Beyond Cloning

July 1, 2008

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 and the original chip can keep the first generation of transponder keys operating today.

By Jerry Levine

In the mid-1990s transponder-based anti-theft systems were introduced into North American vehicles. Many of these vehicles are still in operation today. For daily drivers, the metal blades of these keys are wearing out to the point of difficulty operating the ignition and/or door locks.

In the past, an original or a “spaced” duplicate key could be cut and the customer would be on his or her way. A “spaced” duplicate key was made by raising the customer’s key slightly higher in the key machine vise jaw to compensate for the material lost as a result of use.

However, with a transponder-equipped key, this was not an option because the transponder could not be moved to the new key blank. The cost of replacing a transponder-equipped key is significantly higher when compared to a non-transponder equipped key. For this reason, many people will keep using their one transponder-equipped key as long as possible and will not consider getting new keys until “oops” the key will not operate the locks.

Depending upon the vehicle and the anti-theft system, there were originally three choices: machine programming, on-board programming or cloning. Each choice included having to purchase a new transponder-equipped key blank. Today we have more choices.

Starting several years ago, Jet Hardware introduced their line of “LC” (Less Chips) transponder- equipped key blanks. The “LC” key blanks did not come with a transponder chip, the idea being the customer’s transponder-equipped key would provide the transponder chip. The Jet Hardware “LC” key blanks are designed to accommodate the original transponder. Since the “read only” transponders have a life expectancy of many thousands of cycles, a metal key blade would wear out long before the chip. Also, if a transponder equipped key blank was mis-cut, the Jet Hardware “LC” key blank could be used with that transponder, making the mistake less painful.

Jet Hardware “LC” key blanks are available for the following:
Ford                H72-PHT-LC
Chrysler           Y160-PHT-LC
Toyota             TR47-PHT-LC
Lexus (short)    TR48-PHT-LC
Lexus (long)     TR49-PHT-LC
Honda              HD106-PHT-LC
Nissan              DA34-PHT-LC
VW/Audi         HU67-PHT-LC

A version of the replaceable blade transponder key concept was introduced with several styles of the “battery equipped” electronic keys. These key blanks were sold in three configurations - a complete key blank, electronic head or blade only. Should the blade become inoperable, it could be replaced. Should there be problems, the electronics could be replaced. These “battery equipped” key blanks are available from Bianchi, Ilco, Jet Hardware and STRATTEC.

IMPORTANT: All of the battery equipped electronic keys do not have identical transponders. Always use the key blank manufacturer’s information in order to determine their key’s compatibility with the vehicle make(s), model(s) and year(s).

Recently, JMA has entered the North American market with key blanks for cylindrical locks, utility locks and automotive locks. JMA is a key blank manufacturer based in Spain. According to sources, they produce more than 2 million key blanks a day. For the purpose of this article, we will discuss their three different configurations of their automotive clonable Texas Instruments® (TI) transponder key blanks.

The JMA automotive TI clonable transponder key blanks are individualized by the color of the JMA jewel: green, blue or red. The replaceable jewel is located on one side of the transponder key’s plastic bow.
A green JMA jewel indicates the clonable transponder contained within the bow of the key is Texas Instruments fixed compatible TPX1 series transponder, For example, the Ford (Jet H72-PT) or the Toyota (OEM #89785-26020). The JMA TXP1 transponders are the glass encased type similar to those used by Ford for their fixed value transponders. Note: JMA green logo transponders can be cloned multiple times.

A blue jewel indicates the clonable transponder contained within the bow of the JMA key blank is a Texas Instruments (TI) encrypted (Crypto value) compatible TPX2 series transponder, For example, the Ford (STRATTEC #599114) or the Chrysler gray bow (Ilco Y160-PT). Additional TI compatible clonable transponder “blue” jewel key blanks are available for Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, etc. The JMA TXP2 transponders are also glass encased type. Note: JMA blue logo transponders can be cloned one time only for most applications.

