Losing your car keys has become much more complicated than it used to be since the 1990s, before computer chips. Back in the day, you could easily get a spare key duplicated at any locksmith, hardware store, or at least at the dealership. A standard car key, with its unique grooves and cuts, used to be like a house key, which you could copy for very little money.

The drawback to this kind of car key obviously was that because it wasn’t hard to copy, and it was also a piece of cake for a car thief to steal your vehicle. Because of modern advances in transponder key technology, automobiles are much more difficult to steal nowadays. Without a doubt, a transponder key, even though it is more expensive, is worth the peace of mind it gives you.

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

What’s the type of transponder key that you’ve lost?

Inside a transponder key’s plastic head is a transponder chip, which emits a particular signal, which goes to a receiver in your automobile, instructing it to start. The main difference between a transponder key and an old-fashioned basic key is that the chip in your transponder key must be programmed. For most cars today, an electronic key fob (also called your remote) is an integral component to your key set. It’s important to guard your transponder key, because, depending on the automaker and the complexity level of its design, the replacement of your electronic fob can be quite expensive. First, the fob has to be properly programmed. Some dealerships will do it for free, but most will charge a lot.

For some vehicles, the transponder key and the fob are an all-in-one unit. Also known as a laser-cut key, the shank is a bit thicker, and has fewer carved-out grooves. Laser-cut keys are sometimes called “sidewinder” keys, because of the winding-shaped cut on its shank. The laser-cut key’s built-in transponder chip must be programmed. It’s more difficult to get a spare key made anywhere except at your dealership. Although it’s more costly, at least your car is more secure.

A switchblade key is another sort of key with a transponder chip inside. A switchblade key has a shank, which folds into the fob whenever not in use. Press a button and it pops out. This key has either a laser cut or a regular cut. One advantage of the switchblade key is that the parts are available separately. If you’ve truly lost your key, then you’ll need to program both components.

A smart key is not really a key in the usual sense of the word. In fact, it’s just a fob. You either insert into the dash, or you keep it on your belt buckle, or in your purse or pocket. When you’re in the driver’s seat, you can start or stop your car just by pressing a button. A smart key is highly secure, because it has rolling security codes, which means it’s continually randomizing the correct code, a remarkable feature that stops a potential car thief from hacking it using a code grabber. You can replace your smart key at the dealership.


One measure you can take to gain access to your vehicle is that you can order just the basic key only, but not the transmitter. This costs less, and you’ll at least have a key that will get you in your car. This comes in handy if you ever lock your car keys inside the car. The programming element, which does the remote unlocking and locking, is essentially a luxury, since it’s not vital for gaining entry and driving your vehicle. You can program this part yourself by following the owner’s manual’s instructions, or you can hire a professional automotive locksmith to do it for you.

Make a spare key.

Are you always losing your keys, and squabbling with your teenager or your spouse about who lost whose keys? Save money on transponder key programming when you make a third spare key. If you already have two keys, a lot of automobile makes and models will allow you to program a third key by yourself. You can hire a professional locksmith to cut the third key for you, and then, if you like, you can follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to program it yourself.

The following three-step procedure works on a good number of American-made vehicles. But before you spend your money, check with the dealership or with a local automotive locksmith to find out if it will work with your specific vehicle. If you’re located in Marietta, Georgia, consult with an automotive locksmith specialist, such as the mobile technicians on staff at KTB Marietta Locksmith.

  1. Insert one of your two working keys, and turn the ignition to the “on” position for at least 3 seconds (without starting the car).
  2. Now do the same with your second key.
  3. Finally, insert the new third key, and again turn it to the “on” position for another 3 seconds. This will effectively program your extra key.

Don’t lose your transponder key again!

Any way you look at it, a transponder key is expensive. The best defense against losing it again is to be prepared ahead of time. Do you have only one car key? It’s so much better to have a backup spare key made now, than to stress over it later, when you’ll end up spending more money than you wanted to, in what will probably be an urgent situation. Don’t tempt fate!

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

  • proof that you’re the actual owner, with two forms of identification
  • your vehicle’s chassis number
  • the unique code from the automobile manufacturer’s original code card, which came with the vehicle

If you don’t have that code, there are automotive locksmith experts who will do the necessary reprogramming to get you right back on the road again. A trustworthy professional will be qualified to assist you, typically at a lower price than what the dealership will charge.


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