Best of 2017: Automotive Locksmithing

Dec. 4, 2017
Three standout tools: Keyline GKM cloning system, TrueCode Smart from KeyProgrammers Ltd. And the Advanced Diagnostics Smart Pro

When I was asked to write a review of some of the best new automotive tools introduced during 2017, three tools came to mind immediately.  I have owned two of those tools for most of the year, and they have both saved me time and are paying for themselves on a daily basis.  The third is only now becoming available, after being promoted for most of the year, but I feel certain that it will soon become one of my favorite tools as well.  Let’s take a quick look at all three tools

Keyline GKM Cloning System

These small glass encapsulated transponders (Photo 1) have opened up a whole new market for me.  Before the GKM system came along, making a duplicate key for a late model VW, Audi, or Porsche was more trouble than it was worth.  I had to either get a blank or fob from the dealer, and then locate the engine code for the vehicle, pull and convert the PIN code and then hope that I had done everything correctly just to make a duplicate key.  It’s no wonder that so many automotive locksmith have shied away from working on VWs!

But when you consider that the dealers normally get in excess of $300 for a duplicate for one of these vehicles, there is a huge incentive to get into this market, if only there were an easier way to do it.  The GKM system has done exactly that.  By using the GKM system, my cost for providing a duplicate VW flip-key has dropped to around $50 to $75 and generally takes about 15 minutes of my time.  I can easily charge $200 - $250 for the key and beat the dealer price by at least a third.  And best of all, the system is ridiculously easy to use and there is zero risk of screwing up the vehicle.  The GKM system won’t help you if there are no working keys for the vehicle, but after generating a new key in the traditional manner, you can offer your customer duplicates at a price that can’t be beaten.  Now, when I quote a price for generating a key for a VW, I stress a “discounted price” for a second key as an incentive to choose my services over my competition.

To duplicate a VW, Audi, or Porsche key this way, you will have to have the TKM Xtreme software, which is available from any Keyline distributor (Photo 2).  The software works with the Keyline 884 Decryptor or Decryptor Mini cloning devices.  A working key for the vehicle and either a chipless shell key or a flip-key that is either chipless or has a chip that can be replaced will also be required.  After cutting the mechanical key, the cloning process is very simple, but does require a stable internet connection.  If I am working in the field, I use a “Hotspot” in my van for the connection.

Once the system is connected to the Keyline website, all you have to do is follow the on-screen prompts.  The first step is to read the customer’s original key, which takes just a few seconds.  Then the new key is prepared to “sniff” the vehicle security system.  (“Sniffing” is the process of downloading information from the vehicle into the new GKM chip so that the Keyline computers can generate a working key.)  The new key is then inserted into the vehicle ignition and turned from OFF to ON four times, pausing in the ON position for a few seconds each time.  Once the “sniff” is complete the, new key is returned to the cloning device and the computation begins.  All you have to do is follow the on-screen prompts to insert the new key or the original key into the cloner.  Normally, the process takes about 10 minutes, but according to Keyline, it can sometimes take longer if a lot of people are using the system at the same time.  I have never had one take more that 15 minutes though.

For most VW vehicles, I use a KEYDIY “B-Series” remote flip-key which looks almost identical to a VW OEM key.  ( )  The B-series remote is supplied without a chip, so I simply insert the GKM chip into the chip pocket and add a drop of contact cement to keep the chip from rattling inside the case.  I have used the B-Series remotes for some Audi and Porsche vehicles as well, but for some vehicles there is no programming available in the KEYDIY database for the remote functions.  In those cases, I order a refurbished flip-key for the appropriate vehicle from my supplier and then replace the chip in the key with the GKM chip.

The GKM system has paid for itself many times over since I purchased it and I consider it one of the most cost effective investments that I have made in my business. 

More Info:

TrueCode Smart

The first time I saw the TrueCode system (Photo 4) was at the Just Cars event this year in Arizona.  A TrueCode Smart was a raffle prize.  I asked a friend about it and he told me that he had one and loved it, so I did a little research.  I liked what I saw and when I boarded the plane home, I had one in my luggage.  After using it for about five months, I don’t regret buying it at all, and although I haven’t tracked it exactly, I know that if it hasn’t paid for itself yet, it soon will.

The TrueCode system has been around for about ten years, but it wasn’t sold in the North America market until late in 2016.  The original version was developed by Chris Cleasby, the technical director of KeyProgrammers Ltd., who is himself an automotive locksmith.  Chris also does the majority of the coding for the software used in the TrueCode system.  He developed the original tool for himself to solve “all keys lost” situations on Renault vehicles.  KeyProgrammers Ltd. Is based in the UK and does business in North America through International Key Supply LLC, (

The current version being marketed in North America is called the “TrueCode Smart” system.  The hardware consists of a cable that has an OBD-II plug on one end and a USB plug on the other, and a USB “Security Dongle.”  Your laptop must have two open USB ports as well as the Windows® 7 or later operating system.  (I am using the system on a Windows® 10 computer.)

From the beginning, the TrueCode system was designed to be modular, and you can pick and choose just the modules that you want, or purchase “Package Deals” for selected applications.  The system that I purchased has modules for Ford, Mazda, Chrysler (including Jeep, Dodge, and some Fiat based Chrysler vehicles) and Nissan.  The Nissan module did not cover the 20-digit PIN vehicles when I purchased my tool, but software for those vehicles should be available around the time this article is published.

