The Dangers of Proximity Keys and Push to Start Cars

The remote proximity key – also known as “keyless entry” – allows you to open your vehicle and start it without touching the electronic key fob, a small device that transmits a code to a computer in the car when in close range. In vehicles with keyless, push-button ignition, the fob is recognized by the vehicle to authorize its operation. The fob can stay in the driver’s pocket or purse, as the ignition switch is a button on the dash.

This increasingly common technology has become a part of everyday cars, not just luxury models as it once was. Some car manufacturers even have smartphone apps, whose functions include remote starting.

While keyless entry and push-button ignition technology is convenient, it is not without dangers. In fact, a recent New York Times report found proximity keys could be partially responsible for dozens of fatalities in the United States.

The article tells the story of a Florida man who drove his SUV into his home garage and entered his house with the key fob, believing that the car was turned off. About 30 hours later, the man was found dead, having been killed by the carbon monoxide that engulfed his home while he was asleep. According to the Times, the man was among at least 25 people who were killed by carbon monoxide in the  United States since 2006, after a keyless-ignition vehicle was accidentally left running in a garage.

Safety watchdog groups have documented instances of drivers pushing the button to stop the engine before putting the vehicle in park, allowing their vehicle to roll away. Many car systems emit warnings or even shut down after the driver exits the car, and the fob is detected leaving with them. You could leave the fob in the car’s cup holder, for example, then after you exit, the vehicle doesn’t know to turn off.

Hybrid cars pose problems as well. They are very quiet when in electric mode – which they are often in when sitting still after parking. A driver can assume the car is shut down because the engine isn’t running. However, the vehicle may not be truly off. The engine could restart itself, to adjust the climate control, for instance, and therefore send carbon monoxide into the home. Make sure that whenever you enter your home,  any car parked in the garage is shut off. Being extra careful about this can prevent a tragedy.

Allow the Experts to Duplicate or Replace Your Fob or Key

If you need a new key or fob for your vehicle, you need a highly skilled and trained professional to ensure it will start your vehicle. At Pop-A-Lock, our key replacement services are affordable and reliable. We can get the job done much quicker – and cheaper – than the dealership. Call Pop-A-Lock today for help with:

  • transponder keys
  • fobs
  • keyless remotes
  • dealer chip keys programmed on-site
  • remotes programmed
  • electronic keys
  • key replacements
  • VATS keys

We are available 24/7 to meet your automobile key needs. Pop-A-Lock technicians can create the key you need on the spot. Our technicians are trained to program transponder, VAT, and smart keys for any vehicle. Our work is of the highest quality – guaranteed!

What are VATS Keys and How Do They Work?

What is a VATS Key?

The safety of our vehicles is extremely important to all of us. VATS keys, introduced by GM in 1986, were one of the first  keys to provide extra security measures, and therefore extra peace of mind that a vehicle is as safe as possible. VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System) keys were first used on Corvettes, because, as you can imagine, the sports car was a major target for thieves.

Since the invention of the VATS key did so well to reduce the number of stolen Corvettes, GM expanded the system to other models such as the Camaro, Firebird, and Cadillac Seville vehicles in their later models. VATS keys then became an industry standard as they appeared in other vehicles such as Buicks. The original VATS systems were popular through the early 2000s, and one of the last vehicles released with a traditional VATS system was the 2003 Firebird. The original VATS key systems paved the way for the levels of electronic vehicle security we have today.

Traditional Keys

There are a number of differences between traditional keys and VATS keys. Traditional mechanical keys provide just a basic level of security to vehicles. Two of the most common types of traditional mechanical keys are edge cut keys and side-winder keys.

Edge cut keys are the standard key variety that many vehicles have used for decades. The cuts are on the edge of the keys, and they can be copied by most standard key machines.

High security, or side-winder keys, offer a little more security than edge cut keys as they cannot be copied by standard key machines. In order to copy these keys, a particular type of machine must be used to engrave cut specifications into the key.

VATS Keys and How They Work

VATS keys are essentially the first electronic keys and, as such, provide a much-needed improvement in vehicle safety from their predecessors. VATS keys have resistors embedded in them, and when someone inserts a VATS key into the ignition of their vehicle, an electrical current runs through the resistor inside. The resistor value is read by a computer inside the car, and if it is not the same as the value in the computer’s memory, the car will not be able to start. This function provides extra security because a few minutes of stalling is plenty of time for a car thief to choose another vehicle to pursue.

Also, duplicating a VATS key is not as simple as going to a key copier at the store. In order to copy a VATS key, a locksmith will use a VATS interrogator to determine the resistance value of the key as it is important that they match, and then the cuts can be copied onto the blank key.

