Whether you lost it, it was stolen, or your used vehicle didn’t come with one, a key fob or transponder is a convenience few car owners can live without. Going to a dealership to replace these convenient key items is a hefty expense, costing around $200 for a typical car, and a lot more to replace transponder keys for foreign and luxury vehicles. Aside from convenience, keyless entry fobs and transponder keys provide safety and security features that make replacing your lost or stolen transponder key or keyless entry fob worth the small investment.
If you’ve ever parked in a not-so-well-lit area, you understand the necessity of being able to quickly unlock your car door from a distance as you make your way towards it. If you’ve ever parked in a completely packed parking lot, you understand the sheer convenience of following the sound of your car’s alarm to find it. If you’ve ever had to carry a bulky item, or have hauled groceries out of the store, you understand putting that trunk button to good use on your key fob instead of manually opening the trunk with a key, or opening it by using the latch located inside the vehicle.
These features are commonplace by now, available on just about every car that’s offered in the United States. In fact, they’re so commonplace that most people take them for granted. It isn’t until the battery inside the key fob or transponder dies, or worse, the fob or transponder is lost or stolen, that many people begin to cherish these conveniences. Going from a keyless entry fob or transponder key to a buttonless valet key that (fortunately) will still start and operate the vehicle puts you face to face with the worst inconveniences, and will usually motivate you to get another key fob or transponder key made.
Beyond locking the doors from a distance, replacing your transponder or keyless entry fob can offer many safety features that keep your vehicle safe and can even lower the cost of your insurance premium. For example, when you press the door lock button twice, your car usually beeps at you. This is an indication that the vehicle’s alarm system as been activated, and the alarm will sound if the car is unlocked or accessed in any other way.
The car’s alarm can and will activate itself in due time, but it’s not as immediate as the lock-button feature. While the window for undetected entry is small (often less than 20 seconds), it’s still there. Without the audible beep and quick activation, there’s still a small chance that someone could gain access to your vehicle without your knowing it.
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Another big safety feature that transponders and keyless entry fobs offer is the alarm panic button. When pressed, your vehicle will repeatedly beep and flash its lights until the alarm is deactivated. This is useful in all kinds of situations, from being able to find your car in a jam-packed parking lot, to signaling for help if you’re in dire straits. Even when you’re inside your home, having your keys on your nightstand can be helpful if someone tried to break into your house and you needed a quick way to either scare them off or alert your neighbors.
Transponders allow your vehicle to be started by your key. A key could be cut to perfectly clone your car’s ignition, but if the transponder isn’t programmed properly, your car may turn on some of the electrical components, but it certainly won’t start. The transponder key works by transmitting information via radio waves between the key and the vehicle. Each transponder key has a microchip in it with its own serial number, which the vehicle must recognize within its electronic control unit (ECU) in order to start the vehicle. Depending on the make of the vehicle, transponders may use a rolling code that changes with each use, or use a pin-like security code that matches with the car. In either case, the transponder and key have to be cut and programmed correctly in order to operate the vehicle.
If your car didn’t come with a transponder or keyless entry fob, you’re probably missing out on some really cool vehicle hacks that you can’t utilize without the fob. For example, most Honda model vehicles feature a power window switch that can roll down your windows and open up an equipped sunroof by pressing your lock key once, then pressing it again and holding it.
Got out of the car but forgot to close your sunroof? You don’t have to get back in the car, and turn on the ignition to close it. Simply slide the key into the door and lock it twice, holding the position at the second turn. Your sunroof and any open windows will all close. You can find more tips and tricks in your vehicle owner’s manual.
Note: If you release the unlock button on the key fob or release hold on the lock turn, the windows will stop wherever they are and you’ll have to repeat the process if you want them to be fully open or fully closed.
Some cars have remote starters installed, which allow you to start your car from your key fob or transponder. This feature is really great if you live in a very warm or very cold climate; you can start your car from inside your house and allow it to warm up or cool down for a few minutes before you get in and drive away. Beat the summer heat by remotely starting your vehicle and rolling down the windows to let the locked-in heat escape.