Toyota Smart Key System Malfunction (Solved & Explained)

Toyota started installing Smart Key systems back in 2004. At first, they only offered this feature in the Corolla and Highlander.

Today, it’s offered in almost every Toyota model. It doesn’t come automatically. You have to ask your dealer to activate the system in your vehicle.

Like any other computer-controlled feature on your vehicle, you could experience trouble with your Toyota smart key system. If it malfunctions, you’ll want to know how to reset it. You should also know how to diagnose the problem.

If you know what’s causing the malfunction, it can save you a lot of money in the long run. 

What Does the Toyota Smart Key Do?

What Does the Toyota Smart Key Do?

The Toyota Smart Key system can be a very convenient tool. If you’re out shopping by yourself, you can use your Smart Key to unlock the vehicle without having to touch the car or your key fob.

As long as the key is on your person, it will work to unlock and start your car. You may keep the key in your purse or pocket. You may even have it in a carry-on piece of luggage at the airport. 

Your vehicle can sense when you have the key with you. If you don’t, you can always unlock the car the old-fashioned way.

However, if someone tries to start your car without the smart key, an alarm will sound, and your lights will start flashing. This is a built-in security system to keep both you and your vehicle safe.

How Do You Know Your Smart Key System is Not Working?

Having a Toyota smart key system can be very convenient. You can start your car and let it cool off (or warm-up) before you get in. It also reduces the chances of your car being stolen. However, it can malfunction. 

You’ll know if your smart key system has malfunctioned because your car won’t start when you use your smart key. You will also notice a blinking message notifying you that something is wrong with your smart key.

If either of these things happens, you should investigate to see what went wrong. 

What Could Cause Your Toyota Smart Key System to Malfunction?

What Could Cause Your Toyota Smart Key System to Malfunction?

If you try to start your car with your smart key and it doesn’t work, it could be a number of things. Usually, you’ll see a blinking message that says, “Smart Key Malfunction.” This could be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Your smart key battery is dead and needs to be change
  • Your car battery needs to be change
  • Your vehicle’s computer needs an update
  • You may need a patch for your computer system

If you think any of things are going on, you have a couple of options. You can take it to the local Toyota dealership to get it serviced. Or you can try to fix it yourself. If you want to give it a shot on your own before you pay someone to fix it, you have a few options:

  • Charge your smart key battery
  • Check your car battery
  • Perform a smart key system reset

If none of these things work, then you’ll have no choice but to call the dealership or your mechanic. 

Charge your smart key battery

Can You Still Drive Your Toyota Vehicle Without the Smart Key?

Drivers worry that if their Toyota Smart Key system isn’t working, they won’t be able to start their vehicle. This isn’t the case. Of course, you can start your car without the smart key.

All you have to do to start your vehicle without the smart key is follow the below steps:

  • Use your backup key to open and unlock the car doors
  • Hold the key fob in front of your Start-Stop engine system until a green light comes on. This green light is a signal that your car is about to start
  • Your engine should start in less than 20 seconds

Again, if this doesn’t work, you can always call roadside service. You probably have this through your insurance company. 

This is why we urge Toyota drivers to try whatever they can to get their system to work on its own. Nobody wants to pay hundreds of dollars (or more) to fix their Toyota Smart Key System.

If you have the step-by-step guide provided here, you should be able to handle it on your own.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Reset Toyota Smart Key System

If your Toyota smart key system isn’t working properly, you can always perform a reset. This is a lot easier to do than you may think. 

Here is a detailed, step-by-step guide to resetting your Toyota smart key system:

Press and hold the lock button on your Toyota smart key

While holding the lock button, you need to hold down any other key. Make sure you do this simultaneously. Any of the following keys will work:


Panic Button

Back Door Release

Repeat Step 1 (hold the lock button) to return the smart key to a factory default setting

This should do the trick. However, if your system still won’t work, you can always try resetting it using your dash display.

How to Reset Your Toyota Smart Key System Using the Dash Display

You can reset your smart key system in a few seconds using your dash display. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to do this:

  • Go to your settings on the dash display and choose “Vehicle Customization”
  • Then, you’ll want to select the “Driver Lock System”
  • From here, you’ll choose the “Door Unlock” option

Once you complete these steps, you can check to see if your smart key is working. If this doesn’t work, refer to the steps for resetting your Toyota Smart Key System above.


Having the Toyota smart key system in your car can be a lifesaver. Not only does it make it super easy to get in your vehicle, but it can also act as a security system.

This is why it’s important that you know how to reset it should it stop working. If you follow the steps outlined here, you should be able to reset your Toyota smart key system with no problem.

If you run into trouble, you can always take your vehicle to your local Toyota dealership.

  • Eric Williams

    I'm the founder of Daily Car Tips. I wrote articles in the automotive industry for more than 10 years, published in USA and Europe. I love sharing my knowledge and insights with fellow enthusiasts. Join me on this journey as we explore the exciting world of cars together!

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