Since 1995, vehicles are required by law to have an immobilizer system. Part of this includes a computerized security mechanism which can only be activated using a transponder key.
A combination between the words transmitter and responder, a transponder key relies on a small microchip embedded in its plastic head. Don’t confuse these with automotive remotes, though: the keys have many more functions. Auto remotes, by definition, only serve to open and close the door, whereas your transponder chip is supposed to operate the entire vehicle. As a matter of fact, many transponder key models are actually fitted with auto remotes themselves.
While we’re on the subject of keys, it’s also important to remember that not all keys are transponder. Flat metal keys operate solely through the mechanical cuts, and are recommended alongside your transponder as well (it’s always a good idea to have a spare key for your vehicle in case your primary one malfunctions).
But how do transponder or chip keys work? Basically, the chip fitted into the head of the key emits a special radio frequency that matches a pre-programmed ignition code. The door will only open, and the car will only power on, if it receives the right signal from the key – meaning that it is very difficult to break into a car with this type of mechanism in place.
Needless to say, these types of keys offer an invaluable amount of security. With that said, there is always the off chance you may face an occasional glitch. So here are a few problems to look out for, and what to do in each situation.
- You have a dead or dying battery
This is by far the most common transponder key problem around. Not all transponder keys are operated by microchips and batteries – but if yours is, read on.
Initially, identifying if your issues are the results of a flat battery can be tricky. If you need to press a button multiple times to get the door to work, you could be dealing with either a dying battery or a programming glitch. The best way to figure out which is the most likely culprit is to use an alternative key – if that works, the problem is definitely with the battery.
- If you’ve lost your transponder key
As much as we try to take care of our valuables, there’s always a chance that things will get lost. Especially when it comes to small components like keys, which can easily fall out of your pocket, or even get misplaced while you were going about your day. Remember what we said earlier about having a spare key on your person? That tends to help in this scenario. A locksmith will have all the specialist equipment to duplicate it for you, so you won’t need to fork out an extensive amount of cash getting one from your dealership. If you don’t have an extra copy and you need to replace your transponder key, a locksmith can do that as well.
What you’ll need in this case is your car’s chassis number, which should be listed in your car’s registration documents, and the transponder chip code which would have been given to you upon purchase. If you don’t have the latter, the automotive locksmith you have hired will need to reprogram either the vehicle’s transponder system or just the ECU unit (in some cases, only the latter is required).
- Your key is no longer transmitting the right signal
Like we said, a car with a transponder system won’t work unless it receives the right transmission. So for this scenario, you will need to reprogram your key to match the car’s code (in some cases you may need to reprogram the car’s system itself, like in the point above). If you can still access your car, quickly rev your engine on and off eight times in less than ten seconds – this should prompt the car to reprogram the key for you. No luck? You’ll need to get the pros to reprogram it for you.
- The chip has been damaged
If replacing the battery and reprogramming the transponder show no improvements, you are likely dealing with a damaged chip. In this situation, you may actually need to buy a new transponder key. While locksmiths tend to be the cheaper alternative, this is one of those situations where you should consider going to the dealership itself – that way, you will be able to deactivate the old key so that nobody can access your car. This is a matter of preference, though: a locksmith will help you in this area too.
How can a locksmith help with my transponder key problems?
We’ve already touched on many of the services you can get from a qualified auto locksmith professional. Not only will they provide you with affordable solutions, but they can also help you 24/7 during emergencies. Just to be on the safe side, it’s always best to keep a few locksmith business names handy before you need to call them for an automotive emergency – be it with a transponder key or with any other part of your car’s security.
You should always hire a locksmith that is locally-based, and who has an address you can physically verify. It’s always recommended that you consult with an expert in person: this is a service most professionals offer to their customers free of charge. Things you should always double check include:
- License and insurance information
- Client references in the area
- Full cost breakdown of the services you are looking for
- A price quote for after-hours services (most locksmiths tend to charge extra for these)
Take the time to shop around and don’t hire a Fort Lauderdale locksmith who pressures you into making a hasty decision.
Optimal Locksmith Pro is always here to help car owners in Fort Lauderdale, FL. We specialize in all things transponder as well as offering an array of automotive services. Our licensed and insured professionals are more than happy to consult with you about your issues, and will gladly answer all questions you may have prior to taking our services on board.
Now you know a bit more about your transponder keys, you will be able to make a wise decision when it comes to resolving some of the most common issues.