Keyless ignition seems like mostly a bad thing to me (they seem more unsafe and prone to complications than a simple key-based ignition). The vehicles I'm interested in are starting to come with keyless ignition as a standard. Does this mean I'm stuck with it and need to adapt, or can I adapt the car to meet my preference?

Is there any way to get a key-based ignition on a car that only comes from the factory with keyless ignition? My guess is no but I thought I'd ask.

Edit: I'm particularly interested in a 3rd gen Toyota Tacoma with rear locking differential (that locking diff only comes on the higher end trims, which all come with keyless ignition). This is a general query though as it also applies to a Lexus and a Prius that family & friends own.

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    I have seen people convert regular keyed cars to keyless systems, but not the other way around. Even if this is possible, it is going to cost you a lot. I would say use the keyless system until it breaks, then you can look in to options. You might even end up liking the keyless system after you get used to it.
    – rana
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 14:11
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    Some police departments have done this to their vehicles... so it can be done. Is it worth it for you? Probably not.
    – cory
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:00
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    @cr0 Well, one of your worries is addressed by most cars (all that I have seen at least) having a loud beeper and big warning light on the dash board if you take the key away from the car while it's running. I wonder what the cost of replacement fobs vs chipped keys is, that's a good question. I know my local dealer charges $250 for a replacement key, although the local hardware store has a programmer and made me a working copy for $60. Still not $1.50 like an unchipped key, but no cars have unchipped keys any more, really. I know you can usually find DIY guides for reprogramming replacements.
    – Jason C
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 17:58
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    As for the NYPD, I live in NYC, and I am curious about this. I will ask the next cop I see and send them an email too. It could also have been a case of unwarranted fears in the face of an unfamiliar technology. Or problems at the time that have been corrected. Or reasonable paranoia, a cop car is definitely a more sensitive target, and car theft is pretty pro here. Note that the Altimas were circa 2010. They're mostly back to Interceptors now (and Chargers for the state highway patrol), but I wonder if they modified the Fusions.
    – Jason C
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:00
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    Your better bet here is if you can't do something with the ignition on the higher end Tacoma, why not put a locking differential in the lower end one? This seems like a much easier (read: all mechanical) solution, which will ultimately also be cheaper (IMHO). Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 14:43

3 Answers 3


In this vehicle in particular, no, this is not really possible.

(I know this is an older question, but I've heard it IRL before so others may find it useful)

The PTS version will have an electronic steering lock, and (from diagrams I'm fairly certain) different BCMs (with different firmware or settings at the very least). Additionally, the immobilizer strategies used by the models are different. With proper bypassing of the immobilizer it may be possible to artificially replicate the 'turn-key' style by sending the right signals to the certification ECU (authenticates key data), BCM (likely needs to see a signal indicating the brake is being pressed), Steering-lock module (for obvious reasons), gauge cluster (on these models they're aware of the key system), etc, but it won't meaningfully change the operation of the vehicle.

More broadly, it might be more straightforward in some select vehicles, but the only ones I can speak to are Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/Ram vehicles of a few years ago, but they're kinda backwards. In some years, on some of those vehicles the PTS or TIP-Key module can be switched out and operate in some capacity. The gotcha is that the tip-key versions are basically stripped down push-to-start systems, where the SKREEM module (the module controlling start/stop) is communicating with the rest of the vehicle in the same fashion whether turn-key or PTS. The vehicle still has automated cranking, anti-grind/overcrank protection, and it's still just a module sending (possibly encrypted) commands over a few wires to the modules actually powering up the circuits.

After years of installing remote start systems (basically automatically hotwiring/starting vehicles), I've never come across a PTS vehicle that could be started in the same fashion as its traditional-key counterpart.


the higher end trims, which all come with keyless ignition

So, I'm going to actually go against the crowd here and say, yes, this is completely manageable.

Think about it- If they sell the same year model of Tacoma with a keyed ignition module, buy that. It should be designed to enable/disable roughly the same features as the "base model" that comes keyed. It may even be plug and play once you actually get to the ignition module which will likely require pulling the dash. But is it possible without any real electronic complications? Sure. Pick up a wiring diagram and you'll be able to see which, if any, wires are different between the two modules.

  • Good point that if the same year model has keyed ignition, it may not be so difficult to get the keyed ignition module and install that.
    – cr0
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:36

Brain dump, no real experience

With keyless ignition, you have a key fob, some sensors that detect the key fob, and some sort of ECU that interprets the input from the sensors. If this whole setup is separate of the ECU/BCM, it might be easy to rip out and replace with the ignition switch. If it is integrated, you will need to find some way to trick the sensors into always saying your fob is present, then wire in an ignition switch. You should be able to utilize the output of the existing ECU or key fob logic module to the appropriate circuits (full time power, accessories, run, start).

After the change, it would likely be VERY easy to hotwire the car, given that the thief can find the ignition switch.

A few other things to consider - steering lock, transmission lock (so you can shift out of park), automatic door locks.

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