Not Remotely Amusing: The Broken Car Remote

Bobbie sezBobbie says:

I love my car-unlocker button thingy.

Car Remote. Keyless entry. Key fob. That plastic bit with buttons on, that hangs off your key ring and unlocks the car for you miraculously while you’re still walking to it with your arms so full of shopping and children that you can’t possibly manage keys, but you can certainly push a button to open the stupid door. Whatever you call that thingy.

I did some research to find out what everyone calls it, so I could connect with my audience.  And by research, I mean a brief and thoroughly unhelpful survey on Facebook.  It was an attempt at Scientifically Gathering Data, without actually being, you know….scientific*. I wanted to find out what to call this doo-dad so people know what the heck I’m talking about. Because, I call them The Buttons. Not even kidding. And I love The Buttons.

Well, I did love The Buttons, that is, until The Son Who Shall Remain Nameless (TSWSRN) managed to break it off the keyring.

TSWSRN has a crazy key ring with a house key, a key to my husband’s pickup and one for the 1999 Explorer that TSWSRN and I share. Three keys and an irrational number of non-key items.

When TSWSRN drives the Explorer, he takes my sensible key ring, which has the mailbox key (so he can get the mail) and The Buttons, because if you want to  open the hatch, you need them. If you accidentally set off the Very Sensitive Alarm (which is especially easy to do if you use an actual key to open it) you need The Buttons so you can turn the wretched thing off. ** The car remote is absolutely essential to the sane operation of the thing, so I wasn’t about to just stick it in a pocket once the key ring loop broke off. Much too easy for me or The Son Who Shall Still Remain Nameless to lose.

Broken Car Remote - hazardous key ring


He then attaches my sensible key ring to his crazy one with a carabiner clip, resulting in this twisted monstrosity. And the breaking off of the key fob.


Can’t imagine how that happened. Go figure.




So, I decided to channel my inner MacGyver and see if I could fix it with toothpicks and chewing gum wrappers, or other odds and ends we had lying about. It’s amazing what one can come up with in a pinch.

After nixing rubber bands and paper clips and duct tape, I came up with cable ties.Broken Car Remote - cable ties case

They’re also called zip ties, wire ties or tie-wraps. They’re mostly used to bundle wires together tightly and permanently, but they’re sometimes used as handcuffs in law enforcement. We happen to have a lot of them around here, because of my husband’s computer/technology business, but you can buy them in smaller quantities in a hardware or electronics department, or at a home improvement store.

I looked at my remote and decided I needed to use two cable ties. A larger one around the upper part, just above the buttons, and a smaller one to make a loop to connect to the key ring. Car remotes vary widely in design, so your placement may be different. Just figure out where you can get a secure hold without covering any of the buttons.

Broken Car Remote - 3 zip ties cable ties wire ties




You’ll need pliers and a way to cut the ends off the ties when you’re done. I found needle nose pliers to work best for me. Mine have a built-in side cutter. If you don’t have side cutters, a sturdy pair of scissors can be used, but be very careful.

Broken Car Remote - 4 pliers with sidecutterI made a loop from the larger cable tie, put it around the upper part of the remote, then pulled the cable tie just until it stayed in place.

Broken Car Remote - 5 loop zip tie around remote










Slipped the smaller tie under the large one on the back side, fastened it into a loose loop.

Broken Car Remote - 6 slip second cable tie thru first










Using the pliers, pulled the loose tail on the cable around the remote, and made it as tight as I could. I used the needle nose pliers and grabbed it right next to the slot and twisted, leveraging it to get it tight enough that it won’t slip off.

Broken Car Remote - 7 tighten with needlenose pliers







Adjusted the hanging loop to an appropriate size, then cut the tail off both ties.

Broken Car Remote - 8 trim with sidecutters








Ready to roll. I did this a few months ago, and it’s held up extremely well. I could probably buy a replacement for more money than I want to spend, but seriously – the new remote would probably outlast the vehicle, so why bother?

Broken Car Remote - 9 Not like new but serviceable










*Survey results: Although a lot of people call them Key Fobs, most people don’t call them anything. All these poor car-button-thingies being ignored and taken for granted. No wonder they break off — they’re trying to run away from home.

**We bought it second- or third- or quite possibly seventeenth-hand. It has its foibles, but it’s at least it’s not possessed by an Electrical Demon like its predecessor. That was like being in a Stephen King movie, but with less dying.

You can stalk Bobbie Laughman on Pinterest, or go see if she’s up to anything at Gruntled, Sheveled, Whelmed.

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15 thoughts on “Not Remotely Amusing: The Broken Car Remote”

  1. Has anyone ever wondered why the car dealers charge $150 – $300 for the stupid remote (probable actual COST $25?) & annoy EVERY customer whose remote breaks off their keychain?
    I assume it’s because they want to make ANOTHER $150 – $300 when the cheap little plastic attachment breaks off?! [Not from ME, methinks!)
    My last broken off remotes I carried around in a microfibre keychain pouch designed for a flash drive, & now I’m on the hunt for my current vehicle.
    All 4 broken off remotes were from Chev Montanas & a Chev Venture… hmmm…

  2. This is a great post for me–I’ve never seen anyone post on it before. I call it the “VW remote,” since we drive VWs. Anyway, I’ve lost two, broken one’s loop as you did, and I’ve washed two, making them only keys and not remotes any longer. I no longer have the car for the one that had the broken loop, but I wish I’d had this idea when I did since not having the loop led to losing it. I no longer kept in on my keyring, but alone in a purse pocket or my clothing pocket, and it fell out somewhere. Now we have a new one and it has a loop still, so I hope to keep it unwashed, unbroken, and unlost. We’ll see. However, if the loop breaks, now I have ideas. Thanks!

  3. My sister broke the hooker on her remote last year and I gave her a packet of Sugru ( She refashioned the broken part and so far, 8 months later, the fix is holding strong!

    • Gretchen, I just went to the site to check it out, then called my husband over to look at it. He said nothing and walked away — then came back over and tossed a pack of sugru on my desk! Apparently our daughter gave it to him a while ago but nobody told me about it! Looks like some really handy stuff.

  4. We call it a “car remote” and ours broke off quite a while back. My hubby has mad numerous attempts to fix it, but nothing lasted too long. As it was the extra set; however, it mattered little. Thank you for sharing what worked…I know we have an insane amount of zip ties around somewhere!

    • Glad to share — hope you can make it work with your remote. I’ve seen some with button placements that would make it difficult.

  5. I’ve been trying to think what we call the thing. Ah, yes. The Remote.
    Great fix.
    If anybody cares, cable ties may also be purchased at the dollar store.

  6. We call it the “De-Booper,” because you Boop the car to lock it and you De-Boop it to unlock it.

    @ Casey – nothing like the TSA – hooray for Freedom Pats.

  7. cable ties are awesome. you can also use them to attach luggage tags to suitcases when the pretty belt hooky thing breaks. You can also use them to ‘lock’ your suitcase when you fly if you don’t happen to have any of the TSA approved locks – if your bag gets ‘randomly inspected’ TSA will break your non-compliant lock so they can get in, and then re-secure the bag with cable ties.


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