Learn more about key fob and car key programming. Your options, estimated costs, who can program your keys and more.
One of the critical aspects of getting a replacement or an additional key fob today, is the programming process or procedure.
This is relevant for all types of key fobs and transponder keys for all makes and models.
In this article, we will answer the most common questions regarding the key fob programming process, as well as share tips from automotive locksmiths, provide you with the estimated costs, go over the most common key programming scan tools, and even share a few examples so you can see how it’s actually done in real life.
So before you are looking for a key fob programming near you, make sure to read what our affiliated automotive locksmiths have to say about it. Let’s start.
What is the key fob programming process? Why is it necessary?
All key fobs (and most car keys made after 1998) are equipped with a transponder chip inside them to prevent an unauthorized start of the vehicle.
In order to make sure that the key is authorized to start the car, it must be recognized by the car’s computer. The verification process is pretty straightforward.
Once you get into the car, the chip reader which is usually located behind the “push to start” button (like in the pictures below), recognizes the chip in the key, and if the value matches the value of the car’s computer, the car will start. If not, it won’t.
The key fob programming process is meant to make sure the key fob chip’s value, and the car’s chip value match so the car will start.
In case the programming procedure wasn’t successful or the key fob chip value doesn’t match, you won’t be able to start the car, and you will probably see a message like: “no key detected” like in the picture below:
Where to get a key fob programmed? How is the programming procedure done? Who can program my key fob?
The programming process is done by connecting a special coding tool to the car’s OBD (On-board diagnostics port) like in the pictures below:
Then, a locksmith or dealer or any other programmer (depends on where you get the key coded) should choose the right configuration. (like in the picture below)
Finally, they will need to place the new key fob in the designated programming spot (which varies from one car to another) to complete the procedure.
This is also relevant for reprogramming or copying new keys. In the pictures below you can see some examples of the designated spots for different cars.
Key fob programming scan tools:
There are plenty of key fob programming tools in the market. The main difference between them is their capabilities and the makes and models they cover.
In addition, some key programming tools require purchasing “tokens” so every time you program a new key, you use a token. Once you used all your tokens, you have to contact the company to purchase more. Otherwise, you won’t be able to program any additional keys. Those programming tools usually cost less but you will have to invest extra money every time you want to program keys.
Others, such as MaxiIM series, don’t require any tokens but they cost more.
There are, of course, some cheaper programming tools that usually can program only older model keys.
A word of caution:
Programming a new or an additional key fob for your car requires knowledge and experience as well as adequate equipment. Programming a new key with the wrong coding tool can result in a problem with the car’s computer.
Moreover, this is especially relevant for the newest models as the manufacturers constantly updating their security features.
Therefore, be very cautious not to do it yourself and make sure the key fob programmers have the right equipment before they start working on your vehicle.
Here is a partial list of some common programming tools:
Autel MaxiIM IM608S, Autel MaxiIM IM608 PRO, Autel MaxiIM I508, LAUNCH X431 PRO5, Smart Pro coding machine by Advanced Diagnostics ,MVP Pro Car Key Programmer Advanced Diagnostics, T-Code Pro Car Key Programmer, AD100 Pro Car Key Programmer, XTOOL X100 Max Professional, Autel Scanner MaxiCOM MK906S, XTOOL D9 PRO Diagnostic Tool, ANCEL DS700, Autek IKEY820 Pro
Key fob programming cost – How much does it usually cost?
In short, programming a new key fob for most makes and models can cost between $70 to $150. The total cost depends on a number of factors:
- The type of key you need (key fob, remote starter, transponder key, etc)
- Time of day & your location
- The key programmer your choose (dealer, automotive locksmith, shop)
- Whether you need an additional key(copy) or a brand new key(all keys are lost)
- The car’s year of manufacture
Programming a key fob or transponder key should cost about $75. In addition to that you can expect to pay extra if you need the key programmed during the weekend for example or after business hours.
In addition, if you choose to tow the car to the dealer or to the shop, you should add the towing costs as well. If you call a locksmith for an on-site service, expect to pay an additional service call fee. (Usually about$50)
Programming an additional key fob, when you already have an existing one, should cost about 50% less than if you need a new key when all keys are lost. The reason is that when you already have a working key, the process is much faster.
The newer your car is, the more expensive is to program the key and you may need to contact the dealer for that.
The reason is that it takes time until the car key programming tools companies to update their software for the newest models.
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