Your Guide to Car Key Types

You may think of your car key as just a hunk of metal that you need to get around. And yet, there is a surprising variety of keys styles in use today. If you have a lost key fob or are looking for any key upgrade, here are just a few options on the market today:

  1. Basic Car Keys – Most older cars on the road just have a standard, machine-cut metal key that turns the ignition, locks the driver door, and sometimes opens the trunk. Though cheap and easy to duplicate, basic car keys offer few security features. Many car owners buy and program a key fob using an auto key programming service. An electric key fob attachment allows basic keys to also use an alarm system and distance lock to help prevent vehicle theft. However, a new key fob a can be expensive to buy, and you might need a remote programming locksmith to reprogram key fobs.
  2. Switchblade Keys – Though they sound violent, switchblade keys are not bladed weapons for parking lot self-defense. A switchblade key is simply a key that folds into a key handle, and pops open when a button is pressed, much like a switchblade knife. An auto locksmith can replace either the key or the handle should a switchblade key break, but this type of key replacement costs a bit more than basic car keys.
  3. Transponder Keys – Transponder keys, used since 1995, are common in many vehicles today. These keys are built with a microchip that only allows a specific key to interact with a specific car that has the right sensor installed, increasing the vehicle’s security.
  4. Smart Keys – Smart keys have advanced remote programming locks that allow the operator to unlock and even start the car without turning the ignition. With the push of a button, smart keys can start the vehicle if it is in the vicinity. Smart keys are excellent for preventing theft since they often offer rolling code transponders. However, due to their complexity, they are difficult and expensive to replace. An auto key programming service can replace and reprogram smart keys. However, many vehicles with smart keys also have mechanical keys and key fob combinations as a backup system.

Years of innovation have made car keys what they are today, and more security changes are likely on the horizon. Even if thumbprint scanners or numbered codes become common, mechanical keys may always be a dependable backup for when technology glitches.

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