Can A Transponder Key Go Bad?

A transponder key is a recent invention that has become an integral feature of automobile security. It was first launched in 1996 to increase automotive security and anti-theft systems. This is why vehicle manufacturers have adopted these types of keys as industry standards. But, can a transponder key become faulty? We've researched how transponder keys work to find the answer for you.

Transponder keys can fail and pose complications for car owners at times. This is especially troubling since many transponder keys also serve as a car's security measure, which means that if your key malfunctions, you risk being locked out!

Now that we know transponder keys can go bad, let's find out why. Keep reading as we discuss how transponder keys work and help you troubleshoot if your key fails. 

A man holding a transponder key, Can A Transponder Key Go Bad?

The Most Common Indications of a Faulty Transponder Key

The most common indication that your transponder key is about to malfunction is when it sometimes starts the car yet sometimes doesn’t. Once this occurs, you have to get a new car key. We've listed other detailed indications below.

Unlocking Problems

While the immobilizer does not directly interact with the automotive system, there may be a problem with the entire car key, causing issues with both locking and starting the vehicle.

One of the first signs that there is a problem with the transponder key is that you may not be able to unlock your car, nor will it unlock the immobilizer.

While this is becoming more of an issue as vehicles no longer always have a keyed lock on the door, many vehicles still offer both – you just need to know how to disassemble your key fob to access the physical door key. 

Problems Locking Your Car (Push Start)

Similarly, to the previous symptom, you will most likely be unable to lock your doors with your smart key if you are also unable to unlock them.

The only way to lock your doors without a working smart key or key fob is to lock them from the inside while the doors are open and then close the doors. The issue with this is that you run the risk of leaving your car keys inside with no way to get them out. 

Engine is hard to start

A common symptom of an automotive engine problem is that your vehicle will not start at all. If it weren't for the locking control system issues, there could be a variety of reasons why your engine won't start.

However, if you experience these issues and your engine refuses to start, you clearly have issues with either your immobilizer or the smart key itself.

Key in ignition does not turn

If your car key has a physical key that you must insert into the ignition and turn and it does not budge, the transponder chip inside the key fob base may be faulty. It's not sending the security code to the car immobilizer for some reason.

This is frequently due to water damage (water + electronics do not mix) or actual chip breakage as a result of the fob falling or being crushed. Make sure you're using the correct key fob for the car before ordering a replacement key.

On and off of emergency signal

If the car distress signal suddenly sounds and you do nothing, or the alarm sounds suddenly, the car keys on the transponder may not be working properly. In many cases, using keys other than transponders can activate the car's alert system. This is an additional security measure that warns you if someone attempts to gain unauthorized access to your vehicle. 

If you notice an alarm sounding immediately after inserting the key into the lock or ignition, you should consider whether the transponder is the cause of the problem.

Will a car start without a transponder key?

There are two types of car keys, a remote key and a transponder key. A remote key has two levels of security, both of which lock and unlock the car door.

The first way a remote key can do this is to insert the key into the car door lock. The second uses a radio frequency, which unlocks the car remotely by pressing a button on the remote control.

The difference between a remote key and a transponder key is that a transponder key has an additional level of security compared to its counterpart. This means that a transponder key not only has the two levels of security like the remote key, but also contains an additional third layer of security at the top.

An electronic chip is embedded inside the key that can connect to the signal from the ignition locks. So unless the unique digital serial number in the key and the ignition match, the engine will not start.

Transponder keys have an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip embedded in the key's head. The RFID chip in the vehicle's ignition gives an added degree of security.

They make hot wiring or breaking the ignition lock useless, which helps deter and prevent car theft. The automobile will not start if the microchip in the key is not detected. If it goes faulty, there are many ways to fix it.

How do you know if your key needs to be reprogrammed?

If you have problems with your immobilizer or transponder, the first thing to do is to replace the key fob battery. This only applies to vehicles with push-start ignition, but these issues are much more common with this type of ignition system.

If this does not resolve the issue, you will need to obtain a new key from your dealer. If the vehicle problem is with the transponder or immobilizer, you will need to buy a new immobilizer or key and reprogram it so that you can't expect everything to work.

How much does it cost to reprogram a key?

The cost of programming car keys may vary depending on the make and model year of the vehicle and whether you are taking it to your local car dealership or locksmith. Car key programming ranges from $ 50 to $ 500. The dealership tends to be your local auto locksmith most expensive.

Warning: Do not DIY the reprogramming of your transponder key. YouTube and other video and internet references offer information on how to step-by-step program your transponder keys. You still have to seek professional advice to avoid more damage.

Final Thoughts

Although having a car with a transponder key is more secure against thieves than a regular remote key, there is nothing you can do to completely protect your car from theft. Always remember to close all car windows, make sure all doors are locked, and always pay attention to where you park your car.

If you're looking for other technical details for your specific transponder key, these articles might interest you:

Honda Odyssey Not Recognizing Key – What To Do?

What Size Battery Does A Nissan Key Fob Take? [And How To Change It]

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