Picture this: disaster strikes, and your sole set of car keys takes a plunge down the drain, lost in the abyss. Panic sets in as you realize there are no spare keys to ease the blow. That burning question surfaces: ‘Can the VIN on your car come to the rescue for a key replacement?’
Brace yourself for the answer as we unravel the mystery of turning your Vehicle Identification Number into the key solution you desperately need.
Types of Car Keys
An older car key is less of an issue to replace, but the cost of buying a spare key from the factory deters many people away from getting one. Advancements in key coding mean that both the costs of modern keys and the labor to program them are astronomical.
Vintage cars will use keys like those that you use to get into your home. The patterns are easy to replicate at most locksmiths, and there is nothing complex about how you use them to start a car. These older cars with digital keys will still allow you entry to the vehicle if you have a key cut.
If you lose all the keys, the locksmith should still be able to make a replacement from one of the locks. And you may still be able to disable the engine immobilizer.
You will be aware that more recent cars use digital keys that send a key code that allows you to start your car. This code is on a small chip inside the key fob, and it must match the manufacturer’s number for that specific car, the VIN.
These keys have laser cut key patterns that are difficult to reproduce. It takes a special machine to replicate the Radio Frequency Identification transmitter, in the fob, on to a new key.
The most modern cars do not even have a physical ignition key and connect to your vehicle through a smart key and coded radio. The idea is that the owner of the vehicle need not take the key out of their pocket to start the car.
These types of key take a specialist locksmith that can program them. The manufacturers guard the programs to these keys well, and few locksmiths have permission to replicate such a key. Sometimes, there is no way to reproduce a key, and the whole car needs reprogramming, with the key, at the dealership.
What Is a VIN?
A Vehicle Identification Number is like a barcode, and it is unique to every vehicle made in the last 40 years. The VIN links the owner to the vehicle through their papers and their government’s vehicle department.
A VIN is a series of letters and numbers, each with specific information about your car. The first characters describe the country and car company. Following on from that is information on the rest of the car, from its production date to the factory it came from.
The final numbers are even more specific and are the order that your cars sat in the production run. If you cannot supply the paperwork to match all this information, you will not be able to get a replacement key.
Do You Need the Key Code to Get Back Into Your Car?
Even if you have the original key for your new car, it is no longer possible to duplicate a working key from it without specialized equipment. The transponder chip in the fob must match the information on the vehicle’s computer.
The signal transmits a code that is impossible to guess. A locksmith must be able to copy the original key code, in the fob, on to a new key. The locksmith will also need a key cutter to duplicate the intricate patterns that a modern key has.
Can You Replace Your Car Key From the VIN?
You first need to find a locksmith that can make modern smart keys and have the machines to program in the transponder code. The dealership that you bought the car from will have the means to order you a new key from the factory, but the dealership is the more expensive route.
You will find that the cost of going to a dealership will be over 50% that of using a locksmith. On top of having the cost of the key, the dealership will also charge you the cost of reprogramming your vehicle and the key fob to recognize each other.
The manufacture will have a list of locksmiths that are able and authorized to make keys on their behalf. In this way, the manufacture can track who has made a duplicate key, and you know that your vehicle is still secure.
How to Get a New Key Fob from Your VIN?
- Locksmith — Find a suitable locksmith that has authorization from your car’s manufacturer, to make keys for your vehicle.
- Authentication — The locksmith will need both your VIN and the authentication paper for your vehicle. You can see the VIN from the outside of your car, through the windscreen, over the driver’s side of the dashboard. You may also need proof of payment for the vehicle and some form of identification.
- Reproduction — Locksmiths may need time to get the key code from the manufacturer. A suitable key to match your car is not always in stock.
- Reprogramming — If you think that you have lost your keys, it may still be a good idea to reprogram the vehicle’s computer so that the old key no longer works. This also protects your car from theft if, at some point in the future, someone finds the key.
- Manufacturer — Your locksmith will be able to tell you, straight away, if they can make a key for you or if you need to get one from the factory. Some manufacturers refuse to release their technology to third-party providers. And in this case, you will have no choice but to get a new key direct through a dealership.
Having a second key gives you access to the car if you lose the original, and you will be able to get a replacement made faster. But if you lose a coded key, as with your home key, it is much safer to give the vehicle a new code along with its new key fob.