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Faraday cage for shuttle car smart keys

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    Faraday cage for shuttle car smart keys

    As one with 20 year old shuttle vehicles, I've always just kept a $1 spare mechanical key on my PFD zipper to open my vehicle at the end of a paddle. Today, however, newfangled cars like my Mercedes have expensive electronic keys -- up to $500 to replace -- that allow automatic unlocking, locking and starting with names such as "keyless-go".

    A few years ago, someone here asked about how to store a spare keyless-go key in the car. The problem with these new electronic keys is that, as a safety precaution, you can't lock the car if a key is inside it. Hence, what do you do with a $500 electronic key while you're paddling, and/or how can you store a spare key in the car?

    A second problem is that technosmart thieves can steal your keyless-go car by intercepting, with electronic sniffers and amplifiers, the code that is continuously being interchanged between the car and key, even when the car is parked and the key is inside the house. This continuous signalling, by the way, can fairly rapidly deplete even a lithium battery in the electronic key, unless the key is kept sufficiently far away from the car when it's parked, which could mean dozens of yards.

    One part of the spare key shuttle solution is to take only the mechanical key part with you in the boat. Most of these electronic keys have a removable mechanical key that will open the car door, such as this one:



    However, this mechanical key probably can't start the car. Moreover, this still doesn't solve the inability to store the electronic part of the key inside the car (because the doors will not then lock).

    The solution is to block the electromagnetic signal between key and car with a small Faraday cage or Faraday shield. You could DIY a Faraday cage out of a suitable metal container, but Amazon sells a right sized Faraday pouch that's also available on eBay:



    I haven't bought this device because I don't use my Mercedes for canoeing, so I can't vouch for its effectiveness. But you should be able to put the electronic part of the key inio this Faraday pouch and store it inside the car while you keep just the mechanical key insert on you while paddling. Or, if you do take your entire electronic key in your boat, suitably waterproofed, you should be able to store a spare electronic key inside the car in the Faraday pouch. That sure beats hiding a $500 spare shuttle key in the bushes.
    Last edited by Glenn MacGrady; 11-06-2019, 01:43 AM.

    #2
    My canoe tripping vehicle is an F150 with manual door locks and crank windows, but I also own an MB C350. Could you not just pop out the battery?

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      #3
      Well, I guess I'll never have that problem, with the beaters I drive, lol. However, on canoe trips, my car keys simply go into my pelican camera case, I have a special little spot carved out of the foam for them.

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        #4
        How timely. I only just had my door lock cylinder replaced this week after spending 2 weeks not being able to lock the vehicle. Wouldn't you know it first gave me trouble on a weekend away from home. I had to call a tow truck to come and rescue me. It was amazing to watch the guy slip a small 6"x 6" inflatable pad between door and frame, inflate it as you would a blood pressure monitor, then slide a long slim rod through the gap to tap the door lock button. It took longer to write up the invoice than unlock the door. Unfortunately I had to repeat the procedure one more time in my driveway a week later. Either I live in a better neighbourhood than I thought or my vehicle is unattractive to car thieves looking to steal unlocked cars. In any case I finally went to have the door lock cylinder changed. So now my electronic key fob won't work, because a new separate simple mechanical key works the door. Oh well. I have even less concern pre-tripping stashing my spare key now that it is battery-less. I use a black elastic hair band to hold the black key to the underside of the black windshield wiper arm. Hidden in plain sight.
        Last edited by Odyssey; 11-06-2019, 07:12 AM.

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          #5
          wow, you can get a "faraday cage" for free by simply reusing an old Altoids or similar tin. The problem with those pouches is that the crooks have already figured out what they are, so now they're able to steal the whole car and not just your coffee money!

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            #6
            My old beater is a 2004 Chevy Silverado, seldom even bother to lock it and all my neighbors know my keys are usually in the ignition. When tripping I usually just throw the keys in the bed somewhere.
            Not all who are lost wish to be found..............

