Nissan Leaf Won’t Unlock – Let’s sort it out!


Key fob technology has really improved in latter years. Most cars now have keyless entry. But what happens if you can’t unlock your car? No need to panic. There’s always a solution, and we’ll have you back in your car shortly.

Common reasons your Nissan Leaf won’t unlock include:

  • Key Fob battery dead
  • Key Fob damaged
  • Intelligent unlock disabled
  • 12V battery dead

In this article, we’ll look at why your Nissan Leaf won’t unlock and how to fix the problem.

Leaf-won't-open

Key Fob Battery Dead

Your Nissan Leaf is locked and unlocked using a key fob. The tech found in the car keys today is fantastic. You don’t even have to take the key out of your pocket. The internal sensor chip knows that your car is in the vicinity and opens the car automatically when you press the button on the door handle.

The key fob batteries last about 3-4 years. If you have recently noticed that your fob is slow to react or the distance from the car is becoming further and further before the unlock button on the fob reacts, then it’s time for a battery change.

You should also be getting a notification on your dash to say that your fob battery is getting low and needs to be replaced. Don’t worry. The battery is not going to stop suddenly. You’ll have a week or so before it stops working completely. And even if it is completely flat, your car will still recognize the chip and allow you to start and drive your Leaf.

Battery Replacement

To change the fob battery, follow the steps below:

  1. Slide the release button on the reverse of your fob
  2. This allows the mechanical key to be released
  3. The fob has to be in the buttons facing down position
  4. Where the key comes out: locate a small depression on the left-hand side
  5. Slide a file or blunt knife into the depression
  6. Carefully split the casing in two
  7. The battery is located in the top casing
  8. Remove the old battery and replace it with a new one. The battery is a CR2025 and is widely available both in stores and online at approx. $6-8
  9. On the opposite side of the key fob are the chip and circuit board. This is not set in place.
  10. Do not turn the fob over, as the chip can fall out and become damaged
  11. Click the two outer cases back together
  12. Reinsert the mechanical key

The key fob should now work normally, and the warning notification will disappear. Your Leaf should now unlock easily.

Key Fob is Damaged

If you are having unlocking issues and although you have replaced the battery, it’s still not unlocking, your fob could be damaged.

Keys are pretty sturdy, and in fairness, once a keyless entry and keyless start were introduced, they don’t get thrown about as much as once they did.

But they can get damaged and sometimes need to be replaced. Let’s look at the things that can damage your fob.

  • Water damage
  • Battery change
  • Magnets
  • Radio waves
  • High or Low temperature

Water Damage

Although Nissan says that your fob is waterproof, it’s not 100% true. If your fob gets wet with rain or momentarily gets dropped in water, that’s (probably!) ok. But your fob is not a completely sealed unit. It is two halves clicked together.

If your fob is submerged in water, dry the fob as quickly as possible and, if necessary open the fob to ensure it’s dry internally. However, it’s highly likely that the internal circuit will be damaged and will no longer work.

Battery Change

This is a normal process, right? How can changing out my battery damage the fob? Well, as I explained, when changing the battery, you have to make sure when you crack it open that the buttons are facing downwards. The internal circuit is not attached to the outer casing and can easily fall out or move.

The battery must make good contact with the circuit to work correctly. If the battery is not seated correctly or the circuit has moved even slightly, then the fob can become damaged and no longer work.

Magnets

Your key fob will cease to work if it becomes close to strong magnets. Although normal key chain magnets are not strong enough to damage your fob, Nissan recommends that you don’t place it near a magnetic field, as it can cause interference with the intelligent locking/unlocking.

Radio waves

Fobs work by emitting radio waves. They constantly send a signal, and when you are near your car, it matches the signal and allows your car to unlock. This gets a little blurry if you are near many other radio waves, such as a cell phone tower or tv/radio station towers. Your fob basically becomes confused and can’t match your car and refuses to unlock.

High or Low Temperature

Did you ever notice if you leave your cell in the sun, you get a notification to say it’s overheating? This prevents the Li-Ion battery from getting too hot. The same applies to your key fob, but unfortunately, you won’t get a notification. The battery will just stop working (may, in fact, even leak). This will happen if the temperature absorbed is more than 50 degrees which is possible on a hot summer’s day.

