Introduction: Non-RFID Key Copy for RFID Key

Picture of Non-RFID Key Copy for RFID Key

If anyone has and RFID key that is required to start a car and has tried to get a copy we know it runs over a $100 to get one, and most stores will not just make a non-RFID copy due to legal issues.  But if you need one that will just unlock the doors to get the accidentally locked set of keys out, this instructable will show you how to make a real copy of the key from a blank key you can purchase at the store.

Step 1: What You Will Need:

Picture of What You Will Need:
First you will need some common and uncommon materials.
  • A blank key that has the same V grooves as the real one.  For the most part if they will not duplicate it they should sell you the blank, Lowes sold me one for $1.97 (the total cost of this project)
  • A filing set with different types if files (mainly a round, and a D shaped file)
  • Non-hardening clay that is not reactive to heat
  • A grinding wheel or dremel tool to help speed up the process
  • A vice (optional)
  • A lead melting pot with Lead or a soldering iron 
  • tape 
  • Some side cutter snips

Step 2: Negative Copy of the Key

Picture of Negative Copy of the Key
First we have to make a negative of the key.  
  1. We will do this by molding the clay into a round circle with a rolling pin.
  2. Then we will cut it in half, try to make it as strait of a cut as possible.
  3. Press one side of the key into the clay and make it flush to the clay.
  4. Repeat on the other half of the clay with the opposite side of the key.
  5. Now line up the two half's of the clay, perfection is a must, and lightly apply pressure around the edges of the key imprint in the clay to where it is the same thickness of the original.  Now you can press the rest of the clay farther away from the key together to form a better seal so if any molten led does seep out it will not go very far.

Step 3: Lead Casting for a Positive Copy

Picture of Lead Casting for a Positive Copy

Now that you have a negative mold of they key we need to come up with a positive temporary copy of it, this is where the lead will come into play.  First heat up your lead pot to get some molten lead.  I have a lead pot because I do my own bullet casting for my hand guns and shotguns.  If anyone wants and instructable on bullet casting just leave a request in the comments section. Now that the lead is molten and around 650ºF put on you safety equipment, I am using welding gloves, safety glasses and a welders apron.  when molten lead comes into contact with skin it really, really, really, really, really2 hurts. The lead will bubble and spatter when it is poured into the clay mold so be prepared for it.  After it has cooled enough to be handled pull it out of our mold and clean off the excess clay.  Now we will trim it down to match the origional.

If you are using solder from a  soldering iron just get it to drip in the clay mold fast as you can from the tip of the soldering iron.  I have never done it this way but it should work in theory

Step 4: Trimming and Grinding

Picture of Trimming and Grinding

Now that the key is trimmed with side cutters and taped to the blank we need to start grinding the rough shape of the mountains and valleys of the key.  For this step you can either use a vice and a Dremel tool or a grinding wheel with a 90º angel on its grinding edge.  You will see in the video I used a grinding wheel to get the rough shape.  If you do not have a Dremel or grinding wheel you can use the files by themselves it just takes a lot longer.

Step 5: Fine Tuning the Teeth

Picture of Fine Tuning the Teeth

Now that we have the rough shape of the key ground out we can either keep the lead copy on or remove it and file it by constantly looking back and forth at the original your choice, I did a bit of both.  I kept the lead copy on until I got down to where I needed to do the fine details of filing.  Now this is the part that will take some time just keep grinding it down and slowly it will begin to resemble the original.

Step 6: Testing the Fruits of Your Labor

Picture of Testing the Fruits of Your Labor

After you have it finely tuned and it looks as close to the original as you can get it, test it out.  If everything went as it should, you should be able to lock and unlock the car with no problems, now as far as starting it that's another story.  

Trying to start a car that requires and RFID chip with a key that does not could damage the computer in the car and not allow it to start correctly anymore, you have been warned.  

But if you just need to unlock it then you are fine to use this method.


taifur (author)2015-09-18


glohstr (author)2012-10-10

I have done something similar using JB Weld instead of lead and a manual key copier. Worked great!

elco_chan (author)2011-08-17

Here is a good article on how and RFID key works and what it does to the vehicle when you start it with a non-RFID key.

espdp2 (author)elco_chan2011-08-26

It was a good article, but I didn't see any information that would tell me if my engine computer "would be harmed" by starting it with the non-RFID dumb key.

Of course that meant that I had to try a dumb key in my wife's Grand Caravan (I forgot to ask her permission first, OOPS!). It ran for about 5 seconds and quit. The little red security dot on the instrument panel flashed angrily. After inserting my smart key, it started right up and drove the same as before.

