Technology is enhancing our daily lives in many ways by adding new levels of protection and convenience at every turn. One of these is through key fobs that allow you to open and start your car without ever taking your key from your pocket. Key fobs allow you to open your car faster and in fewer steps, which makes them highly attractive. These devices also allow you to start your ignition with the simple touch of a button. Sounds great! All of these benefits fall to the wayside, however, if your key simply won’t work.
What is a key fob, exactly, how does it work, and what can you expect to pay to have one programmed? Here’s a look at some top advice to help you find the right solution.
What is a key fob?
If you’ve ever entered a car by pressing a button and not inserting a traditional key in a lock, you’ve probably used a key fob. Almost all cars manufactured today use keyless entry, as do many businesses, apartment complexes, and industrial facilities.
Key fobs, also called remote car starters or keyless entry devices, were first developed in 1983 to open the AMC/Renault Alliance. Since then, some key fobs have been developed that open cars but don’t start them, and that also do both. Some fobs are quite impressive. The 2016 BMW key fob can not only open your car but also set climate control settings and pop the trunk from up to 1000 feet away.
How key fobs work
Key fobs contain unique microchips that work through radio waves. The car attuned to your fob will continuously transmit low-frequency radio signals to “wake up” the wireless key that goes with it when it’s within range. A reader situated in the door latch in your car is programmed to open when triggered by the key. The whole system relies on radio frequency identification (RFID) which acts much like an electronic barcode that identifies the key that goes with the car.
A lot of people wonder if a key fob can be hacked by criminals and, while it’s relatively uncommon, the answer is, yes, it can be done. What happens? Hackers trick your car and its fob using a specific device. This device amplifies signals, making your key and car think they’re actually closer together than they really are. So, if your key fob is sitting near the front door inside your house on a hook, a thief can theoretically catch its signal, amplify it, and make your car think you’re trying to open it. When activated, the thief can unlock your car remotely, and even turn it on.
Thankfully, you can purchase devices like a faraday bag to prevent this from happening.
How much does a locksmith charge to program a key fob?
Generally speaking, programming a key fob costs anywhere between about $55 and $400. If you find your key fob is malfunctioning and seems to be losing its signal (i.e., sometimes it won’t open the door), having it reprogrammed could fix the issue. A malfunctioning key fob could also need a new battery, or it could be the key has been somehow damaged.
The cost of reprogramming depends on the following factors:
● The make and model of your car
● Your type of key fob
● The going rate for key fob services in your area
Key fobs come in different styles, shapes, and sizes. Some key fobs are purposely made to be more difficult to reprogram for safety reasons. The manufacturer does this in order to make the key difficult to hack. This adds extra security but it may make it difficult for a locksmith to reprogram your key, adding in extra cost in labor time.
In addition, if your key includes keyless ignition or a transponder key, you might find it costs more to reprogram it as the system is a bit more complex. Transponder keys have a computer chip that starts the car for you, and if you’re reprogramming an old fob to use as a replacement key for your car, its components will need to match those of the key you lost.
As with any service, the cost for reprogramming your key fob will match the going rate in your area. If one location seems too pricey, get a quote from another service provider to compare.
Why you might need to program a key fob
Reprogramming a key fob isn’t something most people do every day. On occasion, however, you might find yourself needing to. Why? For several reasons. You might need to reprogram a key fob if, as stated above, it’s wearing down over time and malfunctioning. If your fob fell in some water, for example, it may not be working as it should. If you’ve lost your key fob, you also might need to program a different one to replace it. You can save a bit of money by reprogramming an older key fob you no longer use, and have that one replace the key you lost. Finally, if the battery has died in your fob, in some cases this can cause the key to lose its memory. When this happens, simply replacing the battery might not bring the key back to life and it will need to be programmed anew.
A Dealership vs a Locksmith
Where should you get the work done? You can go a few routes when getting your key fob programmed. If you bought your car, (and its key), at a dealership, you might consider taking it back there to be fixed. A dealership can fix the key for you but you need to be wary of some things. In most cases, the dealership is going to charge you a higher price for this work. In contrast, an auto locksmith can often provide you with more options and complete the programming at a lower price. This can potentially place you in a better position financially.
An independent locksmith may also be more likely to troubleshoot any additional problems occuring with your key and help point you in the right direction faster. At Able Lock Shop, answering your needs is at the heart of our business and getting your key fob working well quickly is our top priority.
Can I program my own key fob?
When learning how much to program a key fob, you might end up considering if you can program a key fob yourself. It actually IS possible to do. Depending on the type of key fob you have, there are a few steps to follow. It usually involves turning your car on, pressing buttons to lock windows and doors, and double pressing some keys while waiting for the fob to reprogram itself to match your car.
These steps work for some key fobs but may not be the answer for all. In addition, this type of reprogramming doesn’t always allow you to use the fob to open your car from a distance and you may find it only works when you’re standing right next to your car or door. Contacting a locksmith to do the work for you helps guarantee you’ve covered all your bases and the work is done right.
How to know you can trust your locksmith
Because a locksmith is dealing with the keys to your business or car, you obviously need to trust them. Unfortunately, there are bad actors out there who will pose as a locksmith with bad intentions. In order to ensure your locksmith can be trusted, check for a few things. If you’re actually locked out of your home, business, or car, a credible locksmith should ask you for personal ID as proof the vehicle or building is one you should be getting into before trying to hack the lock.
Your locksmith should also be accredited with a local association of locksmiths or be able to provide accurate proof of their credentials. Finally, they should be able to provide you with a quote for service over the phone based on a description of the lock and should never raise the fee once they arrive onsite.