All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Key less Entry & Your Subaru

You may have a key, you may even use it to open the car door, or you could use a key fob or remote to open the door and disarm the security system if equipped.  A new car will perform this function flawlessly 99% of the time with 1% falling into a warranty concern. Over time the simple use of the key fob will drain the battery and at first merely affect the range in which the device will work, before finally not working at all.  This doesn’t sound like and really shouldn’t be a big deal, unless you wait until it doesn’t work to replace the battery.  There is a good chance of you have never used the key in the door it may not work without a little lubrication but I would also like to point out its good to try and periodically use the key in the doors just to prevent the lock and mechanism from becoming frozen.  This goes double if the car hasn’t had good service, where an automotive technician would lubricate the locks as part of some scheduled maintenance.  Some cars no longer have a place for a key, and if you lose or the battery fails in the keyless entry fob you will be in a frustrating situation.  Of course Murphy’s Law will dictate that this happens with a cart full of groceries, both kids and inclement weather.  Unless you have experienced this up to now there’s a very good chance you have never given the keyless entry fob a second thought until it stops working properly.  Waiting for any battery to fail is a terrible idea, in the home a smoke detector will let you know when the battery has become weak, and there is no such alert system in your car currently.  What to take from this is that if you have a remote that’s over 5 years old, it may be a good idea to arbitrarily replace the battery ahead of failure. Make sure you buy a good battery don’t skimp here; I prefer the energizer line of automotive accessory batteries for longevity if available for your application.

Now it’s quite possible that they key fob itself will fail to function over time as well, as the constant pressing of the buttons can and will wear out the contacts.   It’s always a good idea to have a second remote, don’t wait for this either as every car manufacturer are famous for discontinuing support for slow moving replacement components.  There also may not be an aftermarket solution either if the potential sales numbers do not justify design and production.

One last item on the Key fob or remote if you prefer is that many cars if locked with a keyless fob, and then unlocked with a key will set an alarm, it’s better to know this ahead of time and also know how to disarm the system without the use of the remote.  This may be as simple as cycling the key in the ignition three times, but it may be more, especially if it doesn’t have a place for a key, you could look this up in your owner’s manual or use the internet as a source of information.

Some Subaru specific tips; Look for a yellow sticker on your 1995 to 1999 model as these were dealer installed as key less entry as a afterthought for Subaru during this time period, typically on the core support in front of the battery or stuck to the battery cable set, this will help identify if your Subaru is equipped with keyless entry even if you didn’t know you had it.  A dead battery and subsequent replacement or jump start could very well cause the lights to flash and an audible click under the dashboard. The way to correct the flashing light would normally be to use the remote and unlock and disarm the system, if you don’t have a remote you can put the key in the ignition turn the key to the run position and look for the valet switch which was to be mounted by the installing technician just to the left of the steering column, but many were lazy and merely left if taped to the harness so you may have a task to perform in order to locate the switch.  The idea here is to press the valet switch while the key is in the on position.

There is another way to reset the keyless entry system but it does come with the following disclaimer, the battery could explode form a spark if you are not careful! The procedure is as follows; put on some safety glasses with the key in the off position disconnect the battery at the NEGATIVE terminal, turn the key to the on position and now reconnect the battery, turn the key back to the off position, now start the car and all should be well.

The 2000 to 2006 (with the exception of some models equipped with the immobilizer models have a more integrated keyless entry system most Subaru’s coming standard with the basic system, in the event this era is tripped you need only cycle the key in the ignition three times to reset it.

Now the immobilizer equipped cars present an additional aspect of security and potential panic as the key itself is registered to the module for the immobilizer system this means you can’t just get a copy of the key, you must buy an immobilizer matched key either from the Subaru Dealer or a shop that’s capable and registered with the lock smith association and has spent the money on tooling and codes from Subaru.  Waiting until you have lost your only key isn’t the time to figure this out.


Thanks For Reading




16 Responses

  1. Hi Justin, thanks for the information. I changed out the battery in my 2006 Baja. A few days later, battery was completely drained. Charged it up, cleaned all the connections, had alternator tested (good). Several days later, dead battery and clicking sound under dash. Security light flashing, alarm in valet mode. No alarm.

    Have tried every reset know to Al Gore and the internet, including all procedures in owners manual, resetting by turning ignition 3 times. Holding door unlock button while opening drivers door, waiting for ten seconds. Can get one beep, alarm still disabled. Can get two beeps (disable) then back to one. Still no alarm.

    Finally found keyless entry/alarm module behind glove box. Looked for reset button, does not appear to have one. Unplugged and reconnected. Even tried same with ignition on. Read your thread regarding resetting by removing neg. battery cable, turning on, then reconnecting neg. cable. NOTHING has reset or re-enabled alarm. Should I assume the module is bad and replace it? Seems easy to to, if one is a contortionist. If I lived nearby, I would come and see you. And ideas would be super appreciated. I am close to hanging myself (not quite, but…)

    1. Hi Ron,

      Just to clarify, the battery is still going dead and the Keyless entry is not working properly?

