Ever wonder what type of car key you own?

Magic Locksmith
4 min readJun 26, 2017


Many vehicles today are sold with car keys that have embedded chips and transponder that make it extremely hard to duplicate. Prior to 1995 the majority of cars where made to work with a basic mechanical key. If you where in need of a key copy or replacement key it involved just a short trip to your local locksmith. You would show them what type of car key you had and they cut you a new one. In this modern era a lot of things have changed, new technology has emerged that offers greater security to vehicle owners. In this article we’ll take a look at the different types of car keys that are available out there.

The Basic Mechanical Car Key

A standard mechanical key is a simple metal key with out an anti theft device. It’s easy to copy and cut at your local auto shop or locksmith store. However, to increase security most owners of these types of car keys will have installed some sort of security alarm and electronic fob to prevent the theft of their vehicle.

Transponder Key

Majority of the cars built after 1995 contain an electronic transponder chip. The electronic chip on your key sends a unique code to your cars computer or immobilizer device. If the correct message is received this will allow your car to start once the ignition is turned. A simple transponder key with out any buttons or remotes still needs to have the key cut correctly to turn the ignition and programmed correctly to disarm the immobilizer.

Most professional car locksmiths will be able to reprogram a key and transponder if you have lost your car keys. Most transponder keys will have a fixed code that is transmitted each time.

Laser Cut Key

Laser cut keys are also known as internally cut or sidewinders key. These type of car keys can be inserted into to the ignition from both sides. They are slightly thicker and contain their markings or keys cuts on the shank of the key. Lasers are used to cut the key in a very precise manner that are difficult to replicate. The lock cylinders for these keys are harder to pick, as the machines to cut them are more specialized. This also makes them more expensive to replace.

Flip Key

A flip key or a switchblade key basically works the same way as any other car key. The main difference between a flip key and a regular key is in its appearance. These keys are designed to fold away inside the fob when it is not being used. They have become very popular recently because of their smart compact look. Because the switchblade keys are only developed for new car models, they are usually equipped with a programmed transponder chip.

Smart Key

Smart Keys, Keyless Entry Systems or Remote Key Fobs are becoming more and more of a standard feature for most new cars. In true sense they are not really a key, as they are designed to stay in your pocket and no ‘unlocking’ is necessary . A car with a smart key system or keyless entry system uses an encoded infrared beam that communicates with the car’s computer. The owner of the vehicle will usually be able to touch a button to unlock the car. The car’s immobilizer will be deactivated and the ignition started with the push of a button (if the smart key or remote key fob is within the car). Some smart keys will even lock themselves when the owner leaves the vehicle and walks away.

Click here to learn more about Keyless Ignition Systems


VATS stands for vehicle anti-theft system and is also known as PASS-Key (Personal Automotive Security System). Each VATS key has a resistor embedded within the key-blade chip which adds additional security, and each resistor has 1 of 15 possible values. Sometimes the resistors are referred to as a Vats Pellet or Vats Chip. The resistor chip on this car key is different from the computer microchip in the transponder keys. Sometimes it can be very difficult to replicate the resistor chip in this type of car key.

Valet Key

Some cars come with an additional key known as the valet key. This key is modified to only allow the valet to open the car doors and start the ignition. It prevents the valet from gaining access to stuff located in the trunk or glove box. Some valet keys, particularly those for high-performance vehicles, go as far as to restrict the engine’s power output to prevent joyriding.

If your car or auto key is lost, stolen or broken no need to worry. Now that you have identified the car key type you need there are lots of professional auto locksmiths that can help you out. Calling a local reliable automotive locksmith can save you time and money as opposed to towing your car to the dealerships. If you live in the Atlanta, GA area and need a reliable professional automotive locksmith to replace your key, duplicate or copy your key and program your key. Give us a call at (678) 791–4558 or visit our website at magic-locksmith.com we’ll have one of our technicians out to your location in no time.