If you have ever lost your OEM FOB you know what a hassle it typically is to get a replacement from the dealer and to get it programmed properly, let alone the steep cost you incur.
While there have been non-OEM FOBs available for years, most don’t end up working or require you to still go to the dealer to get it properly programmed, again at a significant cost.
Enter Car Keys Express. Their byline elegantly sums it up: Replacing car keys is simple and affordable again.™ Founded in 2006 by CEO Mark Lanwehr, no not in his garage 😊 but on the dining room table of his one room apartment. By 2006 it was the first online retailer of automotive keys and keyless entry remotes. Two years later Mark started offering his services to dealerships and fleet owners and now serves over 3,000 cities in the US and Canada. Along the way they added self-serve kiosks and remote optical scanners for dealerships. They are now the largest key/key FOB replacement company around.
In their booth at AAPEX 2021 they had samples of their products including their ROKS or retail optical key scanner, their Keys Now, their Simple Key, the Universal EZ Installer™ and the EZ Installer™. The ROKS is stand alone unit that you insert your existing key for scanning. Then they send you the key completely cut. Their FOB to use with the key can then be paired up with your car using their Universal EZ Installer and a free phone app. The process saves you about 70% of the cost as compared to going to the OEM dealer.
Simple Key (a kit premade for each specific OEM) comes with the EZ Installer. Costs vary depending on the OEM and vehicle, but ranges from US$99 to $149 versus if you went through the dealer where you would pay in the range of US$300 to $500 or more.
The difference between the Universal EZ Installer™ and the EZ Installer™ is that EZ Installers are designed to only work with one OEM, such as Ford, GM, Mazda, etc., while the Universal will work with about 95% of OEMs (and since this is a brand-new product, they are working refine its software to work across all OEMs). Once purchased the Universal EZ Installer or the EZ Installer and connected to the owner’s vehicle via the OBD2 port, the imbedded software becomes linked to the VIN. This means the owner can make multiple duplicates but only for that specific VIN. It can not be used after that on another vehicle.
Options for the end user currently include purchasing a kit from them online, locating and driving to one of their Car Keys Express locations in your city, having their mobile service scheduled to come to you, and a priority option of having them come within 24 hours. The respective pricing ranges from about US$99 if you drive to them $169 for a scheduled come to you and $315 for 24 hours service. All well below the hassle and cost of getting it done through your OEM Service Dealership.
In my discussion with Kirk Stewart, Retail Marketing Director of Car Keys Express, he told me that it takes about 18 months on average for them to reverse engineer an OEM FOB, and develop their own proprietary software and chip design, extensively test it out before selling them. They design their units to exceed the OEM in terms of quality, latest electronics, and durability. The finished product is waterproof to 30 feet (OEMs are not) and have better battery life as well as range of operation.
Here is a link to one of their videos explaining how their FOBs exceed OEM quality https://player.vimeo.com/video/492057627
They currently have their circuit boards made in China to their proprietary design, but are looking to bring that phase of the process to the United States. Car Keys Express design, engineer, load their own software on the boards, and package all of the units in the United States (Louisville, Ky). They guarantee their products for 3 years (parts and labor) versus the OEMs’ ninety days to one year.