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Car key programming and coding

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What is car key programming?

Most new cars are unlocked using an electric fob that contains a microchip, also known as a remote car key. The clever technology allows your car keys to communicate with your vehicle’s computer system, locking and unlocking the doors with just a press of a button. 

The electric key fob is specifically programmed to be detected by your car so that when you’re within a specific range, you can get access. 

If the chip inside your key is damaged, or you’ve lost them altogether, you’ll need a new car key. It involves getting a new, blank microchip that a professional will programme to your vehicle’s system, meaning you can lock and unlock your car doors again.

Car key programming average costs and prices

The average cost of car key programming is around £150, but the exact price you’ll pay depends on the type of car you have. Explore the average costs for the most popular vehicle makes in the table below to give you a good understanding of what to expect.

Car MakeAverage Price
Vauxhall£142.67
Ford£123.82
Volkswagen£148.93
Audi£140.25
BMW£199.38
Nissan£120.94
Peugeot£174.69
Renault£123.47
Mercedes£156.69
Citroen£143.62
MINI£190.00
Volvo£141.87

Which key programming service do I need?

There are a few different options when it comes to getting your electronic key back up and working again. Here are the main services you can choose from.

  • Car key programming

    The average cost of a car key programming booked on WhoCanFixMyCar is £143.89.

    Car keys work by transmitting a signal to a receiver in your car to unlock the doors, and if your key stops working or becomes damaged, you could find yourself locked out of your car. A specialist auto locksmith can reprogram an old key, or programme a brand new key for you.

    Can include
    • Car key programming
  • Auto locksmith

    The average cost of an auto locksmith booked on WhoCanFixMyCar is £152.

    An auto locksmith will be able to visit you at home and diagnose your car key or lock problems. They can perform repairs on the spot and give you replacement car keys if yours are lost. If the problem is with the car locks themselves, an auto locksmith will carry out the fix to give you access to your vehicle again.

    Can include
    • Inspection and diagnosis
    • Car lock repairs
    • Electronic car fob repair
    • Manual car key repair
    • Electronic key replacements
    • Manual key replacements
  • Mobile mechanic

    The average cost of a mobile mechanic booked on WhoCanFixMyCar is £62.54.

    A mobile mechanic will visit you at your home or workplace and can carry out a wide range of different repairs. If the repair is more complex, the mechanic will collect your car, take it to a garage to be repaired, and drop it off when it's finished. The exact cost of a mobile mechanic will depend on the repair you need.

    Can include
    • Home visit
    • Servicing
    • Tyre change
    • Oil change
    • Recommended repairs

Common problems that require car key programming

Two different circumstances mean you need a car key programming service, and these are:

  • A lost or stolen key fob. If you’ve had your car keys stolen or have lost them and you’re not sure where, then it’s safest to get a new set of electronic keys programmed to your car. Not only does this mean you’ll be able to get access to your vehicle, but it will also stop the old keys from working, which is important in case they end up in the wrong hands.

  • A broken car key. If your electronic car keys no longer seem to work, it’s probably due to a damaged transponder chip. In this case, you’ll need to get the microchip in your key replaced with a blank one. A professional can then program it to your car’s internal computer system.

Top warning signs that your car key needs reprogramming

A lost or stolen car key is the most obvious sign that you’ll need a new one programmed. However, when it comes to broken or damaged keys, there are a couple of warning signs that suggest there’s a fault and you need them reprogrammed: 

  • Car keys that have stopped unlocking your car.

  • Car keys that are only working within a very short range of the vehicle.

  • Temperamental car keys that sometimes fail to unlock your car.

  • Car keys that lock and unlock your vehicle without you pressing the dedicated button.

Is programming a car key necessary?

Car key programming is needed to repair broken keys or get new ones connected to your vehicle. If you have a modern car that requires an electric fob to unlock the doors or even turn on the engine, programming the key is necessary for both these circumstances.

However, if you only have a manual key that turns in the door or the engine, then reprogramming isn’t necessary, and instead, you’ll need a professional to cut you a new key if it’s lost or damaged.

What impacts the key programming cost?

The cost of car key programming depends on the type of vehicle you have, and the time it takes a professional to do the job. Some programming jobs require particular software and take a little longer, making them more expensive.

Your location can also impact the total price of key programming. If you’re locked out of your car and you need an auto locksmith to visit you at home, then you may be charged extra depending on how far they need to travel to reach you.

Cost to fix a car key remote vs new car key cost

Typically, if you have a faulty remote car key, it’s much cheaper to get an auto locksmith to repair it than it is to request a new one from the dealership. However, because the repair will involve replacing the microchip inside the fob, an auto locksmith may just decide to give you a new fob altogether.

If you’ve lost your car keys, or lease your car rather than own it, you may not have a choice, as your contract may require you to go to the dealership rather than to an independent auto locksmith. In this case, you can expect to pay a bit more.

Where can I find car key programming near me?

Most garages and car body shops will have someone on site who can perform car key programming. In most circumstances however, mobile car key programming is the best option because it’s likely you won’t be able to drive your car if you’re having key issues. If you require mobile key programming, the garage will send the professional to you so that you can regain access to your car wherever you might find yourself.

If you have a leased car, you will need to check your policy documents before getting new car keys programmed. It may be in your contract that you need to visit the dealership, rather than a garage for a new set.

How to program a car key?

Car keys are programmed by a professional who will connect the microchip in the key fob to your car’s internal computer system, allowing you access to your vehicle when you’re within range.

How much does it cost to fix a car key remote?

It costs an average of £150 to fix your remote car key by getting a new chip programmed.

Where can I get my car key fixed?

You can get your car key fixed by an auto locksmith or by visiting a local garage and asking a professional for support with your problem.

Does car key programming fall under warranty?

Car key programming doesn’t usually fall under warranty, so you will have to pay for it yourself if you need this service. 

Is car key programming covered by insurance?

Car key programming services are not usually covered by insurance. You won’t be able to claim back the cost for getting electric car keys programmed to your vehicle if it’s not included in your cover. However, it’s always worth checking your policy documents just in case to see what is covered.

Do I need to get car key programming for a leased car?

If you’re having issues with the keys for your leased car, check your policy documents to understand what your options are. Your contract may allow you to reach out to an auto locksmith who can programme a new key, or you may have to get a spare one from the dealership.

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