Home » Your Keyfob Probably Has A Secret Feature You Never Knew About

Your Keyfob Probably Has A Secret Feature You Never Knew About

Key Fob Windows Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

Cars have tons of features these days, most of them obvious. When an automaker sticks in heated seats or a rear defroster, they stick a button on the dash with an obvious symbol so you know it’s there. But there are secret features, too, hidden in menus or in secret button presses that you’d never try by chance. Today, I’m going to educate you on a super neat hidden feature that’s actually remarkably common. It’s also remarkably weird, in some obscure cases.

Summer’s going to be here in a few months, and with it, comes the heat. Some will already be dreading getting into the stifling oven that is the inside of a car on a hot day. You can run the AC, sure, and drop the windows, but all the while you’re sweating in the seat. If only there was a simple, easy way to vent the car out before you got in. Oh… but there is!

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

This sneaky feature actually hides under a button you use on a daily basis. On a huge number of cars, you can drop all the power windows simply by holding down the unlock button on the keyfob. The key is to hold down the button, instead of making a short press as you would when unlocking the door. In some cars, it will open the sunroof, too. It’s a documented feature, but you could miss it entirely unless you sat down for a good night’s reading of your car’s manual.

If your car has this feature, it’s a great way to cool down your car before you get in on a hot day. Often, the air inside can be well above ambient temperatures. Dropping the windows to ventilate the interior can be of great help in the summer.

ADVERTISEMENT

The opposite usually works too. Simply hold down the lock button, and the power windows all wind themselves up. This feature is particularly useful if you’ve shut off the car and started to walk away, only to realize a passenger left one of the windows open.

Screenshot 2024 02 06 180200
If you’ve got an E90 BMW convertible, you can actually get the roof to open just by holding down the unlock button on the keyfob. Pretty baller. If you’re selling a used one, use this move to close the deal.

I have no idea which car this was first implemented on. However, it became common as vehicle started to implement keyfobs for keyless entry. It started to pop up on a number of luxury models in the late 1990s, before becoming more and more common in the 2000s and 2010s. Today, you can expect this feature even on “regular” cars like the Honda Civic and Nissan Altima from the last few years.

It took some time for automakers to implement this feature in a way that made sense. For example, in 2001, BMW shipped the E46 generation 3 Series with remote unlocking keyfobs. However, if you wanted to do the window trick, you couldn’t use the buttons. You instead had to approach the locked car, insert the key into the lock, and hold it in one direction or the other to raise or lower the windows. You couldn’t do it at a distance. Several cars implement this mode of operation in addition to doing it remotely.

Screenshot 2024 02 06 180333
Doing it via the lock is lame, but that’s how it worked on the E46 BMW.

It bears noting that some cars still do it a bit differently, too. Honda tends to do it by having you press the unlock button once, before pressing and holding the second time. Oh, and if you want to close them, you have to do it by putting the key in the lock and turning and holding it. Very odd.

Screenshot 2024 02 06 175552
Excerpt from the 2015 Nissan Altima manual.
Screenshot 2024 02 06 175236
Excerpt from the 2020 Honda Civic manual. Neither the Civic or the Altima mentioned here allow the windows to be closed with the remote. This may be out of an abundance of caution, to avoid foreign objects or a person’s limb from getting trapped in a closing window.

Mercedes was ahead of the game, implementing the feature on cars like the the W210 E Series in 1998. Hilariously, though, they did so in a completely oddball fashion. Taking a look at the fob and door handles will give you a clue.

ADVERTISEMENT
Mercinfra
The early Mercedes system, as used on the W210 E-Class, used infrared. This has to be used very close up to work. Why they didn’t just use the keyfob’s radio to do it, I’ll never know.

The keyfob unlocks the car via a radio signal at a distance as normal. However, the window opening is triggered seperately, via an infrared LED in the tip of the keyfob. This interfaces with an infrared receiver in the door handle of the car. Otherwise, it’s still triggered by holding the unlock or lock button as you’d expect. You have to be fairly close to the car to actually get this to work, as a single infrared LED just doesn’t put out much light. You’re effectively trying to signal your car in broad daylight with the equivalent of a weak TV remote.

In any case, if you’ve got a car that came with wireless keyfobs from the factory, try this out! It’s a nifty convenience that you could put to good use in the warmer months to come. Go and dig around your manual for other neat features, too. Come back and tell us what you found out.

Image credits: Honda, BMW, Mercedes

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
96 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nico
Nico
15 days ago

Every newer Toyota or Lexus I’ve had does the same thing with windows. Except one of my models, I had to take to the dealer to have them enable the feature and they asked if I’d like the moonroof to open as well when they programmed it. Was very nice on hot days to let the car vent or on really nice days when you can drive with the windows down.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
15 days ago

I just unlocked a memory of VW advertising the door lock-operated windows in a commercial – found one, this Mk4 Jetta commercial.

Last edited 15 days ago by GreatFallsGreen
Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
14 days ago

I remember that. My 1995 saturn SL2 was able to raise and lower the windows with a key in the drivers door. No fob back then.

