Reset CarKey via iCloud

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Apple CarKey is a service that allows you to use your iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start your vehicle. Introduced as part of WWDC 2020, CarKey builds on Apple Wallet and CarPlay and follows Apple’s strategy of making its devices the central hub of its users’ lives.

BMW was the first manufacturer to announce support for CarKey, although that list has expanded since WWDC 2020.

How Does CarKey Work?

CarKey is designed to store a digital copy of your vehicle’s key in Apple Wallet, much like it stores a digital copy of your credit card information. Using NFC (near-field communication), CarKey communicates with the vehicle, unlocking it when the iPhone or Apple Watch is held up to it.

NFC is based on RFID, the same technology used in access control badges, with one major difference: NFC’s range is roughly four inches. As a result, the initial iteration of CarKey requires holding the iPhone next to the car’s keypad to unlock it, and placing it on the smartphone pad inside the car in order to activate and start it.

Apple’s goal has been to use the U1 chip in newer devices to address some of NFC’s limitations. The U1 chip is an ultra-wideband chip that offers better spatial awareness. Once the U1 is widely supported, the iPhone will be able to unlock and activate the car without being held close or placed in a specific location.

In the meantime, because it still uses NFC, CarKey should offer some compatibility with any car that supports NFC. Even in its current NFC incarnation, CarKey does more than simply unlock and activate a vehicle.

What Other Features Does CarKey Have?

In addition to the basic unlocking and starting a vehicle, CarKey makes it easy to share keys with others. For example, if someone needs to borrow your car, rather than giving them a physical key, you can send them a digital key via iMessage.

Another important feature of CarKey is the ability to place limits on the vehicle’s operation. For example, when issuing a digital key, you can set a limit on how fast the vehicle can drive when using that key. Similarly, you can place a limit on how loud the stereo can play while that key is in use. Such features can be an important way for parents to maintain a measure of control over how their children (or crazy friends) use their vehicle.

Resetting CarKey With Your iPhone

There are any number of situations that may call for resetting, or deleting, a digital key. Selling a car, revoking a child’s driving permission or a friend returning a loaner may all call for deleting a digital key.

Fortunately, Apple makes it relatively easy to delete or revoke a key as needed.

Delete a Key

  • Open your iPhone’s Wallet app.
  • Select the card representing your digital key.
  • Tap More.
  • Select Remove This Car Key.
  • Select Remove again to confirm.

Revoke a Shared Key

  • Open your iPhone’s Wallet app.
  • Select the card representing your digital key.
  • Tap More.
  • Select the person you’ve shared a key with.
  • Select Revoke Access.

The person will receive a notification that their key has been revoked.

Securing and Resetting CarKey via iCloud

There may be times when you need to secure your CarKey information via iCloud. This is especially a concern if your iPhone is lost or stolen, and Express Mode is enabled. Express Mode allows your iPhone to unlock and start your car without any further authentication — no Face ID, no Touch ID, no passcode.

If your iPhone is stolen and Express Mode is enabled, as it is by default, a person could easily steal your car with little to stop them. Fortunately, it’s easy to disable CarKey via iCloud.

Mark Your iPhone as Lost

The first option is to mark your iPhone as lost. Doing so will lock your iPhone, keeping a thief from accessing your information, applications and services, including CarKey.

  • Open the Find My app and select Devices.
  • Select your lost/stolen iPhone.
  • Scroll down to Mark As Lost and tap Activate.
  • Find My gives you the option of displaying your phone number, or a message asking the person who has your phone to contact you. Follow the onscreen steps to choose one of these options.
  • Tap Activate.

Remotely Erase Your iPhone

The next step, if you have no hope of recovery, is to securely erase your iPhone. If you have AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss, you should not do this until your claim has resolved.

  • Open the Find My app and select Devices.
  • Choose the device you want to erase.
  • Scroll down and tap Erase This Device.
  • Confirm by tapping Erase This [device].

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