      On all 2005 and newer models we install a device to the car when changing the battery to maintain power to all of the Modules. If the battery is going dead the first thing is to check the system for draws, if there is none, maybe the battery itself is just no good?


      1. Hi Justin, thanks for the reply. To clarify, the keyless entry locks and unlocks, but the alarm system will not arm. So when doors are closed, I press lock button on fob. Doors lock. Reach through back window, unlock back door manually, alarm SHOULD sound, but it does not. I can make the system go in and out of “valet” or disarm mode and in no case can I set the alarm off.

        I took it to the dealer, they attempted to reprogram, could not (doing the same things I have done). Service tech told manager it was a bad keyless entry module. So I ordered up one, installed it today, and have the same issue.

        I will note that I have disconnected the battery to replace the module.

        I am now at my wits end. I placed a VOM on the battery and measured it with noting on, 12.3 volts. Hit keyless entry button, brief decrease in voltage, immediate recovery. No other decrease noted over several minutes. Put VOM in line with battery, turned key to on position, no drain noted in battery.

        I can’t find any way to get this alarm to set and go off. I will find out tonight if the battery drains, as I will leave it off the charger.

        Thanks for your input! I really appreciate it. Is there some separate module for the alarm system that I need to track down? If so, where did they hide it?

        Best regards,


    Last night the keyless fob for my 2012 Outback wouldn’t open the doors. OK, so I opened the door with the key, but then couldn’t bypass the electronic keyless start system. Fortunately,since I was 10 miles from home, I was able to borrow a car and fetch my spare key – which worked without problem.
    I assume the battery in the fob has died, but prizing it open I find the battery is buried behind a fiddly little circuit board – so I’ll leave it to the dealer.
    This morning I find that one small paragraph in the Subaru manual suggests changing the fob battery every 1-2 years. If that’s the case shouldn’t it be listed as part of the annual service schedule?
    What a dumb system Subaru are using – my old Saab used to flash a message on the ICE screen if it thought the fob batteries (which were less critical, since they only operated the central locking system) were getting weak. And if there’s no way of bypassing the push button start/stop system, perhaps we all need to carry a spare battery, or two keys, or perhaps a starting handle?!

  3. Howdy! I just wish to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you’ve
    got here on this post. I can be coming back to your
    weblog for more soon.

  4. I have a Subaru Legacy 2003. Neither of the two ‘key fobs’ are working. The little green light on the fob lights up when a button is pressed, indicating that there is power and that they key fobs are functioning. However, the signal is not ‘locking or unlocking’ the doors nor is the car starting.

    Also I found the little button that is under the dashboard near the left knee; however, I tried pressing it and nothing happened.

    I did some research on the internet to try to find out how to fix the problem. I found some instructions on how to reset the fob by moving the key from the off to start position ten times in fifteen seconds and then doing some other things.

    I did manage to get the horn to honk, indicating that I was in programming mode; however, I followed the rest of the instructions which were ‘when the horn blows, open and close the door and then hold down the key fob and let off’ and it should be reset. IT WASN’T.

    If there is anyone that could help it would be greatly appreciated. My family and I are struggling without the use of our car.

  5. Hi justin ive been reading your replies here. im currently liveing in tokyo i worked in new zealand for 5 years on subaru and toyota hire cars, now im looking for a obd scanner for my legacy 2003 (newer shape) 2.0r AUTO i cant get anything here in hachioji its like talking to the wall?? my japanese is poor i went into a garage in the week to have my trans fluid & filter changed i was told (there is NO trans filter we have never changed one and laughed at me?) and went on to say they cant change the fluid as the car has too many miles on the clock and it would be dangerous??? its now done 89,000k’s? the fluid is dirty! any advice on the scanner? can i get one from the uk???

      1. Thanks Justin yes im going to do it my self! i got a filter when we visited the suby factory in Gunma last week and i can get the fluid from a place called yellow hat just down the road here, i dont know how im gona get all the fluid out?? should i disconnect a transcooler hose and drain it that way? the filter is external so thats ok. I took a gamble on a scanner i bought a Vgate scan vs600 and it works!!! pleased with that..

          1. Thanks for the advice justin.. i have another question for you we also have a subaru R2 don’t know if you have them in the US? its a 660cc twin cam and its started making a noise only when the oils hot after around 15/20 mins of driving sounds like “pinking” but slightyly different only when under load up hills? sounds sweet enough when idling and when i rev up too??
            ta justin

  6. How is someone to know if their car/keyless is “immobilizer eequipped” and/or how to get an extra key.
    I just bought a 2003 Forester and it came with only one key. I had heard getting a spare key would be expensive (not knowing why) but my husband got a spare at the local hardware store and I am wary of it. Now what?

    1. You would start by looking in your Owners manual, then you could call any Subaru Dealer parts department with your Vin Number and let them tell you if its equipped.

      But since its a 2003, and the immobilizer didn’t come to the US until 2004 with the STI your safe.

      Best way to obtain a GOOD KEY is to take your registration and drivers license into the Subaru Parts department, and have them cut a key by the VIN number so its a new key, rather than a copy of a old key made at a hardware store.

      Hope that helps


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