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Just about every vehicle manufacturer has remote head keys on at least some of their vehicles. A remote head key has the remote functions; lock/unlock, etc., plus the mechanical key blade contained in one package. The mechanical key blade of a remote head key can be a rigid blade extending out from the remote head, a spring-loaded switch blade or a blade that must be removed from the remote portion in order to mechanically operate the vehicle.
The remote head key eliminates the need for a key and separate remote. This makes one less thing to carry. However, the package can be much bigger. A Chrysler mini-van model uses a six-button remote head key with rigid blade.
The rigid key blade style remote head keys can be quite long. The Chrysler remote head key is approximately 3-1/2” long, 1/2” thick and 1-3/8” wide. The conventional Chrysler transponder key is about 3/4” shorter, with a much smaller head.
This additional length especially on the rigid blade remotes, creates a built-in problem. The remote head is plastic and is usually not reinforced sufficiently to prevent breakage. As a result, they can and do break.
Remote head keys are expensive when compared to transponder-equipped keys. Replacement remote head keys from a dealership usually cost more than $100, and many are more than $200. In addition, the new remote head key must be programmed to the vehicle, adding additional cost and the time requirement.
As an alternative, remote head key shells are available for a number of vehicle manufacturers. A remote head key shell is just the plastic outside, usually with the proper key blank. Using the customer’s electronics package eliminates the need to program the transponder and the remote functions.
Aftermarket remote head key shells do not have the vehicle manufacturer’s logo on the cover. Sometimes it is possible to install the original cover onto the replacement shell. Always dry fit the parts to be certain they are compatible.
IMPORTANT: No cloning device, programming device or automotive expertise is required to move the electronics package to a shell.
Know the make, model, year, number and positions of the buttons to be certain. Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles probably have the widest variety of remote head keys, ranging from three buttons to six buttons. There are two types of Chrysler three- and four -button remote head keys. The sizes and positions of the buttons are different and are not interchangeable.
Ford, Lincoln and Mercury IKT (Integrated Key Transponder) key electronics packages are secured to the housing. There are no replacement shells available. There are no shells available.
LEXUS REMOTE HEAD REPLACEMENT
For the purpose of this article, I obtained a variety of remote head key shells from HATA Inc. I will replace the electronics package from a broken Lexus remote head key into a HATA HAT-L-02 Lexus Long Blade 3-Button Shell.
Lexus remote head keys vary by the key blade. There are two styles of Lexus rigid key blade remote head keys, long and short. Do not substitute shells between manufacturers.
If the customer’s vehicle is available, test the customer’s remote head key for both mechanical and electronic operation. Test all of the buttons to be sure the customer’s remote head key properly operates.
Once the proper shell is obtained, there are two steps to installation. First, remove the back cover. Most remote head keys have a slot between the two halves that will accommodate a penny or dime. Insert the larger coin into the slot and twist to separate the halves. The other method of securing the top and bottom halves of the remote head is using a Phillips Head screw. Lexus remote head keys have a Phillips Head screw securing the back cover. In addition, the Lexus style remote head cover has a lip just beneath the key ring slot that engages the two halves of the shell. This secondary source keeps the two halves together once the screw has been installed. Important: Do not over-tighten the screw during installation.
Since original 1990s “read only” transponders have a life expectancy of many thousands of cycles, a metal key blade often wears out long before the chip. Thus, “less chip” transponder blanks...