Skip to main content

Little Known Feature Lets You Unlock Your Newer Subaru Without A Key

There are times when you don’t want to carry your car keys with you. See how to unlock your new Subaru using a little known feature using a PIN code.


There are times when you don’t want to carry your car keys, like when you are running, mountain biking, kayaking, or surfing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to leave the keys someplace safe? There is a little known feature for the newer Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, WRX, WRX STI, Impreza, and Legacy that allows you to unlock your vehicle without using the key fob.

You can even use the feature to unlock your car if you lose your keys or if they get locked in the car. If you need to stay light on a hike, you may also want to leave the key locked inside the car. You can easily get back inside using a customized feature called Pin Code Access. This feature has been offered on some Subaru models since 2014, so check your owners manual to see if it’s available on your Subaru.

2020 Subaru Outback, 2020 Subaru Forester, 2020 Subaru CrosstrekHere’s how Pin Code Access works

First, you need to disable the keyless entry feature on your Subaru and then program a five-digit code using the lock button in your trunk or lift-gate. After you lock your Subaru and head out on the trail (leaving the fob hidden inside the vehicle), you can return after your adventure and unlock your driver’s side door by entering the five-digit code you set on the trunk release or lift gate lock button.

And you don’t need to worry about someone figuring out the code and driving away in your vehicle. There are over 100,000 possible combinations with a five-digit code.

2020 Subaru Outback, 2020 Subaru Forester, 2020 Subaru Crosstrek

The Pin Code Access is a cool feature, but on newer Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, WRX, Impreza, and Legacy models with Subaru Starlink Safety and Security, you can use your iPhone to unlock your all-wheel-drive vehicle and you can remotely start the vehicle, defrost your windows and warm your seats before you head out for the weekend.

To use this feature requires activation with a subscription. It includes a one-year trial subscription to Safety Plus that allows smartphone connectivity. Check with your Subaru dealer for details.

If you need to leave your car keys behind, newer Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, WRX, WRX STI, Impreza, and Legacy allow you keyless outdoor time because Subaru offers this little known feature called PIN Code Access. Watch the video below to see how to program your Subaru.

You Might Also Like: All-New Subaru Crosstrek Sport Is Coming Soon With More Power And A 2.5L Engine

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!

Leave your comments below, share the article with friends and tweet it out to your followers!

Photo credit: Subaru USA


ronen (not verified)    March 12, 2020 - 12:45PM

Here is the problem with Subaru's starlink system: it needs cellular coverage. If you're out in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception, you can't do anything with it- including the apps. So after the complementary first year there is really no justification to renew it.

Don Levin (not verified)    November 7, 2020 - 9:49PM

Sounds painful and risky. Since large values like 9 require many presses, using low values like 12121 mean much less likely than 100,000 combos. Verizon finally realized we hate passwords. Training by saying “At Verizon my voice is my password”, now I can access records when prompted to repeat this saying. Subaru needs to add this capability to their vehicles. Forget fat fingering codes, hoping for chirps, reentering a code etc.

David Rudd (not verified)    January 14, 2021 - 12:17PM

Your statement "After you lock your Subaru and head out on the trail (leaving the fob hidden inside the vehicle)" seems to contradict the manual on my 2016 Outback "You cannot unlock by PIN Code Access ... when the access key is within the operating ranges.". If I have to take the key with me, then what is the point?

Owen (not verified)    July 5, 2022 - 4:06PM

In reply to by Annie (not verified)

My brother recommended I might like this web site.
He was entirely right. This publish actually made my day.
You cann't believe simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

aid for ukraine

Scott Waldrop (not verified)    July 28, 2023 - 6:26PM

In reply to by David Rudd (not verified)

Also in the owners manual - You disable the key-fob to make this feature work with the key locked in the car. Once you get back to your car after a long day hiking, unlock with the PIN. Grab the key-fob and press any key to enable it agian.

David Rudd (not verified)    January 22, 2021 - 9:03AM

Oh but wait, there's more. After disabling the "keyless entry" feature, which is required in order for "PIN Access mode" to function, the dash will display "Access Key Disabled" when you press the Start button. You may think you've broken something. In fact, the Subaru Help desk, the Subaru escalated help, and even the Subaru dealer I spent an hour at won't know that this too is part of the same feature and REQUIRES starting the vehicle with the key fob pressed up against the Start key. Not just as a solution to a weak key fob battery, which is also good to know, but as an even lesser know feature to prevent anyone from driving your Subaru away if they happened to crack the PIN Access Code to gain entry, but are not intimitaly familiar (even more so than your local certified Subaru mechanic) with the Operating Manual's subtle mention. RTFM man.

Dylan Thornton (not verified)    April 29, 2021 - 8:44PM

In reply to by David Rudd (not verified)

Also, the pincode merely controls entry into the car, and doesn't disable the car.
If someone breaks in and finds the key fob, it can easily be re-enabled for full function, and the car driven away.
Also, as simple as the process to disable keyless entry seems to be, it is still required (along with re-enabling) every time you want to use the feature.
Set up my Dad’s pincode today, and although it is a welcome feature, it is not without it’s weaknesses.

Vicky (not verified)    August 5, 2023 - 1:10PM

In reply to by Dylan Thornton (not verified)

This is exactly what has always perplexed me about this functionality. Someone can break into the car, find the fob and enable it with a simple Google search. Why make it so complicated?? It baffles my mind why there isn't just a physical non-electronic key inside the fob that you can take out and with you (even into water) ... disabling the fob (you can leave the "empty" fob in the car) and securing the car??

Robert Conway … (not verified)    April 23, 2021 - 3:52PM

the gadgets on this crosstrek are perplexing - I will say that I backed up into a trench the other day by accident and was almost vertical - did not even have to push a button - it climbed right out - scary thought I was in deep shit

Mike (not verified)    January 23, 2022 - 5:14PM

Hi Denis, Thanks for the article.
Can you explain what to do if you messed up the initial pin code entry. How do you erase and start over. I only put in 4 digits instead of 5. So does not work. I tried to do over from the start by disabling the door locks and thru the whole sequence. It will not let me redo. This is good to address also if one wanted to change the access pin code to a new code. Appreciate your kind assistance.

Warwick Luxon (not verified)    September 22, 2022 - 2:02AM

I have set up the PIN and all good.
Is there a way to lock the car without the fob key once the car is opened with the PIN?
Eg, wife has the fob key and is off in the shopping centre and I don't have a fob key. Yes I can open the car with a PIN but how can I lock it?