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Have you:

  • Lost your only fully working transponder or smart car key?

    Votes: 1 100.0%
  • Purchased a used car with only one working key?

    Votes: 1 100.0%
  • Purchased a used car with more than one (fully working) key?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Had to have you car towed to the dealership/locksmith to have new keys and ecu programmed/replaced?

    Votes: 1 100.0%
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Not so Noob now!
564 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
For the most part what is being referred to below as a "key" or "fob" is actually a proximity remote you need to have on your person in order to start your "push button" start car. Which oddly enough does have a hidden physical key that only allows you to open the drivers side door, gain access to the glove box if locked and open the pass-through to the trunk if locked. However much of this can be applied to cars that use transponder keys that are a regular key you put into the ignition switch and turn to start your car in a traditional fashion.

There is a certain madness to a manufacturer who only provides two keys to a car and make it so difficult to get additional keys in the future. On top of that If you buy a used car and get more than one key consider yourself fortunate. Of course if you are negotiating on the price on said used car you could possibly use that as a possible way to get your out-of pocket down several hundred dollars (the cost of a single proximity key from the dealership).

Ok, you have your car and you only have one key for whatever reason, what happens if you misplace that key? Well then car life really sucks for you, because now you have a time consuming, expensive problem. Most likely your immobilizer ECU will have to be reprogrammed or replaced by a locksmith or dealership along with a matching replacement proximity key-fob, not to mention the cost of having you car towed to where they can do this work. If you are lucky enough to have insurance to cover any or all of the cost then you will have, at minimum, lost time and had to pay with the inconvenience of dealing with the whole situation.

What are your options?

1. (Potentially most expensive option) Keep calm and carry on driving with only one key. After all you have made it this far without misplacing your one and only key, what could go wrong?

2. (Expensive but easiest preventive option) Go to dealer and order additional new OEM keys and have them program them. Expect north of $500 per fob

3. (Not as expensive but still spendy option) Have a locksmith acquire and program one or more keys for you. I know this is not the cheapest option but it is cheaper than going to the dealer and getting additional keys for your car. Most locksmiths will charge you anywhere from $100 to $250 per fob and then a separate "programming" fee that is usually only charged once no matter how many keys you have done at the same time. (cost $80-$200) Note: You do have to have one working key for them to do this. Expect total cost around $250 or more per fob.

4. (Most reasonable locksmith option) You acquire your own Proximity remotes and have a locksmith or dealer program them. First verify with your local locksmiths/dealer the are even willing to do this before going this route, many won't for various reasons. You can buy used or new OEM or aftermarket fobs for your car for anywhere around $60 to $150 online. First you want to make sure they have the correct board inside, just because a fob looks like your original or even if it doesn't, the circuit board inside is going to be one of the main factors in if the fob can even be recognized and programmed to your car. It's easy enough to pop your emergency key out of your remote and use it to pry open the remote shell to read the numbers on your board. Second you will want your remote to be "virgin." That essentially means you either want a new never been programmed remote, or a used remote that has had the programming from a previous car wiped clear of it. Some locksmiths can do this too, but many won't or can't. At this point you will still be charged the "programming" fee and the cost to have the emergency key cut if you opt to have it done. Expect total cost of around $200 per fob

5. (The "I want fully functional fobs at the lowest possible price" option) WARNING: Only use this option if you are comfortable doing things like this, because you could potentially screw things up where you will be the laughing stock for the dealership or locksmith that will have to fix your disaster and charge you a premium while they are doing it, thus negating any and all savings you might have been anticipating. Hey you are on the internet looking at your options, and you have saved yourself some money by doing things yourself right? Well if you are comfortable with DIY and can get a little technical, you might be able to save a lot more on additional fobs. by programming them yourself. Again you will want to purchase "virgin" fobs that have the same board number as your original, these almost always come with an uncut emergency key and usually a fresh battery as well. Then you will need software and an OBD2 cable like a MINI-VCI J2534 off of Amazon or ebay to connect to a laptop. You use the laptop and cable to put your car into key programming mode along with one good working fob and you can program additional keys to your car. You still will need to pay a locksmith to cut the emergency keys for each of you fobs if you want, but that is a comparatively small cost to add. Cost around $110 per fob

6. (Cheapest emergency key option) At least have one or more emergency key(s) cut. This is just the key that will allow you to manually unlock the car door, this is the same key that is hidden in your proximity remote fob for emergencies. Most local locksmiths who can cut "lasercut" keys can make one for around $20-$30, have them provide the key blank if possible. If they can't you can get them online (ebay). Or better yet you can have emergency keys cut from pictures of your original key from a company called 1010Keys who offer their services on ebay. This way you can gain access to the inside of your locked car as long as that key is stored somewhere outside of your car (at home, with a family member, a friend, or even a hidden location on your car. I know it's almost impossible to lock a proximity key in the car but if the battery dies and the key isn't transmitting it's location inside the car then you can lock your key in the car. Cost of $15-$30 per key

What I did:

Yeah, I bought my 2009 Avalon Limited with only one proximity/transponder smart key, the other key lost by one of the many previous owners, I'm sure. Of course after calling around to the dealership and several locksmiths up to 100 miles away I opted to go with #5. Personally I want to have one fob for each person who will be driving the car in the household and one complete "spare" because it's just easier that way. For me that is 4 or 5 fobs. Could you imagine going to the dealer for 3 or 4 more keys at $500 a pop on a car that is now 12 years old? Not going to happen! So I bought 3 virgin fobs (board #271451-0140) for $253.82 a cable for $28.19, and had 4 Emergency keys cut for $45.18 Total cost of $327.19 or $109.06 per fob/key. Now I, my wife, and my daughter each has a fob and I keep the spare fob in the car hidden in an Altoids tin to conceal the rf signal from the car, while the one extra emergency key is in a combination lock box (about $10) hidden underneath the car. Now if a fob is lost while away from home any of us can gain access and drive the car away. Or if for some reason we want to allow someone else to use the car while we are away.
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