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Car Key Remote & Transponder Key - What is the Difference?

Car Key Remote & Transponder Key

You most likely have both a car key remote and transponder key for your car, find out the differences between the two, and their purposes.

car key remoteMost of the cars that we drive today come with either a car key remote, transponder key, or both.  While these keys look rather similar, their functions are quite different. Once you have learned about what makes each unique, you can better understand both their functions, as well as how each can benefit you.  Rather than sitting down with instructional manuals that no one understands, perhaps even the guys who write them, allow us, your professional, always available, locksmiths to help you understand these devices and how to unravel the not so mysterious mysteries behind each.

What is a Remote Car Key and How Does it Work?

Remote car keys can perform a wide variety of tasks, depending on the features with which your remote key has been programmed. Remote car keys, by definition, are meant to be used at a distance from your vehicle, often a maximum of 50 to 70 or 80 feet away.  Remote car keys offer drivers exceptional convenience, particularly during bad weather or days when you are simply overwhelmed and overloaded with things to carry.

While remote car keys cannot drive your car for you (give it a little more time!), they can help you open your car doors with just the touch of a button.  Based on some pretty advanced technology, remote car keys communicate with your vehicle through frequencies that are transmitted between the key and your car’s ignition. In a particularly expensive car and remote key models, both the key and the car’s ignition can facilitate the opening of not only your car doors, but fuel tank, windows, and trunk.  

In order for both to work and communicate properly with one another, you must stay within a designated service area, if you will, between your car and its remote   While the codes that allow for frequency transmission between cars and their remotes are very secure, they are not impenetrable. With a solid amount of sound and savvy tech knowledge, a would-be thief can intercept your car’s code by interrupting the flow of frequencies it shares with your remote.  The good news is that rolling or jumping codes, understood loosely as systems in which frequencies change automatically, specifically to avoid interruptions or code interceptions, are built into these devices. So while there is never a guarantee against car theft, these rolling or jumping codes make it much harder for thieves to intercept your code and ultimately, drive off in your car.

Transponder Keys and Their Functions

Transponder keys sound like a pretty high tech deal, but that is because they are.  This nifty gadget is a combination of both a transmitter and responder (pretty clever how they got the name to reflect that, right!) and holds the codes and frequencies required for communication with your car, in a built-in a microchip.  This chip is protected by a hard plastic coating that sits atop the key, right around where it is typically gripped.

The information stored in this microchip includes a serial number that is ingrained in both your key and your car’s ignition.  The genius behind transponder keys is that even with the encrypted frequencies that are shared between devices, the only way they work and allow your vehicle to work is when they are placed directly into your car’s ignition.  What this does, this ability to drive only if the transponder key is placed in its rightful position is disallowed anyone who does not have the key from stealing it. Certainly, and as stated earlier, there must be a level of communication over various frequencies in order for this device to work.  But with all of that, transponder keys must still be physically placed into the ignition in order to get your car to move. That is a pretty incredible anti-theft system right there.

Transponder and Remote Car Key Considerations

Many cars come equipped with remote and transponder keys alike, so choosing one over the other is not really the issue.  Still, the keys you use ultimately have to be the ones that are right for you, your car, and your driving needs. Here, we take a look at what differentiates these devices and how they can work in unison to become the most efficient keys around.  Because some of the differences are so striking in comparison, it is no wonder that these keys work best when they work together.

  • Cost

  • Security

  • Convenience

  • Service needs

  • Technology

Cost: Transponders are definitely pricier than remote car keys specifically because of the level of encryption and security they offer. Remote car keys are designed with security in mind, but value convenience above all else.

Security: Transponders act as anti-theft devices simply because you must physically place them in the ignition in order for your car to work.  This prevents cars from being hotwired or stolen in the absence of that placement. Remote car keys can open and lock doors and windows, but do not prevent cars from being stolen in quite the same way.

Convenience: The ability to be able to click a button and have your doors unlock without so much as touching them, is pretty amazing. Remote car keys win in this department, hands down.  Transponder keys do not offer this level of convenience.

Service needs: Because they are more expensive, transponder keys, whether they need to be replaced or reproduced, require specific servicing whether by a car dealership or specially trained locksmith.  Remote car keys are less specialized, cheaper, and can be reproduced in more locales.

Technology: Remote car keys use unencrypted frequencies that can be intercepted despite rolling codes.  Transponders, on the other hand, require key- to- ignition contact and engage encrypted frequencies in order to work.  

We are available to help you with all your car security needs. Give us a call and our locksmiths will help you with your car, keys, and security system!

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