The Remote Keys of Today

Electronic keys have certainly come a long way since the release of the original VATS keys in the mid ‘80s. Nowadays, many of us have remote buttons we can use to lock and unlock our cars at the very least. Many vehicles now have keypads on which you can enter a code to unlock your car, and even push-to-start buttons that render a standard key unnecessary.

Proximity technology of locking and unlocking remotes that come with newer vehicles is a way push-to-start vehicles can remain safe, as long as the remotes stay in the possession of the vehicle’s owner. Today’s modern remote key fobs often have a number of functions in addition to locking and unlocking cars, including folding down mirrors, opening windows and sunroofs, and even remotely starting cars. Because car key technology is ever-advancing, locksmiths keep up with trends and will be able to answer any key-related questions you may have.

Need Help? Call the Key Experts at Pop-A-Lock

Regardless of the type of key or vehicle you have, the experts at Pop-A-Lock have the knowledge and trained technicians you need to retrieve keys locked in your car, or help replace lost or stolen keys. Founded in 1991 in Lafayette, Louisiana, we have over two and a half decades of experience as trained, educated, and dedicated locksmiths. All of our technicians are trained on the most up-to-date locksmith technology including VATS keys and any other type of vehicle key you have, and we are proud to serve more than 8,500 communities. Visit our website to find the Pop-A-Lock nearest you. We’re there when you need us.

Life Hack: Make Duplicate Car Keys To Avoid Stress and Hassle

Have you stressed out family members by vehemently safeguarding your one and only car key? Even worse, have you misplaced it just minutes before you are expected to pick up your kids at school, be at work on time or make it to an important event? Do you fear dropping your set of keys somewhere you can’t retrieve them from? Maybe you have already dealt with the hassle of locking yourself out of your vehicle – which is undeniably the worst-case scenario. Fortunately, there are relatively simple and cost-effective solutions from Pop-A-Lock to ensure that you never experience that stress again.

Duplicate Key

Every driver should have an extra car key (or multiple keys) in case one is misplaced. For safety, it’s also a good idea to have a duplicate accessible to your trusted loved ones in case of an emergency. If you’ve ever had to take someone to the hospital or have faced a similar crisis, you’ll understand how critical it is to have an extra key available, just in case. Let’s face it; car keys are lost or misplaced every day somewhere in the U.S. Don’t wait for an emergency to put a back-up plan in place.

What If I Only Received One Key Initially?

When you buy a new car, the dealership will typically give you two keys. But, if buying a used car, quite a few consumers are surprised when they receive only one key and are informed that it might cost them a few hundred dollars to buy an additional one. This happens for a variety of reasons, including:

Duplicate Key No Hassle
  • The previous owner lost or failed to return the other key when selling the car
  • The vehicle was repossessed, and the recovery agency only bought one set of keys to save themselves money
  • The dealer (usually a subprime finance lot or pay-on-the-spot dealership) will keep a key to make repossession easier if car payments are not made

Ultimately, you’ll find that it is never a good idea to have a single key for your vehicle. Vehicle keys are small and easily misplaced, and if you only have one key, you could find yourself unable to drive your car when you need it the most.

Will Insurance Cover a Lost Car Key?

According to the experts at Insurance.com, vehicle owners will typically have to pay out of pocket for the replacement of a lost car key. While many policies include Emergency Roadside Assistance coverage, these services usually only cover the costs of towing your vehicle someplace safe. Replacement of your car key will often be an out-of-pocket expense. Even if your comprehensive and collision coverage does cover lost, stolen, or damaged keys, insurance experts say that the cost of filing a claim (which could have a deductible of, say, $500 or $1000) is not worth the expense of merely buying a new key yourself.

Key Duplicate Insurance

How Do I Get a Second Key Made?

In spite of what many people think, car key duplication is NOT something that only the dealership can do for you. That also goes for electronic keys, VATS keys, remotes, and dealer chip keys. Many people don’t realize that they could quickly obtain a duplicate smart key or transponder key for their vehicle, without paying steep dealership prices.

Because most modern vehicles use these key fobs or remote control keys, getting a second key is not as easy as stopping at the hardware store to use the machine to cut and grind out a metal key that fits your ignition. Fortunately, it IS as easy as calling Pop-A-Lock’s trusted vehicle lock professionals, who can duplicate and program an extra smart key for you! In almost every case, buying a back-up key from a local locksmith service like Pop-A-Lock will be significantly less expensive than buying a key from the dealership.

