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What Is A Chip Or Transponder Key? And How Do They Work?

A transponder key is simply a key with a “microchip” or a transponder built into the plastic head of the key. This is why you will commonly hear people refer to a transponder key as a “chip” key. A transponder is a device used for receiving a radio signal and automatically transmitting a different signal back in return. The word transponder is actually short for “Transmitter” and “Responder”. Transponder keys are typically used in vehicles, especially the majority of vehicles manufactured after 1995. Due to the high theft of Corvettes in the mid-80s, GM created the first VATS key and key system. This key system dramatically decreased the number of stolen Corvettes, and they have become a staple in the automotive industry since.

How Does A Transponder Key Work?

The purpose of having transponder keys is to protect your vehicle from car theft. Having an automotive security system helps prevent vehicles from being stolen or hot-wired. When the original key is inserted and turned to the ON position. The antenna ring around the ignition sends a signal to the transponder key. Once the transponder key receives the electronic message it will send a radio frequency back to the antenna ring. Once the antenna ring receives the appropriate code in return. It will then proceed to send that code to the vehicles Engine Control Unit (ECU). If the code matches the code stored on the computer’s memory, it will disable the vehicle’s immobilizer. Once the vehicle immobilizer is disabled then the vehicle with start. In order to start the car, the cuts on the transponder key have to match the wafers inside the lock. Then the transponder key has to match the code that’s programmed in the vehicle’s computer. If it does, then you can start the vehicle because the security system at that point is disabled.

Without this information being stored into the computer of the vehicle, the key would not be allowed to start the engine. This security feature is built into all modern-day cars and is called a PATS system (Passive Anti-Theft System). This system was designed to deter the theft of vehicles and requires special equipment to program keys to vehicles. The first type of transponder key was called VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System). This type of transponder chip key had the “microchip” mounted on the key blade. That being said, the VATS system is no longer used in modern-day vehicles. If your vehicle was manufactured after 2002 there’s a 95% chance that it has a chip in the car key.

Where Can You Get A Transponder Key?

There are a couple of options when it comes to getting a transponder ignition key. The first option is going to the dealership. To most people this would make sense, right? If you are willing to pay nearly double to get a transponder key then the dealership is your choice. If you want it done correctly and quickly while also saving money, a professional automotive locksmith should be your choice. Any specialized automotive locksmith is able to work on most makes and models of vehicles. Our locksmith technicians carry the appropriate programmers and tools needed to get you back on the road. Even if you lost all of your vehicle keys, we can still take care of you. No need to tow your vehicle to the dealership, our automotive locksmiths can come to your vehicle’s location. In most cases, we can cut and program your vehicle’s key or key fob in under 30 minutes. If you find transponder keys online and are tempted because of the low price point. Be aware that the cheap foreign-made keys and remotes are usually cheaper for a reason. Some lock shops will try and use the customer provided keys and some won’t. Some of the cheaper keys online put steel in the key blade instead of brass. This can cause damage to our delicate key machines. Our lock shop stocks replacement transponder keys for most makes and models. If you are interested in getting a duplicate key cut and programmed feel free to call Guardian Safe And Lock.

How Do I Know If I Have A Transponder Key?

Most transponder keys have a letter, dot, or symbol stamped on the key blade. Another way to check is to insert the original key into the ignition. If a security light or emblem on your dash blinks for a few seconds then goes out. Then that’s usually a good indicator that your vehicle uses a transponder key system. The security light is usually a vehicle with a padlock, a blinking light, or just a padlock by itself. This is what a locksmith will use to identify if your car is equipped with a transponder key system. Some vehicles factory stamp a mark on the key blade. This mark is usually near the head of the key on the blade to indicate that it is a chipped key. Another way an automotive locksmith can tell is through special automotive information or books that are trade-specific. If you have any more questions in regards to transponder keys, or remotes for vehicles. Call your local locksmith and they should be able to answer any questions you may have.

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