4 Types of Car Key Replacements: When Do You Need One?

4 Types of Car Key Replacements: When Do You Need One?

Vehicles come equipped with various types of technology these days. Though your car, truck, van, or SUV may have an array of features and advancements depending on its age, manufacturer, model, trim level, and other factors, all vehicles have a few things in common. They all need some type of fuel and power source to keep them going. At the same time, they all require ongoing maintenance to maximize efficiency, functionality, and longevity. On top of that, all vehicles require some type of key to lock and unlock the doors and get them started.

When Good Keys Go Bad

At some point, you’re bound to experience problems with your vehicle’s keys. Standard keys can wear down over time or break. Newer chip keys or electronic fobs are known to malfunction or lose touch with their internal programming. When something like that happens, you may need to replace the old key with a new counterpart that actually works. Though you can search here for more information, we’ll go over some of the basics of the four main types of keys and when you may need a replacement right now.

Chip Keys

Chip keys are common among vehicles these days. They’re the ones with plastic cases covering their tops and transponders hidden within. These revolutions in automotive security first entered the scene back in 1985, and they’ve been going strong ever since. Their internal chips contain distinct programming that’s specific to the vehicle they came with.

You can’t just have a new key cut to replace these types of keys. Replacements must be programmed. Otherwise, they’ll only lock or unlock the doors and trunk, and you won’t have any way to actually start the vehicle. In some cases, these keys can be programmed using the instructions in the vehicle owner’s manual. Other times, you’ll need to contact a locksmith for help or take the original key or its replacement to a dealership to have it programmed.

Key Remotes

Like chip keys, automotive key remotes have internal programming that allows them to work with a specific vehicle. If they didn’t, one remote would allow people access to a range of vehicles that are designed for use with remotes. Every time someone pressed the lock, unlock, or panic button on their own remote, chaos would ensue. These remotes, or key fobs as they are also known, sometimes lose their programming for various reasons. As you may know firsthand, it’s also possible to lose them. They sometimes fall victim to unfortunate mishaps as well, such as getting dropped in puddles or being accidentally stepped on.

Standard key remotes don’t actually start vehicles. They just unlock the doors, trunk, back hatch, and other entry and exit points. If something goes wrong with your remote, you can still use your vehicle. You’ll just have to use the key to unlock them and remember to hit the manual lock buttons when you need to lock up everything. Finding the vehicle in a crowded parking lot when you forget where you parked will require the old method of roaming around from one row to the next until it comes into view as well.

This isn’t a disaster, but it’s certainly frustrating. You can purchase a replacement fob, but unless you get it from a dealership, it won’t be programmed to your vehicle’s specifications. You might be able to refer to your owner’s manual for help with reprogramming a replacement key remote. If not, getting it reprogrammed will require a trip to the dealership.

Keyless Ignitions

Keyless ignition remotes feature unlocking and locking capabilities just like standard key remotes. They also function as a way to start a vehicle without needing a traditional key. If your keyless ignition fob malfunctions or meets with an unfortunate fate, you’re basically out of luck. Due to improvements in safety and anti-theft technologies, you usually can’t purchase a new fob at an auto parts store and program it yourself. Instead, you’ll probably have to visit your dealership and get a newly programmed keyless ignition fob from them.

Conventional Keys

Conventional keys are the oldest and simplest types of keys available. These types of keys as we know them today first came about in 1949. You can simply take them to a hardware store and have replacements cut. In some stores, all you have to do is insert the key and your debit card into an automated machine to have a copy made.

That being said, cutting a copy isn’t always an option. These keys can wear out over time. When they do, they won’t turn the pins in the ignition properly. Keep in mind, if you cut a copy of a worn-out key, it probably won’t work any better than the original.

If you lose the key or it snaps off in a lock or the ignition, you’ll find yourself in a pickle. Locksmiths can help get you going again in most cases, but if the key breaks off in the ignition or the ignition that’s designed to work with the original keys malfunctions, you may end up having to replace the ignition cylinder and switch to the keys that came with the new one. On the plus side, these types of keys don’t have to be programmed.

When You Might Need a Replacement Key

You might need a replacement key in several situations. Broken or malfunctioning keyless ignition fobs typically need to be replaced. This is also true of damaged key remotes. In both instances, replacement also means reprogramming. Lost or broken transponder keys bring about the need for replacement and reprogramming as well. When it comes to conventional keys, you could need a replacement if the key is lost, broken, or worn out.

In Short

All vehicles use some type of key whether it be a simplistic conventional version or a highly sophisticated keyless ignition remote. If something goes wrong with the original key, you’ll need a replacement. This could also bring about the need for in-depth reprogramming for newer vehicles. When you have problems with your vehicle’s original keys, don’t hesitate to contact a locksmith for help. They can handle a range of situations no matter what type of key your vehicle uses.