How to Replace Car Keys

Three Methods:Replacing an Older Car KeyReplacing a New Electronic Car KeyReplacing a Malfunctioning Electric Key

You never realize how valuable your car keys really are until you lose them or they stop working. They’re your ticket to mobility and if they aren’t around, you’re stuck. Luckily if you find yourself in a bind there are plenty of ways to replace a misplaced or malfunctioning car key. Unfortunately, replacing car keys can also be really expensive in some cases – but not all!

Method 1
Replacing an Older Car Key

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    Write down you car's VIN number. This will be necessary in finding someone who will help you replace the key. In most cars, the VIN is located on the driver’s side dashboard and is visible through the window, but it may also be located on a rear wheel well or the front of the engine block, in the trunk or door jam, or on the frame of the car between the carburetor and windshield washer.[1]
    • If you’re not sure where your VIN is on your vehicle you can also look up the number on your car insurance information. It should be in the top left hand corner of each page.
  2. 2
    Write down the year, make, and model of your vehicle. Regardless of which option you pursue to get a new set of car keys you're going to need to find out this information. This information will let you know the specific kind of key that you need to open your vehicle. Remember, keys are supposed to be unique!
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    Call a nearby auto locksmith. This should be your first option. They generally they will give you the best deal on a new key, about half as much as it would cost to get a new key from your manufacturer or dealer. Normally they don’t charge to visit the car either. They’ll open your car and then proceed to make you a new key. While hardware stores aren’t generally equipped to create new car keys (as opposed to simply copying them), locksmiths usually have more sophisticated machinery. The older your vehicle, the better the odds that a locksmith will be able to help you with a replacement key. [2]
    • If you lost a key fob, a good locksmith may be able to help you make a new one – depending on how sophisticated the key was. Additionally, they should be able to help you reprogram the replacement key, though your manual should also have instructions on how to do that. Be sure to bring any other key fobs associated with that vehicle with you, as they sometimes won’t work until the new key is programmed. [3]
  4. 4
    Look for discounted replacement keys / key fobs online. After market keys or even factory replacements can sometimes be found online for less than it would cost you to get them direct from the manufacturer. You may have success with a reputable dealer on eBay, but otherwise look for companies intended specifically to replace car keys. Again, the older the vehicle and simpler the key, the easier it will be to replace. Amazon is a good place to start.

Method 2
Replacing a New Electronic Car Key

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    Check to see if key replacement is covered by your warranty or car insurance. If you have a very new or high-end vehicle the key might not be replaced by anyone but the manufacturer or distributor. In this case, you may be able to get a discount through your warranty. Bring all your car’s information, a valid photo ID, and any other sets of keys you may have to the dealership. Hope for the best!
  2. 2
    Visit your local locksmith. Depending on the sophistication of your car key you may be able to have a new electronic key programmed by a locksmith. Many new car keys have a microchip in them to prevent duplication. However, if you have a key with a transponder in it you can probably get a new one at a locksmith for around $50.00. Manufacturers started using transponders in the 1990’s – they are chips in the head of the key that communicate with the car. If the wrong key is in the ignition, the car will not start. Transponder keys are available at locksmiths, but laser cut keys, switchblade keys, and smart keys all need to be replaced by your dealer. [4]
  3. 3
    Buy an aftermarket replacement car key. Search for ‘aftermarket electronic car keys’ on the Internet and you’ll find plenty of options for replacement electronic car keys. Oftentimes you’ll be able to get a new car key for 75 % less than what the dealer would charge you. Enter your vehicle’s VIN number on the website and check to see if they have an aftermarket key for your car available.
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    Get a new set of keys from your dealer. This will cost you upwards of $200. [5] However, if you just want a key that you know will work and you want to get it quickly and easily this is not a bad option. Visit your local dealer – if it’s a Honda, go to a Honda dealership, if it's a Ford go to a Ford dealership, etc..
  5. 5
    Program your new key to your car. you can program them to your specific car without a special technician. The instructions are usually included with the new key, but your owner’s manual will be very helpful in this situation. Depending on the car, reprogramming usually involves opening and closing the doors and/or turning lights and other electronics on and off. You press a series of buttons like a code, basically.

Method 3
Replacing a Malfunctioning Electric Key

  1. 1
    Wait. Sometimes extreme heat or cold weather can cause your electric key to stop working properly. Also if you go on a run with your key in hand the sweat can work it’s way in there and cause some issues. Let your key rest for a little while before you pay money to replace it. It might come back to life.
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    Reset all your keys. A key fob may stop working properly after a change or repair to your car’s electrical systems (such as replacing the battery, for example). Find the owner’s manual for your particular car (or hunt one down online) and reset all the keys according to the instructions provided.
  3. 3
    Replace the battery. If you notice your key working poorly over the span of a few days it might be the battery dying. A replacement battery for a key fob is usually inexpensive and can be found online or at an auto-locksmith. Make sure you have the make, model, year, and VIN number of the car. Most batteries should be simple enough for you to replace yourself. You unscrew the Philips screw at the back of the key, remove the old battery, and put the new one in. Voila! [6]
    • You can also go straight to the dealer or manufacturer, but this may be more expensive, especially if they charge for labor when they install the new battery. Check your car’s warranty to see if battery replacement is covered.
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    Reprogram the key. If you don’t want to do this yourself, you can get help from some locksmiths or even the car’s dealership, but the simplest solution is usually to follow the instructions provided in your owner’s manual. Normally the reset involves pressing a series of buttons in a certain order but it’s different for every car. [7] Check your owners manual.


  • Only get a new key from the dealer as a last resort. It will be at least twice as expensive as other options.
  • Always read your owners manual on how to reprogram the keys of your specific car. Don’t try to guess.
  • If you’re locked out of your car and you need a new key immediately call your car insurance company or roadside assistance. If you left your keys inside they can open up your car for you.

Article Info

Categories: Car Maintenance and Repair