There was a time when to gain entry and to start a vehicle required a relatively simple car key. The only security feature was the profile on the key blade, which was appropriate security in virtually all situations. However, car thieves got better at their craft and Detroit responded with more sophisticated keys, in particular, electronic keys. Today we have many different types of car keys to contend with and this article will help you understand the types you may come across in new and used cars.
Around the mid-1990s, the major car manufacturers began placing a transponder chip in the plastic head of the key. The chip emits a signal to a receiver in the car’s ignition. If the receiver detects the wrong signal — meaning that the wrong key is in the ignition — the vehicle will not start.
You can tell a laser-cut key apart from a basic key because the shank is slightly thicker and has fewer grooves. Laser-cut keys are often referred to as “sidewinder keys”, due to the distinctive winding cut on the blade. The machines needed to cut these keys are more expensive than a standard key-cutting machine and are not as likely to be found at every locksmith or hardware store. Laser-cut keys usually have built-in transponder chips and need to be programmed at the dealership or by a locksmith, when lost.
Switchblade keys have shanks that fold into the fob when they’re not in use and pop out with the press of a button. They can have a basic cut or a laser cut. One small advantage of the switchblade key is that its components can be purchased separately. If for some reason your key is damaged and no longer works, you can buy the shank separately.
Smart keys aren’t keys in the traditional mechanical sense. They are fobs that are either inserted in the dash or, in the more advanced systems, they just stay in your pocket or purse. As the sales team at Hoover the Mover of South Carolina explained to us the driver simply turns the car on and off with the press of a dashboard mounted button when a smart key is sensed on the person. A smart key’s main form of security is its ability to use rolling security codes.
There’s no denying that modern keys are expensive. And so the best defense against losing them is a good offense. It is better to get a spare key now, on your terms, than to stress out and spend the money in what might be an emergency. You can take advantage of the cost-cutting methods here and avoid the labor charges by programming the key yourself.