How To Start A Ford Explorer Without A Key [5 Easy Steps]

When your Ford explorer isn’t recognizing the real key or key fob, you’re in quite a trouble. As you can see, bypassing the security system and entering the car control, even if it’s your own car, won’t do anything well. Instead of giving you access, it might even turn off the engine for good until the car doesn’t get connected with a recognizable key. 

So, how to start a Ford Explorer without a key? Let me tell you a small hack. If you’ve observed closely, the car’s center console has a fob pocket at the very bottom. If you put the actual fob correctly inside the pocket and push the car’s power button, the engine would start normally!

how to start a ford explorer without a key

Yes, the troubleshooting is surprisingly pretty easy. But things can be much trickier when the fob’s internal system is fully dead or your key fob’s lost. So, let’s check out how you can deal with the situations when you see your ford explorer key fob not working properly. 

How Does A Key Fob Work

Key fobs are actually replacements for mechanical keys. The fobs or key fobs allow you to control the engine using the Intelligent Access (IA) system. However, It has made the price of keys more than you can even imagine. 

a key fob

But there’s always a reason behind the pricing of every good. As you can see, the coding and mechanism to understand alphanumeric codes and follow the commands in a small chipboard sound like a pretty complex build. That’s why the price of these fobs is more than mechanical keys. 

The biggest advantage of using fobs instead of mechanical keys is you won’t have to worry about getting the key shape damaged or broken inside the insert from a wrong twist. There are several records from the past where keys god broken or stuck inside the lock cylinder. The solution here isn’t so simple. 

Electronic fob keys eliminate all those possibilities and build your vehicle security without any flaw kept remaining. It’s not easy to bypass the immobilizer system of a modern four-wheeler. When the system senses any theft possibility, it quickly creates warning codes and stops the engine if needed. 

And most importantly, fobs can ease the work like identifying the car from a crowd, starting the car from a distance, etc. 

Note: You can also read how to start a chevy cavalier without a key.

How To Start A Ford Explorer Without A Key [5 Easy Steps]

Let’s assume, you have the right fob and yet, the car’s not responding to the signals. In this case, you can follow the directions guided that we’re explaining below. 

Step #1

If the Ford Explorer’s door is also locked and not opening with the fob, the only choice is to use the spare key stored inside the fob housing. 

There’s a small push button on the top or bottom of your fob. By just simply pushing that button the house would open or get detached with one side having a mechanical key. Use that key to open the door of your car. 

Step #2

Now, try to start the engine by pushing the main power button. Most of the time, it won’t work. So, you need to place the fob inside the specific  “Fob Pocket”. For that, remove the upper closure of the center console first. 

[Note: modern Ford cars don’t have a mechanical key insert for the ignition start. But if your car has one along with the electronic start, use the mechanical spare one from the fob housing to start the car. I think, it’d solve the whole matter in this situation]

Step #3

After opening the center console, empty the storage to easily find the pocket. The pocket should be at the bottom of the console. 


Usually, the fob pockets aren’t marked inside the console, and people often think their cars don’t have one. Don’t make this kind of mistake as your car surely does have a pocket or connector for a fob. See the picture above to know how a fob pocket looks. 

Step #4

Next up, insert the head of the fob inside the pocket while the fob buttons are facing you.

fob inside the pocket

When it’s completely inserted, you can hear a click or similar sound from the inside. It means the job’s done. Your fob is perfectly attached to the car.

Step #5

Finally, try to start the engine by pressing the power button again. The car would surely start after following the steps mentioned. This is the easiest way to start Ford with a dead or unrecognized fob. 

Why Is The Key Fob Not Working

Another question that might come into your head is “Why is my key fob not working?”.

Well, the most common reason why fobs become dead or unresponsive is dead batteries. Apart from that, there are a few other noticeable reasons that are shown below. 

1. Dead Fob Batteries

Usually, Ford fobs run on two lithium battery cells. Because of regular usage, a battery pair might not last more than 36 months. 

 dead fob batteries

Before fully running out of energy, you’d find the fob to be slowly responsive. You should immediately change the batteries then. Otherwise, dead batteries can put you in some trouble suddenly. 


It’s better to buy and store a pack of quality lithium batteries. Because you don’t when the battery would wear out. My personal opinion would be to use the Duracell CR2032 batteries. These batteries last longer without getting corroded sooner. 

2. Damaged Fob

A fob that’s badly damaged won’t be smoothly responsive. Bad fobs are unable to send or receive any sort of signal. On most occasions, fobs get damaged by falling from the hand or water going inside. Water can damage the circuits and create mini burns that harm the mainboard. 

damaged fob

On the contrary, we often become clumsy and let keys and fobs fall off our hands. Falling from a distance would break a plastic fob housing easily. 


