Key Takeaways

  • It’s most likely the key fob or the ignition switch causing this issue.
  • The remote starter bypasses the ignition switch.
  • Check your engine coolant temperature sensor.
  • Diagnostic steps are outlined in this article.
  • Key fobs come with security built into them

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Lots of people take the fact their car starts for granted. But why would the car not start with a key but start with a remote starter?

Look to the key fob or the ignition switch when your car won’t start with the key but will with the remote start. It’s usually one of these issues. If not, start looking at the starter motor or at the security system your car comes with.

I’m a mechanic with five years experience diagnosing and repairing vehicles. I have received my degree in automotive repair and am ASE certified. I regularly receive training on the latest released automotive technology. And I repair and diagnose vehicles with the latest tools and software.

Table of Contents

Why Car Won't Start With Key But Will With Remote Starter

A no start issue in your car can certainly be frustrating since you need your car to start in order to drive it. But what about when your car won’t start with a key, but will start with the remote car starter?

The first news is that this problem is usually easy to fix, so don’t fret about potentially having to spend thousands of dollars to fix the issue. Compared to a car that won’t start at all, this problem is an easy to fix problem.

And that’s because the issue usually lies within the key itself. You see, some car keys have a chip inside them that needs to be near the ignition switch to work. This is a security feature built into the car so that if someone figures out how to turn your ignition switch without the key, the car won’t start.

In the case of someone trying to steal your car, this is a good thing. But when you’re just trying to get to work with a bad key fob, it's a hassle. What you’re going to want to do is have your key replaced or the battery inside your key fob replaced.

You can usually crack open your key fob with your bare hands. Inside you will find a small watch battery that you can take out and replace. Now, with the key and key fob in good working order try and start your car again. Remote starters aside, this method should work. If not, continue reading.

Remote Starters

Remote starters work by bypassing the ignition switch all together. They send a signal straight from the car battery to the starter when the remote starter receives a signal. The remote starter system is built to bypass ignitions all together so the key’s safety feature is unnecessary.

Only the remote start enables the remote starter switch which starts the car. Remote starters don’t need a key to operate, and they don’t need a safety signal from the ignition switch to operate.

The remote start system works all alone as long as you have the device that sends the remote starter the correct signal to the starter. So if your key won’t start the car but the remote starter will, it’s most likely the key has a dead battery and it’s not sending the correct signal to the ignition switch.

So the car thinks you’re trying to spin the ignition switch without the proper key. Maybe the car thinks you are trying to spin the ignition switch with a screwdriver or other obscene device. It's because the key isn’t sending out the correct signal to tell the computer that this key is safe to start the car.

But the remote starter bypasses this process altogether, since the remote starter controller doesn’t use any ignition switch security features. The ignition switch is bypassed all together in remote starter systems and doesn’t need a key in the ignition to start.

Another issue could be you have a faulty ignition switch. The ignition switch’s job is to push current from the battery to the starter motor. If the ignition switch is broken it will fail to do this and power from the battery won’t be supplied to the starter motor. This will cause a no start issue.

But in this scenario, the remote starter could still be working because the remote control still works and is able to tell the car to put the starter into action without getting the ignition switch involved in any way.

Your starter motor may be the issue, not the key, if you have had a no start with key issue but fine with remote start. That’s because there’s a solenoid on top of the starter that might not be getting power from the ignition, but might still be able to receive power from the remote starter.

For the starter to function properly, a lot of working parts need to be in working order. And if the remote start button on your car still works but the key doesn’t, it is possible that the starter is the issue. If the starter is the issue, you may have to replace it.

The last issue it could be is your car’s security system. LIke stated before remote starters are meant to bypass ignition switches and most security features are focused on the car’s ignition switch. If you can’t spin the ignition switch, you can’t start the car. But the remote starter bypasses the ignition switch altogether.

If there’s a problem with your vehicle's security system it won’t allow the car to spin the ignition switch. But the remote starter will allow the car to start since the remote starter bypasses the ignition switch and the vehicle’s security all together.

Very rarely will the vehicle put on a check engine light for the vehicle’s security but it’s been known to happen. Try putting your remote starter in valet mode, then start the car with the ignition to see if this helps anything.  If it does, tell your mechanic when you take the car to them.

Diagnosing The Issue

If your car starts with a remote start but not with the regular key, it could indicate a problem with the starter. Here are a few things you can do to diagnose the issue:

  • Check the battery: If the battery is weak or dead, the starter may not receive enough power to turn the engine over. Check the battery voltage with a multimeter or have it tested at an auto parts store.
  • Inspect the starter: Look for any signs of physical damage or corrosion on the starter motor or its wiring. You may need to remove the starter to inspect it thoroughly.
  • Test the starter relay: The starter relay is responsible for sending power to the starter motor. Use a multimeter to test the relay and ensure it's functioning correctly.
  • Check the ignition switch: The ignition switch sends power to the starter when the key is turned. If the switch is faulty, the starter may not receive power. Try turning the key while wiggling the switch to see if it makes a difference.

It's important to note that starting your car with a remote start bypasses some of the key components involved in the regular starting process, so it may not necessarily indicate that the starter is working correctly.

Why My Car Won't Start With A Key But Will With Remote Starter?

About The Author

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.

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