Overcoming the unforeseen hurdle of starting a vehicle without a key demands resourcefulness and innovation. However, a few methods can solve this problem, like using a screwdriver, hot wiring, and a red coil. These options are great for parents and travelers who can’t find their keys.

Imagine being stuck with a car and having no access to its key. If this has happened to you, you are not the only one because estimates indicate that 20 million people lose their car and house keys annually. Statistics also show that Americans spend over $2.7 billion annually on replacing lost car keys.

Amidst the chaos, your keys become a distant memory, and a good day turns sour. But fear not, for the absence of your keys doesn’t have to bring life to a standstill. I have a plan for you when you need to start your car without a key.

While attempting to start a car without a key may involve techniques such as hot wiring or bypassing the ignition switch through wiring, remember that incorrect execution can lead to vehicle damage or even a fire. If you’re uncertain about these methods, contacting a mechanic or roadside assistance can be prudent.

Scenarios Requiring Starting A Car Without A Key

how to start a car without a key

Before delving into the methods, you must thoughtfully bypass your car’s key system. Only use these techniques when you’re sure the key is unusable. Situations where you might need to start your car without a key include:

  • Lost key: If your key is lost and you can’t wait for a replacement, these methods can be handy for moving your vehicle.
  • Broken ignition switch: When your key won’t turn or the car won’t start even with the key, a broken ignition switch might need bypassing to initiate the vehicle.
  • Broken key: If your key has broken off in the ignition or suffered damage, starting the car might require bypassing the ignition system.
  • Dead smart key: Cars with keyless or smart key systems may encounter difficulties if the key’s battery dies.

However, it’s crucial to note that temporarily employing any of these techniques should be followed by a visit to a certified car dealership or locksmith. Overusing these methods can harm your car’s wiring or steering column, leading to more expensive repairs.

Tools Required For Starting A Car Without A Key

how to start a car without a key

Starting a car without a key entails using specific tools, which should be a part of every car’s emergency kit. If you lack these items, consider adding them for future preparedness:

  • Jumper cables
  • Electrical tape
  • Mechanic gloves
  • Protective glasses
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Small cordless drill or screwdriver

Starting A Car Using the Screwdriver (Or Drill) Method

Having a flathead screwdriver in your emergency kit is essential. The screwdriver method is one of the least damaging ways to start a car without a key, posing minimal risk to your vehicle’s wiring and safety.

Here’s how to utilize a screwdriver to start your car:

  1. Locate and remove the screws holding the steering column’s trim in place. Keep them nearby, such as in your car’s center console.
  2. Remove the plastic trim to expose the ignition switch.
  3. Insert the screwdriver into the ignition tumbler (keyhole) and gently turn it to engage the ignition. If the car starts, promptly seek a locksmith or dealership for a replacement key.

For newer vehicles or stubborn locks, a tiny drill bit and screwdriver can also start the car.

  1. Position the drill head about two-thirds into the ignition keyhole. Ensure adequate depth to disengage the lock pins. 
  2. Gradually start the drill while pushing the bit to the key’s normal depth, feeling the lock pins disengage. Insert a flathead screwdriver into the engaged lock mechanism and turn it to initiate the car’s ignition.
  3. Should neither screwdriver method prove effective for your car, or if you own a newer model, attempting hot wiring might be an option.

Starting A Car Using The Hot Wire Method

Hot wiring a car involves working with live wires and carries a risk of electric shock. Follow these steps carefully if you’re considering this method:

  1. Locate and remove the screws securing the steering column in place, typically near the base and sides of the column.
  2. Slide out the access panels of the column.
  3. Identify the bundle of wires associated with the battery. This bundle usually contains red wiring. Verify this from your owner’s manual to avoid accidental contact with the starter or ignition wires.
  4. Strip the insulation from the battery and ignition wires using a wire stripper, scissors, or pocket knife. Twist the stripped ends together to activate the ignition and lights.
  5. To start the engine, cautiously strip the end of the starter wire and touch it to the bundled battery and starter wires. Avoid twisting the starter wire into the bundle, which can cause shock. Cover the exposed starter wire with electrical tape immediately after starting the engine.
  6. Drive the vehicle to a steering column reassembly mechanic and get a new key.

Remember that modern cars often have steering wheel lock mechanisms preventing steering without a key. If you start the car but encounter a locked steering wheel, emergency roadside assistance is necessary as driving becomes unsafe.

