The modern car key

Your car’s master key operates everything in your vehicle and is programmed specifically for it, so replacing the key can be both inconvenient and time-consuming.

A vehicle generally comes with two master keys or key fobs.

An older-style car remote has a physical key which can open the doors, boot, and start the engine even if the remote is damaged or its battery is flat. These sometimes have the remote mounted on the end of the key itself, or as a separate fob which is kept with the key. These are the least expensive electronic keys to replace.

If you have a vehicle with push-button or keyless ignition, you won’t need the metal key every day, and therefore the key is often hidden inside the fob. The metal key is there for situations such as when the remote’s battery goes flat or fails for some other reason.

A further advancement is proximity keys, which can open the doors and boot when a person touches the door handle or boot button while keeping the key fob in their pocket

With any electronic keys, if you lose one, generally a new key can be cloned from the spare. This can be done by the manufacturer dealership or you can also get this done by an automotive locksmith - remember to shop around to get the best deal.

If both keys are lost, your car’s computer system will need to be reset. Replacing two keys can be quite expensive, depending on the vehicle make and model.

If it's only the key fob housing or shell that has been damaged (the cover around the key fob) these are generally simple and relatively inexpensive to replace. Check online for replacement housings using your car's make, model and year.

Cost of replacing keys

The cost of replacing car keys is usually around $70, but in some cases it can be up to $3000.

You might have to wait several days or more if you have an imported vehicle and authorisation is required for the dealer to issue new keys.

For newer makes and models, the key is often part of the vehicle's security system, so you may have to get the system re-coded if you lose the key.

Keep a spare

Your safest option is to keep a spare key in a safe place at all times.

When you buy a used car, make sure the seller gives you a complete set of keys, as getting additional keys later could be a difficult and costly process.

If your car doesn’t have a spare key, have one made as soon as possible, making sure you check the vehicle manufacturer's handbook for key details and follow the instructions about code details.