Smart Keys

Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to go digging through your pockets or through your purse in order to find the car keys? Especially if its raining outside, you can’t find your keys and all you want to do is jump into your car before you are soaking wet; what a leisure that would be. Luckily for car owners, its a convenience that is available today. While its availability is not currently standard in vehicles, more and more manufacturers are incorporating these types of systems into their cars. These are commonly referred to as “Smart Key” systems. Smart key systems will vary from vehicle to vehicle, but they all have the same underlying principle behind their use; consumer convenience.

Features

Smart keys are usually in use among higher-end luxury vehicles. The pioneer of these smart keys was Mercedes Benz with its use of its “Keyless Go”. This system

Push button ignition switch

allowed Mercedes owners to keep their key fobs in their pockets when unlocking their vehicles. When approaching, receivers within the body of the vehicle pick up that the key fob is nearby and unlocks the door. The same principle applies when wanting to start the engine. When the car senses the key fob inside the vehicle the driver can simply push a button to start the vehicle without putting any key in the ignition.

Other manufacturer’s systems have adopted much of the same functionality, though each has its differences and their own signature features. Another common feature is a smart key with the ability to memorize a user’s comfort settings, with the settings corresponding to each users own smart key. This includes external mirror tilts, steering wheel placement, and positioning of the drivers seat and floor pedals.

Probably one of the most compelling additions to a smart key’s repertoire is a users ability to program the vehicle to perform a series of functions from the push of a button. For instance, imagine you are inside your home brewing yourself a cup of coffee. You realize that you should probably start the car and give it time to warm up the cabin so that you’re comfortable on your drive to work. So you reach for your key fob, push the engine start button, and the car cycles on the heat as you programmed it to do after remote start. You just sip on your coffee as you continue to wake up and get ready for the day.

While these sleek features may peak the interest of any car consumer, don’t get too excited as you can’t have them all. These advanced smart key systems are not fluid among manufacturers, as each system has its own unique set of features it offers.

Security

Smart keys aren’t just for the consumers convenience, but also the security and safety of the vehicle. Instead of key fobs that send out one consistent unique code to match the car, smart keys use rolling codes. This technology makes it so that car thieves using devices to pick up your key fobs unique code are no longer enough to get into your car. The vehicle picks a random code each time the unlock button is pressed and then the smart key produces the correct code on its end. The use of rolling codes goes far to keep your car secure. While there is no way to guarantee a vehicles security in the long run, you can safely bet that car producers will continue to implement new security features.

Smart keys can control a lot of your vehicle, making it even more important to keep your keys accounted for than before. But now there is the added need to keep your smart key’s battery charged. Thankfully most of these keys will notify you of a low battery, whether its through your vehicles console LCD screen or a low battery LED light on the fob. But in case you don’t heed the low battery warning, smart keys will have a mechanical key inside the smart key fob. This way you can start the vehicle even if your smart key is dead.

What about smart key replacement?

Getting a smart key replaced is a lot costlier than an ordinary key, even if that ordinary key has a transponder chip in it. Many of these manufacturers systems are proprietary, and most auto locksmiths wouldn’t have the capability to replace a smart key. A vehicle owner equipped with a smart key will have to go through the dealership, and will have to pay the full price that accompanies.

Laser Cut Keys

It is becoming more apparent that advancement in technology for car keys comes with both benefits and burdens. Hopefully for you, you don’t actually lose your vehicle keys frequently enough to where the burdens outweigh the numerous benefits. Most of these benefits are based upon consumers needs for security and safety features. This is exactly what car designer/manufacturers had in mind when they implement laser cut keys into their vehicles.

What is a laser cut key?

Laser cut keys are very distinct from regular keys, so if you know what a laser cut key is you’ll quickly be able to recognize it for what it is. First, the key’s shank is generally thicker than that of a regular key. However most distinctively, rather than the key having the many peaks, valleys and ridges along the outside edge like a regular key would, a laser cut key has its cuts along the interior face of the key shank. Think of it like a river canyon weaving its way along the bottom of a ridge (wow that doesn’t help). Better yet lets just get you a couple picture. Maybe the analogy makes a little more sense after seeing it.

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The key has these interior cuts on both faces of the shank, and allows the key to be inserted into the vehicle’s ignition cylinder either way. While the outside of the key does still have some cutting and shaping done to it, its not nearly to the extent of regular keys.

What is the purpose?

The purpose behind these keys is to keep your vehicle even more safe from car theft than it already is. The key cutting machinery required for these types of keys is much more expensive, and makes it that much harder to duplicate the key. Apart from these keys being harder to duplicate, they are also embedded with transponder chips, which are programmed along with your car so that only your set of keys will start the vehicle.