Starting A Car Using The Red Coil Method

For those comfortable working under a car hood, the red coil method can be a rapid way to start a vehicle in emergencies:

  1. Open the car’s hood and locate the red wire. Its location varies left, right, or near the engine’s back.
  2. Connect a jumper cable to the red wire and run it to the car battery’s positive terminal, powering the dash.
  3. After the dash receives power, access the steering column’s solenoid by placing a screwdriver in the gap between the column and the wheel. Push down to release the locking mechanism.
  4. A small red wire connected to the steering wheel’s key mechanism should be visible. Touch a screwdriver’s metal end to the wire while holding the insulated handle to prevent shock. This action should kickstart the starter and enable driving to a mechanic for key replacement.

Remember that today’s car designs are often resilient against methods bypassing the key system. Newer vehicles may not respond to hot wiring or feature keyless start systems.

Starting A Keyless Car Without A Fob

Even keyless cars can be started without a fob using hot wiring or the red coil method. Additionally, hidden ignition switches can exist in steering columns, even for keyless vehicles:

  1. Examine the steering column for circular caps or recessed covers, indicating a hidden ignition switch. Pry open the cap using a screwdriver, if possible.
  2. Following the screwdriver method’s steps, if a key or fob slot becomes visible.

In cases where the key fob is dead but you want to start the car, you can still use the following method:

Starting a Keyless Car With a Dead Key Fob

Keyless cars often have an emergency backup program allowing fobs to start the car when held next to the start button:

  1. Access your car’s interior without a working fob.
  2. Check if your manufacturer offers a remote unlocking service on their website.
  3. Use this service to unlock the car and access the interior if available.
  4. Engage the emergency brake before attempting to start the car.
  5. Press the key fob to the start button, utilizing the emergency backup program that activates when the fob is close to the button.
  6. After starting, visit a dealership or locksmith for a new fob battery.

Risks Of Starting A Car Without A Key

It’s vital to avoid DIY methods unless necessary. There are inherent risks associated with starting a car without a key, including:

  • Vehicle damage: Incorrect attempts at starting can lead to significant damage to your car’s dash, wiring, steering column, or battery.
  • Legal implications: While it is not illegal to hotwire your car, roadside hotwiring can raise concerns with law enforcement. Moreover, your insurance or warranty won’t cover any damage you cause attempting to start your vehicle without a key.
  • Personal safety: Working with a vehicle puts you at risk of injury, such as electric shock or physical harm, while handling wires.

Safety gloves and eyewear are essential to minimize injury risks when attempting these methods.

Final Thoughts 

Before considering hotwiring your car, exhaust all other options. If waiting for professional assistance isn’t feasible, cautiously approach starting a car without a key. Not all vehicles respond to these methods, which should be followed by a locksmith or mechanic visit.

While starting a car without a key might seem unconventional, mastering essential car maintenance skills can enhance your driving experience. From addressing issues like ink stains on leather car seats to managing gas odors during startup, acquiring these skills ensures safer, more enjoyable journeys.


Can I start my car without a key?

Yes, you can. The car can be started without the key through diverse strategies suitable for different scenarios.

What are some methods to start a car without a chip key?

These approaches encompass methods like transponder bypass and the utilization of emergency key slots when accessible.

Is it possible to start a car without an immobilizer?

Using particular bypass techniques is achievable to initiate a vehicle without an immobilizer. These methods serve to deactivate or maneuver around the immobilizer system temporarily.

How can I start a push-button car without a key?

The following methods can be used if you are wondering how to start a push-button car without a key:

Method 1: Utilize the Key Fob

  • Identify the concealed physical key within the key fob. A multitude of key fobs incorporates a compact key discreetly.
  • Spot the covert key slot or entry point adjacent to the push-button ignition. Usually, this location is either on the steering column or the dashboard.
  • Put the key fob into the designated slot or point of entry.
  • Engage the brake pedal and sustain pressure.
  • Simultaneously, press the push-button ignition while consistently applying brake pedal pressure. This sequence should instigate the ignition progression.

Method 2: Keyless Initiation

  • Ascertain that the key fob remains within the car’s operational range.
  • Activate the brake pedal and uphold the depression.
  • While the brake pedal is held down, engage the push-button ignition.
  • The engine should commence operation if the car detects the signal from the key fob.