Cloning Car keys services - Charlotte NC

Car key cloning and coding machine
Car key cloning and coding machine

Car key cloning is a useful service that your trusted automotive locksmith can offer. But what exactly does the process entail? How can you be sure that your new key will work flawlessly with your car’s operating system? And how much can you expect to pay for this service?

Here at Magic Lock, we’ve been putting extra sets of keys in the hands of car owners for years. Learn more about how we do it!

Why do we call it cloning?

2 copies of Nissan keys, one original, one cloned

To clone anything, you have to make an exact replica of it. That’s exactly what we do with car key cloning. We’re essentially taking the DNA of an existing transponder chip and putting it onto a blank one.

When we say DNA, what we really mean of course, is your car key’s unique digital coding. This code has been imprinted onto a transponder chip housed in your existing key or FOB. What we need to do, then, is read that code, extract it, and translate it perfectly onto a new chip. Luckily, with our modern equipment, we can do this without having to physically manipulate your existing key. And the process itself is, in the best case scenario, simple and fast.

High security car keys coding machine - Porsche
On site coding service for car keys

What are the benefits of key cloning?

The biggest benefit of car key cloning is convenience. A successfully cloned car key doesn’t have to be reprogrammed to the car. It’s automatically accepted by your car’s operating system because it has exactly the same digital fingerprint as your existing key.

That means that you could enjoy multiple copies of your car key or FOB without having to pay the extra cost of reprogramming.

2 copies of Nissan keys, one original, one cloned

What kind of car keys can be cloned?

Dodge Jeep remote key fobs
New replacement key fobs - Chrysler Jeep

Now we know that cloning refers to transferring the digital code of one key onto another, you’ve probably guessed that not all car keys can be cloned.

Traditional car keys that are purely manual can certainly be duplicated. But we wouldn’t really say that they’re cloneable. That’s because they don’t have the transponder chip that we refer to when we talk about car key cloning.

What kinds of keys have transponder chips? Here are a few:

Transponder car keys, which typically have a covered head and a manual key.

Remote head keys, flip keys, Keyless FOBs and more.

As you can see, this covers almost all modern cars. Unless you have a very new model that uses a digital car key, chances are, you have some kind of a key with a transponder chip.

Coding and cloning service on site by Magic Lock technician
Coding and cloning service on site by Magic Lock technician

What are the shortcomings of car key cloning?

In many instances, cloning is quick and simple, making it an obvious first option for an auto locksmith when their clients want extra copies of their car keys. But unfortunately, it’s not always possible.

For one thing, some car keys and FOBs cannot be cloned. That’s because their technology doesn’t rely on just one digital fingerprint for authentication. Instead, it may use a rolling code which is dependent on a memory bank inside the transponder chip. In other words, the car’s central computer may require a different authentication code every time you access the car. At the same time, old codes will be retired. In order to clone this type of key, then, we would need not only to extract one digital fingerprint, but the algorithm for all future ones, as well. 

One of the other drawbacks of car key cloning is that you need an existing key to do it. In the case that your keys have been lost or stolen, there will be no way to extract that digital code. You’ll need to order and reprogram a new key for your car.

New Toyota key fobs
Additional key fobs and transponder keys - Chrysler
Car key on a cutting machine
Car key on a cutting machine

What kind of equipment is used for cloning?

For car keys that are cloneable, we need three things.

First, we need the original car key that you want to clone. Remember, cloning only works when we’re able to read the internal chip. Without the chip, we can’t clone a new key.

Next, we need a new key or FOB with the specific kind of blank chip that will work for your car. This is why, even though the actual cloning process usually only takes a few minutes, you’ll want to factor in the time that it may take for the new key to be delivered. And, because it can be a bit tricky to know which blank chip to order, it’s a good idea to call us to make sure you end up with the right one. We may even have the blank chip you need in our inventory.

Finally, we need a specialized cloning device. There are a few different kinds, but the most common is the Mini Key Tool. This is a hand-held device that looks similar to a radio. But, there is a hollowed out portion in the middle where you insert a key to be read by the device. 

Cloning devices like the Mini Key Tool are connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone so that your auto locksmith can read the transponder chip, store the code, and relay it to the blank chip. The new key will then be ready for use without needing to communicate with the car’s operating system.

Automotive locksmith equipment and keys
Automotive locksmith equipment and keys

Is there a difference between key cloning and key programming?

To many car owners, the difference between car key cloning and car key programming is a bit confusing. After all, car key cloning appears to be a way to program a spare key.

But, there’s an important distinction between cloning and programming. In car key cloning, what we’re focused on is the key itself. But in car key programming, we’re working with the car’s central computer. As such, there are different tools that we use in each kind of procedure.

To be more specific, car key programming is a more involved process that requires more advanced technological equipment. If you see us using a device that looks more like a laptop or tablet than a hand-held radio, it’s a good indication that we’re tapping into your car’s central operating system to introduce a new key.

As you can probably guess, car key programming is more expensive than car key cloning. This is because it requires more complex machinery and coding knowledge than cloning a key. In most cases, we would rather rely on the faster and cheaper option to provide our customers with a new key. However, car key reprogramming is necessary in the case that the key is uncloneable or the keys have been lost.

Magic lock technician is cutting new key fob
Magic lock technician is cutting new key fob

Can you clone a key yourself?

Coding and cloning service on site by Magic Lock technician
Coding and cloning service on site by Magic Lock technician

When it comes to locksmithing in general, there are quite a few things that you can learn how to do from online videos. But auto locksmithing tends to be something best left up to the pros. For one thing, we know how to order the right blank key and transponder chip for your car, saving you the hassle of having to return anything that isn’t the right fit. 

The other huge benefit is that we already have the tools necessary to duplicate the physical key and clone the digital code or reprogram the key if need be. These kinds of professional devices can range from a couple hundred to a few thousands dollars. So, it simply makes sense to have us come out and do the job for you.

Finally, there’s experience. When it comes to tapping into your car’s operating system, things can get out of hand quickly. If you’re not sure how to clone a key, or you leave it up to someone without the right experience, you could end up with a spare that doesn’t work and an original key that stops working, too.

Coding and cloning service on site by Magic Lock technician
Magic lock technician is coding a new key fob
High security car keys coding machine - Porsche

What is the cost of key cloning?

Magic lock technician is cutting new key fob

For keys with the most basic transponder chips—typically cars made before 2000—you’ll pay the lowest price for car key cloning. Again, these car keys typically rely on a fixed digital code that is the least complicated to clone. These keys may range somewhere between $50 and $100 to duplicate.

Keys that use a rolling code will typically cost more, if they can be cloned at all. Depending on the type of technology, the style of the key, and whether or not the key will need programming, you could be looking at a range of between $100 to $600. 

Remember that if you’re looking to replace a lost or stolen key, it cannot be duplicated. In this scenario you’ll likely pay a higher price for a full replacement and reprogramming.

Everything you need to know about car key cloning

To be sure, the world of auto locksmithing can be a bit complex. That’s because auto locksmiths and car manufacturers are both interested in making sure that your car is as secure as possible. Our team at Magic Lock in Charlotte NC and surrounding areas has made it our priority to invest in the best equipment and keep ourselves up-to-date on the latest advancements in technology in order to keep up with the times. So, no matter what your questions are about key cloning or other auto locksmith services, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Cutting machine for car keys Charlotte NC
Cutting machine for car keys Charlotte NC

Leave a Reply