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Some people don't really pay enough attention to their car keys to know the difference between a normal one and an anti-theft key, but those of you who have ever lost one will know exactly what the difference is. Replacement costs for anti-theft keys are in the hundreds of dollars, and in the event that a vehicle's keys contain a smart chip that must be recognized by the vehicle's computer, programming costs are in the thousands. Not to mention the inconvenience of having a vehicle towed to a dealership.

Automakers claim that the keys cut down on thefts and enhance automotive safety. The Center for Auto Safety doesn't think the end justify the means, however, and has thus petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to stop what it calls  "charging exorbitant fees for nominal programming costs." Rather than going through the inconvenience and cost, the Center recommends that the key codes be available to insurance companies and professionals such as locksmiths.



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  • 21 Comments
      • 9 Years Ago
      The real problem is how many keys you need to reprogram a new key if you lose one of your original keys. For example, as I recall on one of my cars, you had to have both of your original keys to program a third key by yourself, by inserting the keys in a certain pattern in the ignition.

      In contrast, on the GM Passkey+, you can simply program a replacement key when you are down to a single original key. Neat, huh?

      I assume the need for two original keys from other makers was to prevent valets from duping keys (making a clay mold on our first visit, cutting the key, then coding it on your second visit). But how often does that happen? At least with a Cobalt, Malibu, or Impala?
      • 9 Years Ago
      Speaking of interesting ignition stories:

      I had an Escort with an ignition so worn, I'm pretty sure you could have started the car with any other key of the same basic thickness. It never got stolen, probably because it was so asthetically unappealing.

      I could also pull the key out after starting the car. It worked great in the winter; I would pull the key, leave the car running, and lock the doors while I ran into a convenience store for some munchies.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Whoever wrote that knows very little, if anything.
      As example for GM cars there are only 15 key codes.
      A blank key is only 2 bucks.

      Its simple either have a dealer give you the resistance code for your car, have them make a key or worst case buy the blank keys and have a locksmith cut the keys and then try each key until one that starts engine
      • 9 Years Ago
      It's about time there was some intervention on this issue. The key and or chip is expensive enough, but when the dealership charges, at the least, $100 for programming (which takes 10 minutes if the dealership grease-monkey isn't nursing a head wound) it gets a little crazy....
      • 9 Years Ago
      Ive got a 1998 Audi a4, and ive got the flip out style key, when i bought the car used, there was only the one key, i went to the dealer to have a spare made, just in case....the blank key itself was $75 alone, then to have it cut cost another $60, after taxes, i was looking at a little bit over $140 just for a standard, non flip out key to use as a spare, if i had sprung for another one that would give me acces to my keyless entry i would b looking at close to $300.....im kinda glad to hear that im not the only one getting screwed over out there, but yes, they need to find an easier way to make new keys for certain cars, rather than screwing us over in the end....
      • 9 Years Ago
      It was inevitable. A Dell computer sells for $299. How can automakers justify spending that or more for a key with a chip in it. Their greed just bit them in the ass!
      • 9 Years Ago
      Those costs may be accurate for a Mercedes or Bentley or some other high dollar car, but thats nowhere near what it was to replace the key for my Mazda.
      • 9 Years Ago
      #10, you hit it right in the head! Good suggestion!
      • 9 Years Ago
      My 'ol '58 Bel Air had an ignition where you only used the key to lock the ignition switch off. You could start it without a key when unlocked. Funny, I never had it stolen, or needed a new key made. Guess times were better then, not to mention people either.
      • 9 Years Ago
      When my wife and I bought her 2005 Mazda3 5 door, the dealer told us a replacement key would be $75. Freaking crazy. $75 is spare change compared to the $250, but if the process is that complicated that a dealer must charge that much, then maybe they shoudl figure out a way to un-complicate it and not rape consumers for something a simple as s spare key.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Just had a 2006 Dodge 3500 truck chip key stolen Memorial day! why? I don't know, probably a kid. The pisser is it was $147.50 for the blank chip key, and $100.00 to cut and program it. I waited for it and it took all of 15 minutes to do. I'm damn lukey I had put away my original spare, or I might be walking yet !
      • 9 Years Ago
      gm actually uses chips in some of their newest cars and trucks, it's called "passkey 3". it still uses resistence(measured in ohms) in the key cylinder, but also has a computer chip in the key head. it is identified by having a small "+" plus sign stamped at the base of the metal key (closest to the rubber head). these keys are expensive and also have a substantial programming process.
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