The Secret Powers of Your Key Fob You Need to Know

Updated: Apr. 10, 2024

“Manufacturers are tasking key fobs with a multitude of functions that make the car—and the key fob—more useful than ever.”

Today’s keyless ignition systems rely on key fobs to transmit a unique low-frequency signal to the car’s computer system that allows you to push a button and start your engine. You can shut off your engine just as easily. The fob also permits keyless entry to your car. But, that fob can do a whole lot more.

“Manufacturers are tasking key fobs with a multitude of functions that make the car—and the key fob—more useful than ever,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

Lower Your Windows and Open the Sunroof

Features vary by manufacturer, but one of the universal features is the ability to lower your windows by pressing the unlock button on the key fob once, then pressing it again within 10 seconds and holding it down until all the windows have opened. CNET conducted an internal poll, scoured Reddit and tapped CNET user comments to determine which models this works for.

Fold in Your Mirrors

Some vehicles can automatically detect when you’re parked in a tight space, and will fold in your side view mirrors automatically. If your car doesn’t have this feature, you can try holding the key fob lock button for 10 seconds. According to Consumer Reports, newer Chevrolet and GMC pickup trucks have this feature.

Set Seat Adjustment Memory

Some car models, like those from GMC, allow you to set a memory of where you like your seat. Each key fob is assigned its own number, so when you get in the car, it automatically knows who’s driving. Set your seat preference while in your car, and every time you hop in, you’ll be good to go!

Memorize Radio Presets

Just like memory seats, if more than one person is sharing a vehicle and there are two key fobs, each one can be used to remember the driver’s preset radio stations.

Summon Your Vehicle

According to Consumer Reports the Tesla Model S and Model X key fobs can be used to move the car in and out of tight parking spaces while the driver stands outside the car. “Summon” must first be enabled, once, and only once, on the car’s center screen. From there, every time you go to your Tesla and it’s in a tight spot, you can remotely press the button in the center of the fob until the hazard lights flash. To pull the car forward, press the button on the front of the fob. To stop it, press the same button again. To make the car go backward, press the roof button until the hazard lights flash. Then press the button on the back of the fob to put the car into motion.

Extend the Range of Your Key Fob

This one sounds like an urban legend, but apparently it truly works! By holding your key job against your chin and pushing the unlock, lock or panic button, you can increase the range of your key job. “That’s because behind the scenes—or, rather, inside the scenes—the fluids of your head act as a conductor,” notes tech critic David Pogue, who has a video to prove it. “Your body becomes part of the antenna—a much bigger one. If you’re old enough to remember when TV sets had “rabbit ears” antennas, you may recall that you sometimes got the clearest picture when you were touching the antenna. Same principle here.”