A quick guide to replacing transponder keys

Losing your car keys can be a frustrating experience, especially when you have to wait to get new keys made. Considering how quickly house keys can be replaced, many Australians wonder why getting a new set of car keys takes longer. The answer lies in the same technology that helps protect your car from theft. 

Vehicle immobilisers and transponder keys

All new vehicles in Australia are fitted with an immobiliser to keep the engine from starting. The immobiliser can only be disabled by the presence of a matching transponder. This small device is located in the car key or its fob; when the ignition is activated, it sends out a small pulse that activates the transponder. The transponder sends out an identifying signal, which the immobiliser checks. If it's the right transponder, the immobiliser then lets the engine start. The whole process happens so quickly it's barely noticeable, but it makes a big difference to the car's security. 

Effects of automotive transponder keys

Transponder keys and immobilisers are a significant deterrent to vehicle theft; cars with these systems are stolen much less often than their older counterparts. Between 2001 -- the year when immobilisers became compulsory -- and 2015, auto theft numbers across Australia fell by more than half. However, the security benefits come with a small drawback; the advanced technology in a transponder key does mean that creating a replacement requires more than just a physical replacement for the key itself -- a new transponder must be programmed with the vehicle's unique code. 

Replacing a transponder key

The best way to avoid being off the road while replacement keys arrive is simply to have a spare set of keys already made. Keep an extra car key at home or leave it with a trusted neighbour or relative so that you can get into your car if you lose your keys or they stop working. Your car dealer can create a replacement transponder key for you, but you can also get keys from other places. Some garages may also provide replacement key services, as may your locksmith. An auto locksmith can often create a new transponder key for you faster and less expensively than an official dealer. Programming the key itself is relatively straightforward, but your dealer or locksmith may need to order the necessary parts, so allow some time to get your key replaced. Once you have your new key, you'll be able to get back on the road quickly if you need to.