I bought a spare battery and duct taped it under the hood near the windshield where I can reach it but it can't be seen. No special code or hidden key holes required.

Thanks everyone for your comments. Spare battery a good idea, however my fob died not due to battery but because it had become "deprogrammed" for unexplained reasons. The expanded iPhone app seems like the simplest solution. Please all let your Tesla reps know that this is an area of concern and hopefully they will correct sooner rather than later.

When you say expanded app, do you mean the iPhone version doesn't have the "unlock" option on it like the Android version does?

jat@jaet.org | February 25, 2013 new

When you say expanded app, do you mean the iPhone version doesn't have the "unlock" option on it like the Android version does?

No I think he means include the fob functionality in the mobile app.

Modern car needs a correctly programmed transponder from a key/fob to start a car.

If a fob is deprogrammed, then a mechanical key can't start the car either. A battery won't help in this case either because it only amplifies the unmatched signal, not the correct one.

You can start other cars with a mechanical key regardless of its battery status because transponder is a very old WWII invention.

It broadcasts its signal on its own without the need of external power. However, its power is very weak so you have to practically be almost touching the car's antenna to work. As a convenience, battery is added to boost its broadcasting signal so you can unlock your car from a far. So dead battery means the end of remote but you can still start the car by having the fob in contact with a car's antenna.

When a non-Tesla fob's battery's dead, you need a mechanical key to access the door. Tesla has a better way of doing it: by Cell Phone signal. You can do it yourself or call Tesla to open the doors for you.

I think Got got a great idea, why not having the cell phone to start the Model S as well and forget all about the fob business!

Make fobs optional, less parts to make while more customers are smiling :)

The Tesla S manual also indicates you can get access into the car with a dead FOB battery by placing it on the windshield near the passenger wiper. You then put the FOB in the cup holder to drive away. I haven't tested this myself.

If the code of the FOB does not match what the car expects (good battery or not) it will not work at all, which sounds like what happened to Donald.

Did you try to procedures on page 30 of the user guide? It doesn't mention starting, but does tell you how to unlock. I don't have my car yet so I can't test it.

https://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/blog_attachments/ms_owne...

In the case of both my Prius and my LEAF, the mechanical key is purely used to open the doors. There is no key slot to start they car. However, the FOBs have an RFID tag in them that doesn't require the battery for the car to read it. Put the Prius key I'm the slot and the car will start, dead battery or not. On the LEAF, just touch the dead fob to the start button and you can start it. Perhaps the MS will also start once you touch the special spot on the windshield?

Yeah, I too wish there was some sort of physical back-up key. They could hve put a key hole somewhere on the outside and an ignition somewhere on the inside in hidden, not necessarily convenient, places, just as a back up in case the keyless operation doesn't work for whatever reason.

I think DonaldM's idea of a pin is the best, there is no additional device that can fail.

+1 @GeekEV - previous cars with keyless entry had a backup mechanical key but only to get in the car, not to start it.

+1 for the pin.

Also, if that is integrated into the iPhone app, then even better.

So, spare battery, can of re-inflate, bag of adapters are a must in the emergency kit when traveling with this miracle of technology ;-)

If you carry both fobs, then both fob batteries drain. keeping a spare battery in the car is a good idea. Hopefully the deprogramming problem was just a one off hardware problem with the fob. But remote start should solve that problem. I might be a little hesitant about being able to turn the car on from a phone. Phones get lost and stolen. The phone app will also tell an interested party where the car is and lead him/her to it with flashing lights and horn.

BTW there are phones out there that are not iphones and they also have Tesla apps.

I personally dont like the idea of the app being in place of a key fob.

Seems too unsecure IMO.

This could be a dumb question, but why would the batteries drain when the fob is in the car? Is it because the fob is continuously "talking" with the car?

I'd prefer a PIN or a mechanical key instead of the phone.

The pin code for a 'manual' start is an idea. An alternative that requires additional hardware is a backup fingerprint scanner, that would allow only logged prints to enable the car.

IMHO the app is probably the best idea for the lowest amount of money to enable. I know iPhones can have security codes to prevent access to their contents, and even remote disabling of the phone with the right setup, so I'd be less concerned about phone theft = car theft as well. I do think there should be a limit to the apps ability to start the car though. Maybe it can only start the car 2 or 3 times before a FOB start is required or something similar.

There could be dual security in place of dead/defective fob. Have the app open up a keypad on the center screen, where you can input a pin code. Thus you need both for starting the car without fob.

I still think an external device just adds to the risk. Phones can be dropped, broken, submerged, stolen or lost together with the FOB. That leaves you stranded again. Just a pin on the screen should be just fine... until you forget it. :-)

Remote EEG is the only solution.


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