Many times when you need an automotive locksmith, you’re in a tense situation or possibly even an emergency. Not every car security issue is a red alert, though! Sometimes you need a locksmith’s help with matters that aren’t time sensitive, and in these cases, it pays to educate yourself beforehand. If you’re going to have automotive key work done and you know that your car has a transponder key, here’s a little background by ATLG Locksmith Brisbane that will help you understand the situation.
How Transponder Keys Work
A transponder key operates by providing an additional level of security above and beyond the physical pattern cut into the key that has to be passed before you can start your car. Transponder keys started appearing regularly around 1995 and they have now become virtually omnipresent in the auto industry.
When you insert your key into the ignition and turn it, the engine control unit or ECU in your car emits an extremely low power electromagnetic signal. This signal is absorbed by wire coils inside your key and used to transmit an even more subtle signal back to the ECU. This transmission is basically just a short string of alphanumeric characters – essentially a password. If the characters from your key don’t match the string the ECU expects, it will disable the starter and refuse to start your car.
How Transponder Keys DON’T Work
At first glance, you may think this system sounds a lot like keyless or remote entry – the technology that allows you to unlock or start your car from several feet away. While the intent (confirming that the right key is being used to start the vehicle) is the same, the electronics used for remote entry need much more power to transmit its identification signal.
This is why remote entry keys and keyfobs need batteries, and why their batteries can run down. In contrast, the transponder system used in the key itself is entirely passive. As long as the car has power from its battery, the transponder key will always work.
There’s some confusion between transponder keys and these more advanced systems, with many drivers (and even car salesmen and technicians, who should know better) referring to remote entry keys and fobs as transponder keys. The more powerful keys are more complex and more expensive; true transponder keys are fairly affordable.
Working On Transponder Keys
Any professional locksmith that handles automotive work should be fully equipped with the specialized equipment required to replace or duplicate transponder keys. With most makes and models this is a fairly straightforward process; the locksmith simply has to extract the correct alphanumeric string from the original key (or the car’s ECU) and encode it onto a new key.
Some manufacturers add extra layers of security into their keying systems that introduce additional steps into the process of duplicating or changing a transponder key. This is one of the reasons a locksmith’s pricing for auto keys varies from model to model.
Hopefully, this little article has expanded your knowledge on automotive locking technology is a small but helpful way. Remember that you can always learn more from a trustworthy locksmith who has plenty of experience working with cars!