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How To Replace A Car Key Without The Original Copy

Key FOB placed on car center console

Many people rely heavily on their vehicles every day and usually don’t have any other alternative transportation methods. That is why losing or breaking a car key can create a very stressful situation for a car owner, especially if it’s the original copy. It can ultimately turn into a real predicament if you do not know the steps needed to replace your car key.

Identify the type of car key replacement that you need

If you ever get into a situation where you need a car key made, your first step should be to identify what kind of key replacement you need. It is important to understand the different types of automotive keys in order to have a clear idea of what you need exactly. There are generally 4 basic types of car keys: mechanical key, transponder key, key FOB and smart key.

Mechanical key

The most basic type of automotive key is the conventional mechanical key. This key is just a standard metal key with no special features and is typically found in older vehicles. Keys of this type are the simplest and cheapest to reproduce.

Transponder key

Newer vehicles are usually equipped with transponder keys. These keys have a chip embedded on the key, which sends a unique code to the vehicle’s on-board computer. The code must match what is programmed in the vehicle in order for the car to start. Transponder keys must not only be cut, but they must also be programmed so that they can properly communicate with the vehicle.


Automotive keys that are integrated with a remote control for controlling car features, such as automatic door locks, are considered key FOBs. These key types come standard on many new vehicles today — even entry level cars. The replacement cost on these keys is considerably more than mechanical keys.

Smart key

For many high-end vehicles, smart keys are a standard feature. They come with advanced features, such as a proximity sensor, which will allow you to start the vehicle with a push of a button when the car senses that the key is within close range. Smart keys are typically expensive to replace because of the increased cost of the part.

Gather important information

You will need to gather important details in order to make sure that you are receiving the correct replacement key for your vehicle and that it will work properly.

Year, make and model

Basic information about the year, make and model are obviously important details that are needed, so make sure that you identify this information precisely. This will narrow down the type of key needed as well as identify what parts are required for the replacement key.

Vehicle identification number (VIN)

If you do not have all the details about the vehicle, the VIN can be used to identify that information. The VIN is a unique identifying number that reveals important details about a car, such as the manufacturer, model year and specifications of the vehicle. The VIN can be located in several different areas on the vehicle. It is commonly found on the driver’s side dashboard near the windshield and on the driver’s door jamb. It is also usually found on the vehicle registration, title and insurance card.

Additional vehicle information

Important details about the vehicle’s history is critical when requesting a replacement key. If the vehicle’s ignition system was replaced, the original key that was specific for that vehicle will not work, so a key that fits the replacement ignition or an entirely new ignition will be needed.

Proof of ownership

As a security measure, you will need to provide proof of ownership of the vehicle in order to have a replacement key made. This is to ensure that you are the lawful owner of the car and it is also meant to prevent any unauthorized access to your vehicle. An ID along with the vehicle registration card or title will usually be adequate.

Hire a professional locksmith

Hiring a professional locksmith to replace a lost or broken car key is the smartest option. While some automotive dealerships are able to replace car keys, the cost can be very high. There is also the added expense of having the vehicle towed, as most modern car keys will need to be programmed at the vehicle and the majority of dealers do not offer mobile services. Hiring a professional locksmith will usually cost much less and they will also be able to replace your car key on-site. There is also the advantage of a quick response time and 24 hour service when hiring a professional locksmith like Boston Locksmith Shop.