The process of replacing car keys varies according to the age of the vehicle and the type of key needed to enter and start the car. With an older vehicle, a car owner may be able to get a duplicate key made from a spare key that he has around the house or that belongs to another member of his family. Many modern vehicles, however, use keys that have additional security features, such as an embedded computer chip. If a person's car uses this type of key, she may be restricted to ordering her keys from her car dealership or from a locksmith who has specialized equipment to make the duplicate key. Unfortunately, these new keys can be far more expensive to buy than standard car keys that do not contain what are known in the industry as a passive anti-theft system (PATS).
If a person has an older car, replacing car keys may be a matter of visiting his local locksmith. The easiest solution, of course, is to to bring in an extra set of keys and to ask the locksmith to duplicate them. Many people find that a professional locksmith can do a better job of duplicating a key then a clerk in a hardware store, so paying the extra money for professional locksmith services may be worth it. If an extra set of keys cannot be located, the locksmith may be able to re-key the car so that a driver can continue using it.
On the other hand, if keys are lost to a newer car that contains a transponder, simply copying the key won't work because the car's ignition has been programmed to to engage only when it senses the computer chip in the key. In such cases, options for replacing car keys include working with the dealership or finding one that has access to the necessary technology for replacing keys for new cars. As not all locksmiths are capable of producing this type of key, it may be in a car owner's best interest to contact locksmiths in her area while she still has her keys and asking if they are capable of replacing car keys for the vehicle. By doing this, a car owner will know whom he can contact if he loses his keys.
Whether someone goes to a dealership or to a locksmith, he should be prepared to bring his vehicle information number (VIN), photo identification, and possibly some type of documentation that shows that he actually owns the car. The locksmith or the dealership will use a person's VIN number to identify the key that she needs to enter and operate her car. If a car uses very sophisticated technology, a person may be forced to wait for duplicate keys and so may need to make arrangements for alternate transportation while the car is out of commission.