Is it possible to convert a car to have push button start?

Car keys are quickly becoming a thing of the past. But can you add a push button start to an older car? We investigated the costs and labor involved.

Keyless starting has come to almost all cars in 2024 and it’s easy to see why: it makes life easier by not having to take your keys out of your pocket and simply press a small button and go.

The first car to use this technology was the Cadillac Model 30 in 1912. This was because it was the first car to be produced with an electric starter before manufacturers came up with the idea of ​​turning a key to activate the starter, which is the small electric motor that spins the engine 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 simply as a transponder with a button to start a car without needing to turn the key in the ignition.

The technology was called ‘KeylessGo’ and used a credit card-shaped key that had to be inserted into a slot before the driver could press a button to start the car. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that brands like Audi and BMW began implementing systems that allowed the key to never have to leave your pocket to open 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 some brands like Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz that don’t even need a physical key and are completely phone-powered, and a push-button start as standard is almost a given when it comes to buying a new car, even with lower equipment 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 a push button start be added to a car?

You certainly can. There are several different ways to turn your car into a push button start. Some are cheap options and others can break the bank. It’s a good idea to have any electrical components in your car installed by a professional. Wiring can be confusing if you’re not a professional, and if you mess it up, your car may not start and the repair will be expensive.

One of the easiest, but virtually useless, ways to turn your car into a push button start is by simply connecting one to the starter signal wire. The signal wire is a single wire that runs from the starter to the ignition and tells the starter when to activate. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to do this, or you can pay an automotive electrician to hook one up for you.

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

If you want the full proximity key fob, it gets a little more expensive. While you can purchase keyless entry and engine start kits on eBay for under $100, we certainly don’t recommend performing the installation without proper training as an auto electrician.

We recommend opting for a reputable brand such as Snake rather than a cheap system, as the last thing you want to happen is for the system to fail and you to be left on the side of the road with a car that won’t start.

A name brand system can cost between $400 and $1000, depending on how many little devices you want with your key, such as remote start, which allows you to start the car with the key without even having to sit inside the car (you should use this at your own discretion, as some states prohibit being more than ten feet from your moving car).

Installing one of these systems is labor-intensive. If installed by a professional, expect an additional $200 to $600 in labor, depending on your car and the system you are installing.

Will installing a keyless start system void my warranty?

A car company cannot reject your warranty if the aftermarket modification has not caused the warranty claim.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) says: “A car fitted with a fit-for-purpose part will not void the warranty. If a problem occurs in the vehicle as a result of the modification, said problem will be covered by the warranty of the manufacturer or installer of the part.”

Therefore, if an unrelated part fails, for example a gearbox or brake caliper, the manufacturer cannot refuse the warranty. If you are having wiring problems, the manufacturer may be able to prove that it is due to your aftermarket keyless start. In this case, you will need to file a warranty claim with the installer or parts company. This is why it is important to use a reputable brand and auto electrician.

If you encounter any problems with unreasonable warranty denials, the AAAA has a legal assistance line that offers advice and helps those who have questions.

In conclusion, adding a push-button start or keyless system to an older car is possible, but it comes with costs and potential warranty implications. It is crucial to use reputable brands and have the system installed by a professional to ensure the job is done correctly and to avoid any warranty issues.

The article ‘Can a car be converted to push button start?’ was originally published on Drive.