Locks and Remotes: 7 Common Car Key Complications

Written by a Guest Blogger

Place your key in the door and ignition and turn. Or, better yet, hit a remote entry button. It seems simple enough, yet things get complicated for car owners when it comes to lost, stolen, and damaged keys.

What happens when a key breaks in a lock or ignition? Can you replace a transponder chip online? What are your options if you lose a key on the road- can you get in your car another way?

Know the Types of Keys

Modern automobile keys feature three components. A mechanical component addresses the steering lock; a transponder chip sends signals to a car’s system, igniting the engine; and, a third remote component unlocks doors and operates alarms. Transponder chips send unique signals from the key to a car’s engine system.

What are common key mishaps and how can you fix them?

Stolen While Away

Modern keys are complicated because it became so easy for thieves to steal. Potentially, a thief could swipe keys for a brief period, head to the hardware store and make a copy, then return keys undetected, later picking the best time to access your car.

Remote entry prevents thieves from copying a key’s grooves; thieves now must ‘hack’ a given automobile’s computer to start it.

Remote Won’t Work

Key technology got better, with dealerships offering remote entry. If remote entry or alarm button won’t work, check if the battery is damaged or flat. If you’re in a populated area, radio frequency could be the problem; get closer to your vehicle.

In some emergency cases, tow trucks move parked cars to a different location for remote entry to work.

Forgot to Ask About Master Key

Keys (along with spare sets) get lost, but older cars have ‘master keys’ mechanics use to program new sets. However, regarding newer cars, manufacturers have since stopped using master keys, maintaining information within databases.

Replacing a master key or needing to address an engine management system gets costly. If you’re buying a used car, check the handbook and ask the salespeople for the master key when applicable.

Key Was Broken Off

On rare occasions, keys break in doors and ignitions. Don’t make matters worse by damaging a door lock or ignition components. Call roadside assistance and check your car’s manual for associated instructions.

On-site assistants, like AutoLocks Ltd., are able to gain access and start most cars.

Separate Transponder

Don’t make a deal with online vendors without checking manufacturer literature. Despite promises of advertising, some third-party replicated transponder chips won’t work with specific makes and models.

Ensure your model’s transponder chip can be replicated. In some cases, you have no alternatives but to buy a new set from your dealership.

Broken Window

Can’t thieves break a window and tamper with a car’s ignition system? Sure, that happens often, but manufacturers like Mercedes use rolling codes in transponder chips.

If a thief attempted to‘hack’ a car’s code (as some due regarding fixed codes), it would be increasingly difficult if not impossible to start the engine.

Forgotten Spares

Some owners raise their brows at the price of a spare set of keys, especially for sets using transponder chip technology.

However, consider the cost of finding yourself stranded or needing to replace all the locks of your car because you hadn’t made or reserved copies. It can cost more money in the future for avoiding a minimal expense now.

About the Blogger

Sam Matthews has loved cars since his first peek at a malfunctioning engine as a young child. With years of professional experience and a deep passion for all things automotive, he frequently blogs about car care, legal questions, and other usual concerns.

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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