Car keys seem to have a life of their own. They disappear while they are in your pocket or find their way under sofa cushions without you realizing it. Sometimes, you just can’t find them, no matter how hard you try. A decade ago, losing car keys was not an issue (well, as long as those keys were not found too quickly by the wrong person).
You could go to a locksmith or your car dealership and get a spare made. This fact meant that even car thieves found it easier to steal cars. But thanks to technology, things have advanced and now car thieves have a more difficult time trying to steal cars. But at the same time, the advanced technology has made it quite expensive to replace lost car keys.
Basic Car Keys
If you remember in the 1990s, the car keys consisted of a simple key. The shank of the key had grooves and cuts and hence, it was easy to make copies of your car key. The locksmith used to use the same machine to make a copy that he used for other keys. The only difference was the dealership would put the logo on the car manufacturer on the key head and jack up the price a little bit.
Electronic Car Key Fobs
The basic car key paved way for the electronic key fob that allowed you to open and lock your car from a distance. It functioned on a radio transmitter, which unlocked the car with the established frequency.
A replacement cost $50-$90, varies from the automaker to the design. The dealerships may program the key for free or charge you a minimal fee.
To cut the cost completely, one can program the fob themselves using an owner’s manual, or find the instructions online. Lastly, there exists an option to purchase an aftermarket fob. The quality here indeed varies, but it is your best bet on a cheaper alternative.
The transponder chip made an appearance post 1995, stepping up the game in the automobile industry. The chip, which is placed in the key, disarms the immobilizer; which prevents the engine from running unless the correct key is inserted. This being the case, the practice of “hot wiring” a car for theft was not possible anymore. The shank of the key is either basic or laser-cut.
The chip in the key does need to be programmed, and can be done so at any dealership or most auto locksmiths; free or with a minimal cost.
In some vehicles, the transponder key and fob are combined to be a single component. Naturally, this costs a pretty penny; more so, as it is unlikely to find a replacement other than the dealership.
A dealership charges about $160 for the key and $75 for the fob, depending on the kind of car model you have, whereas a locksmith could possibly cut the splurge by $20-$30. If you’re someone who forgets your keys inside the car, a basic key minus the transmitter is a life saver, and also easy on the wallet.
You can opt to create a third key as a spare. Usually, vehicle brands allow you to program a third key on your own, which again, you can do by following the instructions off of an owner’s manual or find them online.
A tried out a method that works on a lot of domestic vehicles has instructions that go as follows:
- Insert the first key and turn ignition on for about 3 seconds.
- Follow this by inserting the second key and following the same procedure.
- Now, insert the new key which needs to be programmed and do the same. Note: You need not start the car while turning the ignition.
We advise you to confirm on this idea with the dealership before trying it out.
Laser-Cut Keys (Sidewinder Keys)
The shank of a laser key is comparatively thicker than the basic key, with noticeably fewer grooves. You might not find the machine required to make these keys at every locksmith as they cost a greater deal of money than a basic key-cutting machine. These keys also consist of transponder chips that need to be programmed initially.
When settling for a locksmith, it is better to choose one who is a member of the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA). The AOLA website provides a list of certified locksmiths near you.
Nowadays, all-in-one laser-cut keys are seemingly dominating the market; though being relatively costlier, and replaceable only at the dealership. One can expect a $150-$250 expense easily.
These are keys where the shank folds into the fob when not in use, and at the touch of a button sticks back out. The key can be basic or laser cut. The shank of a switchblade key can be bought separately for $60-$80, but a complete key with the additional programming can cost a whopping $200-$300.
Smart keys are basically fobs that need not be inserted. The transponder in the key detects the driver in the vehicle and operates the car using buttons. The top notch security randomizes the correct code and prevents thieves from hacking it by using a code grabber. A safety feature makes it impossible to lock the car as long as the key is within the car. All luxury cars use smart keys. The smart key is the epitome of an all function key and it is indeed heavy on the pocket. The dealership is the only haven for a replacement and it costs around $220-$400.
Playing it Safe
The evolution of technology is only as nice as its price. An array of options makes it easier for you to customize depending on your needs. When all is said and done, it pays off to be prepared for a possible incident than facing the conundrum of its undoing.