Adding, replacing and/or creating a spare key
Reading around messages about lost keys made me decide to create a spare key for a non-alarm equipped Rubicon. Costs for replacement keys at the dealership have been reported to be $90 to $270!
The critical issue is to create a spare key while you have TWO functional keys. If you have two working keys you can add an additional key without needing access to a dealer and their diagnostic computer. So if you have three keys and lose one you can buy another blank and still program another replacement key. According to the owner's manual you are limited to 8 keys that can programmed by an owner.
I picked up a blank non-alarm key that includes the critical transponder chip for $15.00 including shipping on eBay. The vendor I used had 1,000s of posts with favorable feedback. I read one report of someone who felt they got a fake key with no transponder chip from another vendor. But this could have been user-error on the programming.
For those of you with an alarm key fob you can still use the non-alarm, but transponder equipped key as a back-up key. This would allow you to later purchase a remote equipped key blank (likely from a MOPAR parts dealer), but you would be able to code it to the vehicle yourself because you have TWO working keys and can save some cash.
After you get your blank you will have to get your key cut and copied. I decided to go to a locksmith rather than the hardware store because I've found that hardware stores make more bad copies as they are less skilled than a locksmith. This isn't an issue when they are providing the blanks and simply cut you a new key if the copy doesn't work. On the other hand, since I just spent $15.00 on a blank I didn't want to have to try again with yet another blank.
The locksmith was surprised when I brought my own blank, but after I explained it was transponder equipped she understood. She asked if I knew how to program it and I said I did. Since I provided the blank she charged me a whole $2.00 to cut my key. So my total cost for this "mod" was $17.00.
The next thing you want to do is check your key and make sure it works. Check it in all the doors and the gate. The key is designed to work in two directions so check it once, rotate it 180 degrees and check it again. Lastly you want to check in the ignition. Be careful here or you will wind up triggering the ant-theft system. I only spun the key to the accessory position. I did this twice and flipped the key on the second try.
If you actually try to start the Jeep with the key before it is programmed the motor will run briefly and than shut off. If you do this too many times, not sure how many though, the Jeep will shutdown for 24 hours and your only option is to wait it out or tow it to the dealer.
Assuming the key mechanically unlocks everything you are ready to program the new key. YOU MUST HAVE TWO EXISTING FUNCTIONAL KEYS. Here are the steps as cribbed from the vendor and modified by me to be JK specific:
1. Insert one of the existing transponder keys into the ignition and turn the switch to the ON/RUN position. (i.e. not the ACESSORY postion, but don't start the Jeep. Marvel as all the idiot lights illuminate because engine is non-running)
2. The key should remain in the ON position for 5 seconds but not more then 15 seconds before you turn it back to the OFF position.
3. Within 10 seconds, insert the second existing transponder key into the ignition and turn the switch to the ON position. The VTSS(Vehicle Theft Security System) or Sentry Key Immobilizer System lamp (depending on model ) should start to flash. On the JK this a red dot over by the temperature gauge. It is located at about the 1:00 or 2:00 position of the gauge.
(The key vendor suggests "this along with a audible tone will indicate to you that the system has entered the 'Customer Learn' programming mode." I didn't hear anything like this. I just kept hearing the seat belt chime. But I didn't have any issues.)
4. Within 45 seconds, turn the switch to the OFF position. Insert the new transponder key that you just had cut and turn the switch to the ON position. "After approximately 10 seconds an audible tone will sound and the Indicator lamp will stay illuminated for 3 seconds." Once again I didn't hear any tones other than the seat belt chime. But the VTSS light next to the temperature gauge DID turn itself off. I waited a few more seconds and turned the Jeep off.
At this point you should be done. I crossed my fingers and started the Jeep with my new key and it worked fine. If it didn't the Jeep will run for a few seconds and shut off. DO NOT KEEP TRYING THE NEW KEY IF THE ENGINE DOESN'T CONTINUE TO RUN. You will activate the the anti-theft feature. Start the Jeep with one of your original keys first, stop the engine and try again.
I also checked my two original keys running the Jeep for about a minute each time to make sure there were no issues with the anti-theft system. I didn't have any problems.
Hope this helps and good luck!
Last edited by Timbo2000; 02-19-2010 at 06:33 PM.
Reason: Fixed some typos, updated number of keys