Your Toyota may have a secret factory remote starter

Toyota, to my knowledge, has never offered a remote starter button that was integrated into the factory key. I always found that omission odd, as most American and Asian automakers add the remote start feature to most mid-range and higher models. But I’ve never seen one on a Toyota or a Lexus. Other exceptions are European cars, where laws prohibit warming up and idling of cars, so they’re not designed with remote start in mind.  

In a late evening semi-personal chat with a Toyota communications acquaintance, the conversation went to a newly updated Toyota smartphone app. Like many such apps, it allows for a remote start of the car. I mentioned my puzzlement over the lack of remote start from the key on any Toyota or Lexus vehicle. He then blew my mind by casually mentioning that a remote start feature is built into many Toyotas.

Wait. What? How? Dafaq?

Yup! Depending on the year, model, and equipment, many Toyotas have had a built-in remote start feature since about 2010-ish. And yet, Toyota never really announced it. I’ve even owned a 2010 4Runner, which I now realize had this feature, but at the time was clueless about it. And yes, I RTFM’d!

Here is how it works: press the lock button and release it, press it and release it again, press it for the third time and hold it. Your Toyota, if properly equipped, will now start after about two seconds. Watch this video, with the overly excited guy:

No OEM owner’s manuals that I know of mention this. I, a so-called car enthusiast and car blooger, had no idea about it. Toyota themselves, never really publicized it. Probably thousands of Toyota owners spent hundreds of dollars to install remote starters in their vehicles. This was a mind-blowing revelation to me.


  • I happen to be driving a 2024 Sienna right now, review of it is coming soon. It worked on that model.
  • During the ownership of my 4Runner, I’d sometimes press the lock button many times to make sure that it was really, absolutely locked. And many times the engine would start, puzzling me. I chalked that up to a poorly installed remote starter that the previous owner unnecessarily spent money on. But now I know.
  • I called up Russ, who has a 2018 Lexus GX. And he said that it did not work on his truck. Why? Because that year Lexus went to the subscription program via a phone app.
  • I had my boss call his wife who owns a 2019 Camry – it worked. And the hilarious part is that she’s been asking him to add a remote start since they got the car.

There you have it, a secret remote starter for many Toyotas. If you knew about it, why didn’t you say something?

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