If you find yourself in a tough situation and need to have a key made, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure to have your vehicle identification number (VIN) on hand. Your vehicle’s VIN will be a combination of seventeen letters and digits, and can usually be found on the driver’s side dashboard, visible through the window. On newer vehicles, the VIN might also be etched into the glass on the driver’s side window. The VIN will often be stamped or displayed on other parts of the vehicle, including the engine block, rear wheel well, door jamb, or trunk. Your automotive insurance paperwork will also have the vehicle’s VIN on it, so review your insurance policy if you need to locate the number there.
  2. Know the year, make, and model of your vehicle. The locksmith service will need to know this information to make and program a new key!
  3. Call your local automotive locksmith. Before you pay expensive dealership prices, be sure to contact a smart key duplication and programming professional like those at Pop-A-Lock. Their prices are often significantly less than a dealership, their services are typically much faster, and their professionally trained technicians can perform the programming of transponder, VAT, and smart keys for any make or model vehicle.
Pop-A-Lock Duplicate Key

Once you have the duplicate key made, be sure to keep it in a secure place that you can easily access. You can let your family and trusted friends know where the key will be stored, so they know where to find it in case of an emergency.

Ask anyone who has lost their car keys in the past, having a spare key will come in handy when you least expect it, and you’ll be relieved that you planned ahead!

The Evolution of the Car Key, and Why You Should Care

The average consumer may not realize this, but there are quite a few different types of automotive keys out there. As with much of today’s world, the car key is ever-evolving as technology and products change.

When it comes to your car’s security, it can be important to understand the difference between the key types and how each one came to be.

When it comes time for  locksmithing services for your car, it can be important – or at the very least helpful – to know what type of key your car has.

Below, our locksmith experts outline the different types of keys and how they’ve evolved, along with some important information for each type.

Traditional Keys:

Late 1940s:

Mechanical keys have provided basic security to motor vehicles since their inception. Currently, there are a few types of mechanical keys commonly seen.

Edge cut mechanical key

Edge cut keys: This is a garden variety key that you would find with most vehicles made before 2013, with the cuts directly on the edge of the key. These can be duplicated by most standard key machines that you would find in a hardware store or similar. If all copies of an edge cut key are lost, though, it typically requires a trained locksmith to determine the specifications or “code” of the key for that specific vehicle.


High Security or Side-Winder type keys: These are still mechanical keys, however in the mid 1970’s, some manufacturers decided they wanted to increase the security of their vehicles. They did this by implementing the use of a side-winder type key, which cannot be copied on standard key duplicators. These keys require a specialized type of cutter, which literally engraves the cut specifications on to the keyblade. Side-winder keys have since become extremely common on modern vehicles.

Lexus Sidewinder Key

Remote Keys:

The next evolution in car keys allow users to remotely lock and unlock their vehicle. They also include additional functions such as remote unlocking of the trunk, providing a panic button on the remote, and remotely starting the vehicle.

Remotes come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, frequencies and levels of security. Any Pop-A-Lock expert would be glad to answer any questions you have and help direct you toward the best remote key for your needs!


VAT keys were the first remote keys on the market. In the mid-1980s, General Motors began production on a new vehicle security system. In short, the new system made brute force attacks on the vehicle lock system less effective because the vehicles now also had an electronic “signature” that had to match what it expected to see when started.

VAT keys remained popular through the early 2000’s when General Motors completely switched over to the more effective RFID or transponder key system for the majority of its vehicles.

Early 2000s:

Transponder keys combine a mechanical edge or sidewinder key with a small RFID chip or RFID emulation circuit. These keys help further deter brute force attacks on vehicle locking systems.

When the vehicles sense a transponder key enter the ignition or when the ignition is rotated, the ignition lock cylinder and the transponder key communicate with radio frequencies. This lets the vehicle computer know if the key trying to turn on the vehicle is an authorized key.

Since their inception, transponder keys have evolved to be widely popular and increasingly secure. If you’ve driven a car made in the early 2000s, you’ve probably used one of these.

When transponder keys are lost or broken, creating a new key can present a significant challenge. There are a wide array of different chips, technologies and security levels across the spectrum of transponder-equipped vehicles, and a great deal of training and technology are needed to create new copies. But don’t worry, our Pop-A-Lock technicians have you covered! Call us today and we can help you get any new key you need. 

Today’s Keys

After decades of evolution, vehicle manufacturers continue to increase cars’ security. Today, there are two types of keys that provide the highest level of both security and convenience.


Remote Head Keys were the next step in the vehicle key evolution. As technology improved, manufacturers began to combine the mechanical key, the remote and often the transponder into a single unit. Most commonly-bought vehicles today use remote head keys, and they provide both additional security of the advanced key systems, as well as the convenience of conventional mechanical-only key systems.

