In the know: Keyed vs. keyless ignition

Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 AMG

As technology continues to advance, vehicles do evolve. That said, the engine that was once started with the use of a physical key can now be fired on without one.


  • What are some of the advantages of keyed ignition systems?

    Keyed ignition systems are straightforward and are affordable to fix and replace.
  • What are the advantages of using push-start ignition systems?

    Keyless ignition systems are convenient and allow the owner to activate the ignition with just a push of a button.
  • Today, we’re going to take a look at the differences between a keyed and a keyless ignition.

    Keyed ignition

    Keyed ignition has been around since forever and has been the principal means of firing up the vehicles our dads, titos, and lolos used to drive. That said, it employs a more rudimentary technology compared to push-start button-equipped vehicles.

    Brio RS Blacktop

    A keyed ignition system requires the driver to manually insert and turn the key. A keyed ignition system has several key positions that power the vehicle’s various systems. Typically, you’ll have four: lock, accessory, on, and start. The “lock” position locks the steering wheel and acts as a safety feature to protect your car from theft. Moving to the “accessory” position turns all electrical components and accessories on.

    The “on” position is the normal running position, a driver further turns the key to reach the “start” position to activate the ignition and fire up the engine. After which, the switch returns to the “on” position.

    Since these ignition systems use a simpler technology, they are generally easy to maintain and fix. In addition, parts used to replace these ignition switches are available in most automotive shops.

    Because these switches are operated manually, drivers should be mindful of the position they leave the key in. Turning the key to the “lock” or “accessory” position could result in loss of directional control and braking function while leaving the ignition switch to the “on” position can lead to battery discharge.

    Keyless ignition

    2022 Kia Soul

    Keyless ignition switches operate using various sensors in the vehicle. A driver carrying the key fob can easily fire up the engine with just a push of a button as the sensors in the vehicle automatically unlocks the vehicle and turns the vehicle’s electrical accessories on.

    It’s true that keyless ignitions are more convenient than their keyed counterparts as they automatically prepare your vehicle for the moment your push the start button to activate the ignition. Other nifty features you’ll get from push-start button-equipped vehicles include keyless entry (helpful when carrying groceries) and automatic locking (perfect for forgetful car owners).

    Despite their advantages, keyless ignition systems do have their drawbacks. One, they’re not as easy and affordable to maintain as their manually-operated counterparts. Since this system relies on automatic sensors, expect the price of repair — or replacement — to be more expensive.

    Photos from Kia and Ruben Manahan

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