Transponders have been around for some time on vehicles, in 1994 Ford Motor company started to fit transponders to Fiestas, Transits, Mondeos and other models. The system was called PATS (Passive Anti Theft System). This system used a Texas fixed code transponder which was used to inhibit starting.
Ford PATS System Operation
The PATS system uses a transponder which does not contain a battery. Instead it contains a pick up coil which picks up the signal from the aeriel around the ignition switch. When the transponder is close to the aeriel it acts like a transformer and creates power inside the transponder and it transmits its security code, if correct the PATS module sends the signal to the EMS or Diesel pump to allow starting.
The PATS system, or the 'Red Key' system as it was referred to, had a Master red key which would allow you to program additional keys into the vehicle. By inserting the red key followed by a new key, the new key would then be programmed. If the red key was lost, then a new red master key would need to be programmed by the dealer.
As this system was rolled out, more and more independent specialists needed equipment to program these new keys into the vehicles, as customers did lose their keys. Equipment such as the AD100 Key programming system was introduced in 2001 to offer Locksmiths and security professionals a way to program the new keys.
Due to increasing vehicle thefts, European legislation called for all vehicles sold into Europe to be fitted with a security system, and so the transponder system was added to most vehicles by the year 2000, and as such more and more vehicles required equipment to program new keys.
The system used on the Ford PATS system was what is known as a 'Fixed' code transponder system, which essentially means that the transponder has a fixed Pin Code stored inside its memory, and when it is presented near the ignition switch, the aerial picks up the code it sends and checks if it is a programmed key.
The PATS system evolved over the coming years, and it changed from the red key system to two black keys, and both keys were required to add additional keys. Inserting the first programmed key followed by the second programmed key, and then inserting a third unprogrammed key would program that third key in. However, they only ever supplied two keys with the new vehicles, so if you lost one, then back to the dealer to get another programmed, and hence this became a profitable business for Locksmiths and Security professionals around the world who could offer key programming for lost keys.
Transponder Key Evolution
In other parts of the security market, companies like Silca from Italy who manufacture keys approached the transponder technology in a different manner. They developed a product called the RW2 which essentially enabled you to clone the transponder without the vehicle present, so Locksmiths and Key shops could still cut keys and clone them onto new keys.
This new technology was growing very fast, but the vehicle manufacturers were fully aware of these products being created in the aftermarket, and subsequently increased the security of these systems by adding additional requirements for programming keys. These additional levels of security meant security pin codes would be required to gain access through the vehicles OBD connector to program keys, and without the necessary security you were unable to program keys.
The other developments were Crypto Transponders, these transponders still had a fixed code stored in memory, but there is a security pin code required to gain access and only the vehicle knew this at the time of programming the Transponder key into the vehicle.
There are many different types of systems fitted to the vehicles around the world, and they vary according to the manufacturer of the immobiliser system, the transponders used and the particular way the system has been implemented by the vehicle manufacturer.
In my next blog I will discuss a number of different systems that are used across the popular manufacturers, and talk in more details on the systems.