Facts on Transponder Programming Equipment

Oct. 15, 2003

For most locksmiths who service automobiles, transponder-programming equipment has either become essential or will be within the near future. Statistics provided by the automotive industry show that more than half of the vehicles sold in North America for the 1999 model year were equipped with transponder-based anti-theft systems. And this percentage has been growing steadily every year.

Specialized keys and tools are required to service vehicles with transponder-based anti-theft systems. Each vehicle manufacturer has its own equipment and procedures. With the introduction of Ford PATS for the 1996 model year, the New Generation Star (NGS) device was made available in order to service these vehicles. A few years later, Chrysler introduced the DART and the DRB III machines. Then Nissan/Infiniti introduced the MUT II machine. And the list keeps growing. In fact, for the 2004 model year, Kia and Hyundai are expected to introduce vehicles with transponder-based anti-theft systems to North America.

In addition to the dedicated machines, two companies have introduced machines to service vehicles from multiple manufacturer machines — ASP's T-Code machine and Ilco's SDD U.S.A. machine. Each is designed for specific manufacturers and vehicle models. These two self-contained machines can be updated via serial port. Updates are made available as additional manufacturers and vehicle models are added.

The following information was received directly from the companies marketing the following transponder programming and cloning machines. The companies will be listed in alphabetical order.

Programming machines are designed to program pre-programmed transponder keys to the vehicles' onboard computer. For this article, we will discuss the dedicated machines, those designed for a single (or co-operation) manufacturer, and the multiple-manufacturer machines.

The following is a list of the dedicated machines available to locksmiths. They include:

Chrysler DART. The Chrysler DART is designed for most North American-built Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles. A four-digit personal identification number is required. The PIN can be obtained through either the dealership network or roadside services. Annual updates are free.

At this point in time, the DART cannot program the 2004 Pacifica, 2004 transponder-equipped Durango or the 2004 minivans.

Ford NGS. The Ford NGS is designed for most North American-built Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles. The 2000-on Jaguar "S" type can be programmed using the NGS. No PIN is required. However, there is a 10-minute security delay. The NGS machine uses flash cards for diagnostics and service. Fee-based flash cards are updated annually.

Note: At this point in time, the Ford NGS cannot program Focus models equipped with the PZEV low emission engine.

Mitsubishi MUT II. The Mitsubishi MUT II is designed for Mitsubishi and Chrysler vehicles using the Mitsubishi transponder mechanisms. These include the Dodge Stratus two-door and the Sebring Coupe. A four-digit PIN is required. The Mitsubishi MUTII machine will require updating.

Nissan/Infiniti Consult II. The Nissan/Infiniti Consult II is designed for Nissan and Infiniti vehicles equipped with the engine immobilizer system. Software specific cards are required for programming vehicles. The Nissan/Infiniti Consult II machine will require updating.

General Motors Tech2. Most of the General Motors, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac vehicles have on-board programming capabilities and do not require a programming machine. However, the Cadillac Catera (a European Opel) can be programmed using the GM Tech2. The General Motors Tech2 machine will require updating.

Audi/Volkswagen. Several tools are designed to program Audi and Volkswagen vehicles. To program Audi and Volkswagen vehicles, a time-sensitive login code, available only through the dealer network, is required. Note: the manufacturer machines have the capability of reading some of the vehicles' login codes. Machines to program Audi and Volkswagen vehicles will require updating.


Two multiple-manufacturer programming machines are being sold throughout North America at this time, the ASP T-Code and the Kaba-Ilco SDD. Both can be used to program transponder values to specific make and model vehicles.

As of August 1, 2003, the ASP T-Code is available in three different configurations. The differences are the programming capabilities. All T-Codes can be updated using the additional software packages. The original T-Code configuration, which can program the Cadillac Catera, Ford USA PATS-1/PATS-2/PATS-3, Mitsubishi, Nissan-Infiniti, and Volkswagen-Audi, was discontinued as of July 31, 2003.

The ASP T-Code New Complete Package includes programming capabilities for the Cadillac Catera, Chrysler-Jeep, Ford USA PATS-1/PATS-2/PAT N, Honda-Acura, Mitsubishi, Nissan-Infiniti, and Volkswagen-Audi. Note: At this time, the T-Code New Package will not program the 2004 transponder-equipped Durango, 2004 Chrysler Pacifica and minivans.

Locksmiths can choose from two T-Code Starter Packages: the T-Code American Car Starter Package and the T-Code Japanese Car Starter Package. The T-Code American Car Starter Package includes programming capabilities for the Chrysler, Jeep, and Ford USA PATS-1/PATS-2/PATS-3/CAN systems. The T-Code Japanese Car Starter Package includes programming capabilities for the Honda-Acura, Mitsubishi, and Nissan-Infiniti.

To update existing T-Codes, additional programs are available individually for machines that are not programmed for the following vehicles. These fee-based programs are for Chrysler-Jeep, Ford, Honda-Acura, Mitsubishi, and Nissan-Infiniti.

The Ilco SDD U.S.A. machine contains most Ford/Mercury/Lincoln, most Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, and Honda/Acura software. Until October 1, 2003, Ilco was supplying all purchasers of SDD USA with free Nissan/Infiniti software and applicable cables/adapters. Ilco currently offers Nissan/Infiniti, Mitsubishi, and VAG (Volkswagen/Audi) software updates.

