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Are You Having Problems With Your Transponder Key?

Here's What To Do!

How does a transponder key work?

Nowadays, transponder keys are customary in new vehicles. They make it much harder for a thief to steal your car. Even though it’s expensive, it’s undeniably worth the peace of mind it gives you.

Anyone who has a transponder key ~ also called a transponder “chip” key ~ knows how much easier it is to use than a standard key. These specialized keys are ignition keys that make it effortless to enter and leave your car, because you can unlock the car doors without sticking the key in the lock; you can activate and deactivate your car alarm; you can remotely open your trunk; and, with some, you can even start up your car remotely!

The way it works is that the chip inside the key sends out a singular signal to your automobile’s computer, a particular frequency that is aligned only to your automobile. When the signal is received, the mechanical part of the key releases your steering lock, so you can activate the ignition and start up the car.

Is your transponder key not functioning?

  • One common cause for your transponder malfunctioning is that there’s a manufacturer’s defect. If your vehicle is still under warranty, then you’ll be able to correct the problem for free at the car dealership. If it’s not under warranty any longer, then it’s time to hire an automotive locksmith.
  • There could be a foreign object stuck in the ignition. Don’t attempt to pull it out yourself, because you could easily damage the ignition. Hire an experienced professional automotive locksmith instead, someone who can extract anything from the ignition mechanism with the exacting precision required, so the entire switch won’t need replacing.
  • Another possibility is that your transponder key isn’t communicating correctly with your vehicle’s computer, because the chip has lost its programming. You can get it reprogrammed, or, you can get a new transponder key with new programming. Whatever you decide, an automotive locksmith or your car dealership will be able to handle it.

Did you lose your transponder key?

Misplacing your car key is more complicated than it used to be decades ago. With a regular key, you could have a duplicate key made for nearly nothing, at any local hardware store or locksmith, or even at the dealership. But a transponder key is altogether a different beast. If you’ve really given up on tracking down your transponder key, replacing is definitely going to cost you. Depending on the intricacy of the key’s design, and on the automaker, the replacement of your electronic fob will be slightly expensive, or enormously so. Some dealerships will reprogram your key fob for free, but most will charge you a lot.

For some cars, a transponder key is an all-in-one unit with a fob. Also called a laser-cut key, the shank is a little bit thicker, with fewer carved-out grooves. Laser-cut keys are sometimes called “sidewinder” keys, because of the winding cut feature on the shank. The dealership will probably have to program a laser-cut key’s built-in chip.

A switchblade key is another type of transponder key with a shank, but it folds into the fob, and you can pop it out by pressing a button. A switchblade key has either a laser cut or a basic cut. One benefit is that you can buy the components separately. If you've truly lost your key, you’ll have to get both parts programmed.

A smart key isn’t actually a key. It’s just a fob. You either insert it into the dashboard, or, you can keep it in your pocket or purse. When you are behind the wheel, you can start up or stop the car by pressing a button. A smart key gives you superior security because of its rolling security codes. Continually randomizing the right code, it stops a car thief from hacking it with a code grabber. Your car dealership will be able to replace your smart key.

Was your transponder key stolen?

When you first purchased your vehicle, you should have gotten two transponder keys. It’s likely, then, that a family member has your additional copy, which will get you going for now. But keep in mind that, since your transponder key is connected to your automobile only, a potential car thief who finds your key can easily take your vehicle. That means you’ll need to get a replacement transponder key, and then reprogram them both.

To get a transponder key made, reprogrammed, or replaced, you’ll need to find an automotive locksmith, or go back to your dealership. A locksmith company will generally cost less than your dealership. If you are anywhere in Castle Rock, Colorado, then it would be a good idea to bring all your questions to a legitimate automotive locksmith mobile specialist, such as a professional on staff at 24/7 Castle Rock Locksmith, where free consultations are available.


If you do have to reprogram your transponder key, with some vehicles, you can actually program the transponder key yourself.

The following method will be successful on many American-made cars. You might be in luck. However, before you spend any money, check your owner's manual, ask your dealership, and/or inquire at a local automotive locksmith to find out if this procedure will work effectively on your car:

1 First, insert one of your two functioning keys. Then, turn the ignition to the "on" position for a good three seconds (don’t start up the car).

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

3 Now, insert the new third key, and turn it to the "on" position, again for about three seconds. This should properly program your extra key.

Another thing to do, if you often lock your keys in your car, is that you can at least get in your vehicle. Order only the basic key, without the transmitter. Then you’ll at least have a key that does everything except start up your car.