The best cure is to consult an auto shop or the Ford local dealer shop. Only professionals can fix a damaged fob permanently. But there’s a saying, “prevention is better than cure”.

Putting protection over your fob can save the mechanism from unwanted harmful events. I have a very good experience using Ontto Carbon Fiber Case that has been keeping my car fob well for some time. You can also try it out.

3. Software Malfunction

It’s time to talk about some facts where you can’t solely blame your fob. Any software can have some unwanted bugs. The car computer system can also create a few misprograms due to consistent multitasking. 

Software failures can make the system unable to read even the correct signals and codes. Although the problem is not permanent, it still hinders the usual activity and functions of a car. 


After the computer starts showing the symptoms of software malfunction, take the car to a nearby automobile shop as soon as possible. But before doing so, you can also try restarting or resetting the computer to see whether it gets automatically fixed or not. 

4. Weaker Car Battery

A battery can’t support your car for good. When it runs out of energy or requires a water change, it quickly makes the car less responsive. Reacting to fobs is also one of the issues that are related to weak car batteries. 


Never forget to change the battery water regularly and recharge the battery whenever it’s low on energy. 

What Happens When I Can’t Find My Key Fob

The most annoying thing that can happen to a driver is losing the fob keys without a clue. A person can’t do anything but request another fob with the correct codes in this case.  

As the matter is becoming common among the user community, Ford has stated some facts about the matter. According to their statement:

  • Models after 2018 are compatible with the official FordPass app. You can use the app to remotely open the driver’s door and start the car without any fob or key.  
  • But if you intend to get a new key fob, you must bring the registration papers along with your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to the nearest dealer shop. 
  • Another option is to go to the nearest auto shop with the papers to make a duplicate key or fob. 

Using the app is a temporary solution according to my thoughts. The best thing to do is make a new fob for the betterment of your car.

The official dealer stores can make a replica of the old fob with the right codes. Going to the dealer would cost you from 50 300 dollars or more depending on the model, requirements, etc. 

However, any authorized shop would surely take a week or so to prepare the key and handover. If you’re in a hurry, you should contact a local shop.

Such a shop normally takes a day or two to make a duplicate key. But local stores charge more than expected and they often fail to make flawless stuff. 

How To Start An Old Ford Car Without A Key

Just forget everything I’ve said earlier if your car model is very old, even older than Explorer 97. As you can see, this type of vehicle doesn’t have automated software or computers to obey any command. They get started only by the mechanical ignition key. 

start an old ford car without a key

The ignition lock cylinder beside or under the steering wheel is where you insert the mechanical key and start your car. After losing or breaking the old key, you can use a hammer and a slim screwdriver to force the cylinder to unlock just you can watch the below video on how to do this.

Firstly, you need to put the driver into the key insert as far as you can. Then, hammer the screwdriver’s head gently to make the cylinder feel the vibration and loosen up patches.

Though it takes some time, it obviously works within a few attempts. But make sure to rotate your steering wheel along with rotating the screwdriver while unlocking the ignition lock. 

One thing you must remember is to fix the ignition cylinder lock after you attempt to force unlock. Force unlock can change the shape or break a few small pins.

You can also change the cylinder with a new key and cylinder set if you’re not willing the make a replica of the lost key. 


What do I do if I lost my push to start key?

As mentioned earlier, you need to visit the shop from where you bought your car with the legal papers and VIN to order another fob. If you didn’t buy the car from any Ford dealership store, you can always seek help from a local auto shop. 

How do you start a car with scissors?

When you can’t find the real key for the ignition lock cylinder, you can always use a sharp and thin scissor. Push a blade inside the key insert and try twisting on both sides until you hear some clicks. You can also gently hammer the bottom of the scissor while twisting. 

How long do car fob batteries last?

It depends on the quality of the batteries and how much you’re using the fob. In general, a small lithium battery can last at least a year inside the fob. But if you’re installing batteries from an old or unsealed pack, there’s no guarantee when it’d be dead. 

Final Thoughts

Indeed, there are some easy ways to unlock or start your Ford Explorer without the real keys. No matter how old or new the car is, the methods discussed above would surely help to start the engine as usual. 

Yet, I don’t think it’s a good idea to use a car in a state where the original key or fob is failing to start the engine. You should always try to fix the key or get a new one with the help of an authorized shop.

Always following the backup methods or hacks can make the car easily accessible and increase the possibility of getting hijacked. If you have any further queries about shortcut ways to start the Ford engine, let us know. 

About John M

John contributed as a technical head at an automobile company just 2 years after his post-graduation in Automobile Engineering. He loves to lead a free life, so he left his job & started blogging. Now, he does research on every automotive problem, part & product and seeks a better solution & best products & shares his findings with his readers to help them as well as to minimize their struggle.

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