The same can be said for extreme cold. If your fob experiences -10 degrees or more, it can fail to work and again become damaged.

If you think your fob is damaged, hopefully, you will have a second spare. It’s always better to have two. Your local Nissan dealership can replace your damaged fob for $300 – $400. It’s quite the price tag, but if you only have one key, and it’s damaged, and you have no record of the original code, well, you might need to have a sit down for a while! Always keep your spare somewhere safe. If your everyday key starts to give you trouble, get it looked at sooner rather than later.

Intelligent Unlock Disabled

If your Leaf won’t unlock, this explanation is possible but probably quite specific to a certain range of people.

Intelligent locking/unlocking allows for passive entry. Most modern cars are now equipped with this.

If you have recently had your car at a dealership for a service, there’s a possibility they have deactivated Intelligent Unlock.

People always get kind of nervous leaving their car in the shop. You leave it in for one thing, and it comes out with four more! Well, that’s not always the case, but sometimes they do trick around with settings. It’s always a good idea to check everything is how you want it in your Menu Settings when you get your car back.

It could be just that the Intelligent Unlock has been temporarily deactivated.

If you select Locking on your Menu, you can see what is set up for your car and change it accordingly.

The other minor reason that Intelligent Unlock won’t work is the position/location of the fob. If the fob is the hand that is pressing the door handle button, the car won’t unlock.

The closeness of the fob to the handle confuses the electronics in the fob. It can’t tell the location of the fob, whether it is inside or outside the car, and so it will remain locked.

12V Battery Dead

The 12V battery in your Nissan Leaf controls all the auxiliary items in your car. Locking, unlocking, windows, media, and the electronic signal to charge the high voltage is all controlled by the 12V.

It’s a pretty important piece of equipment. If you are sure that your fob is not the issue and your car still won’t unlock, then it’s more than likely your 12V battery is flat or discharged.

You will need to boost it. Sometimes easier said than done and if you’re not comfortable doing this, then call Roadside Assist.

If you are prepared to boost your car, you will need either a booster pack (preferable) or a donor car.

But first things first, you have to get into your car to access the hood. How to do that if your car won’t unlock?

Mechanical Key

Take your fob and turn it over. There is a small square slider. Push to one side, and it will release the mechanical key.

In the driver’s door handle, insert the mechanical key and turn towards the rear. This will unlock the car.

Now that you’re in the car. Pull the hood release handle. It’s located on the driver’s side below the instrument panel. It has a small icon of a car with an open hood.

Go to the front of the car and open the hood. You will have to slide an additional lever upwards to release it fully.

  • Raise the hood and secure it with the hood bar
  • Apply the brake
  • Put the car in Park (P)
  • Make sure the Power position is OFF
  • Locate the 12V
  • Remove the battery terminals
  • Connect the booster (or donor car) cables in the following order
  • Red (+) to Red (+) and Black (-) to Black (-)
  • Start the boost
  • Place the Leaf in Ready-to Drive
  • Carefully disconnect in the reverse order
  • Black from Black, then Red from Red
  • Leave in Ready to Charge for approximately 20 minutes to charge your 12V

Why was your 12V flat?

If you are running into this problem more often, then you will need to replace your 12V. They only have a certain amount of life in them. You can either switch it out yourself (only if you’re comfortable doing so) or organize a service with the dealership.

If this is the first blip you’ve had, it may be that you inadvertently left something on or open.

This can easily happen. Did you run out to your car last night and turn the interior lights on and forget to switch them off? Did someone leave a door or trunk open, even slightly? Again this will mean the interior lights have stayed on. Lights left on will definitely flatten your 12V.

Was someone playing music in the car without the power on fully? This can happen if you’re vacuuming or cleaning and then finish up, turn the radio off but do not realize how much energy you’ve used, and the next day you’re 12V is flat.

Everything must be off when leaving the car. No one wants car issues, and in fairness, there are definitely fewer problems with an EV. Locking and unlocking issues can always be solved.

Other posts that you might find useful:

Nissan Leaf won’t go into drive

Is Leaf charger waterproof?

E John Cunningham

Hey, I’m John and I'm a technical writer here at EVjuicedup.com. I’m a Red Seal qualified Auto Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience working on Classic and Modern Cars. I've worked for GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Audi, and VW main dealers. Yep, I’ve skint my knuckles on them all!

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