top of page
  • Writer's pictureDave Picozzi

I Saved $260 Replacing My Car Key, and So Can You!

Updated: Jan 22

Losing my car key was a headache, but it quickly became a financial one when I realized replacing it would cost hundreds of dollars. The car dealership quoted me $350, and local locksmiths weren't much cheaper at $250. I was curious if there was a way to do it myself.
Low star ratings and bold rip-off wording with a car dealership in the background

Research led me to Simple Key by Car Keys Express. It's a $100 all-in-one solution that includes a device that plugs into a vehicle’s OBD port and a programmable key. You can get it locally at Autozone, online at Amazon, and several other places. It’s important that you check compatibility with your vehicle’s make, model and year to ensure you’re purchasing the right kit. There are several kits that include vehicle dependent keys.

Similarly, Car Keys Express also has a $70 Universal EZ Installer device that plugs into a vehicle’s OBD port, but uses a mobile app and requires you to supply a programmable key. Again, it’s important to confirm compatibility with your vehicle’s make, model and year prior to buying it. Check compatibility as well since their app only works with 64-bit smartphones; old mobile phones are usually 32-bit.  

Both solutions are very capable. I recommend the Simple Key all-in-one solution for the average person. Being technically savvy, I chose the other one with the mobile app.

Here are the steps I followed using the Universal EZ Installer:

1. Finding the Right Key:

The key to saving money (literally) is finding the right replacement programmable key. I found a blank key with all the necessary electronics, transponder, buttons, and battery for just $14 delivered and confirmed the part number with my car’s part’s department to ensure compatibility. This was crucial as it ensured all the buttons and the key blank would work. The dealership wanted $175 for the same key, so it felt like the first victory!

2. Getting it Cut:

Next, I headed to my local hardware store and got the key cut for $6. This was a quick and easy process, and it saved me another chunk of money compared to dealership prices.

3. Programming the Key:

This is where most people would give up and head to the dealer, but I was curious if I could do it. I downloaded the Universal EZ Installer mobile app, reconfirmed compatibility, plugged the device into my OBD port, started the app to sync the OBD port with my smartphone’s bluetooth, and selected my vehicle make, model and year from the app drop down menu. Then, I pressed ‘continue’ to start programming the key. It was ready in less than 10-minutes.

Unexpected Results:

Good news… the new key’s transponder started my car with no issues!

Bad news… none of the new key’s buttons worked (unlock, lock, trunk, alarm) 🙁

Easy Fix:

To get the key’s buttons to work on my Ford, I had the car, itself, reprogram them by doing the following:

1. With the driver door shut, electronically unlock the vehicle door

2. Place the new key quickly into the ignition

3. Turn the key into on/off positions without starting the car eight times within 10 seconds leaving the key in the on position

4. Press any button on the new key. The car then recycled the door’s lock/unlock positions to indicate successful programming of the new key’s buttons.

5. Turn the new key into the off position.

6. Press any button on the old keys so they will be reprogrammed and stay functional

Was It Worth It?

Heck yeah! I found it incredibly satisfying to do this from the convenience of my home, not leave my car at the dealership for several hours, and ‘stick it to the man’ for trying to overcharge me $260 for only 15-minutes of effort.

This DIY solution is fantastic, but it comes with a few caveats:

  • You need a working key. The Universal EZ Installer requires an existing key to start your car and program the new one.

  • Smartphone compatibility. Make sure your smartphone is 64-bit for app to work.

  • Single-vehicle use only. The device is limited to just one vehicle.

  • No aftermarket parts. The installer won't work if your car has aftermarket parts that alter its computer system.

  • Maximum key limit. Each vehicle has a maximum number of programmable keys. The installer won't exceed that limit.

Overall, this DIY project was a huge success. I saved a good chunk of money, learned a new skill, and gained the satisfaction of doing it myself. To build your confidence, do your diligence regarding device compatibility, and watch a YouTube video to see how others programmed their vehicle’s keys.

If you're facing a similar situation, I highly recommend giving it a try!


bottom of page