My Ford Key Does Not Work - Help!

Ford was one of the first companies to offer "chip keys" as a standard vehicle security feature. Essentially, each key (or key fob, in the case of vehicles that use push-button start systems) has a built-in computer chip. This chip has a specific and unique code that the vehicle is programmed to identify and accept. If the key doesn't have a computer chip - or has a computer chip with a code that the computer doesn't know - the vehicle will not start. 

While this system has considerably reduced vehicle theft, it's not without its problems. Vehicle owners (and stores that offer key cutting) often don't realize this system exists, so they don't understand what's needed to make a replacement key functional. It's not unusual for a Ford owner to have a key cut, try to use the key, and find that while the key opens the door and unlocks the ignition, the car does not start.

Here's what you need to know about Ford keys, and what to do when your Ford's key isn't working.

Problems And Fixes - Vehicles With Traditional Keys

ford key chip

Issue: The Key Opens The Door And Turns The Ignition, But The Vehicle Doesn't Start (And The Theft Light Flashes)

What To Do:

It's not your starter. The problem is that your Ford doesn't recognize your key. It could be that you're trying to use a replacement key that hasn't been programmed, or it could be that the key wasn't programmed correctly.

In order to program a new key, you need to have your original two (2) ignition keys that your Ford came with when it was new. If you don't have these two keys, you'll need to go to the dealership to have them program your keys.

NOTE: This is why it's a fantastic idea to create a spare key (or two) for your Ford, even if you don't need it. If you lose one of the original two keys, you won't be able to program a spare on your own.

Problems And Fixes - Vehicles With Push Button Start

Issue: When I Try To Use The Push-Button Start, I Get A "No Key Found" Message.

What To Do:

  • Make sure that what you have in your pocket is your 1A key and not the backup key.
  • Radio frequencies can cause interference, like from your cellphone or iPad. If this is the case, move the key fob closer to the push button to see if the frequency is recognized.
  • If not, place the key in the center console and let the car "read" your key. You should be able to start your car using this backup plan.
  • Press the start button with your foot on the brake.

Issue: I Still Cannot Use The Push-Button Start, Even With Using The Center Console.

What To Do:

  • Check your fob battery to make sure that it does not need replacement. If your battery dies, you can use the center console to "read" the key even without a good battery.
  • Try using your secondary key to start the car. Do not use the backup key as it will only open the doors and the glove box. It is not programmed to start the car.
  • If neither key is working, leave the vehicle and lock the door. This allows the system to recycle.
  • Walk out of frequency range.
  • Return to the car as you normally would and try to start the car again using the above instructions.

Issue: I Cannot Get My Car To Start And The Ford Theft Light Is Lit.

What To Do:

  • Insert your key to the "on" position.
  • Leave it in "on" until the light stops blinking.
  • Set your foot on the brake and turn the key to start the car.

The Intelligent Access (IA) key system from Ford is designed to make it easy to get in your vehicle and go without digging through pockets or purses for your keys. Push-button start technology is an easy-to-use convenience feature that means you will not have your keys hanging from the ignition. This guide should ensure that your key allows you to easily access this technology should problems arise.

And if your Ford keyless entry isn't working, we've got another article for that here