Technology and a Couple of Pals Avert Car Key Disaster

This article is a little far afield from our usual coverage on the website. But all of us have been faced with lost keys at some time or other.  Most of us make duplicate house keys right away on moving to a new home. We used to do it the same way for our new cars. But modern cars have electronic key fobs with transponders and it isn’t as easy or as inexpensive as making the key at the local hardware store.

If you have a Lincoln with the electronic chip key similar to the one pictured, this post might just save you a great deal of money and aggravation.

Most new cars are delivered with 2 keys. If you have 2 original working keys then you can easily create a 3rd key as a spare in case one of your keys gets lost or stolen.

Having just been through the lost key nightmare myself I would strongly recommend creating a 3rd key before you actually need it. If you ignore this advice and end up needing a new key you may expect to pay up to $400 to the dealer or an automotive locksmith for the key and programming service.

Read below to see how you can obtain a 3rd key quickly and at a much more reasonable price.

Creating the spare key involves 3 steps. The first step is ordering an OEM key with an electronic fob from a supplier such as Enter the year, make and model of your car on their website and make sure their photo looks exactly like your key and has OEM electronics.

In my case the matching key was about $30 on the Internet and the appropriate battery was about another $6. Shipping added a few dollars more.  

Once you have it, make sure that the new key shaft looks exactly the same as your original key in length, style and thickness.

Step 2 is to find a local locksmith with a shop for cutting the key to match your original.  This sounds easy but may end up being your hardest task. 

I had to do a lot of searching. The local hardware store refused to cut the key because it was not purchased there. They did not stock the type of key I needed but that didn’t matter. However, they did recommend a locksmith that I could contact.

The home improvement store nearby had the equipment to cut the key but refused to do it because they were afraid of damaging my key blank and of the key not working. They also wanted to sell me a key.

I searched online for locksmiths and was contacted by several mobile and chain franchise locksmiths who offered to create a key at a price comparable to what I would have paid from the dealer. For just cutting the key they were quoting close to $200. I refused I and was baldly asked how much I was willing to pay. When I said $50, they refused.

After a few days I reached the locksmith recommended by the hardware store. At his shop he cut the key to match my original for just under $7 plus tax. It unlocked the car, slid into the ignition and started to turn it. Thus, I was convinced the cut was correct.

 By then, I had about $50 total invested in the new key.

The 3rd and final step is to program the key. If you have 2 working keys you can do this yourself at no further cost. The process may differ slightly depending on your model but for my 2012 MKZ it works as follows:

Put one of your working keys in the ignition and turn it to the On/Run position for at least 3 seconds. Then turn it to the Off position and remove the key. Immediately insert the 2nd key and turn it to On for 3 seconds and then to Off. Then insert your new unprogrammed key into the ignition and turn it to On and keep it there for at least 6 seconds then turn it to Off. Voila! You should then have a working 3rd key for around $50.

It gets a little tougher if you only have one working key. To create your duplicate, you will need an OBD (onboard diagnostic) or code reader that plugs into your car under the dashboard and a computer with Forscan software with an extended license—or in my case a couple of friends with OBD plus the software. You can download the software for free, set up an account and obtain the license right away. Forscan works for Ford products and some Jaguars and Mazdas.

OBDs used to be quite expensive but nowadays you can obtain one for under $25. Connect your computer with the OBD either by a direct connection or by Bluetooth. 

There are a number of online videos explaining programming using Forscan. Take a few minutes to search the Web for the instruction video that applies to your make and model. My applicable video was produced by Ry the Car Guy.  The process required deprograming the original operating key—a scary moment—before reprogramming it along with the new spare key. In the end, both keys worked!

It will take a little while to go through all the programming steps but well worth it if you want an electronic key for $50 instead of $400. My mother’s advice applies here: Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!

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