When duplicating or generating a modern car key a full-service automotive locksmith has many tools at their disposal. Unlike pre-1990s automobiles which usually required only a key to turn the ignition, almost all modern cars use some sort of transponder system built into the key. These often-complex systems greatly increase the security of your car but can pause challenges when a new car key is required. There are two main techniques a locksmith with use when generating or duplicating a car key.
Cloning a car key
One of these techniques is known as cloning. Cloning a car key is exactly what it sounds like. A locksmith will take an existing, already programmed key and copy the exact data onto a blank transponder or “chip”. From there the chip can be placed inside of a shell; a shell is a cut brass key with an empty plastic head in which a cloned chip can be embedded. Cloning keys has many upsides but is not necessarily appropriate for every situation. Cloning can be fast, affordable, and very simple for both the locksmith and customer. Since all the locksmith is doing is making a physical copy of the already programmed chip there is no need to connect any tools to the vehicle. This is important because less interaction with a cars computer system greatly decrease the chances of any malfunctions or issues.
One drawback of cloning is the fact that your new key will be a literal copy, so any attributes of the original key will function the same with the new key. For example, with some Hondas a master key is required to program an additional key to the car. So, if we were to clone a Honda key that was not a master that key would not work for any additional programing just as the original would not work either. That brings us to the major downside of cloning and why physical ODB programing is still important, all keys lost. When a customer presents with no car keys whatsoever, cloning is no longer a viable option because there is no current key to work from.
Physically programming car keys works by connecting a specialized device to the automobile’s OBDII port, or sometimes other ports. These specialized devices come in many forms ranging from Android based tablets to things that resemble the original Gameboy. While programmers may have evolved significantly over the years, their function has remained the same. By tapping into the cars OBDII port, a programmer can communicate with the car’s ECU or computer. Many of these computers are password protected requiring extra steps from the locksmith; these steps range from acquiring a pin code to physically pulling out the ECU and connecting directly to the circuits.
Once a connection has been established, the programmer is able to allow for the addition of new keys or to erase any current keys and start fresh. Being able to wipe out existing keys and add entirely new ones can be important when a customer believes their keys may have been stolen. Like any computer or electronic device, great care must be taken by the locksmith to ensure the stability of every programming task they perform. An unskilled technician with a limited knowledge and inventor of programmers could very easily turn a five-minute job into a headache for themselves and you. When having new car keys made, it’s important to find a locksmith who specializes in automobiles. Specialized automotive locksmiths will carry with them a multitude of programmers and other tools that will ensure they are using the proper device for the job at hand.