Transponder Chip Keys – All You Need To Know. How To Program, How Much They Cost & More.


What are transponder keys?

Car key program machine for transponder keys and key fob

Car key program machine for transponder keys and key fob

A: Transponder chip car keys were introduced around 1996 to improve car security or anti-theft systems.

The idea behind the transponder chip keys is straightforward: The key had to be coded to the car, so if someone makes a copy, it may turn the ignition but will not start the car.

In addition, most of the time, these keys require a particular machine and equipment that only automotive locksmiths or dealers carry and therefore make it harder to steal.

Furthermore, some transponder car keys, such as Chrysler and Toyota, also require a pin code, which, once again, can only be obtained by a professional locksmith or a car dealership.

How does a locksmith program a transponder key?

connecting coding machine to car on site to code new key

connecting coding machine to car on site to code new key

The process of obtaining the pin code, the same as getting the key code, is by the VIN of the car. This information is only available to locksmiths after verification, usually done by sending the company the owner’s ID, insurance, title, etc.

Some car manufacturers, such as GM(Chevy, Buick, Cadillac) and Ford, made it easy to program the transponder chip key yourself with a built-in security system that the owner can use.

However, this is only relevant for older models most of the time (up to 2010, depending on which make and model).

Newer keys, such as remote car keys, can’t be coded without a particular machine. In addition, also late years transponder keys can only be programmed with this machine.

Does my car have/need a transponder key?

Transponder key - inside look and chip

Transponder key – inside look and chip

Most cars built after the year 1999, chances are they have a transponder system in them. Therefore, if you are not sure which key you have and whether it should be coded or not, you can choose your make and model from the menu and get all the information you need.

How much does it cost to make a transponder key?

The price of a new transponder is usually not more than $30-$50. However, this doesn’t include cutting the key and coding it to your car. Therefore, the total price should be between $150-$350, depending on your make and model, location, time of day, etc.

Can a transponder key go bad?

replacement parts for transponder key

replacement parts for transponder key

Yes. transponder chip keys have a small electronic chip, usually at the top of the key. It is hidden under the cover. This electric chip, like any other electric component, after a while, may malfunction, and therefore you would need to get a new key.

The only indication that a transponder key is about to go bad is if it sometimes does start the car and sometimes doesn’t.

Therefore, if you are experiencing problems, you better get a new key asap.

How do I replace my transponder chip key?

Transponder key before and after cut on machine

Transponder key before and after cut on machine

Replacing a transponder key involves three stages:

First, get the key blank.

Second, cutting the key blank so it will turn the ignition – Usually done by key code.

Third, code the key to your car.

Therefore, you have three options:

First, order the key online and have a locksmith or dealer cut and program it.

Second, an automotive locksmith who offers mobile service – This is the most convenient option.

Third, tow the car to the dealer and have them cut and program the new key for you.

Can a locksmith make a transponder key?

Auto locksmith coding a new transponder key with a special coding tool

Auto locksmith coding a new transponder key with a special coding tool

Yes. An automotive locksmith can make transponder keys on-site. The process involves two steps:

First, cut the correct key for the ignition.

Second, programming and coding the key to the car’s computer so the chip will function with the vehicle.

Both actions are usually done on-site, at your location. We can help you with that.

Does Walmart/ Home Depot etc make transponder keys?

Hardware store transponder keys

Hardware store transponder keys

Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc, sell certain transponder keys. What is very important to know is that you will still need to have an automotive locksmith or the dealer cut and program it for you.

Therefore, we recommend contacting a professional locksmith before buying any key from Walmart to ensure they can assist you with cutting and coding the key.

How do you program a transponder key?

Coding machine for chip keys

Coding machine for chip keys

For most transponder keys, you will need the help of an automotive locksmith or a dealer to program the key for you. Some older models, mostly GM and Ford, offer the option to program the key yourself.

For more accurate information and to check if you can program your key yourself without any special equipment, please choose your make and model, then choose the key that you need and read the relevant information.

Can a transponder key be reprogrammed?

Honda chip keys

Honda chip keys

Absolutely. All transponder keys can be reprogrammed to start the car. However, there are a few important things to remember before you do that:

First, once you reprogram a transponder key, it means that you “erase” your car computer memory.

This step must be done before you can program any key. Therefore, all other keys you had or that used to start the car will no longer work, and you will need to recode them as well.

Second, most chances are that you will need to use a particular coding machine, which only the dealer or the locksmith has.

Third, before you can reprogram a key to your car, obviously, you will have to cut it to make sure it fits the ignition cylinder.

Why is my key not starting my car?

Transponder key wont start the car

Transponder key wont start the car

There may be a few reasons why your key won’t start the car. The most common is that it is a transponder key that needs to be coded to start the car. Learn more about ignition key wont start

Can a bad key cause a car not to start?

Bad chip inside key

Bad chip inside key

Yes. The most crucial feature of transponder keys is that they need to be programmed into a specific car to start it.

Therefore, in a case when someone tries to start a car with a programmed key, after a few unsuccessful attempts, the car’s computer may “shut down.”

The reason is, of course, security and preventing unauthorized people from starting a car without the correct key.

How much does it cost to program a key to a car?

MaxIM IM608 coding machine for transponder keys

MaxIM IM608 coding machine for transponder keys

The programming process alone of a key to a car usually costs between $40-$80.

You can either have the dealer or a locksmith do it for you. In addition, keep in mind that this doesn’t include the price of cutting the key and/or the key itself.