I can't say if that's the case for every other car, but it suits my needs for now.

lloydrmc (author)espdp22012-05-28

How likely is it that ANY manufacturer would build something that would have a failure mode of actually damaging the ECU? It would aggravate owners, and also incur warranty costs.

I can see that an ECU could go into non-responsive mode that requires the aforementioned "buzz box" to revive, and even that seems unlikely to me. It seems more likely that the ECU would just be unresponsive for an extended period of time.

As you said, though - it is likely that this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

dll932 (author)espdp22012-02-11

Generally, the car will crank but not start-with no harm-unless you crank it so long you burn out the starter!

lloydrmc (author)elco_chan2012-05-28

My experience with the Ford PATS system, (1998 Contour, and 2001 Taurus) is the engine will turn over, and will not start at al.

lloydrmc (author)2012-02-20

I got a copy of an RFID key made at an ACE Hardware for something like $68, including sales tax.

To put a Ford into program mode, you put a working/recognized key in the ignition, and turn it on and off rapidly (something like seven times). The car computer responds by cycling the electric locks - if so equipped - to show that it is in programming mode. You then put the new key in and turn it on (I think), or maybe start the car, within something like 15 seconds.

I don't doubt that some cars go into some sort of failure mode if you try to start them with some sort of unauthorized key. I wonder if that would survive disconnecting the battery, or clearing with a code reader? I know that on a Ford, having too many keys and whatnot on the same key ring can block the RF signal, preventing the car from starting. I'm pretty sure this has happened three times in a row, with no ill effects.

The process to get the car to recognize another remote is similar, except you press any key on the new remote.

Since the RFID remote key blanks are so blooming expensive, I have considered using trying to reuse a key that I have left over for a different Ford vehicle that I no longer own. I wonder how hard it would be to attach a new key to the old RFID part?

As for the utility of posting an instructable on how to do all this, I think one can say that quite a number of the instructables posted on this site - perhaps a majority - are for things that are available commercially, frequently for less than what the DIY materials cost, let alone labor. So who cares?

ovtomato (author)lloydrmc2012-05-28

I have a 2004 Ford Ranger and got an extra key cut at the dealer then programmed it in my ignition. Key was $30 have seen them cheaper on ebay.
According to my owner's manual you need to valid keys. Place one in ignition turn on and off several times (can't remember how many) remove and do the same with the other valid key. You then have 10 seconds to put the new key in ignition and turn on.
If you don't have two keys you have to go to ACE for the $69 key or Ford will charge you $100 to program your key. If you lose all your keys the vehicle needs to be towed to the dealer for a new key. Sounds like having an extra was cheap insurance. I will never let myself be reduced to one key. Also the ignition is set to only program 8 keys so don't lose them all the time.

lloydrmc (author)ovtomato2012-05-28

The Ford PATS system works by sending an RF signal ifrom the steering column to read the RFID chip . Seems to me that if it was powerful enough to fry an RFID chip, it would fry you first.

I just don't see how the key could possibly be "fried" by putting it in the ignition. More likely that the code is put on a sort of "black list" that it won't allow to be programmed in the ECU.

There's a difference between "valid" keys and "programmed" keys. Ace doesn't program your key for you, they cut a key that has the RFID chip in it that your car's ECU will recognize. You get the ECU to recognize the key, using the process you outline.

It's easy to tell in a vehicle with electric door locks how many times to turn the ignition on and off, as the ECU puts the locks up and down to acknowledge that it's ready to be programmed.

dll932 (author)2012-02-11

What I can say unconditionally as a locksmith is: However you do it, make sure you have at least TWO spare keys!! Some high end foreign makes will cost between $400 and $3000 dollars to fit a new key to if you lose them all! Even if you DO pay upwards of $100/key, it's worth avoiding the difficulty and inconvenience.

harris126 (author)2011-08-14

I studied locksmithing many years ago. One lesson involved duplicating a key with files. You put the original on top of the blank and hold them over a lit match. Hold them high enough over the match to allow them to become coated with carbon soot. When you remove the original key there will be a reverse image left on the key blank. Simply file off the part of the blank that is black, and you will have a workable copy. You will probably need to reapply the carbon a few times, so make sure that you have enough matches.

dll932 (author)harris1262012-02-11

With SOME blanks, you can file a key to fit the lock by impression. Since this is a somewhat involved method, I will refer people to Google it. This only works with keys that have the cuts on the edge or edges of a flat blank (and only if the blank is brass, not nickel-steel, like many OEM auto blanks).

