I recently had the opportunity to visit Rocky Mount, N.C., to be part of an automotive lock and key training. I’ve been selling to the locksmith community for 18 years now and have always been a little frustrated about not knowing as much as I should when it came to automotive lock technology. From the late 70s to the early 90s, I worked as a locksmith and did lots of car work but none of it involved anything electronic.
Working for suppliers since then, I haven’t had much hands on experience and keeping up with transponder technology has proven a little challenging. That’s why going down to Ilco for two days of training was time well spent.
We started off with a tour of the factory which was both interesting and enlightening. I got to see how much precision goes into everything Ilco manufactures, including keys, cylinders, collars, etc. We were amazed to learn that much of the brass used comes from spent shell casings acquired from the military. Also, you can feel good about the level of recycling that goes on at Ilco. Not only are the shavings collected and reused but the brass dust is as well!
We received instruction on many of their key machines including the new HD057 high security key duplicator. Each student had a turn at operating the machine and producing a working key. We used a late model Honda ignition for this.
The session on keys was very interesting. They seem to have every niche served. As a matter of fact, you can now order key blanks from Ilco with your business name and phone number on them. I believe they are calling this their Biz Line of blanks.
Learning the history behind transponders and high security blanks is both interesting and necessary now that most automotive keys are offered this way.
Q & A: Ilco Rep Jerry Buckley
My local Ilco rep, Jerry Buckley, has been my go-to guy for quite some time when it comes to Ilco keys, machines and locks. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Jerry to talk a bit about what’s happened and what to expect in the near future. Here is some of what we spoke about.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Jerry. How long have you been repping Ilco products?
I started with Ilco in 1976. I stayed with them as a direct salesman until 1980. That’s when I became the sales manager for a company out of Florida where I stayed until 1984. I left that job and contacted Ilco after hearing they were looking for a Rep in the Philly to DC market. They hired me back as a Rep and I’ve been in the Rep business since then.
From what I remember as a locksmith back then, all the automotive locks and keys were mechanical and there wasn’t much variety. Do you remember the first advancement? Was it VATS?
VATS was going to be the high security. A locksmith figured out how to bypass that in about 15 seconds and it quickly became passé. They still used it in a couple of upscale GM models for a few years. In 1996 Ford came out with the first transponders, the old H72PT. That was PATS1. By 2000 the scale had tipped and more cars used transponders than didn’t. Now I can’t think of any car maker who doesn’t use a transponder.
I understand transponders were first used by the military in the 1940’s, true?
They were used during WWII tracking planes. The most common use today is EZ pass etc. The word comes from the fact that it transmits and responds, TRANS-PONDER.
So then there was just one transponder with a fixed code?
It’s an inactive code until you put it into the antenna and the antenna ring activates it. Then it sends the signal to the electronic control module. The ECM says, “Yeah, I recognize you” and sends it back. In a matter of seconds it’s either working or not working.
Why did we even start using this technology with cars?
This is how it began: in Italy alone there were more than 50,000 cars stolen in one year. In Europe, there’s one major insurance company, obviously with a monopoly. They insisted that automotive companies came up with something or they weren’t going to keep insuring them. That was in the early 90s. There was an immediate impact; many less cars were being stolen.