About Car Keys


There are four basic kinds of Car keys. It is important to know which kind of key your automobile has in order to understand the appropriate cost and where to get one made. This page will explain the different types of keys in an easy to understand way.

Standard Metal Key

These keys are found on older cars. There is no plastic top to the key and it can be cut on one or both sides. These are the easiest keys to make. The locksmith simply copies the key or makes a new key from a key code. These keys are found on older cars. They went out of style because they were easy to copy and were not very secure.


GM started using one of the first Vehicle Anti Theft Systems on the market. They made metal keys with small "Pebbles" attached to the blade. These keys are easy to identify. The key is metal and there is a small black plastic piece on the blade of the key. The "Pebble" is a simple chip with a value of 1-15. A key cut to the proper cuts would not work unless the pebble on the key had the proper value. In order to make a copy without knowing the value of the "pebble" one would have to make up to 15 keys to find the proper pebble value. This system is found on older, higher end GM vehicles. These keys are a little more difficult to make than the standard Metal Key. The cost is higher because the locksmith must carry 15 keys just to have the proper key. It can also be difficult and time consuming to determine to proper "pebble" value.

Chipped or Transponder Keys

Chipped keys are by far the most common automotive keys in use today. These keys have a plastic top which holds a small chip that works in conjunction with a computer on board the vehicle. The chip in the key has a specific value. The computer on the car will not allow the car to start unless the key value matches the value stored in the computer. Even if the key is cut properly, the key will not start the vehicle unless the computer has been programmed to accept the key. These key blanks are more expensive because they have chips added into the plastic top. They are also more expensive to make because the locksmith must connect a computer to the client's vehicle in order to program the vehicle's computer to accept the new key. These keys are often "High Security" keys that are cut with a special type key cutting machine. 

Proximity Keys 

These keys are often the most expensive keys. The key has an electronic devise that communicates with the vehicle from several feet away. When the vehicle determines that a proper key is in proximity to the vehicle, it allows the vehicle to open or start with the simple push of a button. These keys do not require a cut key in order to operate the vehicle. A hidden key is often located inside the proximity key that can be used to open the car in an emergency. These keys also have to be programmed into the vehicle's computer. The main cost involved in these keys is the key itself. They are expensive to replace because they are fairly complex to make.