Did someone plant a bomb inside my car at the hippie grocery store?!
February 8, 2019 4:37 PM   Subscribe

My 2012 Volvo C30's key fobs stopped working this afternoon. Both of them. I was able to unlock my car with the manual key in the driver's door, and start it (which disabled the alarm that was set off when I opened the door) to drive home.* However, there's a rapid clicking sound coming from (1) under my driver's seat and (2) the passenger door. And the sound continues even when the car is off and they key is out of the ignition. You can hear it from outside the car with both doors closed.

The door locks themselves seem to work using the button inside while the car is on. I haven't yet tried the windows. We've removed one of the battery terminal connectors and that's stopped the clicking, and hopefully avoided the battery being drained overnight.

I live around the corner from my mechanic but they close in 45 minutes and aren't open tomorrow so as long as it's nominally drive-able I'm loathe to drop it off. They haven't returned my call yet. I am concerned that if I try to drive it something will make it stop running entirely at a worse place than in my own driveway where it now is sitting.

Any gearheads have any ideas? It started raining earlier in the afternoon but the car hasn't been standing in water or anything. Any guesses where I am on the continuum of "resets itself when you connect the battery tomorrow" vs "this is a $500+ electrical repair"?

*I was at a grocery store in an amazing parking spot so while I'm standing in the pouring rain trying to deal with this people are pulling behind me and honking for me to hurry up. It is my birthday and my husband's home with the flu so while I'm sure I'll find this amusing at some point it has been a shit day so far. I'm hoping not to make it into a shit weekend/coming week by paying $$$ to fix this and be carless for days.
posted by marylynn to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
battery in fobs, just bad luck they both go at at same time.......youtube it
posted by patnok at 5:36 PM on February 8, 2019

Did you try looking around on the various car forums and youtube? I've been able to fix a few things that way. Searching "2012 Volvo C30's key fobs quit working" brings up a lot. The one at swedespeed.com looks promising but I'm not able to link directly.
posted by BoscosMom at 5:36 PM on February 8, 2019

I posted your question to a Volvo Enthusiasts' forum. You should look there first for answers.

I'm not an expert, but the clicking could be coming from a 'keyless entry module' under the front seat. It may have gone bad? so the car no longer responds to the remotes. And you likely did the car's computer no favors by disconnecting the battery. Or the remotes themselves could have somehow been deprogrammed if the internal battery died??
I think a trip to the dealer is inevitable to fix this- they will have to do some reprogramming of the module or the remotes, but try replacing the batteries first.
posted by pgoes at 5:41 PM on February 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Your location seems to preclude it but there was a recent news item about key fobs and a grocery store parking lot.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:48 PM on February 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'd guess that it's probably a malfunction in your keyless entry receiver, but I suppose it could be a malfunction in one of the fobs, or a stuck switch or chafed/pinched wire in the door.

Do the fobs work at all? If you lock/unlock the car, do you see/hear the headlight flash/horn beep like normal? Do the panic or trunk buttons work?

A quick troubleshooting step is to pull the fuse for the system that's malfunctioning. Look through the manual and identify the fuse(s) with promising descriptions (keyless entry, door locks, power windows, etc.). After reconnecting the battery, assuming the clicking resumes, pull each of the promising fuses one at a time to see which one(s) cause the noise to stop. That will give you more information about which system has the issue. Leave that fuse disconnected (except for further troubleshooting) until you can get to the mechanic, so you don't put any more wear on whatever is clicking.

An interesting second test would be to take the batteries out of both fobs (or physically take them far enough away from the car) so that you can rule out a malfunctioning constantly transmitting fob. (I'd guess this isn't likely to change anything though. I'd expect, perhaps naively, that if the fob were constantly transmitting, you'd hear clicking in all the doors, not just the passenger door. Unless your fob does have a way to unlock just the passenger door?)
posted by yuwtze at 6:21 PM on February 8, 2019

Try taking the fuse for the automatic door locks out. Minus the fobs, the clicking even when turned off (and from the locations you describe) sound like when my auto locks were shorting out and drawing power from the battery. They will appear to work as normal when you rest, but unless you disconnect the fuse, they’ll kill the battery.

Volvos are notorious for wiring issues and at least IME, these often reveal themselves when it rains.
posted by stellaluna at 7:27 PM on February 8, 2019

Data point My 2012 Honda's "smart keys" randomly failed one day after sitting in a well-lit, dry parking lot, which I didn't know til I came out of work and tried to start my car. Car electronics are inscrutable and who knows why or when they may fail? My issue required car computer intervention, for which my dealer had to do their equivalent of "calling IT" to reprogram the keys.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:56 AM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have seen a fob button get stuck down, with similar results. Try pressing and fiddling with all the buttons to see if this is the case.
posted by w0mbat at 8:44 AM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

After reconnecting the battery this morning everything was back to normal, keys working, keyless start, etc. And no more clicking. So we're ok for the moment and I'll talk to the mechanic next week. Thanks!
posted by marylynn at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

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