How I Fixed My Overly-Sensitive Car Remote With Plasti-Dip

Posted on June 23rd, 2013 in Engineerboy,Product Reviews by EngineerBoy
Plasti-Dip Car Remote

Clear Plasti-Dip Car Remote

DISCLAIMER: I have no specific knowledge of car remotes nor the short or long term effects of coating them in a rubberized substance, and the consequences could be dire (void warranty, damage, remote-freak-out, etc).  This post represents steps I took for my own remote.  They may not work for you and may have unintended consequences, so if you decide to try something like this it is at your own risk!!!  

We recently purchased a new vehicle (2012 Toyota Sienna), and I found that whenever I had my key chain in my pocket (which is always), I would regularly activate different, random remote buttons on the fob.  Some mornings I would go out and find the car unlocked (when I knew I had locked it), other times I’d find one (or both) of the side doors slid open.

I’ve had car remotes on my key chain for decades, and while on some rare occasions (like climbing under the sink to fix plumbing) I might incidentally have activated the remote, it was only once every great while (e.g. every year or two).

But with the Sienna remote it happened multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day.  Something as simple as getting up out of a chair or even just putting my keys in my pocket would result in an unexpected (beep) followed by a slow (and, seemingly, mocking) mechanical response from the van.

I searched the Web and also solicited advice in related forums, but the universal feedback I got was ‘take your keys out of your pocket when you get home’.  Er, yeah, gee, I had never thought of that (rolls eyes).  The lone helpful suggestion I got was to try to find a silicone cover for the remote.  I searched online for one, with the thought being that adding some thickness around the remote such that the buttons were a bit more inset would reduce the frequency of unintended activation.

Unfortunately, while there are plenty of places that sell covers for Sienna remotes, none that I could find sold one with our particular button configuration.  However, I still liked the idea of somehow reducing the sensitivity of the remote with some type of rubberized coating.

It occurred to me that a potential solution was to use Plasti-Dip.  I’ve used the black version in the past for coating tool handles, and I even dipped a USB drive into it to block the blinking LED it had that bothered us in the car (it holds music and plugs into a port on the dash of our other vehicle).

I searched online and found that they also made a clear version.  I could picture in my head that dipping the remote in Plasti-Dip a couple of times would create a thicker protective rubberized coating that might reduce incidental button presses.

I’ll stop here and refer to the disclaimer at the top of this article.  Although I consider myself a handy guy, I have no specific knowledge that doing this to my remote (or yours) is advisable, and I undertook this as somewhat of an experiment, knowing that the result might be a $100+ dollar mistake (if I ruined my remote), or maybe even worse if my remote shorted out and opened and closed our doors all night and/or repeatedly activated and deactivated the remote starter and/or did something unexpected by sending electronic screaming gibberish at the van until it exploded or levitated or something.

The good news is that it worked as expected, at least so far.  If you look at the top-right picture, that’s the setup I used for coating and drying the remote.  I had a small cardboard box and a refrigerator clip magnet, and left the small ring on the key itself.  I then opened the Plasti-Dip, dipped the remote up high enough to cover all the buttons, and then connected it to the magnet with the ring to let it hang and dry between coats.

Final Result - Four Coats of Clear Plasti-Dip

Final Result – Four Coats of Clear Plasti-Dip

I did four coats, letting it dry for 30 minutes between coats per the instructions on the can.  The final result can be seen to the left.  As you can see, after four coats the Plasti-Dip isn’t quite clear, it’s a little bit cloudy, but the remote’s icons are still easily readable.  The buttons press with a little effort, and I have to press hard right in the middle of each button to activate it, but that was the whole point.

So far (after a full day) I haven’t had any accidental button activations, and I can tell that as long as the coating remains intact that this is going to greatly reduce and potentially even eliminate my pocket beeps.

Longevity is going to be a big question.  The coating feels pretty solid, but after hundreds of button presses who knows if it’ll hold up.  I’m also concerned about the eventual need for a battery change, but my strategy is to use a razor to slice around the outside edges where the seam is and open it up like a clamshell.  My thought is that I’d re-dip it after the replacement to sort of seal-up the cut seam, but that’ll be a game-time decision.

Bottom line is that, long term, the coating may split or crack, battery changes may be a chore, and/or something else may go wrong, but for now it’s working exactly as designed, and I’ve got my fingers crossed.  I’m planning to come back here and post updates as events warrant.

Also, if any of you try this (or have tried it in the past) I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below.

3 Responses to 'How I Fixed My Overly-Sensitive Car Remote With Plasti-Dip'

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  1. Cindy said,

    on March 16th, 2015 at 8:55 am

    I’d be interested to know how this worked out, after some use. My thought is that one could attach a bit of styrofoam to the back of one’s key remote, dip it, and not have to worry about it getting wet or sinking, while boating…

  2. EngineerBoy said,

    on March 17th, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Cindy,

    It worked great, although after a year and a half the coating was starting to fray around the edges. The good news is that plasti-dip isn’t adhesive, meaning that all I had to do was slice around the edges and it peeled off the remote easily. I then re-dipped it and it’s still working great. This second time I dipped it 10 times (waiting 30 minutes between coats) and it provided even better protection. For the first couple of weeks it’s tough to mash the buttons, but after that the coating becomes more pliable and easy to use.


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