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Can I replace a car key without having the original key?

Updated: Mar 25

People have been losing car keys since cars were first manufactured and sold to the public. You may leave your keys somewhere unusual and forget where you left them. That happens to people all the time. You only realize the true importance of your car keys once they go missing.


Modern car keys are not like ordinary keys. They could be transponder keys or smart keys. Transponder keys are equipped with computer chips and sensory technology that is difficult to duplicate or replace. They prevent thieves and carjackers from hotwiring vehicles like they used to do in the old days.


Smart keys function similarly, but they offer even more technologically advanced features. For instance, the vehicle automatically unlocks the car door when it senses the smart key getting close to it. The driver can even start the ignition without inserting the key. Of course, they need the key to be in their possession.

If you don't have a spare key after your original key goes missing, you might feel panicked about how to get another key. Fortunately, replacing any car key without the original key is possible. So it doesn't matter if you drive a 1991 Nissan Figaro or a 2012 Ford Focus. There are ways to make copies of the original key without having it in your possession.

Older car keys replacement and duplication

Older car keys don't have computer chips. They are strictly mechanical keys made of metal, just like any standard key. If your old car key goes missing, a locksmith can cut a new key for you without the original. As long as they have access to the keyhole of your car door, they can use their special tools to reproduce a new key based on the configuration inside the keyhole. 

Transponder Keys and Smart Keys

If you're like most people today, you have a car that was made after 2010. Newer vehicles typically use either transponder keys or smart keys. Unfortunately, replacing them without the originals will not be as easy as replacing mechanical keys. Your options are to contact the car dealership that sold you the vehicle or contact an auto locksmith.


The car dealership is the easiest option. They supplied you with the original key, so they'll know how to cut and program a new key quickly. Their computers contain all the information about the make and model of your vehicle and programming data for the original key. Based on their records of your original key, it would be easy for them to duplicate a new key.


However, a car dealership will charge you hundreds of dollars to replace your transponder or smart key. You'll also have to tow your vehicle to the car dealership, which increases your costs even more. There is no sense in paying extra for these services when you can get a better deal with an auto locksmith. Auto locksmiths usually charge about 50% less for their crucial duplication services.


Make sure you contact a locksmith who specializes in auto lockouts and duplicating car keys. Unfortunately, not all locksmiths can duplicate transponder and smart keys, so you must choose the right company. It should be a reputable auto locksmith with experience cutting new transponders and smart keys without the originals.


How it Works


The only disadvantage of an auto locksmith is that they will need to be more familiar with the make and model of your vehicle and its locking mechanisms. That is why they might ask you for information about your car before they come out to assist you. It is standard information like the vehicle's VIN and Title of Ownership.


Find the VIN


Every vehicle has the VIN displayed on the dashboard facing the windshield. You don't even need to be inside the car to see it. Look at your windshield's far left or far right side to see the number. The locksmith can help you locate it, too.


Verify Car Ownership


You must have the title certificate readily available. You can order a certified copy of the title from your local DMV office or your state's DMV website. The locksmith will want to verify your ownership of the vehicle first. After all, they certainly don't want to help a thief break into a car that does not belong to them.


Therefore, you'll need to have your title certificate and photo identification ready to prove the vehicle is yours before they duplicate your key without the original.


Towing is Unnecessary


In most cases, your car won't have to be towed anywhere. Emergency auto locksmiths will bring all the necessary "locksmithing" equipment to your home or any other location where your car is parked.


It would help to tell them which type of key you lost, whether it was a transponder or an intelligent key. Don't expect the locksmith to know based on the make and model alone.


Vehicle Database


Auto locksmiths have access to the exact vehicle database as car dealerships. The database stores unique critical code information for every vehicle under their VIN. The locksmith will enter your VIN into the database to retrieve the key code information for your car. It should take, at most, a couple of minutes.


Cut and Program the New Key


Once the locksmith knows how to cut your key correctly, they will program the key code information into it. Then, your new car key should work just fine. The remote-control buttons should also be able to unlock and lock the car doors again.




The locksmith may take longer than a dealership because they must research your vehicle and its key code information. But it is still worth the wait because you will save on their service fees.


Of course, if you feel more comfortable visiting a dealership to get your replacement key, you can always exercise that option. Just be prepared to tow the vehicle and pay extra money for the service. 

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