High Security Transponder Keys & Chip Keys

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Transponder keys provide a higher level of security than a standard car key.

Even though they might not appear different when compared to a standard key, the technology within the key makes them superior to normal automobile keys.

Transponder is a so named because of the two main parts of the System: The Transmitter and the Responder.

The transmitter is in the key itself and the responder part is in the automobile and is connected to the ignition system.​

Does Your Car Use A Transponder Key Ignition System?

​Of course, you can call your local locksmith, but here is a way you can be pretty sure that you have a transponder key system. 

By checking your make and model of car and the model year, you can be pretty sure cross-referencing the info below.​ You could also use the same info and go a Google Search.

Car manufacturers started using the immobilizer ignition system (Transponder Key System) in 1997. So...If your car was built after 1997 it probably uses this system. Not all cars began using transponders at the same time. That's where a Google search will help you.

Today most if not all vehicles come equipped with immobilizer ignition systems, which require a transponder key for the engine to start.

Car manufacturers using chip keys include:

  • Alfa Romeo
  • Aston Martin
  • Audi
  • Bentley
  • BMW
  • Bugatti
  • Daihatsu
  • Ferrari
  • Fiat
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Suzuki
  • Jaguar
  • Jeep
  • Kawasaki
  • Kia
  • Lamborghini
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Lotus
  • Maserati
  • Mazda
  • Mercedes
  • Mini Cooper
  • Mitsubishi
  • MG
  • Nissan
  • Peugeot
  • Porsche
  • Renault
  • Rolls Royce
  • Subaru
  • Suzuki
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo

​I may have missed some, but you get the idea. Most all car manufacturers utilize this technology.

So How Do Transponder Keys & Chip Keys Work?

This technology uses a miniaturized electronic chip ( called a microchip ) inside the key which contains non-volatile memory. This type of memory doesn't erase when power goes off.

The key contains a unique serial number embedded in the microchip and the programming necessary to transmit that number to receiver in the immobilizer when the key is plugged in.

The car engine starts once the serial is validated by matching the signal transmitted to the one stored in the immobilizer. However, the car will not start if the signal is not recognized.

Some modern cars don't use a key at all. In this case a device called a "fob" must be close to the receiver when the start button is pushed in the vehicle.

Unfortunately, due to the use of copyright and trademark laws, each manufacture has their own way to implement their system. In other words there is no standardization between manufacturers.

Cars that utilize a chip key of some kind depend on what is called and engine immobilizer. An engine immobilizer is a is a part of your car's anti-theft system.

When you insert your key into the ignition switch the key transmits an electronic code to the vehicle.

The engine will only start if the code in the transponder chip inside the key matches the code in the receiver in the vehicle's immobilizer. Transponder or chip keys are costly to replace. Only your dealer or a professional locksmith are qualified to replace or reprogram these keys. In most cases, the locksmith route is the cheaper way to go.

How Do They Program Transponder Keys & Chip Keys?

As is probably obvious by now, programming a chip key is not a trivial exercise. It requires both the expertise and equipment to accomplish the task.

Some vehicle manufacturers do not require any special equipment to be used during the programming process. But, it still requires a certain level of experience and tech savvy to get the job done. This type of programming is called On Board Programming (OBP).

OBP requires a working key to be available. The locksmith will still have to use a tool for the process although not an elaborate piece of equipment, which he/she will hook to the OBD port of your car. A special new key blank will be used to create an encrypted copy of the old one for your vehicle’s system.

Other auto manufacturers require the locksmith to insert your car key into a tool, then slot in a blank one in the same tool. This will provide a cloned key on a zero-bitted key blank. If all works well, the car will not be able to differentiate between an original key and a cloned one.

Some new password transponder keys use a system designed with "rolling code encryption". Rolling code means the password changes every time it is used. The system is programmed to identify the password and respond appropriately. This type of key requires an even different programming method.


As we have seen, auto manufacturers tend to use their own proprietary anti-theft ignition systems. That means there is no one standardized way to program them.

The programming equipment can range from simple to complex and costly.

Choosing the wrong method of programming can distroy the new key blank. If the serial number programmed in is incorrect the car will not be able to start. If a clone or duplicate key is desired, the serial number of the current key must be obtained to make the new one.

Michael's Keys | 238 North Main Street | Keller, Texas 76248

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