What is car key programming?

car key programming

Have the dealers made car key programming sound like a big mystery? We sometimes get phone calls from confused customers who don’t understand this simple process. So in this article we aim to explain everything, so you understand what’s needed, plus the costs involved. 

How much do car keys cost

Before we delve in the details, let’s look at the basics. 

  1. Inside your car key is a transponder chip, think of it like a unique fingerprint. It gives the key its own identity and allows your car engine to start.
  2. Inside the car is a receiver, which is simply like a TV aerial, it looks and listens for the car key.
  3. Lastly, inside your car is a computer and inside that computer is a library. This library is a list of all the car keys that are allowed to start the car. 

Car key programming is simply using these three things, the chip, the reciever and the library. It’s the act of introducing a new chip to the car, and adding it to the library. 

Car Key Programming - Why have a chip?

Transponder chips first started to appear back in 1993. Auto Locksmiths all around the world were confused because they made car keys as usual, but the car wouldn’t start! The dealers introduced the transponder chip to try and prevent car theft. 

Back in the 70’s and 80’s car theft was easy. Most people don’t know that the key and the lock are not what make the car start. There is a simple electrical switch behind the lock that is just a three position rotary switch, very basic. When you turn the key in the ignition lock, the switch operates, and the car starts. 

The problem in he problem in the 70’s and 80’s was ‘hotwiring’. This was simply pulling the electrical switch from behind the lock and bypassing all the security. You see it on the movies and it was pretty simple to steal a car. 

This is when they introduced car key chips, and then car key programming was born.

Who can do car key programming?

car key programming

Firstly you need a computer, and the correct software. Next you need to know how to use it and understand the changes your making. The most common problem we see with car key programming is either inexperience, or faults on the car.

Car key programming problems are common, and if done incorrectly, the car will not start! However, we can overcome most problems with the correct equipment. If you’re interested with what can go wrong, click here to read our article.

The important thing is that whoever is doing your car key programming, knows what they are doing! We’ve been plugging into cars for eighteen years now and have seen most issues. We also have a vast range of equipment and access to the dealer equipment if needed. 

How much does programming cost?

This all depends on the car and the circumstances. For instance, if you drove to us and we programmed a routine Ford Fiesta Smart key, the programming costs £50. 

However, if we travel out to you miles away, have to use dealer equipment and have to pay for programming codes etc, then extra costs are involved. 


The most technical and expensive programming involves taking your immobiliser computer out of the car and programming on the bench.  Sometimes this is the only way we can do modern cars when all keys are lost. These charges can be up to £150, depending on the time needed. 

Before we start, we’ll let you know the overall cost of the job, or you can some examples of our spare car key charges by clicking here

Where are you?

Our Car Key man workshop is on Chieftain Way, Tritton Rd, Lincoln. We’re easy to find and close to the shops so you can leave your car with us and grab a coffee. 

Click Here to find us on Google Maps

Either drop in to get free expert advice, or, if you are coming from any distance, call us first on 01522 514141 to book in. We look forward to seeing you. 

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