Finding Profits in Replacement Keyless Remotes

Nov. 15, 2004
Replacement rate and cost of keyless remotes is higher than duplicating keys.

The average remote is replaced approximately every four years. The average cost of a remote (and programming) is significantly more than the cost to duplicate an automotive key.

Approximately 78 percent of the vehicles sold during the 2003 model year are equipped with factory-installed keyless entry systems. This is a significant increase in the number of vehicles equipped with factory keyless entry systems, up from approximately 42 percent in 1997. More than 70 million new vehicles sold from 1997 through 2003 in the United States are equipped with factory-installed keyless entry systems.

This increase could be a result of the elimination of the keyed passenger door lock on many of the newer vehicles.

More than 191 different remotes were factory-installed for vehicles built between 1998 through 2002. However, about 11 remote models cover approximately 25 million or 50 percent of these vehicles. For example, one of the 11 remotes is KeylessRide part number 5960. This three-button remote is used on Chevrolet and GMC models and will operate on approximately 2.9 million vehicles. The vehicle years and models are:

  • Chevrolet: 1999-01 C/K Pickup, 2000-01 Suburban, 2000-01 Tahoe, 1998-02 S10/T10 Pickup, and 2002 Blazer.
  • GMC: 1999-01 C/K Pickup, 2000-01 Yukon, 1998-01 Sonoma, 2000-01 Tahoe.

Another one of the top 11 remotes is the KeylessRide Model 5330. This Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and Mazda remote will operate approximately 6.4 million vehicles, including those listed below.

  • Ford models: 99-04 Econoline, 01-04 Escape, 00-04 Excursion, 98-02 Expedition, 98-04 Explorer, 98-04 F-Series pickup, 98-04 Ranger, 98-03 Windstar.
  • Lincoln models: 98-02 Navigator.
  • Mercury models: 98-01 Mountaineer.
  • Mazda models: 98-04 B-Series pickup, 01-04 Tribute.

To determine the programmability of all cars built between 1993 through 2004, KeylessRide has a comprehensive price catalog available to locksmiths. Using this catalog simplifies the process of determining the proper remote and what is required to program a new remote or add an additional remote.

Before we discuss programming, let's discuss the question, "How does a remote (fob) work with the keyless entry system?" The remote is a transmitter. Built into the remote is a controller chip. When a button is pressed, the controller chip in the remote generates a security code. The transmitter in the remote sends both a command and the security code. The component of the keyless entry system is a receiver that listens for security codes and specific remote commands. Programming aligns the security codes in the receiver so they match the security codes in the remote. The security code transmitted by the remote teaches the security code to the receiver, not vise versa.

Once the security code is learned, the receiver will accept the security code and the command codes, such as, "Unlock the lock mechanism." The properly programmed and operating vehicle will then unlock the door lock mechanism. If not, the security code is not learned; the keyless entry system does nothing.

For rolling code remotes, the security code changes in both the remote and the receiver each time the remote button is pressed. To accommodate out-of-range button presses and more than one rolling code remote programmed to the same vehicle, a "look ahead" buffer in the receiver accommodates up to 256 button presses.

As locksmiths, we provide our customers with replacement keys when their keys are lost or damaged. Remotes are replaced more often than keys. The average remote is replaced approximately every four years. This could be the result of loss, damage, or just wearing out. The average cost of a remote (and programming) is significantly more than the cost to duplicate an automotive key.

Programming a new remote for a factory keyless entry system can range from on-board programming to requiring specialized equipment. Today's remotes and receivers do not contain dipswitches. There is no need to remove the cover from a factory remote or receiver in order to program.

Most factory remotes can be programmed using on-board programming methods. More than 50 million vehicles are equipped with on-board programming capabilities.

For vehicles equipped with on-board programming, programming a new remote requires the following five steps:

Step 1. Vehicle must be initiated into the programming mode.

Step 2. Vehicle confirms it's in the programming mode.

Step 3. Press remote buttons to line up security codes.

Step 4. Vehicle confirms matching of security codes.

Step 5. Exit the programming mode.

NOTE: On-board programming does not require any special tools. However, on-board programming does require exact timed procedures.

The average on-board programming procedure takes less than three minutes.

For example, to program a remote for 2000 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, you must first determine if the vehicle is setup with keyless entry. More than 80 percent of the 2000 Chevrolet Silverados are equipped with keyless entry. The easiest way to determine if the vehicle is setup for keyless entry is to ask the owner.

To program a new remote for a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado 1500:

Step 1. Close doors and insert the key into ignition while holding up the power UNLOCK button.

