Random Access Memories

May 28, 2013

Transponder keys

by @ 2:40 pm. Filed under Business, Personal, Technology

So recently I bought a used 2000 Toyota Sienna Van.

I learned that it uses transponder keys to allow the car to start only if the correct chip in the key is near the ignition.

These keys sell for an astronomical amount (Home Depot wanted 80$ for one. The Toyota Dealership wanted to sell me a blank for 80$ and then charge me another 80$ to program it).

Needless to say I did not want to pay this to have a few spare keys made. Enter, the internet.

I searched and found that there was a procedure to make the car add another key to it’s database by pushing pedals in a specific combination. This meant that I could program my own keys. Now I needed keys to program. I found blanks on Ebay, from a seller that had a feedback score high enough to suggest their success rate was high. (It helped that the keys were 8$ each, so if i failed I would only be out 16$ from trying two keys) I got the keys and opened one up, it contained just a simple chip. (hard to get, but not really “special”)

Now to program them. After about 20 minutes I managed to make the programming sequence work, and I had 4 master transponder keys. Now, the cutting.

When I buy a vehicle I like to go to the dealership and get a new blank cut from the VIN. This blank becomes the “uncirculated master” if you will (I got a basic key from Toyota cut from the VIN for 10$. It won’t start the car but it’s the best key to make more keys off of). I was not about to try and ask Toyota to cut my new aftermarket transponder blanks, i’m sure they would have had a fit.

I heard online that often key cutters in big box stores or hardware stores will refuse to cut blanks, and I’ve had the same kind of thing happen to me. I guess they want to sell you their key blanks and might think you’re breaking the law. (Tho frankly getting the blanks is often more useful when breaking the law, but I digress).

Enter the small local locksmith. I found one just down the road from where I worked, went in and showed him the 2 transponders and the master. I said “I need those 2 keys cut from this master”, “no problem” he said and grabbed them up. 5 minutes later I had 2 cut keys for an astoundingly low 2$ each. No mess, no fuss, I was so elated that I gave him 10$ and said to keep the change.

The cutting was good, and both worked perfectly. End cost? 15$ per transponder key (including the cost of the VIN master) and some brain CPU cycles.

The next time you need a “special” key for your car, remember they aren’t all THAT special. Likely you can get one yourself FAR cheaper than the dealership is gouging you for it.

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