Toyota “Smart Key Entry and Start System Malfunction”

You’ve seen the following message pop up on your Toyota’s dashboard saying “smart entry and start system malfunction” or “smart key malfunction”. Perhaps you can’t get your car to start either.

If this is your first time seeing this, don’t worry! While error codes on the multi-information display are stressful, we’ll explain how to fix this error message quickly and get back on the road.

Keep reading to learn more about this issue, including what causes the error, how to fix it, and how to prevent it altogether.

push to start button in car

Meaning of This Message

If you’re seeing a “smart key system malfunction” error on your dashboard, you’ll be wondering what this means and how it will impact your Toyota.

A smart key system malfunction means that your Toyota’s smart key is not working properly. You may be unable to start your car normally or use other smart key features.

You’ll see this error message in the middle of your vehicle’s display. This message may flash when you attempt to start your car.

Possible Causes

There are a few different causes for this error message; however, one specific scenario stands out.

Many people experience a smart key system malfunction after parking their car overnight or for a few days. When attempting to start the vehicle, they see the smart key malfunction error message.

Oftentimes, the cause of a smart key system malfunction is a dead car battery, which could be a result of:

  • Electronics were accidentally left on overnight, such as the interior lights
  • An old, bad, or low battery that cannot hold its charge, especially in cold weather
  • An electronic glitch where the car keeps some functions running and drains the battery

If it’s not a dead car battery, you may be experiencing one of these other less common issues:

  • The smart key fob battery has died and must be replaced
  • A computer system malfunction
  • Your foot is not firmly enough on the brake pedal when pressing the start button

Let’s talk about fixing your smart key malfunction.

How to Fix

Now that you understand a few reasons why you might be experiencing a smart key malfunction, let’s talk about getting it fixed.

1. Jump-Start Your Vehicle

As we mentioned previously, many people who experienced this issue had a dead car battery. To fix a dead car battery, you’ll need to jump-start your car. 

Watch the video below on how to jump-start a car, or view these written instructions.

Additionally, if your battery is too far gone, it may be time to replace it. Dead battery issues cause a lot of headaches. Connect a voltmeter to the red and black posts on the battery and ensure it is at the proper voltage.

It should be 12.6-V when the car is off and 12.6-V to 14.4-V when the engine is on. If it is below any of these, you may be able to temporarily drive your RAV4, but know that it may not last long. This is a good indicator that you need a new battery.

2. If Jump-Starting Your Vehicle Didn’t Work

If you’ve jump-started your car correctly but you’re still experiencing this malfunction, then there is something else going on. Perhaps the battery in your key fob is dead or experiencing a connectivity issue.

We’ve written a comprehensive article on deactivating your Toyota’s smart key so you can start the vehicle while the key is malfunctioning, or you can watch the video below.

Once you’ve done this, be sure to contact your local Toyota dealer or trusted mechanic to fix the underlying issue.

Driving Without the Smart Key

Yes, it’s still possible to start your Toyota! This can provide you with a short-term solution for driving your car should you be unable to fix your smart key system malfunction.

To start your car without the smart key, start by unlocking your car door using the physical key hidden within the fob, then:

  • If your Toyota less than 15 years old: Hold the key fob’s Toyota logo up to the “ENGINE START STOP” button
  • If your Toyota is more than 15 years old: Press the deactivation switch on the dashboard below the steering wheel

Learn more about this process here.

Remember: If your battery is dead, you’ll need to jump-start the car before attempting to start it even before using the physical key.

Preventing Future Problems

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are several different possible scenarios that could cause this issue. Luckily, there are some precautions you can take to help reduce the likelihood of this happening again.

Here’s how to reduce the risk of a smart key system malfunction:

  1. Keep jumper cables (or a jump starter box) on hand in case your battery dies
  2. Be sure to turn off all electronics, such as interior lights, when you park your car for the night
  3. Keep extra key fob batteries on hand

The Bottom Line

Now you know that this smart key system error message means that your smart key is not working properly, which may impact your ability to start the car and use other features.

This is often caused by a dead car battery but could also be a result of key battery depletion or a computer system malfunction.

Jump-starting your car will often resolve the issue. If it doesn’t, then you can deactivate your smart key so you can continue to operate the vehicle and get it to a mechanic.

In the future, you can prevent this by keeping jumper cables and extra key fob batteries on hand. You should also be careful not to leave electronics on overnight, which will deplete the battery.

However, if the car battery is not the problem, there’s not much you can do to prevent a computer failure.

Lastly, bookmark this page or blog for future reference on any issues or questions you have related to the RAV4! Don’t forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter, too!

Let us know if your error was caused by a dead battery or some other issue. Leave a comment below!

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3 Comments

  1. I have a check smart start and entry system that comes on when I stop the engine, any help very gratefully appreciated, 2013 rav4 diesel invincible uk

  2. Hello my car keeps on showing “smart key system malfunction”

    I have power to my vehicle, dash lights and everything is on. Im unable to start my car. Jump started my car first time was able to get it going for 15 min. And shut it right off. When i tried to start again unfortunately it did not work. Changed batteries no luck. My steeringwheel is like stuck cant turn it so is my break feels like im pushing on a rock. Im not sure whats wrong with my car. Any ideas? 2019 Toyota rav XLE