What is a Transponder Key? And Does My Car Use One? Oh, and why should I care?


A transponder key is an antitheft device. Hot wiring a car these days should only be effective with vehicles that do not use a transponder key.

Since 2000 and possibly even earlier, many car manufactures have used keys equipped with a transponder. These keys contain a chip that must be located in or near the ignition switch or the car will not start.

Often these keys can be recognized because of the plastic bow where you would normally hold the key is thicker than the typical flat key. But fat plastic keys and thin metal keys may both contain a transponder chip.

So, how can I know for sure if my car uses a transponder key? You can call the local dealer for your vehicle make and car model and then ask someone in the parts department. If the parts department didn’t give you a lot of confidence with their answer, you can call the dealership back and ask for the price to make a new ignition key for your car. If it is a few bucks, there is no chip. If a new key costs $50 to $100 or more, it may have a chip.

There are also online ways of finding transponder equipped vehicles. Check or Google for “list of cars with transponder keys.” Or just as us.

So why do we care if a car needs a transponder key? If we are installing a remote car starter, we have to simulate the presence of the proper transponder key or the vehicle will not start properly. The way we do this is by adding a security module programmed to bypass the antitheft devices only during the remote starting process.

When we install your remote care starter, our additions do not weaken any of the antitheft measures built into your vehicle and our changes do not affect your vehicle warranty.

We have been installing remote car starters long before transponder keys. Ask us for a car starter quote today. Our work comes with a lifetime parts and labor guarantee.