The humble car key has long since disappeared. Even back in the 1990’s the simple metal bladed key began to have electronics inserted into it. Thrown into the mix was the remote control to lock and unlock the car. The reason for these advancements were primarily security and convenience.
During the 1980’s and 90’s, car theft began to dramatically increase. As a way to prevent this, manufacturers installed security systems that included tiny transmitters inside the key. These security chips would communicate with electronic components installed into the ignition lock assembly and then with computers that allowed the car to start and run, preventing “hot wiring” by joy riding car thieves. Ford called their systems Smartlock and Smart Shield.
Remote controls that locked and unlocked the doors were either inbuilt into a larger key head or were a separate unit. As time has passed, nearly all keys and remotes were combined into one unit. Many had numerous buttons that locked/unlocked the car, opened the boot or activated a panic button. If you had a Holden VZ Commodore, you’ll never forget the size of that key.
Most new cars, now have proximity keys that don’t require you to press any buttons to open the car. If the key is within a specific distance to the car, it will unlock the doors, allow you to open the boot or tailgate by waving your foot under the rear bumper bar and also start the car without inserting it into any steering wheel lock assembly. Maybe one day our smart phones or smart watches will be able to do all this.
Can remotes and keys be replaced?
Most remotes can be replaced, especially the housing and buttons on older styles. On earlier security system versions, a manual procedure would allow you to reprogram a new key and or remotes to the vehicle but newer vehicles require specific equipment and software programs to do this. The security around reprogramming is complex and necessary to prevent car theft and key cloning. Your A Grade specialist will be able to assist you.
There are many variations to keys, remotes and proximity keys and with this comes differing replacement costs – some are incredibly expensive. It always pays to take care of your keys;
- don’t let infants put them in their mouths
- don’t drop or throw them around
- keep them secure
- never keep the spare key/remote in the car and
- get your A Grade specialist to change the internal battery, if possible, in the key or remote as part of your service
In some instances if all the keys are lost or not working, lock assemblies, computer modules and the keys need to be replaced together. This can run into the thousands of dollars.
What else can these new keys do?
A number of luxury vehicles, Audi included, provided a “valet key” used for valet parking or when servicing. This plastic key was often stored in the glovebox in a specifically designed spare key holder and is why so many Audis were targeted by car thieves. This practice has now stopped.
BMW and MINI use the key to store the servicing history of the car. This data is downloaded through a key reader, updated by the service centre and then uploaded to the cloud. BM Tech is one of the limited independent specialists across Australia who have the capability to access and upload service data on BMWs and Minis after a service has been completed.
On many higher spec cars, the remotes can be programmed to the individual and will automatically adjust seat, steering and mirror settings as well as change the radio to the favourite station. A fantastic innovation to stop the arguments over who changed the seat, mirrors and radio – simply have your own remote and program it to your preferences for when you drive.