Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Can I get a chip key at a big store?

A lot of people have asked me if Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart, etc., can duplicate or make new RFID or chip auto keys. The short answer is sometimes.

Some of these stores have the capability of duplicating this kind of key but most cannot make one without a functioning key. If you lost your chip car key and have no copies, there is still only two options: go to a dealer of your vehicle's brand, or call an auto locksmith.

Now, if you have a copy, shop around, these stores sometimes offer great prices and beat locksmiths. Make sure to try the key you get from these big names though, not all cars have the same specifications and key programming technology and you could end up with an auto key that allows you to turn the ignition but not turn on the car.

As a rule, I find great value when I call a locksmith. Some keys, depending of brand and model are cheaper at big stores. I only call a dealer when no locksmith or store can make the key for me because this alternative is the most expensive though necessary when talking about very high-end vehicles or security features.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Car Keys Not Working - Quick Tip

There are some cases when the solution to auto keys that are not working properly is simpler than we think.

First, answer this question: Is the key not working properly on all locks or just one? If all of them is the case, the issue most likely will be that the key is just too darn old. In this situation the best thing to do is to call a locksmith to make a new key. The thousands of frictions the car key has suffered might have taken a told on the original shape. A very old key can potentially damage the locks if these are not turning smoothly. Now, if the problem is only in one lock, before calling a locksmith try just putting some w-40 lubricant on it and then insert and remove the key repeatedly, this helps the tumblers inside the lock to loosen so it can work properly again. If this does not work, ask for quotes on both fixing and replacing the lock. Many times putting a new one is actually cheaper.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Did my car key lose it's mojo?

I've been asked recently, can my car key get deprogrammed? The short answer is most likely yes but it's not key that has a problem.
If you have a PATS auto key  that works perfectly and suddenly one day it stops working, chances are the problem is electric. Some car owners will see the "theft" light on and think that their automobile key is no programmed correctly anymore. This could be true, but the problem lies in the car;s computer or ECU, or in the electric system. The reality of things is the chances of your car key stops working because of itself are almost nonexistent.

Chip Key not working
Vehicles have very intricate electrical wiring and functioning and the ECU or computer module is getting more sophisticated with every new car. These things are made to last but inevitably they will experience a problem sooner or later. The car key however is just plastic and metal with a very simple and small chip-like artifact inside. This chip or transponder would need extreme temperatures or violent hits to stop working.

So my advice is simple, if you have a problem like this, have an electrician look at it before you spend money on another car key.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's the deal with car key codes?

You might know already that to make a key, a locksmith can use a number called a "key code" to automatically cut the key to factory specifications. This is done by specialized machinery that has in memory the technical instructions to cut to perfection all kinds of keys. What you might not know is that some car makes make it very difficult for not only locksmiths, but auto owners themselves to access this digit.
You are lucky if you have an Asian made car in this respect, as many Asiatic brands have the keycode displayed in some of the automobile locks. For example, Honda cars usually have the number in at least one of the locks, most times the passenger's door.
Now, you can go to an authorized dealership, and they will probably help you get your key code if the car is not "too old". Yes unfortunately some key codes can no longer be accessed or even bought. A good example of this, is Ford models. The only way to get the key code for a Ford F-150 2003 for instance is to get it at a dealer or key code company, is no where on the vehicle. Now, if the truck is a 1999, you are out of luck as Ford key codes can only be accessed for 10 years back. In this last scenario your only option is to contact a local locksmith to decode the locks.
Some other car make's car key codes can be accessed for 15+ years.
Make sure to save your key code if you have it as it will surely help you avoid headaches in the future if you are getting a spare car key or you need a replacement.

Monday, February 1, 2010

On-board programming and other myths

There is confusion when talking about transponder key programming. Not all modern cars have car keys that need to be programmed, although the majority of brands using VATS, RFID (transponder) technologies have applied these features to newer cars (model 1995 and up). Also there are recent models that still don't feature one of these systems. In general terms, for example, Chevrolet delayed a little the insertion of transponder car keys, compared to Ford that begun doing this aprox. in 1997 for a lot of models.
Of the different keys out there, there are several ways of programming them. Usually you will need a professional to add a key to your car's computer memory, either a dealership or a locksmith (always check on-line for locksmiths, dealers are way more expensive).
There is another way though: on-board programming. Take it easy, not all cars can be programmed using this method. That would be to good to be true. But a good amount of cars accept this and somebody can just follow simple instructions to program the auto keys without the need of special tools. I'm working on a comprehensive list of cars that have on boar programming, so keep checking this blog.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ford Focus ignition lock problem

A common problem I see in my shop is Ford Focus models '00 to '04 having their ignition locks stop working.
The ignition lock for this cars are very deficient unfortunately. Last week I installed a new lock for the ignition switch of a Focus 2001. The lock was getting stuck all the time and the key had begun to suffer because of this. The customer had to not only buy a new lock but also a new key because the old one was not working anymore on the rest of the locks.
It is very important to take care of this problem because a lock that begins having issues of getting stuck begins to damage the car key, and if the key has a transponder chip, it could cost you a lot more to solve the problem after it happens for a while.
If you have a Ford Focus '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, and you begin to experience that the ignition lock starts getting stuck, is time to change it. Contact a locksmith in your area or buy over the internet.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Locks and Ignition Switches

One of the key issues people have when their car has suffered a robbery attempt, is that the lock or ignition lock gets damaged.
Also, some people try to pick the lock because they lost their car keys, and they end up ruining it.
Many people ask me if the ignition can be fixed, and 9 times out of 10 the answer is no.
The fact is a damaged lock is very hard to fix and many times it will be more costly to fix it than just buying a new one. Find out with the dealership how much your lock is. A locksmith can sometimes sell it to you cheaper, specially if you want the new lock keyed so your current car key works with it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Transponder, Chip, VATS, Laser Car Keys

Car Keys costs are not what they used to be. If you have a '96 Ford F-150 for instance, the key will probably cost you between $30 and $90 depending where you go. Now, if you have a 2006 Ford F-150 or for that matter most other Ford cars, the car key will cost around $120 and up; this is because newer cars usually feature a system known as transponder key. There is a good online locksmith page called "" that has some of the best prices I've seen.

All this transponder business means is that the car sends a radio signal to the transponder which is inside the plastic of the auto key. The transponder replies with a code, and the car's computer will determine if it is a valid code and decide if the engine is to be started.

Some cars featured an added security featured called HSK (High Security Key). This means the car key is laser cut using a different technology that regular keys. Not all locksmiths / dealers can cut these type of car keys.

Some GM models (specially older ones), have a sytem called VATS (Vehicle Anti-theft System) and is similar to how the transponder system functions.

If you need a Car Key Replacement some locksmiths can cut the car keys using your Car Key Code or VIN#. Depending on your car manufacturer, your Keycode could be in one of the locks, in the car manual, or sometimes the dealer will provide you with it for free.

This on-line service carries automotive keys for almost all car brands including Ford, Honda, Nissan, Chevrolet, Chrysler, GM, Hyundai, Acura, Toyota, Lexus, GMC, Mazda, Volkswagen, Pontiac and more.

Keep in mind that if your ignition or any locks have been changed, the keys they make using the key code or VIN# might not work on the new lock / ignition.

Having spare car keys could save you money on towing expenses or locksmith services or dealers that can take advantage of a moment of desperation.