GutterClown (author)harris1262011-08-15

Pretty much, yeah.
What we teach apprentices is to find the datum point of the key (shoulder or tip-aligned) and use a set of vernier callipers to measure and copy the key.
That way, later on you can genuinely 'make' a key with just a key-code, an impressioning file, and the spec sheet for the spaces \ depths.
It's a brilliant exercise to keep them busy for an hour or two =P

Kataze (author)2011-08-13

In my experience, Transponder key blanks are cheap to obtain on the internet, and telling a cars computer to trust a new key in addition to its original is a simple and easy process. Clearing the memory on the other hand (distrusting all previous ignition keys) is the process that requires 30-90 minutes wait time.

dll932 (author)Kataze2012-02-11

SOME cars require a "buzz box" that costs a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Generally only the dealers and SOME locksmiths have these.

TheRevJester (author)Kataze2011-08-14

Instruct-it up!

Kataze (author)TheRevJester2011-08-14

Perhaps I will at some point! In the mean time, here's the site I learned it from

GutterClown (author)Kataze2011-08-15

Hey man, working locksmith here. Be very careful to make sure of make \ model if you're trying those.
Adding a new key to some cars is pretty simple, but some can take silly routines like: "5 pumps of the brake pedal, two turns of the ignition, then open the drivers door"
We call these a chicken-dance =D

I've always found it easier to get your keys cut somewhere that Clones the keys, that way the car thinks it's exactly the same key, not a new one.

Example: your key might have the magic RFID number 4213, your spare key is numbered 5382. When you add a new key, it might be 4915. the car 'sees' 3 unique keys.
But if you clone your key, it's just another 4213 =)

tkjtkj (author)Kataze2011-08-14

so how do ya do that? some fancy tip-toeing thru the pressing of certain switches? or does it require physical access to the computer itself?

Kasm279 (author)tkjtkj2011-08-14

If you have a Ford vehicle, check out the manual. If I remember right (for the 2004 escape we had) you needed to put the original key in, turn it on doing something to put it into programming mode, turn it of and put in your new key, turn it, take it out, and put in the original. Something like that, not to terribly difficult to do.

ploop171 (author)2011-10-29

A tip for using these keys is to make sure you can find the key with the RFID chip in it because as soon as you open your door (depending on the vehicle) your alarm will go off. found out the hard way

dlemke (author)2011-10-06

I remember the GM resistor chips in the ignition keys, where you could measure the resistance on the key, buy that resistor and wire it into the two corrisponding wires under the dash. Even these keys are expensive to be replaced by the dealer, but then what isn't expensive from the dealer? Just getting the resistence information on your fuel injectors can be a chore from the dealer, as they don't want you testing your own injectors. I'm surprised they don't have readers and programmers somewhere on the net, as everyone hates to get fleeced, especially us "instructables" type people! I would think you could get a reader out of a junked car, programming would be another story.


danieljw (author)dlemke2011-10-17

they do make readers for trouble shooting your car/truck what ever to tell you what is the problem. trust me i know they have them my dad has one!!

mstyle183 (author)2011-09-26

good luck.. i might have to try this with my pool key

bmalek (author)2011-08-14

I have some older lead molds for toy soldiers from the 30's and 40's. A couple have very small tubes in the mold and I can't get the lead to flow through. I'f tried pre-heating the mold, over heating the lead, but when it works, the lead is VERY brittle. Is that a result of having tin or some other impurity in it? Any ideas?

Todd2255 (author)bmalek2011-08-22

???spin casting??

elco_chan (author)bmalek2011-08-16

Where are you getting you lead from? I get mine from melting down Wheel Weights and they do have some zinc weights the they use for balancing wheels as well. lead melts at 621.43 °F and Zinc melts at 787.15 °F. If you are over heating the lead and you have zinc in it that will make it very brittle, but since lead is heaver then zinc it should float on top of the lead before it will melt and you can remove it then. What I have found when I am casting bullets is to get my aluminum and steel molds I heat them up to around 600 °F and than immediately quench the bullets in water as soon as they come out of the mold. with this method I have never had any brittle bullets.

bmalek (author)elco_chan2011-08-16

I mainly use wheel weights, too. I dig some bullets out of the local shooting bluff. I heat the mold up to 600 deg in the oven and the lead set to about 700 in the melting kiln. I used to get the small bit of lead foil in dental x-ray pics (my dad is a dentist but retiring) and those work great. I have done some reading on 'hardened lead' Where they intentionally add zinc to make it more durable. I don't know how to get the zinc out.

