Sure, they sound all fancy schmancy, but what exactly are laser cut car keys? Do they really exist – or are they just some high-tech fantasy gadget from Gone in 60 Seconds? And if they do exist, what are the benefits to having one?
Laser cut keys certainly do exist – and they generally can be recognized by their unique appearance. They are slightly thicker than regular car keys and instead of having notches cut along the side of the key, they feature a winding slit cut at a constant depth running up the center of the key. Because of the location of the slit, laser cut keys are also called internal cut keys. Another name for laser cut car keys is sidewinder keys, a moniker that alludes to the wavy shape of the slit which appears distinctly different from the jagged notches of a regular car key. Usually laser cut keys have slits on both sides so that the key can be inserted into the lock either way and still function. Laser cut keys are usually only found on cars made since the 1990’s and usually – but not exclusively – only on more upscale car brands.
Laser cut keys are, as the name implies, cut by a laser. Regular car keys are cut mechanically, either by a manually-operated, semi-automatic, or fully automatic key cutters. Laser cutters are expensive and thus they aren’t usually found at local hardware stores or home improvement stores. To duplicate or replace a laser cut key you will either need to see your car dealer or your local locksmiths. Not every locksmith has the tools or the ability to duplicate laser keys, but those that do will usually copy or create laser keys for less money than a car dealership would charge.
One of the advantages to laser cut car keys is that they are more precise and have higher tolerances than regular keys. As a result, it is more difficult to pick the lock for a laser cut key. Because the machinery needed to duplicate laser keys is so expensive, it is also more difficult to make unauthorized copies of laser cut keys.
An additional security feature of laser cut keys is that they frequently contain transponder chips. If the transponder chip is not in the vicinity of the ignition switch when a key is inserted, the car will not start. Thus, unauthorized key copies that do not contain the proper transponder cannot be used to drive – or potentially steal – the car. Transponder chips must be programmed for your particular car and, unlike with key fobs, transponder chip programming is not something that you can do yourself. Your car dealership can program a new transponder chip for you – although they might charge an arm and a leg to do so. A better bet is to find a local Locksmith in Dallas who is capable of programming a new transponder for you. Not all locksmiths can do this, but if you find one who can you will be able to save yourself some money.