Transponder Chip Cloning in 2019
By: Stephen Hoffman
In 2015 we published an article on cloning in order to educate our customers on the benefits of one of the more complicated aspects of automotive locksmithing. Flash forward a few years and the cloning landscape has changed so dramatically, we felt that it was time for an update. With a little help from Stephen Hoffman of Pop-A-Lock of Northern Colorado, we proudly present to you, a look at cloning in 2019.
Gone are the days of needing to spend thousands of dollars for the simple ability to clone a key. Not long ago, the Keyline Mini 884 was the cheapest and most reliable option, especially with ID48 cloning. Now, there are several options at $250 or less, some of which do MUCH more than simply clone.
The Benefits of Cloning
Troubleshooting Every automotive locksmith should have some form of a cloner. Even if you have no intention of ever cloning a key, a cloner can be used to identify if the transponder is functional, whether a key is locked, and some can even be used to test the vehicle’s antenna ring (VVDI Key Tool & KD-X2 for example).
Preventing Diagnostic Issues We’re looking at you, VW and Audi. Many of these cars have been modified, causing communication issues when attempting to program a key to the immobilizer system. By cloning you won’t need to worry about letting the magic smoke out of your $3,000 diagnostic tool.
Generating Your Own Chips If you’ve ever heard a fellow locksmith say, “I make my own keys” or “I use chips and shells,” typically they are using a smaller number of blank or generic chips and using a cloner to generate their own transponders. By combining that knowledge with something like the Multi-Function Key Set, you can drastically reduce your cost of goods sold. This knowledge is also helpful in case you forget to order something and you’re able to take an NI04 and convert it into a Y164 or B111.
“I have to wait 30 minutes to add a key to this 2017 GMC Sierra!”
Not anymore! Take your CN3 and your VVDI Key Tool, cut your HU100 shell and you’re all set!
Cloning Saves Money Yes, and no. Depending on what you use to program, while you may be saving a token, cloning chips are sometimes more expensive than standard transponders. An ID48 chip (VW, Audi, Isuzu, etc.) can usually be had for $5 or less, whereas a GKM chip for the Keyline 884 Mini (still the most reliable and cost-efficient option for ID48 cloning in the author’s opinion) can cost well over $20. Some machines, like the VVDI Key Tool, have options that allow you to clone ID48 but charge you a token each time. Most standard keys (NI02, HO03 and Y160 for example) can now be cloned using the cheaper CN and LKP chips.
Clone Is Possible Without the Car Present Yes, but only sometimes. Some vehicles require what is called a “sniff,” where the tool gathers data from the immobilizer ring in order to clone a chip. This is usually on Philips 46 and Megamos 48 chips, but most Texas Instruments 4D chips do not require it.
Modern Cloning Machines
CN900 Mini This tool is strictly a cloner although it can unlock some Toyota/Lexus prox. It can clone the moderately-priced and versatile CN chips and can generate many different transponders. At roughly $170-$180, there’s absolutely no reason to not have one of these in every van. Instead of repeatedly attempting to program a failing key, drop it in the CN900 Mini and check to see if it has the correct chip or no chip at all. Maybe the chip is locked? Maybe I put it in the wrong bag? (not that I have ever done that… *cough*)
VVDI Key Tool All in one, handheld, and no Internet required (for most functions). It generates and unlocks remotes as well. For $250, this tool is worth its weight in gold. Currently, it functions using XHorse chips as well as a couple of others, but as it progresses and gets updated it will likely lose the ability to use LKP-02 chips (it already can’t use LKP-03 for 46 cloning). Just buy two (AKS item 7837) and keep one updated while leaving the second one stock. Sounds crazy but we all do it. For ID48 cloning, the VVDI Key Tool requires a $225 upgrade, $8 tokens, and an XHorse ID-48 chip ($5). It does clone 80 bit Ford and others by connecting to your phone, hotspot or Wi-Fi and using the Internet for calculations.
KD-X2 Similar to the VVDI Key Tool, the KD-X2 clones, generates and unlocks remotes and can be used as a troubleshooting device. However, while the Key Tool is self-contained, the X2 requires a mobile device for total functionality. It can identify transponders and test remotes, but in order to access the abilities to clone, test the antenna and generate remotes it needs to be linked to an active Internet device by Bluetooth. Luckily, Android tablets continue to drop in price. KeyDIY has released their own chips recently but LKP chips work as well. For ID48 cloning, there’s no purchase upgrade necessary, but you will need 150 points (points are accrued by generating remotes and using KD chips).
Keyline 884 Mini What you pay for in up-front costs, you will save in inventory. Keyline requires you to use their proprietary cloning chips, meaning the $5 LKP-02 is out. The GK100 is used for 4c, 4d, and 46 cloning. Internet is required for every cloning action, so keep that in mind.
(I must admit, I have a bit of an obsession. Three years ago, I only had the Keyline 884 Mini. At present, I still have the 884 but have added the CN900 Mini, VVDI Key Tool, KD-X2, Tango, VVDI2 (while it’s a programmer as well, it does have transponder functions) and a Handy Baby. Please don’t tell my wife).
Stephen Hoffman is a Certified Automotive Locksmith with Pop-A-Lock of Northern Colorado. He and his wife Chelsea have been married 10 years and they have 2 sons, Henry, 1 and Andrew, 5 who wants to be a "Pop-A-Locksmith" when he grows up.