On a side note, paper grocery bags (the thick brown ones) can be used to make lead molds for simple blocks or ingots. The flash point is over 600 deg so they won't ignite.

elco_chan (author)bmalek2011-08-17

Good to see a fellow caster here as well, for removing the zinc you need to flux it with sulfur, the zinc will bind with the sulfur and other impurities and form into dross/cake on the top of the lead and you can just skim it off with a ladle or spoon you use for stirring the lead in the pot. This should remove most of the Zinc if any has melted into the lead and getting the zinc out should keep any casting from becoming brittle. The last ting I want is a bullet to shatter in the barrel of my guns, I like my hands to much. : )

Todd2255 (author)2011-08-22

some of the wal-mart now make RFID keys for under $100

dennisdiamond (author)2011-08-21

I've had multiple Non-RFID keys made over the years. There are no such legal or liability issues.

The only difficulty I've ever had was getting the person cutting the key to understand that I'm aware that the key won't start the car and that wanted it for my wallet incase I lock the keys in it. They're generally trying to be helpful by explaining that you can't just cut an RFID key and have it work but once you explain yourself they’ll cut it.

As for damaging the car, that's just not true. RFID keys are passive RFID which signal an electric switch that allows that ignition to start the car if an authorized key is present. Saying a blank key can damage your car is the equivalent of saying that not having a key in you ignition could damage you car.

theRobertBush (author)2011-08-17

how about lining the original up on the blank and spray painting them so a "shadow" forms on the blank? obviously, you would use a paint that is easily removed.

Lion of Love (author)2011-08-15

These are NOT RFID key copies, they are just lock copies. They will open a door but not start the vehicle. I just had 2 (door) keys cut by a locksmith for my Ford Windstar for $12. and they are brass, not lead. I would worry that the lead key will break off in my lock! RFID keys would be $90 each. That's still expensive.

elco_chan (author)Lion of Love2011-08-17

I am not using the lead cast as a key, the metal is to soft and I would worry about it breaking in the tumbler, I am using it as a template to grind and file the blank. The reason I did not use the original as a template is because the FOB is built onto the key and I was not able to get an accurate template from it, as well as not wanting to damage it during the grinding process.

rusty2926 (author)2011-08-15

Nice instructable but seems like a lot of trouble just for a pass key. Got mine made at the local hardware store. Just told them why I wanted it and they agreed it made more sense then having another exspensive key made. Keep mine in my wallet. Local Lowe's wouldn't do it but most chain stores have policies and no one wants to risk losing thier job over a key. But if you want to go through the whole mission Impossible route these instructions seem complete. Not many of us have a vast arrangement of files, clay, grinder or dremel tool much less a lead melting pot.

elco_chan (author)rusty29262011-08-17

I know a lot of people do not have lead meting pots, the only reason I do is because I cast bullets and reload my own ammo. It's a lot cheaper to shoot a .44 Magnum at $0.06 a shot (reloaded) compared to the $1.13 a shot (factory load), it just takes a lot of time to reload everything.  If you don't have a lead melting pot you can use liquid resin or even candle wax if you wanted.  You just need something that will have a rigid form after you remove it from the clay so you can place it against the key without damaging the original key when you are filing/grinding it.

siamonsez (author)2011-08-16

I'm confused, shouldn;t this ible be called Non-RFID Key Copy?
I had a copy made of my honda key that has a RFID chip at my local ACE hardware that I keep in my wallet in case of locking the real key in like you mentioned and it was only a couple dollars including the blank. Also, if the place that sold you the blank wouldn't cut it for you, which seems odd to me, a locksmith should do it.

tkitzman (author)2011-08-16

HUGE disappointment. Your title says RFID Key Copy. Well, gee. I wonder why so many of us are disappointed in this. We thought you'd found some true secret as to how to copy the important part of the key. As most have stated, we can go to Home Depot or Walmart and get the door key portion copied. I still have to go to the dealership to get the spendy portion.

bshea (author)2011-08-16

I went to Home Depot today... asked the guy at the key counter if he could make a copy of my RFID Key.

He said "Ok, but it will only be good for opening the door."


Approximately 45 seconds.

Got a hot dog on the way out.

weldor (author)2011-08-15

I worked for six years at a hardware store in Vancouver,WA that cut keys (among doing other things). The some RFID keys can be duplicated if the particular make and model has had its software released to the people that make the machine that are used to burn the commands onto the chip in the key head..

