Key Programming Innovations and Universal Remotes

Aug. 2, 2017
Several options to OEM remotes can help you solve customer demand, and still provide quality products.

I seem to have the same conversations on the phone over and over.  It seems that I’m always trying to explain things to customers who think that they already know everything, but most of what they “know” is just plain wrong.  Sometimes it’s impossible not to irritate them, but I keep on trying.  One of the catch-phrases that I’ve been using lately to explain why I don’t have their particular remote in stock is: “There are so many frequencies and functions that even the dealers can’t stock them all.”  We all know that is true, but some people just don’t get it.  And even though I know that it’s true, it even irritates me.

Another line a use frequently is: “The dirty little secret about remotes is that the manufacturers intentionally change things all the time just to force customers back into the dealerships.”  We all know that is true also, but we don’t necessarily have to play by the manufacturer’s rules.  Today, there are options to OEM remotes that can really help you solve customer demand, and still provide quality products.

I have a steady stream of callers who have bought some junk remote from China that they can’t program.  They simply do not understand why I want to charge them more than they paid for the junk remote and then won’t even guarantee that it will work.  I admit that sometimes I do lose my temper and ask them how much of a discount they get at a restaurant when they bring their own eggs, but normally I try to explain the facts of life in a patient manner. 

The bottom line is: I have seen way too many junk remotes to even think about them as an alternative to the real thing.  But, just as there are good and bad aftermarket suppliers in the auto parts business, there are now several aftermarket remote suppliers that offer a product that is as good as, and in some cases better than, the OEM remotes.  And unlike the auto manufacturers, they have a vested interest in trying to cover the maximum number of vehicles with the minimum number of remotes.

Trying to build a single remote that will work for everything is theoretically possible, but economically impractical.  It would have to cover an enormous range of frequencies - both radio frequencies and Infrared frequencies.  It would also have to be equipped with a huge amount of memory and processing power in order to be able to adapt to fixed signal usage, rolling codes, and various levels of digital encryption that are now being offered by the various manufacturers.

However, it is feasible to build a small number of versatile remotes that can replace hundreds of different OEM remotes of specific types or manufacturers.  By focusing on specific types of remotes, several aftermarket manufacturers are now producing remotes that can greatly simplify an automotive locksmith’s life, and offer substantial savings and improved performance to the end user.  Let’s look at just two of the newer players in this fast-growing market.


The “KeyDIY” system ( uses an innovative software system coupled with several different types of programmers that allow you to provide remotes for a huge number of systems.  It took me a while to realize just how versatile this system is, and I’m sure that there are many other uses for it that I have yet to discover, but the machine has quickly proven itself to me.

I have the KD900+ (Photo 1), but the KD900 (Photo 2) offers essentially the same functions at a lower price, but without the ability to interface with a smartphone.  Regardless of which option you choose, the KeyDIY system gives you the ability to produce remotes that are essentially clones of OEM remotes in many different formats.  The format that I use the most often is the “B-series” remote that looks like a 3-button VW flip key (Photo 3).  KeyDIY provides key blades to fit these remotes for a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from Audi to Suzuki.  The flip portion can be ordered with a chip for particular vehicles, or with no chip at all, which is the way I use them the most often.  The flip portion has a socket that will accept any chip that I have ever needed to use, and does not need to be disassembled to access the chip socket.

KeyDIY also provides many different types of remotes, with or without the flip key feature.  Some are virtual lookalikes for common remotes such as Hyundai, Mazda, Honda, and even the new Ford Fusion style flip key (Photo 4).   Most remotes are “universal” in that they can be programmed to emulate hundreds of different OEM remotes.  Some are specific for some vehicles that use special frequencies or transmission styles such as “ASK” (Amplitude Shift Keying) and “FSK” (Frequency Shift Keying) modulation modes.

Either of the KD900 programmers can be used to program these remotes for whatever application you need.  And as a bonus, the programmers can also check the frequency, signal type and strength of signal for virtually any remote.  That function alone makes them invaluable tools for troubleshooting problem remotes.

There are literally hundreds of different ways that you can use these remotes to solve a huge number of problems, but here are the ways that I use them the most.

Duplicating Audi, Porsche, and VW keys: The cost from a dealer for one of these duplicates is one of the highest in the industry.  By using a standard “B-Series” KeyDIY remote in conjunction with the “GKM” chip (Photo 5) from Keyline and my 884 Decryptor Ultegra (Photo 6), I can produce a flip-key remote that looks virtually identical to the OEM key (except for the logo) in a matter of minutes at a cost of under $50.  I normally pass along some of the savings to my customer by pricing the key at about half to three-quarters of the price of the dealer key, which makes the customer happy, and provides a better profit margin to me than virtually any other key I sell.

The procedure is ridiculously easy.  I begin by duplicating the customer’s key on the appropriate blade and installing the blade in the flip portion of the KeyDIY B-series remote that I choose.  I then place a Keyline GKM chip in the chip socket (Photo 7), and secure it with a drop of contact cement or other quick drying adhesive.  Next, I attach the remote portion to my KD900+, select the proper software protocol for the vehicle on my smartphone, and press the “Generate” button.  In seconds, I have a remote that is electronically identical to the OEM remote.

