Nowadays most cars no longer have a regular key; instead most of them have an additional electronic security element, the most popular one being a transponder. Other more advanced keys are actually key fobs, which are a 100% electronic key; in other words, there is no more inserting a key and turning like the old days. Also, some cars come along with smart keys; these keys also are completely electronic, similar to a cartridge about the size of a credit card in most cases, simply insert the card in the designated slot and hit the start button! With all that said; how does an auto locksmith cut or program these keys? It seems like the old school locksmith that used to cut keys with his old manual key machine is obsolete.
The idea behind these electronic elements is first and foremost to prevent theft and make car key duplication much more difficult and time consuming. If once it was enough to jam a flat head screwdriver in the ignition and turn the switch with nothing but brute force; then today that won’t get you anywhere, literally. Let’s take an example of a rather popular car and see what the process of making a new key requires; Keep in mind that the process is differs from one car to another. For this example we will discuss a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix; first the locksmith will have to figure out the cuts of the key in order to generate a completely new key from scratch (since you’ve lost your last key). The Grand Prix has a key with 10 cuts also referred to as a 10-cut, the door lock uses only cuts 1 through 8, the ignition and the trunk use cuts 3-10. What this means is that making a key that will work the door will not work the ignition or trunk lock and vice versa.
So in order to cut the key, the locksmith will first have to disassemble either the door or trunk to pull out the cylinder lock. Then he will read the lock and cut a key that will work just that cylinder. If for example he has cut a key for the trunk, now he will have to cut the first two cuts in order for it to work the door, yet the key should work the ignition switch already as they share the same cuts. In order to cut the first two cuts for the door without taking apart the entire door, he can either use special software that can provide him with the possible options or he can use a progression method and try one combination at a time until it turns. In both methods he may have to trash a couple of key blanks.
So now we have a working key; not exactly. Our key is only working on the mechanical level; it will turn the switch but will not start the car. This is because the Grand Prix requires a transponder key. So you’re probably thinking, well, just cut a transponder key and then try starting the car. That won’t work either, although you’re close. Yes, you will have to cut a transponder key, but you will also have to program this key to the car, so the car’s computer recognizes this key, and only then will it allow the car to start. How do you program a transponder key? In this case, you will have to cycle the key in the ignition three times in 10 minute intervals, in other words it takes nearly 30 minutes to program the key. That’s more than what most people would have guessed. The good news is that programming a second key is rather instant. This is why we always offer customers to get a second key while we’re at it, since we’re already there, and most of the hard work has already been done for cutting the first key.