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What Are Transponder Keys And How Do They Work?

Since having been introduced into the market a handful of years ago, transponder key technology has become an absolute must and you will find them on virtually every new car manufactured today. How do they work? What do you do if you lose your transponder key?

Transponder keys were developed for cars in reaction to the epidemic levels of automobile theft in Europe. Once the technology was developed, it was the Allianz Insurance Group that promoted the solution and persuaded car manufacturers in Germany to introduce the new anti-theft system into all of their new cars. Since 1998, most cars and trucks produced utilize the technology.

The idea behind transponder keys is fairly simple. Transponder keys are fitted with a microchip, typically in the head of the key. The chip holds an ID number that is unique to that key and “known” by the ECU of the car that the key is associated with. When you insert the transponder key in the ignition and turn, the car’s ECU will send out an electronic message. The key will then send a responding message with its ID number. Only when the ECU recognizes the response of the transponder key will the immobilizer be disarmed allowing the car to start. Prior to the introduction of transponder keys, thieves would steal cars either by manipulating the steering column in some way or by somehow getting a copy of the key. With transponder keys, neither of these methods is affective.

There are some new cars that come equipped with on-board programming which allows you to program a new transponder key yourself (although, you’d still have to have the key cut). The process is fairly simple and just requires that you use a valid key and follow some simple directions.

If you lose your car keys or they fail to work then I highly suggest that you call a locksmith. While you could easily call the dealership, it will cost you significantly more and take far more time. This is because car dealerships will generally have a third-party handle transponder keys and, well, it’s a car dealership…expensive is what they do. A locksmith will have all of the tools necessary to program a new transponder key for you and perform any cutting on the key if required. The best thing is that they’ll most likely get to you within the hour and have you up and running at a substantially lower price.

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