How to Replace Any Lost Key or Key Fob

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How to Replace Any Lost Key or Key Fob

There is nothing worse than losing your car key except, maybe, having a keyless car with a dead key fob. Unfortunately, both scenarios happen more often than any car owner would care to admit. Replacing a lost key used to be a simple matter of calling up a locksmith, but nowadays, there are multiple types of car keys and fobs, and how you replace them varies based on the key.

If all of this information has you confused, don’t worry. Keep reading for a breakdown that simplifies how to identify and replace any lost key or key fob for your vehicle.

Types of Car Keys and Fobs

Before going off to replace your lost car keys, you’ll want to identify what kind of key you require. Typically, you can expect a car key to fall into one of the five below categories:

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Traditional Car Keys

Traditional car keys are typically the easiest kind of lost car key to replace. These types of keys usually come with older model vehicles and occasionally new base model vehicles. Traditional car keys do not have a remote. You can have a general locksmith cut a new key for your vehicle.

Laser-Cut Car Keys

Consider laser-cut car keys as the upgraded version of the traditional car key. But, unlike traditional car keys, laser-cut keys feature a chip programmed to open only one vehicle. Laser-cut keys are generally sturdier than standard ones because of their thicker design and material. If you lose a laser-cut key, getting a replacement will be more expensive and time-consuming than a traditional key.

Car Key Fobs with Ignition Key

Most vehicles driven today have at least a key fob and ignition key combo. Newer and more expensive cars typically come with a push start or keyless variation of the fob. The car key and fob combo use a transmitter remote built into the fob that allows users to unlock, lock, and arm their vehicle from a short distance away. Any fob with a remote will cost more than a laser or traditional car key.

Key Fob with Remote Start and Keyless Entry

With the advent of remote starts and push start engines in cars, key fobs have been upgraded. Many new vehicles from the last ten years come with only a remote fob, without an ignition key - instead, the car has only a push start button. Remote fobs without ignition keys can prove troublesome if the fob is lost since there is no backup ignition key to unlock the vehicle.

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Cost to Replace Different Types of Lost Car Keys

Unfortunately, there is a wide variation in the prices of replacing lost car keys. The brand and type of key will play a role in its replacement cost. You can usually estimate the price of a key replacement as follows:

Why Are Replacement Car Keys So Expensive?

When it comes to the price of replacement car keys, multiple factors dictate the overall cost.

How Long Does Replacing a Lost Key Fob Take?

Replacing a lost key fob can take as little as twenty minutes to over an hour, depending on the type of key. The exact length of time also depends on whether you have proof of ownership; a dealership or locksmith can’t code a key to a vehicle without proof of ownership. Until you have proof of ownership with you, the replacement process can’t begin.

Lower-Cost Key Fob Options

Now that you know the cost of key fobs can climb above a few hundred dollars, you are no doubt wondering if there are ways to save money in the process. In some cases, yes, you can find discounts and lower-cost key fob options, including:

After Market Fobs

After-market fobs generally only exist for cars that have been around for at least a decade. Newer vehicles usually won’t have after-market products available. However, just like new key fobs, only certain fobs work with specific vehicles. You’ll need to know the make, model, brand, and VIN of your vehicle before looking for an after-market fob. Any fob you select needs to match those specifications exactly in order to work for your vehicle. You can usually find a wide variety of after-market fobs online.

Warrantied Fobs

Some car warranties cover key fob replacement. How much your warranty covers may vary; some warranties cover the entire cost of the replacement, while others cover a partial amount. You’ll want to read through your warranty closely; not all car warranties cover car fob replacements.

Fobs From Locksmiths

Locksmiths typically charge less than dealers for key fob replacements. Call up a local locksmith and find out if they can replace a fob from your specific vehicle. Just keep in mind that newer vehicles may have technology locksmiths don’t have. Additionally, some vehicle brands require buyers to use a certified dealer for car key replacements.

Not All Fobs Have Lower-Cost Options Available

Unfortunately, not all key fobs have a lower-cost alternative available. Newer vehicles, especially those made within the last ten years, usually have to go through dealerships for key replacement, mainly due to the coding complexity of new keys. Additionally, some higher-end brands like Mercedez and Lincoln’s usually require only dealerships to replace key fobs, which means discounts are seldom and far between for those key fobs.

Key Fob Programming

Replacing key fobs would be a lot easier if the owner could program the key themselves. But, key fobs have specific coding that requires a locksmith or car dealer with the right technology to replace them. Long story short, a key fob won’t work unless it is programmed correctly, and only a locksmith or car dealer can do that.

Key Fob Battery Replacement

If you haven’t lost a key fob, but the fob has died, you can usually replace the battery yourself. Most auto body stores sell replacement batteries for key fobs. If, for some reason, your key fob uses a hard-to-find or very specific battery, a car dealership selling your make and model of vehicle will likely carry the battery in stock.

Accessing and Driving Your Car When The Key Fob Is Dead

If your key fob has died and your car doesn’t use an ignition switch, chances are you won’t be able to access your vehicle. Such a situation can be extremely troublesome, but the good news is that most car manufacturers build a failsafe method to start a car in such situations.

Hidden Ignition Switch and Key

Some vehicle models with a push start or keyless entry provide a hidden key in the fob that pairs with a discrete ignition switch in the car’s steering column. Check if your fob has a small catch or button to push - if so, it may conceal an emergency key. If your car has a spare key built into the fob, unlock your vehicle and check for a slot in the steering column for your key.

Fob to Push Start

In some instances, a key fob that won’t work from a short distance will have enough power to work when pressed against the vehicle lock. If that doesn’t work, resort to the final option listed below.

Remote Unlock Services or Emergency Locksmith

Many new vehicles have the option of a remote unlocking service offered by the manufacturer. If you are locked out of your vehicle, try calling the Help phone line of the manufacturer and requesting a remote unlock. If your vehicle doesn’t have that option, it’s time to call a locksmith. Just remember that the locksmith will need proof of ownership to get you a replacement key.

Keep a Spare Key in a Safe Place

Because lost car keys and dead key fobs are such a common occurrence in today’s world, it’s a spare around in a safe location. Where should you keep the spare? Well, definitely don’t keep it in your car - that risks someone breaking into the car and having a way to drive off with the vehicle. Instead, keep it someplace well hidden but easily described in case of an emergency where you need someone to bring you the spare key.