Car Key Replacement – Why Having a Spare Key Is a Good Idea

Car Key Replacement - Why Having a Spare Key Is a Good Idea

Losing your car keys used to be a major inconvenience. But now that cars are more technologically advanced, losing a key can mean costly repair bills or even an entirely new vehicle.

Fortunately, there are ways to save money on the cost of replacing lost car keys. The right automotive specialists can help you avoid expensive dealership fees.

Mechanical Keys

Not so long ago, misplacing or losing your car keys wasn’t a big deal. You could go to the hardware store and get a replacement key for less than $10. But as cars have become more technologically advanced so have the keys, making it more expensive than ever to replace them.

Traditional keys are metal cylinders that feature special cuts, ridges and grooves. They fit together like a puzzle piece with pin settings unique to your vehicle. Locksmiths can duplicate these standard keys easily with a machining tool.

Transponder keys, introduced in the 90s are similar to traditional keys except they include an electrical component in the head or tip that communicates with your engine and tells it it’s time to start up or shut down. These types of keys require a dealership or an experienced locksmith to be programmed properly to your specific vehicle. They are typically 20% cheaper to have a professional locksmith program than through a dealership.

Transponder Keys

The most common type of car key replacement in use today, transponder keys offer an extra layer of anti-theft protection. Rather than simply functioning off of the principle that it matches the tumblers, when you insert a transponder key into your ignition it transmits a signal to the car’s computer. The computer then checks to see if the chip inside the key matches the one it has in its records and only starts your engine if it does.

While this makes it harder for novice car thieves, it is not foolproof. Many local locksmiths can clone a non-transponder key, but to get a new transponder key that works with your vehicle you will need to visit a dealership. Fortunately, a skilled local locksmith can usually make you a new key with a transponder chip at a much more affordable rate than a dealer would charge. You may also be able to buy pre-programmed keys at some stores like Walmart and AutoZone.

Key Fobs

Key fobs are an added convenience for many drivers that allow them to lock, unlock and start their car without a traditional key. They also let you arm and disarm your car’s security system and open the trunk. But if you lose one, or yours breaks, you’ll need to replace it.

A new fob can cost $200 or more, depending on the make and model of your car. But you might be able to save money by getting a used fob from eBay or Amazon and having it programmed at a locksmith or a dealer.

Before you pay for a fob, check your car’s warranty or insurance coverage to see whether it covers lost keys. Some extended warranties, car-insurance policies and auto club memberships cover it. Also, check your owner’s manual to find out how to open the fob to change the battery. (A flat-blade screwdriver is usually required.) Make sure the new battery is the same size, then insert it with the plus and minus signs in the right place.

Key Copy

Having a spare key is a great idea. Lost keys can turn into a complicated, expensive process to replace, and having an extra helps cut down on that hassle.

Basic door and car keys are easy to copy for a low cost. Most hardware, home improvement, and even some big-box stores have the equipment necessary to make a copy within minutes. However, some modern car keys are chipped and require a special process. You may be able to get a copy at your car dealership.

Luggage and safe keys are more difficult to copy, since most hardware stores don’t have the required blanks on hand. These types of keys often feature fun shapes and colors, or are engraved with trademarked designs like cartoon characters and sports team logos. Some of these keys are also stamped “Do Not Duplicate” to deter unauthorized copies. If you lose one of these, it’s best to call a locksmith.