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When Smart Keys Go Through The Wash

smartkeyWhen I first encountered them, I considered smart keys to be a bit of an unnecessary frippery.  However, I have grown to like them very much, especially on our recent family camping holiday.  If the kids discovered that there was something they needed in the boot or the back of the family Ford Fairlaine after we had turned in for the night, there was no need to go through all the palaver of wriggling out of bed, pulling on dressing gowns and getting out of the caravan (hence the need for a large-engined Ford) and unlocking the car.  One press of the button and the MP3 player or book could be retrieved by Mr or Miss Forgetful.  I guess heaps of us have also come to enjoy the convenience of smart keys as well.  Some of the modern ones (especially on some of the recent releases from Mercedes) get even smarter, unlocking the door for you if you get within a certain radius and no need to even press a button.

However, the other day, seeming disaster struck.  In spite of the family policy of putting car keys in the wooden bowl on the fridge where they belong once you’ve finished driving, a set of car keys got left in the pocket of a pair of jeans (and it wasn’t me who did this, incidentally).  And the jeans went through the wash, smart keys and all. The keys were only discovered at the bottom of the washing machine after going through the full wash, rinse and spin.  Panic.  Did they still work?  (We do have a spare set – always a good idea, as accidents happen).

They didn’t.  However, all was not lost.  For one thing, the actual key bit can still be used to unlock the door and the boot manually the old-fashioned way.  There is a way to get them working again without all the hassle of having to order a new one and get it activated – a lengthy and expensive process.  It was very simple, too:

Step 1: Open up the fob of the smart key.  There’s a weeny screw on the back of our set that needs an equally weeny screwdriver to open up.  Every home should have a tiny screwdriver in both flat and Phillips for jobs like this.  Other keys may open in another way, so have a good look at what you’ve got.

Step 2: Take out the battery.

Step 3: Dry the battery and let the rest of the key’s innards dry out properly.  Leaving it in the sunshine is the best bet.  Don’t be a muggins and try putting it in the microwave or in a conventional oven.

Step 4:  Put the battery back in and put the key back together again.

Hey presto – one key almost as good as new again, unlocking and locking the door and the boot again like magic.  If we wanted it to be just as good as new, we could have changed the battery – they do run out after a while.

A quick bit of research has also revealed that if your smart keys fall into liquid that isn’t fresh water (i.e. not the washing machine, toilet or swimming pool), an extra step can be added between Steps 2 and 3.  This step will involve giving everything a good rinse in clean fresh water to get all the salt water/beer/coffee off the working parts.  However, I can’t vouch for this one, not having tried it personally.

If you are really unlucky, the “open it up and let it dry” method won’t work and your smart keys are stuffed.  In this case, your only hope is to either (a) use the spare set, (b) resort to locking and unlocking the car manually or (c) getting a new $et of $mart key$ from your local lock$mith.

And guess who’s going to be checking pockets before doing the laundry now?


  1. Greg says:

    Drying them out in white rice for 24 hours works well. The rice helps extract the moisture.

    January 28th, 2014 at 10:16 am