Darnon
Darnon
15 days ago

For whatever reason Ford decided not to implement this from the factory on the Maverick, but fortunately my Lariat was capable. Just takes flipping a few settings in the body control and door modules with FORScan and voila! remote control up/down windows like my previous Fusion had.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
15 days ago
Reply to  Darnon

Toyota also disabled it on newer cars, people kept sitting on their keys or something and running their windows down unknowingly

Darnon
Darnon
15 days ago

Ford still has it on other models. Although I believe on some models by default it’s just a held press, but the way I have it configured and as my Fusion was it’s one press and then a held press which is a bit harder to accidentally pull off.

Nico
Nico
15 days ago

Yeah, I had to take it to the dealer for my newest Toyota for them to enable the feature.

Banpei
Banpei
16 days ago

I learned about this feature when I once find my car with half rolled down windows and a completely soaked interior. My 3 year old daughter had found the keyfob of my car and started playing around with it. Naturally, it was a great game because of you get blinking indicator lights whenever you lock or unlock your car. Apparently she managed to press unlock, release and then keep unlock pressed. Yes, I own a Honda.
I figured she must have pressed some key combos and then found the “secret” ????

Mike F.
Mike F.
16 days ago

OK, I first came across this with my E36, which would roll the windows up but not down. But then my E90 and now my F22 roll the windows down but not up. This is a WTF BMW thing – why not DO BOTH?????

(And yes, I, too, have come out in the morning to find that I somehow sat on my remote and rolled all of the windows down at some point the previous evening.)

Last edited 16 days ago by Mike F.
Prawns
Prawns
16 days ago

My old 1995 E36 convertible has the turn-key-to-roll-windows-up feature, which was handy after parking with the top down. Allegedly I can enable it in my new RAV4 using the service software.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
16 days ago

No it doesn’t. Safety-obsessed Volvo would never let you do such a thing. It’s one of the biggest things I miss from our old family Odyssey.

Myk El
Myk El
16 days ago

My 2003 Mini was the first car I owned that did this. What annoyed me is that it also opened the sunroof, which for venting, I understand but I didn’t much care for it.

My 2015 Nissan Frontier did not have the fob window activation, but then it was a Nissan.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
15 days ago
Reply to  Myk El

I think Nissan just cheaped out on including it the trucks/SUVs by then. They had it in the 90s on the Maxima, and made a point to mention it in Altima brochures (not just manual) in the 2000s it was an available feature in the convenience package/on higher trims.

Myk El
Myk El
15 days ago

Oh, I’m confident Nissan being cheap in the 20teens is at root. I figured there had to be models that had it in their lineup somewhere. This was not the bottom trim truck, nor was it top trim (SV). If there was an option package that included it, I wouldn’t have paid for it.

I may never have bonded with that truck the same way as other vehicles I’ve had, but I will give credit as even though I just bought it off the lot, no special order, it was equipped exactly as I wanted. 6 speed manual, 4×4, extended cab, regular bed, with spray in liner, cloth seats, but heated (Colorado winters). It became unneeded after I moved.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
15 days ago
Reply to  Myk El

That was a nice thing about the Frontier (and the XTerra was the same way) for a long time, they let you get some of the creature comforts still paired with a stick. I don’t think the Tacoma even offered heated seats at all except for a top trim until the last few years of the 2nd gen. And then now it’s flipped, with a Tacoma letting you option it up decently with a manual and no manual at all on the Frontier.

Black Peter
Black Peter
16 days ago

Sure I have this, but what’s the secret to getting the the hatch button on my GTI to work?
There’s a button, it lights a light, but does nothing!
I also want the code to disable the panic feature..
Thank you in advance

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
15 days ago
Reply to  Black Peter

Does it not let you open the hatch after pushing it? On mine it blinks the exterior lights as it would for an unlock, but there’s no other action, it just allows you to open the hatch and then relocks it after you close, without unlocking the rest of the car.

If you have the proximity key system it’s probably moot, because you likely have the key on you when you go to the hatch, but lower trims without it where you’d still have to click the fob to open the doors it would be handy. Like a trunk button on a sedan without anything opening on its own.

Black Peter
Black Peter
15 days ago

Hmmm, no lights, but I guess I have never checked if it unlocks the hatch, but the icon is clearly a popped hatch. As I understand it there are kits that add the “popping” solenoid and pick up the signal from the fob. Random amazon picture linked, same fob except I don’t have remote start because EU? Remote start violates rule on unattended idling.. yes mine is a US model.
https://m.media-amazon.com/images/W/MEDIAX_849526-T1/images/I/61XiU7uVR9S._AC_SX679_.jpg

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
15 days ago
Reply to  Black Peter

That’s neat there is something to actually pop it. Not sure though, unless they changed something on the Mk8 fobs, but it otherwise basically just acts as an “ok” signal that you can open the otherwise locked hatch.

Black Peter
Black Peter
14 days ago

Great now I need to check, something in my head says I did when I first got it, but now I can’t remember.

Black Peter
Black Peter
13 days ago

Nope, pushed the button and the hatch was still locked.. 🙁

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
16 days ago

I don’t know if it is the first, but I remember this feature being demonstrated to me on a 1997 Nissan Maxima SE. I thought that was the coolest feature and wondered why more cars didn’t have it.

96
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x