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Car Keys, a Primer

Car Keys, a Primer

Today’s car keys are not so simple. I’m going to answer your burning questions here. Why does my car key have an embedded chip and what is a transponder anyway? Are there less expensive means of obtaining replacement car keys?

Let’s start with transponders. In short – it’s part of the cars anti-theft system. The word transponder comes from the words “Transmitter + Responder”. This small microchip embedded in the plastic head of your automotive/motorcycle key receives a signal from your vehicle (from an antenna ring around the ignition cylinder). The vehicle’s computer must receive the proper response from the transponder key or the computer will not allow the vehicle to operate. New challenge and password transponder systems use an encryption with a dynamic code (the dynamic code means the challenge and password changes each time it’s used). Think of it as a complex mathematical algorithm where the car transmits a 6 digit number (something between Zero and 999,999) and the transponder is programmed to crunch the number and respond.

Chip Keys

Keys with embedded chips are more simplified than transponder keys. Chip keys have an identification number hat the car can recognize. This works like an ATM pin number, for example GM’s VATS keys. VATS stands for Vehicle Anti Theft System. A VATS key will have a resistor with 1 of 15 different preset resistances. If a key is made with the proper cuts and it turns the key cylinder, it still must have the correct resistance (Ohm’s) or the car will shut down, and not even a correct key will start the car. The lockout typically lasts 3 – 4 minutes.

Finally, I’ll make a quick mention about obtaining car keys, in general. We’ll have a deeper discussion in next month’s newsletter. Yes, one can get car keys, via web-sites such as Ebay, Amazon, and several other car key specialty sites for cheaper. But, along with the cheap price comes a DYI deal, in terms of programming your new key. The real danger in obtaining a car key in this manner is that you don’t know the quality of the car key or where it was manufactured. Add to that the fact that you don’t have the knowledge to deal with the programming aspect, which can lead to a lot of frustration. Make your life a lot simpler by going to a locksmith with proper training and equipment.

Click here to watch a video about car keys

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