For forgetful people search for car keys can be a lifesaver. But many of them have annoying design flaws or omissions that make the experience of using one a bit of a hassle, or perhaps even useless.

To find out if a car key finder is right for you, you first need to understand how these devices work.

How do car keys work?

Some car locators use Bluetooth technology while others use radio frequency (RF) transmissions to mark locations. Some new key locators use technology RFID which is slightly more complex than RF, which uses local electromagnetic fields to identify and track tags.

Another key difference between locators is that some require a special device to determine the location, while others simply require a smartphone. Devices with a dedicated device often have a wider range, but that also means another component to keep track of.

Bluetooth locators

The advantage of Bluetooth is that almost every smartphone has Bluetooth functionality, which means you can use your phone to locate your keys — no need to purchase a separate tracking device.

Some Bluetooth locators work the other way around. If you have the keys but can’t find your phone, you can use the locator to ping and find your phone.

The disadvantage of Bluetooth locators is their range. While Bluetooth devices require ranges of 30 feet or more, actual ranges are often much less. Many people find that Bluetooth locators only work within ten feet of their missing keys. Physical obstacles such as walls and doors can make the effective distance even shorter.

RFID Key Locators

RFID locators work in the same way as Bluetooth. Instead of tracking a standalone receiver, RFID locators use small stickers or tiles that you can tag with your possessions. This is handy because RFID stickers are tiny passive devices that don’t make sound. All you have to do is connect the sticker with a locator box, which can locate the stickers exactly.

Other RF Key Locators

If the key locator does not have Bluetooth, it most likely has a special tracking device — a key used instead of a smartphone application. While useful for those who don’t have a smartphone, a key locator can be a nuisance for those who are already prone to losing things like keys or phones.

Some of these locators boast a range of 60 feet or more, but they run into the same issues as Bluetooth locators when it comes to obstructions. Although radio waves can penetrate hard objects such as walls and refrigerators, this attenuates the signal and reduces the available range.

Should I look for car keys?

While all car key keys have some potentially annoying flaws, they can be an effective way to locate lost keys.

Because all of these locators have limitations, in some cases you still can’t find your keys. However, keys that have a locator attached to them will always be easier to find than keys without a locator.

Even if the signal on your locator is weak and you must search before your locator establishes a connection, the locator’s help is better than nothing.

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