2004 Automotive Update

March 15, 2004

The 2004 model year is starting out to be quite a year for automotive locks and keys, transponder-based anti-theft systems and programming equipment. In addition, technology is rearing its ugly head with the introduction of keyless entry and start systems into an under $20,000 vehicle.

Yes, automotive locksmithing is changing. No, the locks and keys as we know them are not being replaced within the visible future. However, for the 2004 model year, many more cars, pickups, and sport utility vehicles are eliminating passenger door locks and deck locks.

Mercedes Benz, Cadillac, Lexus and Toyota, to name a few, have introduced vehicles equipped with keyless systems. I believe that there are about 14 vehicle models worldwide that are available with a keyless system. I believe each model has a mechanical key and lock, just in case the battery dies.

All of the systems have similar yet different names. For example, the Mercedes Benz system is the "Keyless Go;" the Lexus system is "Smart Access;" the Cadillac system is "Keyless Access;" and the Toyota system is "Smart Entry & Start System." All of these permit entry and starting the vehicle without using a mechanical key or holding a "fob" or similar product next to the door or ignition sensor. Simply keep the "key" within your purse or pocket. When you are approximately three feet from the door or deck of the vehicle, the locks begin to unlock. Once inside the cabin, with the transmission in Park, depress the brake, and push the start button.

But let's get back to our day-to-day reality. Today's locksmiths have to deal with vehicles equipped with transponder-based anti-theft systems and with the introduction of new lock mechanisms and keys. Yeah, this includes new keys whose blades are too thick to be originated with most punch equipment and keys that have no real surfaces that can be easily gripped by most key machine vises.

Speaking of transponders, more vehicles are being equipped with the transponder-based anti-theft system having the transponder located within the plastic head of the key. However, new systems and changes to existing systems affect either the method of programming or the transponder key. For example:

  • Mitsubishi has again made changes to its transponder mechanism. For the 2004 model year, the Galant is using a new key with the letter "A" stamped into the blade. Remember, the 2001 Mitsubishi Galant and Spyder were first time equipped with the transponder-based anti-theft system having the letter "R" stamped into the blade. Changes were made for the 2002 model year and the new 2002 key has the letter "N" stamped into the blade. This letter "N" key continued to be used for the 2003 model year. Now the 2004 Galant requires the key blank with the letter "A" stamped into the blade.
  • Nissan and Toyota has modified some of their transponder chips, requiring the use of dealer transponder key blanks only. Some examples are: 2004 Nissan Murano, Maxima, Pathfinder Armada, Quest and Titan and 2004 Toyota Camry, Solara, 4Runner, Prius, Sequoia, and Sienna.
  • Chrysler has made significant changes for the 2004 model year. The 2004 Pacifica and minivans (Chrysler and Dodge models) use new transponder keys which are not compatible with the rest of the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models, nor are they compatible with the 2004 Dodge Durango, which uses the integrated CAN system. Transponder for the 2004 Dodge Durango is optional. If in doubt, cut a metal head key and test before cutting a transponder key.
The 2004 Chrysler and Dodge minivans use the "tan" color, plastic head transponder keys. The Durango uses a different "tan" color, plastic head transponder key. For the 2004 model year, Chrysler and Dodge introduce multiple-button, RFID integrated key blanks. They are available as three- or six-button key blanks. The additional three buttons operate the power sliding doors.

Programming can no longer be accomplished using the D.A.R.T., and you must have the four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) for these vehicles. STRATTEC is the original equipment lock and key manufacturer, and the locks and key blanks are available through your favorite wholesaler.

And, to top all of this off, I have heard that Chrysler is no longer using the term "transponder;" instead the company has coined the term "integrated high security."

Chevrolet and GMC are using an Asian key code series, lock mechanism, and key blank that is the reverse of the TR47 on the new Canyon and Colorado pickups.

In California, the Ford Focus is available with the ZTEC engine. For these vehicles, Ford introduced its CAN system that requires special programming for the transponder keys.

The 2004 Pontiac GTO, a slightly redesigned Holden Monaro, is General Motors' latest. This GTO is equipped with a high-security lock mechanism and transponder-based anti-theft system. Keys are only available through the Pontiac dealership at this time. The 2004 Kia Amanti is being equipped with a high security lock mechanism and transponder based anti-theft system. Keys are only available through the Kia dealership.

2004 Chrysler Crossfire use the Mercedes Benz transponder-equipped sidewinder key. Keys are only available through the Chrysler dealership.

The good news is that locksmiths have their choice of transponder programming equipment. ASP has the T-Code, Ilco has the SDD machine, and now STRATTEC is introducing the Code-Seeker. Check out each of these machines carefully, as they all have unique advantages, and determine which machine will best serve you. Ask about updating, costs, technical support, etc.

More manufacturers are becoming involved in automotive locks. A 1 Security Manufacturing is about to introduce additional key blanks and pinning equipment for a number of the 2004 models, at this point not available from aftermarket key blank companies.

Lockmasters has expanded into the automotive tools and key blanks aftermarket. The company has introduced a remote cloning tool and a number of automotive lock readers, picks and decoders. With the purchase of Tech-Train Productions and the development of the Pure Auto seminars, Lockmasters is becoming a significant force in automotive servicing field.

ASP is continuing to add new locks and components to ITS product line.

Ilco is in the process of introducing new key blanks for the 2004 model vehicles.

Jet Hardware is expanding ITS line of automotive key blanks and filling in on transponder-equipped key blanks.

STRATTEC is the OEM supplier of locks, pin kits and key blanks for Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep and many Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, Cadillac-Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Pontiac-Saturn, Mitsubishi, and heavy truck models. In addition to the Code-Seeker and the Quick-Code, STRATTEC is introducing a line of key blanks for popular "World" and domestic vehicles, with and without transponders.

All in all, 2004 is turning out to be an exciting year for locksmiths who work on automobiles. Just think, 2005 vehicles will begin to appear on the roads in about three months!