A red JMA jewel indicates the key blank is an empty shell. There is no transponder chip in a factory shipped “red” jeweled key blank. The “red” jewel key blanks are available in just about every keyway configuration in which the green and blue jeweled transponder key blanks are available. The red jeweled JMA shell is capable of accommodating either a glass or a ceramic transponder. Note: Red jeweled key blanks (shells) are significantly less expensive than blue or green jeweled transponder equipped key blanks.

The JMA TI transponder key blanks are designed with a removable transponder mechanism. There is a small hole in the bottom of the key head directly beneath the red square (transponder holder). To remove the transponder holder (and if present, transponder), slide a paper clip into this hole and carefully push the transponder holder out of the key bow. The transponder holders are designed for specific head styles and are not interchangeable between all the different head styles.

The TI compatible transponders can be removed from JMA green and blue jeweled key blanks, installed into other JMA jeweled key blank to create applications that are not yet available.
For example, at this time there is no 2005-07 Subaru Outback transponder- equipped key blank available from JMA. To create a transponder key for the 2005-07 Subaru Outback, use a “red” jewel Nissan key blank (JMA part number TP00-DAT-15.P2) and any TPX2 transponder from a “blue” jewel JMA key blank.

Expanding on this concept, transponders can be harvested from Original Equipment Manufacturers keys and other aftermarket key blank manufacturers’ keys that are worn or broken or need to have a combination change and installed into a JMA jeweled key blank or when viable, a Jet Hardware “LC” key blank.

The following example creates a new transponder key without having to clone or program. A customer had a fixed value Ford 8-cut transponder key; an H72 type. The blade was worn and would no longer operate the locks. The customer’s key was taken to a grinder and material was removed from the top of the bow along the edge that did not contain the key ring opening. About one-eighth of an inch was removed, exposing the white plastic transponder ampoule protector. The protector and the transponder were removed. Choosing a red jewel Ford 8-cut shell, the transponder holder was removed using a paper clip. The customer’s transponder ampoule was inserted onto the holder and into the JMA shell. The key cuts were originated and the customer was able to operate the mechanical locks as well as start the engine. This eliminated the need to clone/program the transponder and have the customer pay a programming fee.

IMPORTANT: Stocking the Jet Hardware “LC” and the JMA red key blanks, can reduce the number of each transponder key blank kept in stock. This money savings can enable locksmith to stock a wider number of programmable and clonable key blanks.

Another “beyond cloning” method involves the remote head keys. These are transponder-equipped keys that have a larger bow to accommodate the buttons and mechanisms to remotely lock/unlock the vehicle’s door and tailgate/trunk. Vehicle manufacturers using remote head keys include Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Lexus, Toyota, Honda, etc. The remote head keys listed excluding those for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles are available as “shells.” This means the circuit board and the transponder can be removed from a broken shell and installed into a new shell as long as the number and placement of the buttons are the same. The shell has the attached blade.

The Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep remote head keys have a very large and cumbersome remote head keys. This often results over time in broken remotes. A broken remote usually means it will no longer start the engine unless the pieces are taped or held together.

Replacement remote head keys are expensive. In addition, the keys have to be programmed at additional expense. As an alternative, you can offer your customers a replacement shell and no programming expense. The electronics are transferred from the broken remote head key to the shell. No programming of the transponder or the remote functions is required, saving your customer time and money. HATA has a large selection of remote head key blanks and shells.

For this article, I have included photos of an actual broken Honda remote head key and the replacement shell. The electronics were harvested from the customer’s key and installed into the HATA replacement shell. The job was completed quickly with a happy customer who saved money.

Because of the high cost of transponder keys, the customer will look at it as using the keys longer and will not get keys until it will not operate the locks. Let your customers know that they have a choice and can save money by your company harvesting their transponder mechanism and installing it into a new shell.

For more information, contact:
Bianchi: 800-891-2118
Web Site:
Hata: 888-888-4282
Ilco: 252-446-3321
Jet: 718-257-9600
JMA: 817-385-0515
STRATTEC: 877-21-8798