Affordable solutions for losing your car keys
Losing your car keys is not only frustrating, but can be rather expensive. The dreaded question, “Where are my car keys?” Results in a search, but what if you don’t find your find your keys?
There are many of us that are savvy enough to have a spare key handy, but what if you are away on holiday and the spare keys are at home?
If you can’t find your keys and don’t have spare keys, you’ll be looking at a possible minimal cost of R4000 to replace them and that’s for a second-hand Honda Jazz! This cost is not unusual for many manufacturers, but when you’re on a tight budget it can be quite overwhelming.
Keys used to be a simple metal blank, which was cut into the correct shape to suit its matching ignition slot and to operate the unique lock mechanism of a car’s door. These days many cars still use an ignition slot, but most keys incorporate a transponder that communicates with a vehicle’s immobiliser unit and engine control unit (ECU) to allow the engine to start. This security measure can also come in the form of a key-less entry and start function. Then take into consideration if the key functionality includes remote opening of the doors and boot/tailgate. All reasons why keys are so expensive to replace.
Roadrunner in Cape Town shared some insights on key cloning and the options available.
Automotive locksmiths can read the signal/code sent out by a vehicle key and then can clone a key by writing this code onto the chip of a blank transponder key using an electronic key-cloning machine. The key will still need to be cut to fit the ignition slot, doors and boot. Once the cars ECU sees the duplicate transponder key as the original key, it allows the engine to start. Unfortunately, if you own a higher security vehicles (such as the Jazz), this is not always possible. In this case a specialised programming machine extracts the code from the vehicle’s electronic modules through the OBD port. Fob can be a complicated process to duplicate the signal for operating the remote buttons on the key and this leads to an increase in the cost.
Key cutting from the ignition
If you find yourself having to replace all the locks, including the ignition barrel of a car, you could land paying up to R30 000 depending on the manufacturer. However, this does not have to be the case, as automotive locksmiths can cut a key from the ignition barrel of the car. This is a much greater task than key cloning, because you’ll need to access the locked car before the ignition barrel can be removed. Then the barrel is mechanically decoded to get the correct key shape. Thereafter, the normal cloning process can commence.
The duplication process of a Jazz key takes only half an hour and then there’s the possibility that the key may not open the doors and start the engine. However, in most cases there is need for concern.
There is a tremendous threat to vehicle security if the technology employed by automotive locksmiths fell into the wrong hands. It is very important that the locksmith you use is a member of the Locksmiths Association of South Africa and is registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority. The latter requires that all locksmith employees have been screened and do not have a criminal record and that their personal details, including fingerprints, are kept on file.
A breakdown of costs
- For a copy of older-generation “dumb” key you’ll spend between R35 to R45
- The copy of the transponder key with a cloning machine will cost between R650 to R750
- A copy of the transponder key by extracting the code from the vehicle ECU through the OBD port will cost between R950 to R1250
- The additional cost to add remote functionalities to the replacement transponder keys will cost you between R1500 to R3 500
- And lastly, the additional cost if the replacement key has to be cut from the ignition barrel will be between R1250 to R1500
At least now that you are forearmed – you won’t be in for any surprises!