Here is how it works. 1. owners key is inserted into slot in the reader.
2. reader tells if the key may be copied or if it is a restricted key.
3. if key may be duplicated and the store has the key head in stock, then the key is readay to go.Yes, the after market key is a kit and only a kit! ****Here is the tricky part- some/most auto mfgs require that you use a initiation sequence upon inserting the new key into the ignition. IF THIS STEP IS NOT DONE CORRECTLY YOU WILL LOCK OUT YOUR CARS COMPUTER! and you will then have to go to the dealer to get that issue fixed. Expensive and it will ruin your day.
4. these copies generally run about $75USA on the average to make. Not cheap, but way cheaper than going to the dealer.

5. The only keys that we were not able to copy were the "lasesr cut" keys. they take a laser (duh!).
6. off topic but there are some Master brand padlocks that look like the key should be a standard key blank. This is not true. They take a slightly thicker blank that is not interchangeable.

veeguy (author)2011-08-15

I have an Audi with a RFID Immobilizer type key. Spares are $265.- plus coding. I did some Audi forum sleuthing and found that if I got the right key fob ID number I could purchase a new metal "stem" portion for $6.50.

I searched eBay for a few weeks, bought 3 correct ID fobs, and 3 new metal stems for about 70.- total. The fobs still need to be programmed to work with the specific car, and you need a dealer to go online with Audi to get immobilizer codes.

I went to the service department at lunch time, (use the back doors, and catch the techs on lunch break ) and was able to get a tech to code all 3 fobs for $20.-.

I then had the parts guy cut the 3 new metal portions for $15.00. Total outlay for 3 new "proper" keys? $120.- Total price at Audi parts counter? $810.- plus service department fee plus tax!

My point? Check out alternate solutions before spending money.

mce128 (author)2011-08-15

Even though I may have posted some alternate suggestions, nice 'ible!

mce128 (author)2011-08-15

Here, a hand file would be invaluable! (Preferably a #4 swiss cut pippin file, but many other hand files will do the job quite well)

mce128 (author)2011-08-15

Alot of people using this (well essentially, anyway) method, use gallium or possibly wood's metal instead of lead. Also, you should use the key made from these soft metals other than to test if they work. But bring it in to a locksmith to have it cut on a key machine from your copy.

For any poo-pooers out there...
Please remember, a thief is about 99% more likely to brick/rock your window (maybe shim it or jimmy the frame if not wanting to break stuff) than copy your key or even pick your lock. A their does not want to get caught, their freedom depends on surreptitious entry not conspicuous of possibly difficult to maneuver finagling.

Rainh2o (author)2011-08-07

How does it damage the computer? I have been told this a couple of times by hardware store people but non can tell me how. I have a feeling this an excuse started by them for some reason. I can see the vehicle going into lockdown if the wrong key is used but damage to the computer I can not. You can actually use a non RFDI key to start a car and run it but you have to have one of the originals. You can take the original and tape it behind the plastic shroud around the ignition as close to the ignition as possible, this way when the non RFDI key is inserted the compute rtalks to the original key hidden behind the shroud. This does defeat the security though but unless someone else knows what you have done they probably wont bother.

bam2k5 (author)Rainh2o2011-08-11

The real deal.
Let me be clear, There is no way at all a copy of the rfid key inserted into the ignition will mess up the computer or alarm..The only thing that will happen or won't happen is the car will not start unless you have a newer system and the car will start for 2 or 3 seconds and then the alarm will trip and tell the auto shutdown relay to kill the fuel pump and ignition coil and that's all that will happen.You can go to most home depot or Walmart stores and if you do not say it's for a car if they ask then by law there is no reason in most states they will refuse to copy them unless on the key it self states not to be copied or any other statement on the key like multi-apartment complex keys.Yes you can take one of the original keys with the rfid and place it behind the steering wheel plastic cover as close to the ignition you can and the copied key will start and run the car fine as my highlander is set up at the moment and i have 5 spare keys I'm always loosing them. and both walmart and home depot have never given me a problem getting MA that is but i have friends all over i have told to do the same and they have told me no problem getting keys made..Still a great project if you want to go that's nice to have people willing to give there time to post there projects..

Pazzerz (author)bam2k52011-08-15

Then what we really need is a project to make the RFID check a null.

CobaltBlue (author)Rainh2o2011-08-15

The "damage" is a computer error lockout that requires reprogramming. Just like when you try the wrong password three times on the bank's web page; but the dealer service is not as kind as the help desk! LOL
Like others, I always carry a lockout key [plain metal, no chip] in my wallet. If someone refuses to make you a lockout key, try a shave and a clean shirt, then go to someone else.

diy_bloke (author)Rainh2o2011-08-14

Really, it does not damage the computer. That is just a tale that is spun like: 'if you do not use our brand ink you will damage yr printer' replace ink and printer by battery and cellphone/camera/any gadget if you wish.

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