Once the remote has been configured, the chip installed, and the key duplicated, I snap the two portions of the remote together and simply clone the customer’s key.  The 884 Decryptor requires a connection to a computer and stable internet connection.  Once the initial cloning has begun, the procedure normally requires me to insert the clone key in the ignition of the car and turn it four times to “sniff” the vehicle software.  The Keyline website then calculates the algorithm needed for the vehicle and then copies that information to the GKM chip in the new key.  I have never had the process take more than 15 minutes, but I have read that it can take longer at peak usage times and if there are any problems with the internet connection.  Once the chip has been successfully cloned, I then program the remote portion of the key just as I would an OEM remote.   I have a “hotspot” in my van and Wi-Fi at my shop, so I can do the job just as easily on location as I can at the shop, as long as I have a good cell signal.

Replacing Broken Lexus/Toyota keys: We all know that the standard Lexus 3-button remote head key simply does not hold up to normal usage (Photo 8).  The thin plastic shell simply cannot stand the strain that is put on it in normal usage.  I’m sure that some engineer cycle-tested the design thousands of times with some sort of robotic device.  But I’m also sure that the robot never dropped the keys, tried to turn it before it was inserted completely, or used the key to open a can of paint.

I have been buying Lexus “Shell Keys” by the dozen for quite some time and have made quite a bit of money by replacing broken Lexus shells.  However, I always warn the customer that the new key was essentially the same lousy design as the original and would probably break again eventually.  For some customers, I have re-shelled the same remote several times, and every time I do that, the customer is less happy.  For that reason, I have been looking for an aftermarket alternative that would hold up better than the OEM keys.  With the KeyDIY system, I finally have a good solution that is also more profitable than shell keys.

By using a “B-Series” KeyDIY flip key with a Lexus or Toyota blade (Photo 9), and either a new chip, a cloneable chip, or a chip harvested from a miscut key, I can provide my customer with a key that won’t shatter in their hand and that they will show off to their other Lexus driving friends.  The “B-Series” remotes are also available in a variety of colors, so I can even provide them with a key that is color coordinated as well.

Note that when I mentioned Toyota vehicles above, I was referring to the Land Cruiser and other Toyota vehicles that use the Lexus-style head.  I can use the same procedure for most of the standard Toyota and Scion keys, but KeyDIY also offers a key that is virtually identical to the standard three-button or four-button “Cloverleaf” integrated remote key (Photo 10).  The KeyDIY replacement is only slightly more robust than the original, but it is extremely cost effective.  And I only have to stock two keys (3-button and 4-button) to provide an OEM look-alike remote head key for virtually any Toyota or Scion, as long as I also provide the appropriate chip.

Thinking outside the box: The KeyDIY remotes also offer the ability to do some really creative things.  Several “gated communities” in my area issue key-fob style remotes to the residents to open the gate.  With the KeyDIY remote system, it is possible to build up a key that will not only operate the car and the remote functions, but also the gate.  You can also use the same type of remote to provide your customer with a key that will work their car and their garage door opener.

My service van is a 2010 Ford Transit Connect that uses the Tibbe lock system.  Recently the “unlock” button began to fail on my OEM integrated remote key.  Rather than replacing the remote, I programmed a KeyDIY B-series remote and added an 80-bit Ford chip.  Now, I have a Transit Connect flip-key on my keyring that I can use as a demonstration of what is possible when I meet people at parties or at other social events. 

While I’m standing in line to check out at a store, I will often see people with taped together remote head keys on their keyrings.  It’s pretty easy to strike up a conversation, show them my key, and give them a business card.  I’ve gained a lot of new customers with this technique, and the “word of mouth” advertising has been priceless.  The KeyDIY tools and accessories are now available from several locksmith distributors including: Midwest Keyless ( and H.L. Flake (

Solid Keys

The “Solid Keys” are offered by ( based in Louisville, Kentucky.  They introduced their first “Universal Car Remote” in 2014 (Photo 11). At that time, this remote was capable of replacing over 160 OEM remotes to cover over 900 different vehicles.  This first remote was designed to be programmed with on-board procedures that could be performed by the end user.  The basic idea was to offer technicians and retailers, such as auto parts stores and locksmiths, the ability to sell a replacement remote “over the counter” to an end user, who would then program the remote to their own vehicle.

Since the introduction of that first remote, the company has expanded its line of products to include numerous “universal” remotes such as:

  • The Universal Car Remote Classic for older vehicles
  • The Universal Car Remote Pro for vehicles with on-board programming plus those that require diagnostic tool programming
  • The Universal Car Remote Classic Pro for older vehicles with on-board programming plus those that require diagnostic tool programming
  • Aftermarket Ford remote head keys – Both 3 and 4 button, edge cut or side milled keys with an 80-bit chip making it compatible with 40-bit and 80-bit applications (Photo 12)
  • Universal Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Volkswagen Fobik

In addition, they now offer a variety of integrated remote head keys for vehicles that were originally designed for separate fob remotes such as: older Ford, Lincoln & Mercury vehicles, GM vehicles, Chrysler vehicles, Mazda vehicles and Mitsubishi vehicles. also owns and operates Car Keys Express ( which services car dealerships, auto auctions, car rental agencies, and large corporate fleets.  They maintain a fleet of service vehicles in the larger metropolitan areas and offer the “Industry’s guaranteed lowest price.”  But that does not necessarily make them your direct competition.  If you are an established automotive locksmith, who is already working with car dealers, rental car companies and/or auto auctions, you have the home-field advantage as well as the ability to provide same-day response times.

All of these products give you cost effective alternatives to maintaining a large inventory of remotes.  If you have a storefront location, you can put them out on display for “over the counter” sales if you like.  Since these same products are sold online through a variety of sources, you should also make sure that your pricing is competitive.  If you are a mobile locksmith like me, you might want to consider buying these products with the bulk packaging option, so your customer is less likely to do an “end run” around you to get a cheaper price, or discover your cost and markup.