There was a time when all cars used simple keys for unlocking the doors and starting the engine. Today, keys are still around but less common. Many Toyotas of the past few decades have used some combination of a wireless key fob and a mechanical key. With the introduction of push-button and remote start, most new Toyota vehicles rely only on a key fob to enter and start the car. Some Toyotas support vehicle entry and startup from a phone app. Check out this article to learn more about smartphone apps and online tools for your Toyota. Below we'll discuss the many types of keys that Toyota offers and how they function.
Mechanical Key With Transponder
The Toyota transponder key, introduced in 1998, contains an electronic immobilizer chip. Besides having an embedded computer chip, the key looks like a standard physical key. This chip communicates a security code to computer modules in the vehicle. If the key code matches the code stored in the computer, the car will start. If the codes do not match, the onboard computers will immobilize or prevent the vehicle from starting. A visible security light is the easiest way to identify if your older Toyota uses a transponder key. When the vehicle is locked, a security light will flash in the instrument cluster.
Master And Valet Mechanical Keys
There are two different types of mechanical transponder keys used on Toyotas:
- Works in the ignition and all other key locks
- Can be used to program a new master or valet key
- Used for third parties to park your vehicle
- Only works in the doors and ignition (not glove box or trunk)
- Cannot be used to program new keys
Keyless Entry Fob
Keyless entry fobs were introduced in the 1990s to allow vehicle entry without the physical key. A mechanical key is required to start the car, but the fob enables remote unlocking of the doors and trunk. A “panic” button sounds the car horn in an emergency or to locate your vehicle.
Smart Key Fob
First introduced in 2004, the Toyota smart key fob incorporates advanced immobilizer electronics. The smart key extends functionality to unlock the doors and trunk, activate the horn, and start the vehicle. There are several generations of the Toyota smart key, each offering more sophisticated anti-theft measures and functionality.
There are two different types of smart key fobs used on Toyotas:
Smart Key Fob With Exposed Key:
- Used on Toyotas that still have a mechanical key ignition switch
- Looks like a traditional mechanical key with buttons on the head
Smart Key Fob With Concealed Key:
- Used on Toyotas that have a push-button ignition switch
- A physical key is concealed inside the fob for emergency use.
- The physical key is used to enter the vehicle if the smart key fob battery is dead
- If the battery is dead, holding the key fob near the push-to-start button will allow the car to start.
Programming The Transponder Key Or Smart Key Fob
Always contact a qualified Toyota dealer or locksmith to program a new transponder key or smart key fob. Programming a new transponder or smart key incorrectly can put the onboard computers into lockdown mode. Once the computers are locked, they may require costly repairs. Sometimes modules have to be replaced, and sometimes the problem is with the door itself - you may have to do a little trouble shooting to find the cause. Check out this post for diagnosis guidance. If you have questions about replacing or reprogramming your transponder key or smart key fob, email us or give us a call.
You Can Count On Olathe Toyota Parts Center
We have a large selection of smart key fobs and other parts for your Toyota vehicle, and we're centrally located in Kansas City. For that reason, we can provide fast shipping to the east and west coasts. All our OEM parts are backed by the standard Toyota 12-month, unlimited miles warranty. And if you have any questions, we’re here to help. Please feel free to contact us!