Is there a downside?

Sadly there is in fact a burden that comes with these keys. They are more expensive to replace and it will be a little harder to find a professional that is capable of replacing the key for you. But it has gotten a lot better in recent years. It used to be laser cut keys were only used in higher end luxury vehicles such as Mercedes or BMW. Because of this exclusivity there were simply not many locksmiths or dealers that had the capability to replace these keys, and thus you paid an arm and a leg if you ever lost one. Nowadays you will find laser cut keys in a variety of different vehicles. Because they are a lot more common, it isn’t as hard to find a professional that can help you for a decent price. Dealerships are your surest bet to find someone able to replace your key, however a locksmith that specializes in car keys is more than likely to have the proper machinery to help you out without costing you as much.

Tidbits

  • Laser cut keys also go by other names as well. They are often referred to as “Sidewinder” keys as well as “Internal Cut” keys.
  • These keys are often used in conjunction with switchblades. This is where the key shank actually folds into A switch blade with a laser cut key shankthe key fob, and pops out with the press of a button.

Overview

Laser cut keys are a good example of the direction that car key technology is going. In terms of security, laser cut keys are right near the top as they are great for keeping your car safe, and exactly where you left it. While they are more expensive to replace, nowadays it shouldn’t be too hard to find yourself a professional that you can work with. Be sure to shop around, and take advantage of our tips given in our How To Guide regarding car key replacement to help you get the best price.

Key Fobs

What is a key fob?

More than likely you have seen this term thrown around when you’re looking for replacement car keys from your search engine results. So instead of having to take an educated guess or just never finding out what the term refers to, I will ask and answer the question for you. What is a key fob?

A key fob is the remote that communicates with your car to perform certain vehicle functions. It is also commonly referred to as key-less entry. These key fobs have become very popular as just about all modern cars come with a stock remote of some kind. While there are subtle differences in design and functionality between these key fobs, most of the remotes perform the same functions. These functions include: unlocking and locking the car at a distance, popping your cars trunk, some models even allow for remote starting of the engine. The purpose of all of this is for convenience to the consumer.

The way this all works is through the transmission of a unique code from the remote to the vehicle. When you hit the unlock button on your key-less entry remote, or key fob, the remote sends out a unique code to your vehicle. If this transmitted code from the key fob matches the code in the vehicle receivers memory, then the car performs that function. It’s this unique code that keeps other peoples remote entry devices from being able to access your vehicle. It is also why the vehicle is able to perform more than one function, as there are different codes for different receivers.

How is this any different than a transponder chip?

Well the answer to that is they perform different functions. A transponder chip works to tell the vehicle electronically that it is the correct key trying to start the car. This is for security purposes, making it much more difficult for would be car thieves to drive away with your vehicle. A key fob performs the functions stated earlier in this post. Now you might be wondering, what does that mean for cars that allow for remote engine start? With that function the cars engine starts while you are at a distance (more than likely inside your home or office), but the transponder still needs to communicate with the car in order for the car to be driven away. If you do not put the transponder key in the ignition after a specified amount of time the car will simply shut off. You can also shut off the vehicle with the key fob as well. For security purposes the car also remains locked until you hit the unlock button.

There is no denying that keys are getting more and more sophisticated. They add to our security, convenience, and just plain look cool sometimes. And don’t think you are limited to the use of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) key fobs. There are many aftermarket key fobs that you can purchase for your vehicle. If you think you would like an aftermarket key fob, just remember you’re either going to have to learn how to program it yourself  or pay to have it done for you.

Transponder Keys

If you’re going to fret over the expense of forking over a good amount of money for a car key replacement, you might as well know why you are spending so much. Society puts a high price on security, and it is no exception when it comes to car keys. The high cost of replacement is often related to the sophistication of the car Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Transponder Key)key, hence the term “Smart Key”. These types of keys go a long ways in thwarting attempts at grand theft auto.

So if you are the proud owner of a newer vehicle, chances are that you are also the owner of one of these Smart Keys. These keys have a transponder chip that is placed inside the key (typically inside the large plastic fob) that sends out a signal to your vehicle. Your vehicle is programmed to only accept a unique signal, and will not start unless it detects that signal. All this to ensure that it is indeed you (or at least your key) starting the car.

So next time you find yourself in need of a replacement transponder key, realize that is not just the key and the cutting that you are paying for, but also the necessary programming that matches your key with your car. It may seem like a high price to pay for a key, but it is a good line of defense against would be car thieves.