Slot Key

Slot Keys were first introduced by BMW. The new key concept required no rotation of a key switch. Instead, you would insert a slot key or key fob into a slot on the dash and push a button to start the vehicle. This cut down on the number of moving mechanical parts, and relied solely on the electronic security embedded in the slot key to prevent unauthorized vehicle access.

Since then, a number of manufacturers – such as Nissan and Chrysler – have introduced key types that eliminated the need for the mechanical portion of the key entirely. Instead, the new keys have electronic-only access control for the vehicle. These are known as proximity keys. 

As transponder identification efficiency and range continued to increase, manufactures were able to produce vehicles with proximity keys – AKA touchless or smart keys – for their vehicles. This latest key system simply requires that the fob or smart key be in proximity of the vehicle in order to gain access or start the vehicle.

This system provides a great deal of convenience to owners but resulted in a higher cost of replacement in the case of lost or stolen keys.

There are quite a few key types and systems out there, each of which requires different knowledge and training on how to duplicate or replace. Knowing what type of key your vehicle has can be useful information if and when you find yourself calling a locksmith.

No matter what type of key you have, Pop-A-Lock has your back! Our technicians are trained and equipped to duplicate or replace virtually every make and model of vehicle key, and our prices are often deeply discounted from your what your local dealer can offer. Call us today to get a free quote!

FAQ: Can I Replace a Car Key Without Having the Original?

Many of us rely on our cars for everything –  from getting to work to running errands to picking up kids or friends. So, if you lose a key or break it off in your ignition, it can seem like a nightmare. And it can be especially stressful if you don’t have a spare key. If this happens to you, don’t panic! You might not realize this, but it’s possible for locksmiths to make a copy of your car key, even if you don’t have the original. 

What Kind of Replacement Key Will You Need?

If you find yourself in need of an extra car key, the first thing you need to do is determine what kind of key you’ll need.

If you own a car from 1981 or earlier, you may just need a simple key cut from a standard key block.

Newer-model cars have something called transponder keys, which include programmed chips as safety features. There’s more to duplicating a transponder key than cutting a new one. If you do cut a new one, it still wouldn’t turn on the car without the proper programming. Our locksmiths are trained to both cut and program a new transponder key for you.

A third kind of car key is a smart key. Smart keys act as a remote and are not like traditional keys at all. These resemble an attached key fob and do not require the traditional means of turning the ignition. Our technicians are trained in programming smart keys as well.

Not matter what kind of key your car has, we’ve got you covered!

house key isolated object

Traditional Key

Blog 07 TransponderKeys

Transponder Key

Blog 07 SmartKeys

Smart Key

Don’t Have the Original Key?

If your original key is lost of broken, the good news is that you can still get a replacement!

Option 1 – Dealer

You could go to the dealer to get a replacement, but that tends to be very expensive. Especially if you need your vehicle to be towed to the dealership.

Option 2 – Locksmith

A more affordable option is to call an auto locksmith. In fact, many dealers utilize the services of outside locksmiths for replacement keys and many locksmiths can cut and program the exact same key for about 50% less cost than a dealership.

An experienced locksmith will be able to make a replacement key for you even if you do not have the original. When you contact a locksmith, you’ll need to give the company some information about the key, and then they will likely be able to help you replace it.

What Will Your Locksmith Will Need to Know?

First, you’ll need to know the year, make and model of your car. You’ll also be asked to prove ownership of the vehicle, so have your registration or title handy. Finally, the locksmith will need to know your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN number can be found either on the driver’s side doorpost or stamped on a metal plate on the driver’s side dashboard.

If you have it, your key identification number (also known as a key code) can be super helpful information for the locksmith to have. It can usually be found in your car manual; however if you don’t have access to the information, it’s not a necessity.

If you think your keys have been stolen, let the locksmith know. If this is the case, he or she will need to reprogram your car in a way so that the old keys will no longer work.

Do You Need to Worry About a Tow?

No, our locksmiths come to you!

If you need an emergency locksmith to come meet you, make sure that you can provide the address or cross streets of your location. Our locksmiths use the newest technology to cut your new key and program your key or smart key on-site – no matter where you are or what type of vehicle you need help with. The services of a skilled professional also extend to keys for scooters, trucks, vans, caravans, and motorcycles.

The loss or damage of your only car key is a stressful situation. Pop-A-Lock Locksmiths can help you handle your emergency efficiently and safely. Our professionals are trained to handle nearly all car models, so you can be assured that your vehicle is in excellent hands. Rest assured, your key will be replaced and no damage will be done to your car in the process. If you need immediate help, Contact us today!