What happens if you accidentally put your car key through a washing machine cycle?

What happens if you accidentally put your car key through a washing machine cycle?

The gravity of the problem depends on the type of key and whether they have an alarm.

If it’s a car key with a chip…

Water will damage the chip inside the key. It will need to be dried, disassembled, checked, and re-assembled.

There is a risk that you will have to replace it, as oxidation quickly spoils the board. To avoid this, you should follow the step-by-step instructions.

If it’s a car key without an alarm…

The metal ignition key is water and detergent resistant and is unlikely to be damaged even by hard and sharp objects. Its presence in the washing machine could potentially harm delicate fabrics but rarely the machine itself.

How does washing affect the condition of car key chips?

For microcircuits, it is not the number of revolutions or the temperature of the water that is detrimental, but the very fact of contact with moisture and washing powder.

The key fob will probably not have mechanical damage by the drum if it remains within the fabric.

Usually, keys are left in jeans or jacket pockets and washed on a gentle cycle in low temperatures, but the chips can still fail.

Possible consequences

After washing, the keychain may not be completely broken. What a car owner may face:

Problem How does it manifest 
Opening and closing/locking and unlocking Some functions are stuck. Windows can be closed or opened intermittently. 
Communication loss The car does not respond to the key 
Function failure Some buttons don’t work 

How to save a car key that’s been through a washing machine cycle

The sequence and accuracy of actions determine the chances of a successful outcome.

What to do when the cycle is finished:

  • Assess the state of the key to understand the extent of the problem.
  • Disassemble the keychain, remembering the sequence of actions.
  • Carefully clean the board so as not to harm anything.
  • Dry all parts so that no moisture remains.
  • Replace components if they don’t work.
  • Check the condition of the key after the final assembly. All functions should work.

If you remember that you have left the key in an item of clothing, don’t wait for the cycle to end. You should cancel the program, drain the water, and find the key.

Assess the condition of the car key

After removing the keys from the washing machine, you need to check its condition.

The key fob turns on, but you can see that there is water or moisture present. There still maybe a chance that this can be repaired.

Icons are displayed on the keychain, blinking is visible. With the right actions, you can return the keychain to life.

Buttons do not respond to pressing and you can hear water inside. Unfortunately, there is very little chance of repairing this key in this instance.

Disassembling the car key

You will need:

  1. a bright light
  2. clock screwdrivers of different sizes
  3. wire cutters
  4. a board cleaner

What to do if you wash your car keys?

  • Open the key fob.
  • Find the bolts that are in the case and unscrew them. Pry off part of the body with a flathead screwdriver. Take out the chip.
  • Disconnect the key blade with the ejection mechanism. Remove buttons.

Cleaning the car key

You will need to clean the key quickly but gently, as contact with washing powder causes oxidation. This is evidenced by an opaque appearance of green color on the surface.

  • Use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as this cleans well but is gentle on the components. It also neutralizes oxidation and removes corrosion. For cleaning, take a cotton swab moistened with ammonia. Then sprinkle the board with the baking soda and carefully remove the plaque.
  • Apply isopropyl alcohol. To use, dilute in water with a 50:50 ratio, then clean with a moistened cotton swab.
  • Use distilled water for cleaning. Do not use water from the tap, as it contains impurities that provoke a chemical reaction and oxidation. Use a moistened cotton swab.
  • Clean the board with a phosphate-free cleaner, JELT 7251.

Ensure thorough drying of all the components

All components must be dried thoroughly. It will take at least 12 hours to dry, so it’s best to leave the parts in a warm place overnight.

Don’t forget about the rubber pushers under the buttons. Pay special attention to these as they must be dry.

Replace any parts, if necessary, and check the condition after repair.

If, after disassembly, visual damage to parts is visible, then they will need to be replaced.

The keychain is assembled in reverse order and then check its performance. If the key is still not working, you should contact a company specialising in manufacturing and repairing car keys.

Car key repair with We’ve Got The Key

We’ve Got The Key specialists will carry out a detailed diagnosis of the key and determine whether it is possible to repair it or whether a replacement is necessary. We operate 24 hours 7 days a week. With a We’ve Got The Key auto locksmith, you can be sure of the speed and quality of the services we provide.

For a consultation, just call us on 01603367100. Our operators will be happy to advise you, answer all your questions, and tell you the next steps to take to repair or reissue your car key.


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