Transponder keys and immobilizer systems explained
What is EWS? EWS stands for “Elektronische Wegfahr Sperre” which translates to electronic immobilizer lock. Immobilizers are devices that prevent unauthorized use of your vehicle by either physical or electronic stop guards. First implemented in Europe in 1991, electronic immobilizers have grown in popularity and now are used in nearly all makes, models and years of motor vehicles. Immobilizers work by automatically arming once the ignition key is turned off. Once armed, the vehicles’ anti-theft security interrupts components via relays, effectively shutting off items such as the ignition coil, the fuel pump or the engine starter motor. Some vehicles offer triple-interruption circuits that can shut off the three main components simultaneously. Using a wireless RFID transponder (radio frequency identification) embedded in the plastic head (housing) of the key, the immobilizer can be controlled with ease simply buy using the correct programmed key. RFID transponder chips used in keys are the same technology used to microchip your pet. These RFID transponder chips are self-contained units that require no batteries and are the size of a larger grain of rice.
Some of the most advanced technology widely used today is inside your car key! German manufacturers were some of the first to use this technology. Because BMW and Mercedes had a head start producing cars with electronic security immobilizers, they have made many improvements including wireless and proximity keys. Comfort access keys allow the driver to unlock and start their car without having to take the key out of their purse or pocket. The security immobilizer in the car interrogates a wireless key fob when in close proximity which sends the “password” information to the immobilizer to verify if it is correct. If correct, the car’s start button will turn on the car engine, and unlock the steering wheel. Some cars even have steering wheel and seat adjustments that move to the key owner’s previous settings for maximum comfort. Because of these proximity keys, there is much more to a vehicle’s security than just a metal key.
Modern transponders used in immobilizer devices today can have rolling-code security as well as encryption, up to 256-bit, preventing the unauthorized duplication of the code, which prevents anyone borrowing your car (e.g. valet) to be able to get a duplicate key made in minutes while you are away. Because of these rolling-codes and encryption, even some locksmiths are unable to duplicate your key leading to a higher expense and longer wait times when all keys are lost. Additionally, most modern car keys have end-milled “laser cut” keys or high-security “sidewinder” keys. These laser cut keys require specialty equipment to cut and can cost 4 to 5 times as much as a typical car key. These types of keys usually have a square tipped shape with a uniform depth wavy groove in the middle of the blade. These keys are cut symmetrical so that the key works both ways it is inserted into the lock.
At Arizona Key Guys, we strive to stay ahead of the curve and use universal key programming computers that allow us to recreate your keys the same way as the dealer would, but at your convenience and usually at a lower cost. When you receive your quote from us, we not only include our service callout, we include the cost of the key, metal emergency key blades, cutting the key and programming the chip to start your car. Not all prices given out by other companies, including dealerships, encompass the entire cost including labor and programming. Arizona Key Guys will never add extra fees after quoting out the price.
As technology develops, car manufacturers will be implementing new levels of security. Some cars in the future could use a fingerprint scanned on your cell phone to enable the car to drive while using higher levels of encryption of communication to the immobilizer. Whatever the case, rest assured Arizona Key Guys will be on top of the latest technology so you never have to worry about your car’s security.