The TrueCode system does not require an annual subscription or the use of “Tokens.”  When you purchase a particular module, the purchase price includes everything except the hardware.  So far, updates for the individual modules have been free.  New systems, such as the Nissan 20-digit PIN may require the purchase of additional software modules.  A full list of applications is available at the TrueCode website at:

Using the TrueCode system is also simple.  After plugging the OBD-II cable into the vehicle and your laptop, and inserting the security dongle into an open USB port, launch the software.  Select the vehicle that you want to program from the list of vehicles, insert the new key into the ignition and follow the on-screen prompts, (Photo 5) and you are done.  The first vehicle that I programmed with my TrueCode was a 2017 Ford F-Series truck with the new 128-bit chip.  The software said that it was finished in seconds, but since there is no security light on that vehicle, I wasn’t sure that it was programmed until I started the truck.  I simply couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was!

Smart Pro 

The brand new the Smart Pro (Photo 7) should be available around the time this article is published.  So, I don’t have any personal “in the field” experience with it yet, but I am on the list to get one as soon as one becomes available.  The Smart Pro is the successor / replacement for the T-Code Pro and the MVP Pro.  It is capable of programming all of the vehicles that those machines can program and much more.

Transponder technology is constantly changing, and the tools to service transponder systems have to keep changing in order to keep up.  Advanced Diagnostics has done a great job of keeping the T-Code Pro platform current by introducing new software and hardware to keep up with new systems.  But eventually, a point is reached where a new platform becomes necessary, and that time has arrived.  Since the T-Code Pro / MVP Pro system was introduced, it has been kept current with the introduction of new software and hardware add-ons such as the Smart Card Calculator, the Smart Dongle, the Smart Aerial (ADC-242), and devices such as the Force Ignition tool for VW (ADC-222).  The new Smart Pro incorporates some of these devices into its basic operating system, but more importantly, provides robust support for some of these add-on devices and for future devices that the current platform simply cannot support.

One of the new features that interest me the most is the “Hybrid” operating system that will allow the user to purchase software updates or use “Tokens” on the same machine.  I have always chafed at the thought of burning a token to program a Ford or other common vehicle, especially if I am only adding a duplicate key.  That’s one of the reasons that I have five other programmers in my truck in addition to my MVP Pro. 

With the Smart Pro, I’ll be able to buy the Ford software and use it as much as I want, with no additional expense, yet when I need to program something odd, like a Subaru or Saab, I can use a token and get the job done.  Yes, I know that in some parts of the country, Subaru vehicles are very common, and that is exactly my point.  Here in the South, they are few and far between, but if I lived where Subaru vehicles are common, buying the Subaru software might be more cost-effective than using tokens.  I love the freedom that this new feature gives me to set up my machine the way I want, instead of having to buy multiple machines.

Another thing that has always irritated me about my MVP Pro is the use of “Security Dongles.”  I understand why AD has to secure their software.  I also know that the pirated knock-off machines are driving the prices of legitimate machines and software up.  I just wish that the security system was more user-friendly.  Back when I had over a dozen different dongles to deal with, it was a real nuisance, and that coupled with the Smart Card Calculator made me want to tear my hair out.  The Smart Dongle went a long way toward solving those problems, but it still wasn’t perfect.  The new security system on the Smart Pro is integrated into the operating system and should make the machine a lot more user-friendly by eliminating dongles completely.

When the T-Code Pro / MVP Pro platform was introduced, proximity fobs were virtually nonexistent.  Now they are quite common, and the new Smart Pro is designed to deal with them better than the older machines.  Another new technology that didn’t exist when the older machines were designed is the practice of “Pre-Coding” individual keys before they can be used.  Now that Fiat owns Chrysler, that issue has become a major pain.  The Smart Pro has built-in support for the Smart Aerial and the RW4 to support much easier pre-coding.  In addition, the Smart Pro has an Icon-based touchscreen and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support to deal with updates and new vehicles that require a wireless connection.  And since a physical connection to the vehicle may not be possible, an internal rechargeable battery that provides two hours of stand-alone use is also built into the Smart Pro.

Advanced Diagnostics has offered a phone app called Info Quest or ADIQ for quite some time.  At first the app was slanted heavily toward European vehicles, but has gradually become more reliable for North American vehicles.  Someone has put a lot of work into this database, which covers vehicle OBD port location, key type images, VIN and engine codes, plus programming tips that provide the user with the essential information required for generating or duplicating keys, in addition to remote programming.  The Info Quest database will be built into the new Smart Pro, and the data is now categorized by region; Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, and US & Canada.

For current owners of a T-Code Pro or MVP Pro, a trade-in program is available with lots of incentives to trade up to the new machine.  The incentives include a cash discount based on the age of the machine that you are trading in.  All of your existing tokens will transfer over to the new machine, and you can keep your existing machine for up to two month before you actually have to send it in to complete the trade-in.  If you own a Smart Dongle, you can also trade that in (the Smart Dongle is not needed with the Smart Pro) for your choice of 20 tokens or two months of Unlimited Token Use.  In addition, all future updates will NOT be backward compatible, and will only work on the new machine.  There is also a trade-in program for miscellaneous third-party programmers, but any trade-in must have a retail value exceeding $500. 

For more information on the Smart Pro or the trade-in program go to: