Expert Advice | Key Fob Replacement – Essential Info To Know About + 4 Tips

Here is the essential information you need to know for your key fob replacement. Depending on your vehicle age, you may have only the dealer option, or you may have other alternatives.
key fob replacement
key fob replacement

I spent several hours researching and putting together simple and clear actionable items to assist you in your key fob replacement mission. As per our goal at Car Care Handy, I aim to cut through the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your car care and maintenance.

Keep reading if you want to learn:

  • Car keys types
  • When using dealers
  • When using locksmiths
  • Low-cost alternatives
  • Shell replacement
  • Replacement tips

Car Keys Types

Car keys types

Transponder keys

The transponder key has a chip in the head of the fob key. It’s used to send and receive electronic signals to the engine through a receiver in the ignition. Your car won’t start if the receiver detects a signal indicating that the wrong key is in the ignition [1].

Basic transponder keys could easily be replaced. It’s a bit complex and costs more if your transponder key and the fob are in the same unit.

Most car dealerships have the necessary equipment used to program transponder keys, usually at a cost. Some dealers do it for free. You can also program these keys by a locksmith, usually at a lower cost.

Another cheap alternative is to get a copy of your key without the transmitter. This solution will give you access to your car but since the transmitter won’t connect to the ignition, you won’t be able to start the car.

Smart Keys

Smart keys will give you access to your car just by being in a near distance. You don’t even have to take the keys out of your pockets. You can even start your car without inserting the key into the ignition. You can just keep the smart ket in your pocket and push a button in the dash to start the ignition. The smart key security system is based on a code that gets verified by the car’s inner computer before starting [2, 3].

The smart keys give car owners a lot of conveniences. Though, it’s harder to get a replacement for a smart key. It’s still possible if you find the right place since they’re very limited. You can find a replacement at dealers or factory parts resellers.

Be prepared to pay for the price. Next time think twice before leaving your smart key in an easily accessible pocket where it could fall or get lost.

Laser-Cut Keys

Laser-cut keys are easily distinguishable by their appearance. They’re a bit thicker than standard keys, don’t have notches, and have fewer grooves. Laser-cut keys have a winding slot cut in the middle and usually run on both sides of the key.

Machines used to cut laser-cut keys are special and expensive, and you can only find them at a certified locksmith or at the dealer. Consequently, replacements might cost a lot.

When Using Dealers

When using dealers

You will likely need to go to a dealer if you drive a newer car from any brand. In fact, most cars that were manufactured recently have keys that need to be programmed with special machines that you can only find at a dealer.

Some brands even insist on providing the key replacement themselves because the security system encrypted into the small chip in the fob key won’t allow any other sort of programming.

Going to a dealer has some benefits too. You can get a replacement to your key fob in 15 to 30 minutes time and it doesn’t always cost a fortune.

Although some dealers do accept to program aftermarket pieces, the replacement won’t work. You’ll only be wasting your time and money. 

When Using Locksmiths

When using locksmiths

If your key fob doesn’t require the manufacturer to reprogram it, then get the necessary pieces out of the aftermarket and call in a locksmith. It’s a good alternative.

Locksmiths are usually much cheaper than a dealer and will provide a good quality service to get cut and program the replacement key fob just in time.

Another advantage of seeking out a locksmith is their flexibility and mobility. Most of them are available 24 hours a day and can come and get the job done at your house. 

Low-Cost Alternatives

Low-cost alternatives

Searching for a lower-cost alternative to replacing your key fob can be tempting. It’s more likely possible to use an aftermarket key fob if you own an older car, as their fobs can be easily programmed [4].

You can ask your local garage for advice and be sure he can handle the job and get your new key fob programmed and ready to work.

Shell Replacement

Shell replacement

Sometimes you just need to replace the shell and not the key fob, because shells also wear out with excessive use.

Just get a new one and move the internal circuitry into it. A similar shell to your old one will be easier to replace.

Replacement Tips

Replacement tips

Tip #1

If you lose your spare, make sure to replace it as soon as possible to avoid trouble. Some brands even allow you to program multiple key fobs at the same time. This will save you time, money and a lot of trouble.

Tip #2

If you lose your key fob or it malfunctions within the specified period of your car’s warranty, the cost of a replacement will be covered sometimes fully or partially. So, never forget to check your warranty.

Tip #3

Check your owner’s manual to know if programming can only be done at a dealer’s level. This will save you time at the aftermarket and useless costs of programming that won’t work.

Tip #4

Make sure to check with the local garage and call the locksmith to know if the replacement can be handled without seeking out a dealer.

The Bottom Line

Key fob replacement depends on the age of your vehicle. The more your car is smart, the more the replacement is difficult and expensive. You may have only the dealer option, or you may have other cheap alternatives.

I made this article very simple, so you can learn the essential information about key fob replacement to solve your problem by making the right decision, so you save your time and money.

Do you want to learn how to reprogram your key fob? Check out our guide on key fob programming.