If you have a standard key without added features like transponder chips, remote parts, or switchblade keys, then it’s easy to duplicate the original at a hardware store or locksmith.
But the more advanced your key is, the more complex it is to copy correctly. This can mean a trip to the dealership or an automotive locksmith.
There are several quick and cheap ways to make a basic key copy. One option is to use a key duplication machine (similar to the ones at Minute Key and KeyMe). These machines use laser scanning to determine your key type, its depths of cuts, and its shape, and will cut you a perfect duplicate within minutes.
Another do-it-yourself method involves tracing your key onto other material and cutting around the tracing. This isn’t as accurate as using a key copying machine, but it’s quick and easy to do. You’ll need clear packing tape, a lighter, pliers, your original key, and material to make the tracing on.
Finally, you can also try to use a jiggle key (see the bottom left-hand photo above). Jiggle keys are available in different groove patterns and are used to pick locks. However, if you’re locked out of your house or car and you don’t have the proper key for the lock in question, a locksmith is the best option.
Transponder keys service, which are a more recent development in car security technology, have a small computer chip inside that transmits a unique radio frequency signal to your car. This makes it very difficult to hot wire your vehicle and start it without the original key.
The car’s engine control unit will send a signal to the chip, which will then respond with its unique code. The system then reads this code and only allows your car to run if it recognizes that the chip is the original one from the factory.
Transponder key technology is standard with most new vehicles and can make it harder for thieves to steal your car. However, thieves have also developed methods to overcome this security feature, so nothing is foolproof. Luckily, car locksmiths can copy transponder keys, avoiding the need for you to go to a dealership. They can even program a new transponder key for you if you lose your original.
Keyless Entry Remotes
Many modern cars come with keyless entry remotes that open the doors and trunk as well as start the engine. This is a convenient feature, but it can be problematic if the fob gets lost or stolen. Criminals can use radio scanners to capture the code that is transmitted from your transmitter and re-transmit it to unlock other people’s cars.
Even if you are the owner of the car, getting a replacement key fob can be costly because it will likely have to be purchased directly from the dealership. This means you will have to wait a few days for it to arrive, and dealership pricing is often quite high.
However, some websites offer to program new remotes for various vehicles, though it is important to understand that these online services may not ask for proof of ownership or registration from you before programming the fob. You should always contact a trusted local locksmith or dealership service department for help with this kind of issue.
Modern smart keys for cars use a computer chip built into the key blade to communicate with your vehicle. These types of car keys require special equipment to cut and program, so you’ll need to visit your dealership to replace them.
Car key making service work mechanically and must be inserted into the door lock and ignition cylinder to open and start your car. Replacing these types of keys can cost around $100-$125, depending on the brand of your vehicle.
Switchblade car keys are popular for their compact and form-fitting design. Their shanks fold into the fob when not in use and pop out when you press a button on the fob. You can purchase these types of car keys with either basic or laser-cut shanks.
Tibbe car keys, introduced in the 1980s, feature a cylindrical shape that makes them difficult to duplicate at a standard hardware store. These are the most secure type of car key, and if you lose yours, you’ll need to visit your dealer to make a replacement.