Note: At this time, the Ilco SDD U.S.A. machine will not program the 2004 transponder-equipped Durango, 2004 Chrysler Pacifica and minivans.

Presently, Ilco is developing updates that will include Ford CAN, Chrysler CAN, Remote Keyless Entry Programming, and Toyota/Lexus software. According to an Ilco spokesman, these updates will be available during the fourth quarter of 2003.

All of the transponder programming machines will require updating as vehicle manufacturers make changes and improvements to their anti-theft systems. As a result, machine manufacturers will update their equipment on an ongoing process. There will probably be charges associated with updates.


Cloning machines are designed to identify and replicate an existing transponder value onto a programmable transponder. The advantage of cloning an automotive transponder key is that there is no limit to the number of transponder keys that can be cloned from one pre-programmed transponder. This is because they are duplicates of an already programmed transponder key. This does not affect the number of transponder values that can be programmed to a vehicle.

Note: Cloning machines cannot change the value of a pre-programmed transponder.

Only a limited number of clonable transponder keys are on the market. Programmable transponder-equipped key blanks are available for General Motors models, Honda models, a Mazda model, and a Nissan/Infiniti model.

Different key blank manufacturers use different methods to identify their programmable transponder-equipped key blanks. The Jet Hardware key blanks equipped with programmable transponders have an "-N-" within the part number. The Ilco programmable transponder key blanks part numbers have a suffix of "PT2" or "PT5". The "PT2" and "PT5" indicates zero value. The "-N-" indicates neutral (zero) value. Curtis key blanks containing programmable transponders are Ilco key blanks and contain the Ilco part number.

To clone a programmable transponder-equipped key, the cloning machines are designed to read a pre-programmed transponder, memorize this value, and then write this value onto a compatible programmable transponder-equipped key. Once programmed, the programmable transponder acts as a pre-programmed transponder. Note: Most of the programmable transponders can be reprogrammed to a different value.

Five transponder cloning machines are available: the ASP TC-CLONER, the Jet EDT-1 and EDT-1-JR, the Kaba-Ilco RW2, and the STRATTEC QUICK-CODE™. Chart 1 provides basic information on each of these five units.

Most cloning machines have the capability to send information to a computer for later retrieval. This way, keys can be cloned without having to have an operating key.


Transponder detectors are handheld, battery-operated devices designed to identify keys equipped with transponders. This is advantageous, as many transponder-equipped keys appear the same as non-transponder keys.

The TKD-1 (Transponder Key Detector), manufactured by Jet Hardware, and the TD3A, manufactured by Ilco, are two of the transponder detectors available through locksmith wholesalers.

To operate a transponder detector, the key in question is inserted into the receiver. The opening of the receiver has a slot through which the key's blade is inserted. The momentary power button is pressed. An LED will indicate whether a transponder is present within the key bow. The Ilco TD3A Transponder Detector will identify the manufacturer of the transponder.


The transponder-based anti-theft system was introduced to North American automobiles for the 1996 model year. By the 1999 model year, more than 50 percent of the passenger vehicles produced were equipped with a transponder-based anti-theft system.

Since the introduction, there have been dramatic changes to these engine immobilizing systems. Ford introduced the PATS-1, PATS-2, and PATS-3. General Motors has the PK3 and PK3+ (plus versions of each). Nissan, Infiniti, Mazda, and others went from clonable systems to variations depending upon whose electronics were installed.

This has lead to the need of education. Locksmith associations and locksmith wholesalers provide educational opportunities at seminars and conventions. Lockmasters has developed Pure Auto – Automotive Weekends, traveling automotive training covering transponder-based anti-theft systems and other aspects of automotive servicing.

In addition, auto manufacturers' websites and industry association websites can provide starting points for information. (see below). One of the best sites is the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), a not-for-profit, no-dues task force established to facilitate the identification and correction of gaps in the availability and accessibility of automotive service information, service training, diagnostic tools and equipment, and communications for the benefit of automotive service professionals. The NASTF is a voluntary, cooperative effort among the automotive service industry, the equipment and tool industry, and automotive manufacturers. The website is www.nastf.org.

For more information, contact the following companies or your local locksmith wholesaler:

• T-Code and TC-Cloner - ASP Inc., P. O. Box 10, Redmond, WA 98073-0010. Website: www.carlocks.com

• Transponder key blanks - Curtis Industries Inc., 1301 East 9th Street, Suite 700, Cleveland, OH 44114. Telephone: 800-555-2878. Fax: 800-867-6020. Website: www.barnesdistribution.com.

• SDD, RW2, TD3A, and transponder key blanks - Ilco, 400 Jeffreys Road, Rocky Mount, NC 27804. Telephone: 800-452-6872, Extensions 200, 384, 356, 398. Website: www.kaba-ilco.com.

• EDT-1, EDT-1-JR, TKD-1, and transponder key blanks - Jet Hardware Manufacturing Corp., 800 Hinsdale Street, Brooklyn, NY 11207. Website www. jetkeys.com.

• MUTII, CONSULT II, NGS, HELVWTOOL and transponder key blanks – Lockmasters Incorporated, 5085 Danville Road, Nicholasville, KY 40356. Website: www.lockmasters.com. Telephone: 800-654-0637. Fax:


• QUICK-CODE, DART, and transponder key blanks - STRATTEC Security Corporation, 3333 West Good Hope Road, Milwaukee, WI 53209.