What type of car key do you have? *AFP photo
What type of car key do you have? *AFP photo

Modern car keys are becoming so sophisticated that gone are the days you could run over to the hardware store and get a spare vehicle key made. 

If you accidently lock your keys in the car, it is no longer simply a case of using a piece of wire or an old coat hanger to unlock the door. 

And if you lose your vehicle keys, it can be a hassle and an expense to get them replaced. Yet, advances in the technology of vehicle keys has made a huge difference in protecting you against auto theft. 

Just in the last month, we’ve had several customers come in after losing their automobile keys, only to realize it’s not so easy to replace them. So this month, I thought I’d go over the different kinds of keys that are out there and explain exactly how difficult it can be to replace these keys in the hope that you will be more mindful.

Basic Keys and Fob

A basic car key, which was common up until the mid-to late-1990s, has no security feature other than its unique cut. The shank, which is the long metal part of the key, has cuts and grooves like a house key. A locksmith can easily copy these keys without any special equipment. 

On most modern cars the keys will have an electronic fob or remote, which does require simple programming that can be done by the dealership or your owner’s manual may provide instructions.

Transponder Keys

To improve the basic car key, manufacturers began placing a microchip in the plastic head of the key that sends signals to the ignition and fuel-pump systems of the vehicle. When an attempt is made to use the vehicle without these signals, it will refuse to start. 

The major difference between a basic key and a transponder key is that the chip in the transponder key must be programmed before it can start the vehicle, which your dealership can do. 

Laser-Cut Keys

Laser-cut keys have a thicker shank and fewer grooves than a basic key. The major difference, though, is that currently there is no place on the island that has the special machine to make laser-cut keys, so if you lose them, replacements have to be ordered from the overseas manufacturer. 

Laser-cut keys also have built-in transponder chips that need to be programmed at the dealership. All-in-one laser-cut keys are becoming more popular because of their anti-theft effectiveness. 

At the same time, the cost to replace these keys is about $300 not including the time it takes to reprogramme the vehicle’s system. 

Smart Keys

Smart keys are the latest technology and aren’t even keys in the traditional sense. They are fobs that are either inserted in the dash or, in the more advanced systems, they stay in your pocket or purse. The driver turns the car on and off with the press of a button.

A smart key’s main form of security is its ability to use rolling security codes. The system randomises the correct code and prevents thieves from hacking it through the use of a device called a code grabber. The vehicle’s computer recognizes the code emitted by the smart key and verifies it before starting the engine. And only dealers can replace them.

The message of this article is that your car key can be an expensive part to replace, so pay special attention when handling your keys and if you have a spare set, keep them somewhere sensible.

Krishna King is the After Sales Parts Manager at  Bermuda Motors Limited. For more information on automobile maintenance call  292-0893 or email KKing@bermudamotors.bm. For more information log on to www.bermudamotors.bm