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              #7
              Well, I guess I'll never have that problem, with the beaters I drive,
              My old beater is a 2004 Chevy Silverado,
              Old beaters aren't what they used to be. We see it all the time at the shop. A 20 year old vehicle is a 2000 model year and even though it might be a worn out rusted piece of junk it still has a dozen or more computers networked together and an anti-theft system and just because it's old doesn't mean it's easy or cheap to fix. It's a frustrating situation for all involved.

              Can you still get new cars with an actual mechanical ignition switch? If not then even those of us who drive beaters will be dealing with smart keys some day.

              Alan

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                #8
                my truck have al the fancies... Or should I say use to... Now there is no power lock unlock anymore so the fancy key is useless!!

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                  #9
                  The best anti theft device I ever had was a car that wouldn't start without a jumpstart. Shift her in neutral and give the little girlie a push and away we go in the little darling Renault Cinq. I left the doors unlocked; besides, who would steal a car with an 8 track in the dash? I left the d├ęcopatable with the rubberized canvas lid unlatched just to be sure I could crawl in. Wound up owning 2 of them. I guess I didn't learn my lesson after the 1st love affair.
                  Click image for larger version  Name:	renault 5.jpg Views:	0 Size:	209.5 KB ID:	100718

                  One great thing about the back seat, if you didn't know the passenger seated next to you, you sure would before too long!
                  Great memories on trips; windows down, lid peeled back, tunes turned up (you'd be surprised what you can get used to on an 8 track on looong drives. lol ). And it had roof gutters for roof racks. Those were the days.
                  Last edited by Odyssey; 11-07-2019, 08:41 AM.

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                    #10
                    When my dad upgraded from an 8-track in his Duster he took the old unit and hooked it up in the cottage. I know every Carpenter's song by heart (not necessarily by choice).

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                      #11
                      I suppose "smart key" is a better generic term than "keyless-go", which may be just a Mercedes term.

                      The point is that these smart keys are not like old-fashioned remote keys that have been around for decades, and the smart keys are on many vehicles of this century. You never take the smart key out of your pocket or pocketbook. The EM signalling between the key chip and car computer chip allows you to lock, unlock and start the car without ever removing the key from your pocket. You can't start the car without the smart key even if you can open the doors with a mechanical key or crowbar. Such is the sloth and indolence of our techno-toy Millennial generation.

                      Most smart key car owners are not, of course, concerned with shuttle vehicle issues for paddling. They are concerned with thieves stealing their cars while the car is parked at their house or the grocery store. This brief video shows how the EM signal theft works and some ways to prevent it:



                      A DIY metal box or wrapping a key in aluminum foil might work, but us lazy bums don't want to do that every time we park the car somewhere. Nor do we want to remove the batteries every time we park, which may require a small tool even it it works.

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                        #12
                        Car keys kept in zippered pockets are pretty secure.
                        Last edited by Odyssey; 11-07-2019, 05:14 AM.

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                          #13
                          Brad, is that fugly thing a yugo?

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                            #14
                            Ha ha! Good one. If Merc drivers are 1%ers and the rest are 99%ers then I am clearly even not in the equation.
                            My goofy Renault 5 falls well below the average percentile. I am cool with that. Ha ha. But those were good times.
                            But I do feel for Glenn. Nobody should have their stuff messed with. That is not cool.
                            Last edited by Odyssey; 11-07-2019, 05:13 AM.

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                              #15
                              Just as an aside, my second Renault Cinq was a claptrap jalopy. I have no idea why I bought it. Probably because the 1st one was a sweetheart. That was a lovely black with a red "racing stripe". The second was not lovely; it was a fugly putrid green. I remember I drove it down to the train station in Sherbrooke Quebec to pick up my visiting my mother-in-law in the middle of a Quebec winter, and driving back across the train tracks (yes, we lived on the wrong side of the tracks) the whole car babumped over the tracks in TWO articulated movements. ie the car frame was broken in 2 at the engine fire wall. That explained the snakey weird handling. Who knows what held it together. Willpower? Wow man. I didn't let on to my wife's mom. I played it cool. We caught a cab for the return journey a week later. I wasn't taking chances with the mother-in-law. At least not in the early days. Ha.
                              Last edited by Odyssey; 11-07-2019, 05:13 AM.

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