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Back in the day, if you lost your car key, you’d have an extra key that you would have had duplicated at your local hardware store, locksmith, or dealership. But nowadays, losing your keys is much more problematic than it used to be back in the nineties ~ in other words, before there were computer chips. A conventional car key, with its distinctive cuts and grooves, was just like a home key, so you could get it copied inexpensively and easily.

Obviously, the disadvantage to a traditional car key in the old days was that, because it wasn’t hard to copy, it was also nearly effortless for a car thief to steal your vehicle. Cars are much more difficult to steal today because of advances in transponder key technology. A transponder key, although it’s more costly, is undeniably worth the peace of mind it gives you.

But what should you do if you lose your transponder key?

What sort of transponder key have you lost? Inside your transponder key’s plastic head is a computer chip, which emits a unique signal going to the receiver in your automobile, telling it to start. The main difference between a standard key and a transponder key is that the chip inside your transponder key has to be programmed. For most vehicles today, an electronic key fob (i.e., your remote) is an integral element of the key set. It’s vital that you protect your transponder key, because, depending on your automaker and on the complexity of its design, the replacement of a lost electronic fob is often very expensive. The fob must be appropriately programmed. There are some dealerships that will do the programming at no charge, but most will charge you a great deal.

For some cars, the transponder key and the fob are all in one. Also called a laser-cut key, the shank is a little thicker, and has fewer carved-out grooves. A laser-cut key is also referred to as a “sidewinder” key, because it has a winding-shaped cut on the shank. The laser-cut key’s built-in chip needs programming. It’s more difficult to get a spare key copied anywhere, except at the dealership. It costs more, but your car is more secure.

A smart key is not really a key at all ~ not in the usual sense of the word. It’s just a fob. You either insert it in the dash, or you keep it in your pocket or in your purse, or you attach it to your belt buckle. You can fire up or kill the engine with the press of a button. A smart key is extraordinarily secure, because it has rolling security codes. That means it’s continuously randomizing the right code, a main feature which stops a potential car thief from hacking it with a code grabber. Get your smart key replaced at your dealership.

A switchblade key is another kind of key with a transponder chip inside. This key has a shank, which folds into the fob when you’re not using it. It will pop out when you press the button. A switchblade key has either a regular cut or laser cut. One advantage to a switchblade key is that you can purchase the parts separately. If you’ve lost your key permanently, then both components need to be programmed.

Have a duplicate key made. Are you always misplacing your keys, bickering with your spouse or teenager over who lost whose keys? Save on transponder key programming by having a third spare key made. Since you probably already have two keys (which you ought to have received when you first bought your car), a good number of makes and models will permit you to program a third key. First of all, ask an automotive locksmith technician to cut you a third key; then, you can read your owner’s manual and program it yourself.

The following procedure will be successful on many American-made cars. But before you throw your money away, ask your dealership, or consult with a professional automotive locksmith company to find out whether these steps will work on your specific vehicle. If you’re any place in Wake Forest, North Carolina, find a dependable local locksmith, such as an automotive locksmith mobile specialist on staff at Wake Forest Locksmith.

  1. First, insert one of the two working keys, and turn the ignition to the “on” position for about 3 seconds (but don’t start your car).

  2. Next, do the same with your second key.

  3. Now, insert the new third key. Turn it to the “on” position for another 3 seconds. This should effectively program your spare key.

Don’t ever lose your transponder key again!

No matter how you look at it, a transponder key isn’t cheap. The best way to avoid losing it again is to prepare beforehand. Don’t take any risks! If you have only one car key, have a spare key made right now, so you won’t get stressed out about it in the future. You don’t want to find yourself in a crisis, shelling out a lot more money than you ever wanted to spend.

If you choose to program your transponder key, you’ll need to have:

  • your automobile’s chassis number
  • proof that you’re the owner, with two forms of ID
  • the code on the manufacturer’s code card, which originally came with your vehicle

Should you not be able to track down that code, now’s the time to locate an expert automotive locksmith who will properly reprogram the key and get you back on the road. A reliable professional will be eminently qualified to help you, generally at a lower price than what the dealership would charge.

DIY. One thing you can do to get into your automobile is that you can get the regular key only, but not the transmitter. This is less costly, and you’ll at least have a key unlock your vehicle. This is helpful if you ever lock your keys in your car. The programming element, which does the remote locking and unlocking, is really just a luxury, since it’s not actually required to get in the car and drive. You can program this part by yourself, simply by following the instructions in the owner’s manual. Or, hire an expert automotive locksmith technician to do it for you.