Automobile Transponder Keys And Fobs

Facts and Tips about Auto Transponder Keys.


What Is A Transponder Key?

A transponder key, key fob, chip key or whatever you wish to call it, is a device that allows you to securely start your vehicle. It sometimes does not even look like a traditional key. The technology gained prominence in the mid 1990’s and was invented to reduce the number of cars stolen.


How Does A Transponder / Key Fob Work?

Honda Transponder Key & FobOn some cars, the transponder key looks like a normal key. In this case, the key must be inserted into the ignition lock cylinder and rotated to the ON position. At this point the auto’s computer sends a signal to the key and the key responds with a unique access code. When the proper code is recognized by the car’s computer, the computer allows the ignition sequence to proceed and the car is started.

Obviously, this prevents theft, because the car can not be “hot wired”.

Notice I said that some car transponder keys look like a traditional one. There is a trend today to have the fob be just a smooth plastic device that easily fits in the pocket or purse. This type does not require insertion in the ignition switch. All is required is proximity to the ignition switch. Cars that use this type of fob, have a pushbutton where the ignition switch used to be located. Just push the button if the fob is in your pocket and the vehicle starts up.


How Can I Tell If My Car Requires A Chip Key?

There are several ways to tell if your Auto utilizes a transponder key system.

  • Obviously, if there is no place to insert a key you have this type of system.
  • If your car is newer than about 1995, you probably have a chip key system.
  • If your key body seems thicker and the part that you hang on to when you turn the key is fatter and made of plastic, you most likely have a transponder key.
  • Of course, the best way is to call the dealer or, if you have the car manuals, look it up.
  • Another way is to GOOGLE it! Search term: Make Model Year + Transponder Key

Transponder Key Search


Does A Transponder Key Need To Be Programmed?

Yes. If your fob has been stolen, or you have damaged it, by dropping it in the lake or backing over it with another vehicle, you will need to purchase a new fob and it will need to be programmed to work with your specific car or truck. You can’t just get a new key cut.


How Long Does It Take To Get My Fob Re-Programmed?

Typically the re-programming process of your key takes about 30 minutes or less. However, please allow extra time if you are having this done during peak shop hours. Feel free to call ahead if you are in a time crunch. We will do our best to accommodate your schedule.


What Does It Cost To Get My Key Re-Programmed?

A lot depends on your make and model of car. Typically the cost is the $50 to $80. In some cases it may be more. Call ahead for a precise cost to get the job done.


Who Can Legally Program Automobile Transponder Keys?

Of course a dealer for the make and model can do this for you. A less expensive way is to find a reputable locksmith to do the job. Some dealers charge up to $500 to reprogram a fob key. Ouch! I recommend you find a local automotive locksmith that you trust to do the re-programming. They do this every day, so it is nothing new to them. Just call ahead and see if they can program your particular make and model of fob or key.


Why Use A Locksmith Instead of My Dealer?

Of course we just touched on the major reason – COST. It is a lot cheaper to get the work done by a locksmith. An additional benefit is that a locksmith has mobile units that can come to you. Michael’s Keys can rapidly dispatch a technician to your location to get the job done quickly.

Another reason is that a locksmith can cut the keys, program or re-program them and provide replacement fobs and keys for most manufactures. Some manufacturers don’t allow anyone but a dealer to do this. It’s best to call ahead (the locksmith, not the dealer) to see if you can go the more economical route.

That way you will know if your locksmith can program your fob or transponder key, whether they can send someone to you or you need to bring your car in, and how much it will cost.


Do I Need To Have A Working Key In Order To Get A Duplicate Made?

No. In most cases, the locksmith will be able to determine the programming by using the car itself. So, if you crush your only existing key or fob, you still have hope!


How Should I Proceed If My Transponder Key Or Key Fob Has Been Stolen?

This is a tricky situation.

If your transponder key or fob has been stolen, then there is someone out there who can hav

Toyota Key Fob

e access to your vehicle whenever they want – not a pleasant thought.

It is not a simple matter to just have a new key programmed. If the access code is not changed, the thief will still have access to your car or truck. To prevent this, you will need to reprogram the car, then all the keys you have control of.

Although this is more costly due to the additional programming involved, it also adds a level of difficulty, because the vehicle end of the system must be “cleared” and reprogrammed in order to make all keys that were previously programmed (including the stolen one) not work any more. Then once the car has been reprogrammed the controlled keys can be programmed to the new code.


I hope this article helps reveal the basics of transponder keys and fobs. And I hope it answers some of your questions about the locksmith’s role in programming you fob is you even need this service.

Michael's Keys - We Program Transponder Keys & Fobs!

Michael’s Keys can help you with any problems with faulty transponder keys or fobs. We carry stock on some of the most popular fobs on the market and we can get stock on most all manufacture keys. Call ahead for exact pricing and wait times. You will be surprised how economical our pricing is when compared to dealer pricing!

Fort Worth:  (817) 581-8992
Metro Line: 
(972) 498-1026