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Key ignition vs starter button

My folks just bought a new car that they really like. I test drove it and liked it but found it weird that there was no key. There is something that you keep on you that allows you to get in car and hit the start button, but there is no key. I guess I am wondering if the key is better or is the button better? Also does one have less issues over the life of a car than others? The only difference so far that I have noticed is with a key, if I want a spare, it is easy and cheap to get. without the key, the dealer told my folks it would be three hundred to get a spare of the FOB thing that they have to use. Also I feel like I am doing less to operate car by not sticking key in and cranking it.

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Did people feel they were doing less when they no longer had to use a crank at the front to start vehicle?
Relax and enjoy the modern world.


Neither is better, in my opinion.

Modern cars don’t respond to the key the way older ones did anyway. These days the key is a momentary switch. Turn the key and immediately return is to run, don’t hold it while cranking the engine - but the engine will still be cranking because the computer handles everything you used to do by holding the key in crank until the engine starts. Now a push button can do this. It stops the engine, too.

So you aren’t doing this anymore, key or push button.

Modern cars don’t just use the key to identify you, either. There is a little chip in the key or in the key fob that identifies you as well. It is no longer completely mechanical and hasn’t been for over 20 years. And those $3 replacement keys are $40 now. Before hardware stores could program them, they were $250 at the dealer (my wife’s 2001 Saab key replacement!)

I don’t consider the push button start progress. My 1948 Dodge had a push button on the left side of the dashboard that operated the starter. I didn’t like the pushbutton start on the 1948 Dodge. I much preferred the floor operated starter on my 1947 Pontiac. Stepping on the starter pedal pushed the starter pinion into the flywheel and closed the switch to the starter. There were no solenoids or relays to go bad
My 1965 Rambler started by turning the key. In the time I owned the car, I had to replace that combination ignition/starter switch three times (and I didn’t have anything but the ignition key on my keychain). On my 1947 Pontiac, the ignition switch was for turning on the ignition system. We weren’t so lazy in the old days we couldn’t fish a key out of our pocket or step down on a pedal to start the engine.


In my office building, I have received multiple emails from the property manager that someone left their car running in the parking lot again. I recently test drove vehicles and I test this out on the Mazda. If you leave it running and exit the vehicle with the fob in your pocket it does not shut off the car. A coworker did this in his Altima. I walked by his car in the parking lot at lunch and I called him to tell him his car was running. He said it burnt through a half a tank of gas.

I agree. Today it is more of a request than a command :smile:

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Anybody besides me remember the good old days when auto manufacturers did their best to be different on starting the engine? On some cars, you twisted the key to the start position. On some cars, you pushed a button on the dashboard, on my 1954 Buick, you turned the ignition switch to the “on” position and stepped on the accelerator pedal. When Tue pedal was about 1/3 of the way down, the starter was activated and when the engine started, the starter was deactivated. I believe Packards had the same starter arrangement. The Studebaker and Nash were started by pushing down on the clutch and then giving it an extra stomp. The Nash with an automatic transmission had a really wild system–you put the automatic transmission selector in “neutral” and pulled the level toward you to engage the starter. One more interesting feature for those who have had problems with the safety switch on the automatic transmission which only allows the car to start in “Park” or “Neutral”, the 1948 Pontiac with the Hydramatic automatic transmission had the foolproof system:. When you stepped on the floor pedal to start the engine, a lever connected to the starter pedal put the transmission selector in “Neutral”.

Not having actually seen one of these “keyless” cars in person, what is the proper way to shut it off? hit the start button again? a different button?

I think you hit the button again and technically it is a “Start/Stop” button. I really think the auto manufacturers should have green and red buttons as they have on electric motor control switches with green for start and red for stop.

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One of my favorite features of my new car is the proximity key. It’s not reallya key in the physical sense,it’s more like a large fob. As long as it’s on your person, you can unlock or lock the doors with just a touch of the door handle, and start the car with push of the button. Comes in handy if you’re like me and you will carry all the grocery bags to or from the car in one trip (or die trying), it’s really helpful not have to go into your pockets to dig out the key whilst juggling 5 bags.


As far as I’m concerned, the insert-key ignition switch might as well just go away. When you turn the key, all you’re doing to start the car is closing an electrical circuit that tells the computer the driver wants to start the car. The exact same thing is happening when you push the button, only no key is involved.

In both cases, the car is still polling the interior to verify that a paired key is present before it starts the car. The car does not care whether the key is in a hole in the steering column, or your pocket. Makes no difference to the detection system.

There is no longer a need for the turn-key starting method.


Does this car also have the feature where the doors can be unlocked by touching the door handle while the key is in your pocket? If so, then I’d say the start/stop button is definitely better, as you don’t ever have to dig the key out of your pocket, especially when your hands are full in the rain.

As for a spare key with the old system, I don’t think you’ve priced one since they starting putting chips in them. That probably isn’t much cheaper, actually.

Actually once you get used to the button it is kind of nice. You just keep the key fob in your pocket, touch the door handle to unlock it, and push the button to start it. Our 2012 Acura had the push button but also a slot to put the fob in but in our 2016, they have eliminated even the slot to put the fob in. I’m not sure how I feel about that but guess it doesn’t really matter. Just keep the batteries up on the fob and for heaven’s sake don’t lose one.

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This is the new normal, and you’ll get used to it. We have a couple of fleet vehicles where I work that work this way, and I’ve adjusted to them.

I too would prefer a key for the simplicity of replacing or having additional copies made, but the keyless fob actually provides better security, so in the end, it’s people like you (OP) and me who will have to adjust.

Yes, it’s the same button on the cars I’ve seen.

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Personally not a fan of the push button, but people are of course free to do what they want. I figure if I’m going to have house keys that are probably on the same ring as the car fob, what’s the big deal about using the key rather than a button to start the car?

Two stories (for information only, and no emotion from me; just don’t understand why people take such risks for so little convenience):

I was walking in a parking lot once where a woman flagged me down because she didn’t know how to re-start her car. For some reason, there was a need to reset something before pushing the button again. I wasn’t familiar with her car, but we tried 2 or 3 things to ‘reset’ before it started.

There’s also the story of people who start their car with the button, go back into the house for some reason and manage to leave the fob there. They arrive at their destination, turn off the car and then are stuck until the fob is brought back to the car.

Yeah, my mother did that awhile ago.

“Well why did you take the key fob out of your purse?”

“I don’t know, I just had them in my hand and must have put them down.”

Then I pointed out that she could just jam the thing in the bottom of her purse and forget it’s even there, and the car would just work when she walked up to it, and she’s been fine ever since.

I don’t know if her car does it, but my SO’s car will make a loud obnoxious beep the minute the key is removed while the engine is running. It will keep making that beep until the key returns or you turn the car off. So if you can make it all the way to work with that blaring in your ear and not realize that something’s wrong… :wink:


Yeah it beeps pretty loud if you walk away from the car with it running. The one issue I have is trying to lock the wife’s purse in the car when you are shopping or something. It won’t let you lock the car with a fob inside. I don’t know if they are all this way or just Acura.

I hope you mean leaving the purse in the trunk and not in the car.

Correct. There are times when you want to lock the purse away, but you have to take the 2nd fob out first.