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While electronic car keys are a convenient way of unlocking and using your car as well as keeping it protected from thieves, it can be a little complicated figuring out how to program them in the first place. However, learning exactly how to do this is imperative as not only is having a car stolen incredibly frustrating and upsetting, cars are ultimately one of the most expensive things we own after our homes. It makes sense to do all you can to ensure that it stays safe. It’s also good to learn how to reprogram car key replacements should you lose an original.

Many car keys and key fobs are actually very easy to program, as this article on car key reprogramming demonstrates. The first few times you are learning how to program a car key yourself, just ensure that you have these steps to car key coding and car key programming by your side and you’ll be an expert key programmer in no time.

There are a few methods that you can employ when learning how to program a car key yourself. Have a read through all of them before deciding which one is best for you.

Woman inserting car key

Method 1: Car Key Programming

The first step is to get into your car and sit in the driver’s seat at the front as you will need to have easy access to your car’s ignition so that you can program your car key to your car’s systems. Some cars will require two working keys if you are trying to program a third key.

For more exact guidance on this, consult your owner manual as well as looking up your car’s make and model online for any information regarding how to program a car key for your exact car. The reason being is that so many new cars have electronic keys that are installed with transponders that work to make your car harder to steal and they may have to be programmed by your dealership or a registered locksmith.

Insert one of your already programmed keys into your car’s ignition. You will need to insert it and leave it there for a moment or two. Have the other keys you want to program in one of your hand’s ready to start the car key programming. Ensure that you remember which key is programmed out of the two, and which key isn’t.

Turn the key in the ignition one turn so the car is switched on, but the motor is not running. Then turn the car off again. This means you have turned on your car’s systems without running the engine. Turning the key back again ensures the car is off.

Repeat step three with the other key that is programmed. This means that you have to turn the car on and off again using the other key that has also been programmed for your car already. Make sure you don’t turn the engine on and remember to turn the key back again to turn off the electronic systems in your car.

Now simply insert the key that you need to reprogram. Work quickly as you will only have a few seconds for this method to work in car key reprogramming. In all you will have about 10 seconds on average. You need to turn the third key to switch on your car’s electronic systems again and then turn it back, switching them off. Once you have turned the key back, leave the third key, the one you are car key programming, in the ignition.

In a few moments, a security light should turn on. Wait until you see this light. It should be on your car’s dash. It will light up for a few seconds and that’s it. If your third, blank car key has them, press the buttons on your key that you want to program for the future.

Remove the third key and test to see if you have managed car key reprogramming successfully or not.

car key

Method 2: Programming an Electronic Key Fob

Before following any of the steps below, it is a good idea to give your car owner manual a quick read so that you have been able to digest all the information you have available to you. It may sound like overkill, but your owner manual is a great source of information for everything pertaining to your car given its make, model and manufacturer.

To learn how to program a car key that is in the form of a key fob, turn the ignition on while sitting in the driver’s seat with your key fob and ensure that all your car’s doors are closed. If you have a key as well as a fob, put that in the ignition to turn your car on. Either way, ensure that your car’s engine is not running.

Have your remote handy and hit the lock button. While doing so, ensure that you have pointed the remote at your transmission receiver if possible. It is not always made clear where a car’s transmission receive is. It should be somewhere in the front half of your car – often it is just above your driver mirror. If in doubt, point your remote to the front of the car, and you should be well set. Try to ensure that you press the lock button within seconds of turning the key in the ignition slot.

Now turn the key to switch the car off. Take the key out straight away to do so and move quickly to step four.

Repeat this process by programming other key fobs as the majority of cars will actually wipe all other fobs once another has been reprogrammed. To do so, carefully follow the steps 1 to 3 above. This means turning the ignition off and hitting the lock button on the next fob you want to program and then turn off the car again.

It is necessary to work quickly as otherwise, your car will stop thinking it is in programming mode. If you wait too long before reprogramming each key fob, the car will not program your fob correctly and you will need to start the process all over again.

Often, if you hear the locks on your car moving, you have reprogrammed a fob successfully.

When you have programmed all fobs, start the process again one last time. To do so, turn the car on (without the engine) by putting your key in the ignition. Then hit the lock button on your very first key fob. You should definitely hear your car’s locks turning at this point to show that you have been successful.

Do this on all your key fobs to ensure that you have programmed them all correctly. Hearing the locks on each and every key fob means that you have done so.

Modern Car Ignition Keys

Method 3: Key Replacement

For key replacement and the subsequent car key programming you will first need to get a blank key. This can be done by ordering one through your dealership or even just ordering a blank key online. Shop around to ensure you get the best price as blank keys can vary hugely in price. Regardless of price, it is imperative to purchase a blank key that will work for your car. Before purchasing, double check your exact car make and model in your owner’s manual if you are at all unsure of it. Additionally, it is good to note that if you have an old key from a car that is the same make and model of your new car, this won’t be able to be reprogrammed to your latest vehicle.

Another good point to note is that sadly very new make cars often cannot have their key fobs or keys programmed by anyone other than dealerships or registered locksmiths.

Dial the number of your locksmith or dealership. Your electronic key will have the previously mentioned transponder chip inside which may let you unlock your car, but it probably won’t let you start the engine itself. For this to happen, you need to speak with your dealer or locksmith.

They will ask you for your vehicle identification number. This is found on your car’s official documentation. It will be alongside all key details like the registration number, your insurance policy or the vehicle title. The Vehicle Identification Number may even be seen through the windshield on the right of your car’s dash.

Show your documentation of ownership to your dealer or locksmith. They will be able to authorise your car key’s programming.

The Bottom Line

As shown, car key programming is straightforward once you know the steps, but it can be quite fiddly at first when you are learning how to program a car key yourself. To become a key programmer expert takes practice so don’t beat yourself up if you car key reprogramming does not go well at first. Car key coding is not meant to be easy to do from everyone’s first attempt in an effort to keep your car as safe from thieves as possible.

 Sources:

  1. 3 Ways to Program a Car Key – WikiHow
  2. How Remote Entry Works – HowStuffWorks

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