Step 2. Cycle the power UNLOCK button TWICE between ON and OFF (ending in OFF), then release power unlock button. The door locks will lock and unlock automatically.

Step 3. On the remote, hold down LOCK and UNLOCK buttons. The door locks will begin to lock and unlock.

Step 4. Turn ignition to ON position. The remote is now programmed.

Not every remote can be programmed this easily. The important thing is to know the correct remote for a specific vehicle. KeylessRide not only sells original equipment remotes for more than 35 vehicle manufacturers, but also provides telephone technical support (877-619-3136) for the products it sells. In addition, locksmiths can go onto the KeylessRide web site ( and obtain information for a specific year, make, and model vehicle's remote. KeylessRide will assist locksmiths in determining if a specific vehicle is equipped with keyless entry using a variety of methods including identification through the VIN, finding remote keyless entry code information, and testing the system.

Approximately 28 percent of the vehicles equipped with remote keyless entry from years 1997-2003 require a programming tool to program each remote. This means more than 10 million vehicles do not have on-board programming capability. This seems to be following a trend the vehicle manufacturers have been following for the last six years as the percentage of vehicles equipped with on-board programming has decreased from 86 percent in 1997 to 67 percent in 2003.

Multiple-manufacturer programming tools including the Advanced Diagnostics AD100, the ASP T-Code, the Ilco SDD, and the STRATTEC Code-Seeker are available to program remotes for these vehicles. The multiple-manufacturer tool may not be able to program all of models of a specific manufacturer.

However manufacturer-specific programming tools including the NGS, DRB-III, and the TECH2 are designed to program all vehicle models. The NGS is specific to Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. The DRB-III is specific to Chrysler, Dodge, Eagle, Jeep, and Plymouth vehicles. The TECH2 is specific to Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Saturn. In addition to programming remotes, both the multiple-manufacturer and manufacturer-specific tools are designed to program transponder-equipped keys.

For this article, we will program a 2004 Cadillac DeVille. The 2004 DeVille requires a General Motors TECH 2 scan tool to program the remote keyless entry system, as it does not have on-board programming capabilities. Many of the later model General Motors passenger cars do not have on-board programming capability.

To program the 2004 Cadillac DeVille (Photo 1):

Step 1. Plug the TECH 2 into the OBD port just below the dashboard closer to the driver's door. (Photo 2)

Step 2. Power the TECH 2. (Photo 3)

Step 3. At Main Menu, select F0: Diagnostics. (Photo 4)

Step 4. At Vehicle Identification Menu, select Model Year. (Photo 5)

Step 5. At Vehicle Identification Menu, select Vehicle Type. (Photo 6)

Step 6. At Vehicle Identification Menu, select Vehicle Make. (Photo 7)

Step 7. At Vehicle Identification Menu, select GM Body Code. To determine the body code, see the Vehicle Identification Number. (Photo 8)

Step 8. At Vehicle Identification Menu, select Model. (Photo 9)

Step 9. At Diagnostics Menu, select F1: Body. (Photo 10).

Step 10. At Body Menu, select Remote Function Actuation. (Photo 11)

Step 11. At Remote Function Actuation Menu, select F2: Special Functions. (Photo 12)

Step 12. At Special Functions Menu, select F1: Program Key Fobs (Photo 13)

Step 13. Under Program Key Fobs Menu, select the number of key fobs to be programmed (including any existing key fobs). For this application, we will program three key fobs. (Photo 14)

Step 14. Follow on-screen prompts. All key fobs must be programmed each time any fob is programmed. To program, press and hold the LOCK and UNLOCK key fob buttons as prompted by the TECH2. Programming takes 15-30 minutes. Turn ignition ON, engine OFF. Continue. (Photo 15)

Step 15. Press the Lock and Unlock Buttons on the key fob. Continue. (Photo 16)

Step 16. Switch to the next key fob that needs to be programmed. Continue. (Photo 17)

Step 17. Press the lock and unlock buttons on the key fob. (Photo 18)

Step 18. Switch to the next key fob that needs to be programmed. Continue. (Photo 19)

Step 19. Press the lock and unlock buttons on the key fob. (Photo 20)

Step 20. Key fob(s) were programmed successfully. Press EXIT when done. (Photo 21) Test all remotes to be certain they operate.

In addition to selling remote keyless entry fobs, there is a market for replacement batteries. This enables you to provide additional services for your customers that should keep them coming back year after year.

For more information, contact KeylessRide at 877-619-3136, or visit the web site

Article written with information provided by Mike Laranang, Managing Partner, KeylessRide.