Keeping up with the cars
Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 10:05PM
Today's Locksmith

I was out at the rail yard the other morning and had a few extra minutes to look at some of the 2010 year model vehicles I had not seen yet. There is one manufacturer that has a 2011 model on the ground waiting for the new year to turn over before taking the wraps off.

At this point it appears that it's going to take additional investment in tools and software to be ready to service the keys and remotes on this new gang of vehicles. Pushbutton start systems are becoming more common all the time. At first glance you would think that would make our job easier, but looking further it becomes clear that eliminating the traditional key makes it more, not less complicated to secure the vehicle.

Most of the current keyless vehicles are not completely keyless. Most all have at least one if not multiple locks securing the vehicles, and keys, albeit hidden within pocket prox fobs that are available to unlock the vehicle in the case of a dead vehicle battery or a failed electronic security component. In the absence of a regularly used physical key, there must be a means of allowing access to the vehicle to authorized drivers while securing the vehicle from everyone else.

Many of these autos use what is known as a prox (proximity) system to accomplish this. The vehicle has a series of exterior and interior antennas that communicate with the prox fob that usually remains in the drivers pocket or purse. as the driver approaches the vehicle, one or more of the external antenna's begins communication with the prox fob carried by the driver. The car goes into pre-unlock mode and awaits the drivers signal to unlock the door, usually accomplished by the driver touching a button on the door handle. Once inside, communication is handed off to the interior antennas, and the vehicle understands that the driver has entered the car. Now the vehicle control system is waiting and ready for the driver to touch the start button to bring the engine to life. At this point, the driver comfort system may begin to make adjustments according to the driver that the current prox fob is registered to. This may include the seating position, mirror positions, favorite radio station, temperature setting, steering wheel tilt, pedal positions, and more. To sum it up, not only do the new keyless cars still have keys, but they have much much more as well.

When we get involved in replacing lost keys for these vehicles, we usually need to begin by making the traditional mechanical key and then proceed on to choosing the correct prox transmitter for the vehicle in question and begin the electronic initialization procedure to match the prox to the vehicle as well as setting customer options and preferences. This procedure is done with handheld electronic scan tools and in some cases laptop or touch screen computers connected to the vehicles on board diagnostic port by way of a J2534 interface device. These tools are specialized, expensive, and driven by software that changes frequently.

While it may seem that it should cost less to service these cars, once you look closely you can see that not only does it require making a mechanical key and an electronic key, but it also requires tools that run thousands of dollars vs hundreds of dollars. These tools require frequent software updates that are quite expensive as well. Some of the tools require continuous subscriptions to the vehicle manufactures data services also. At Keys For My Car. we are committed to keeping up with these changes in equipment and procedures to keep our customers on the road.


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