Ilco: Ready For The Next Generation of Transponders

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...


Just like VATS, hasn’t someone figured out how to beat the transponder technology?

The original transponders were very basic. It evolved to the point where you needed two keys and had to beat the challenge code. German cars used a rolling code and that hasn’t been beaten yet.

The Phillips transponder is a step beyond the Texas Instruments; you have two challenge codes to get from the car. That’s the reason we came up with the RW4 Plus. With this, you capture the challenge codes from the ECM on what we call the Snoop. You then bring it back to the RW4 Plus and it stores and confirms with original key that you have captured the challenge codes. Then you write it on the electronic key. Before this, all you did was read and write.

Are the different transponders similar to CD’s, in that some you can read only and others will read and write?

What we call a PT5 is a read and write. These you could read and write over as many times as you want to. This is a read and write transponder.

A cloneable key is an electronic key; it has a little transmitter board in it with a battery. They take the transponder code and write it onto the transmitter board so the car thinks it’s the same key, hence the term clone.

The technology can be confusing. Is that why some locksmiths hesitate to get into this?

When you’re cloning, you need an electronic key to do it. With the RW4 Plus you can clone PT5 keys and the electronic keys, both the EH3 for Texas Instruments and the EH3P, which is for the Phillips. Many of the blades are interchangeable. Y160PT and Y164PT is the same blade, one for Texas Instruments and the other for Phillips; same blade but different heads. Fortunately the RW4 Plus tells you whether or not to use the Snoop. The RW4 Plus walks you through the whole process. You just put in the customer’s key and it tells you what to do.

When do you need to use the TKO?

When you have no keys. Now that we can do the Phillips keys with the Snoop. The RW4 Plus can be used for most keys. Anyone who has a store with walk-in traffic should have an RW4 Plus.

Why are there still locksmiths with shops who aren’t making these keys?

A lot of it has to do with the investment involved, my opinion. These folks are turning away business and sending them to the competition. I have a guy in Virginia who had Verizon bring all their trucks in one day and he was able to clone keys for $3,000 in one day and pay for his machine!

So without a machine like the RW4 Plus, they can’t make any high security keys?

He still can do a lot of those keys through on-board programming. Using a transponder key, not an electronic one, you can use this method. Now some of them are very difficult and includes opening and closing the windows, hitting the door button, hitting the brake pedal. If you lose your sequence you have to start all over again. It’s a heck of a lot easier dropping a key in to be read and a few seconds later you’re putting the other one in. The money they make is as much and more than selling a lockset.

What are most locksmiths charging to make these keys?

They’re getting $75-$85. The margin is phenomenal for not a lot of effort. When people complain that it’s a lot of money for a key, then let them go to the dealer and see how much it cost there.

So with the RW4 Plus you don’t even have to go to the car?

With the Phillips transponder, you do but it only takes a couple of minutes. You put it on the head of the key, turn it on, you have two LED’s; one captures it. Turn it off and on again and it captures the second challenge code then you bring it in and drop it in. It takes you and extra five minutes but if you amortize it out to an hourly wage, you’re making about $2,000 an hour.

Since my automotive training at the ILCO plant, I’ve been speaking to my customers more often about how they are servicing these customers. There are locksmiths with an RW2 sitting in their shop collecting dust. What were they able to do with the RW2?

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