Broken Prius fobs and Scottish independence

What do broken Prius keyless entry system fobs have to do with Scottish independence? Nothing really, but I liked the title. More about fobs below.

When we were looking at the Prius for the first time back in 2006 the salesman made a point of telling me that if the fob ever stopped working it could still be used to start the car by plugging it into the dash. He also pointed out the “emergency” mini key clipped into the fob body. I have to admit that at the time I didn’t quite get it, but what he was in fact doing was leaving me with a memory that would prevent my cursing his existence for decades to come. Whether he actually knew first hand about the greed and utter contempt for customer satisfaction that lived in the hearts of Toyota’s executive management that caused them to ship the monstrosity that was the 2nd generation Prius keyless entry system does not matter. The point is that he did warn me.

Eight years later, my fob having stopped working, extracting that “emergency” key from the fob is a 2 – 4 times daily routine, as is plugging the fob into the dash.

The Prius keyless entry system probably added $300 – $500 to the price of my car, at least that’s my guess given what dealers charge to replace one. To get a new fob that’s programmed to work with my car would cost between $200 – $400 depending upon, I suppose, whether the dealer has kids nearing college age at the time.

There are “factory new” fobs available for sale on Amazon and eBay, and it appears that some of them actually are new (but some are not). These cost between $100 – $150. But a new fob still needs to be programmed to work with your car. Dealers and locksmiths can do this but will not guarantee a positive result. I’ve heard fees of between $100 – $200 quoted, along with several horror stories of failed efforts by “professionals” even after they’re been paid (hey, “no guarantees”, remember?).

There are instructions on the Internet for doing this programming yourself. The process has been referred to as the “Prius Chicken Dance”, and like a similar procedure for eliminating the annoying backup alarm, it involves a convoluted series of actions that could only have been dreamed up by an insane person.

Here, as a public service, I give you the definitive formulation of “the Prius Chicken Dance” as explained by user kpsounis in thread 80121 on Prius Chat:

All, this is to confirm that a BRAND NEW FOB with a silver logo will get FULL functionality (INCLUDING the SMART KEY functionality) if one follows the well known steps outlined in numerous posts in related threads. Since there is one thing that is not clear in these numerous posts which is probably specific to the the FOBs with a silver logo and the smart key functionality, I will repeat the steps here:

Start/stop engine (NO CHANGES over previous posts)
1. Insert old fob into slot and remove it 4 times in a row, and insert it a fifth time but leave it in there!
2. Open and close driver door 6 times.
3. Remove old fob from slot. Car is in fob programming mode at this point. Red anti-theft light remains on.
4. Insert new fob and leave in the slot for a full minute. Watch the blinking red anti-theft light on the dashboard. When it stops flashing and goes dark, your new fob is all set.
5. Remove the new fob and you’re done.

Lock/unlock doors remotely + SMART KEY functionality
1. Open the driver door with no fob in slot and the driver door unlocked and opened. Other doors can be locked or unlocked, it doesn’t matter.
2. Insert old fob into slot and remove it twice within 5 seconds.
3. Close and open driver door twice.
4. Insert and remove old fob once.
5. Close and open driver door twice again.
6. Insert old fob in slot and close door.
7. Without pressing the brake, press power button, wait a second, press it again, wait a second, press it a third time to turn car back off.
8. Remove old fob from slot. You’ll be in “add mode” at this point. Car should lock and unlock doors to verify it is in add mode. (the precise number of times the car locks/unlocks the door is model specific – but it should do it at least once)
9. ***the next step is the critical one***
9(i) Older posts instruct people to do this with the new fob only for a varying number of seconds, e.g. 1,2, or 3. This probably works with the black logo FOB but not with the silver logo FOB.
9(ii) The most recent post in this thread reads: Press both buttons on old/new fob simultaneously for 4 flashes of the red LED on the fob. There are two changes over older posts here.
9(iii) NOW, For the silver logo FOBs, it turns out the precise time is not the issue, that is, 1,2, or 3 seconds, or till you get 4 flashes, doesn’t matter. The issue is to do this for BOTH the old and the new FOB. One should simultaneously hold down the lock and unlock buttons of a FOB but not simultaneously do it for both FOBs holding down all 4 buttons at the same time. I did this only once so I am not 100% certain about the sequence, but this is what I think worked for me:
– first press down both buttons of the NEW FOB simultaneously, car responds with locking/unlocking TWICE (not sure this step is even needed as car responding with locking/unlocking TWICE implies this is not a programmed FOB yet for this car)
– then, say 1 second after the car stops locking/unlocking due to step above, press down both buttons of the OLD FOB simultaneously,
– then, say after 1 second, press the LOCK button of the NEW FOB. Now, IF SUCCESSFUL car responds with locking/unlocking ONCE implying this new fob is now programmed/paired with this car.
(iv) As already mentioned in previous posts, you have 40 seconds to play around with the steps in (iii) above. I had to play around a bit since it was not clear to me if one should first use the NEW FOB or the OLD FOB in the sequence of simultaneously pressing both keys. What is clear is that one needs to use BOTH FOBs
10. To end this programming, open a door or put the fob in the slot.
11. Even though I don’t think it matters, I actually tried the smart key features after I drove the car for a minute while having the new fob in the slot. The smart key functionality worked fine.

Bottom-line: with a NEW key at hand one can get FULL functionality by performing the steps above at home.

PS I have a 2006 SKS prius.

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About phil

My name is Phil Lembo. In my day job I’m an enterprise IT architect for a leading distribution and services company. The rest of my time I try to maintain a semi-normal family life in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC. E-mail me at philipATlembobrothersDOTcom. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not those of my employers, past, present or future (except where I quote others, who will need to accept responsibility for their own rants).