Getting locked out of your car can be a frustrating experience. While a car locksmith can get you back into your vehicle quickly, replacing a lost or stolen key can be much more time-consuming. This is because of the technology that goes into a car's electronic locks.
Transponder keys: the basics
The real challenge in replacing your car's keys isn't door locks, but the engine itself. All new vehicles in Australia are required by law to be fitted with an immobiliser. This device prevents the engine from activating when the ignition key is turned. To start the engine, the immobiliser requires the presence of a transponder key. When the key comes into close proximity, the transponder sends out a short signal that includes a unique recognition code. If the transponder's code matches that of the immobiliser, the immobiliser disengages, allowing the engine to start.
Effects of transponder keys
The prevalence of vehicle immobilisers and transponder keys has led to a significant reduction in vehicle theft in Australia, particularly of newer vehicles. However, it also means that duplicating a car key is no longer as simple as making a copy of a mechanical key. The new transponder has to be programmed with the vehicle's code.
Replacing a transponder key
To get a new transponder key, you can go directly to the dealership where you bought your car, or order a new key directly from the manufacturer. This isn't the only way to replace an electronic key, though. A qualified car locksmith may be able to create a new electronic key for you -- often more quickly and affordably than a dealer. A stolen key can compromise your vehicle's security, meaning that you'll want to create a whole new set of keys. Consult with your locksmith about whether replacing your keys is right for you.
Protecting your electronic keys
If you simply lock your keys inside your car, a vehicle locksmith will be able to get you back on the road almost immediately. Because of the delay involved in programming a transponder key, though, replacing a lost or stolen key can mean delays in getting you driving again. To avoid this problem, it's best to make an advance copy of your key. Get your car locksmith to create a copy for you. Store it in a secure location in your home or leave it with a trusted friend or relative. Should you wind up losing your keys, you can use this one in the interim.