Wondering how to program a Dodge key fob without a working one? You would think that it’s not possible unless you go to a Dodge dealer. However, there is a way that you can do this, albeit a little tricky to execute, but we’re here to help you. If you lost your original key fob for your Dodge, learn how to program a Dodge key fob without a working one in this post.
How Does A Key Fob Work?
You may be wondering how does a key fob work? Does it use black magic to communicate with your car? Well, no, but it’s probably equally mystical. Key fobs use radio waves to communicate with your car’s door lock mechanism. This system is commonly known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which consists of a radio transponder, a receiver, and a transmitter.
When you push the button on the key fob, it will send digital data via radio wave by using the transmitter. The reader in the car receives the data and identifies it using an inventory number. If it matches, the door lock mechanism in your car will activate. Think of it like a digital electronic barcode, where the system will see if the barcode matches.
What Is The Transponder For?
The transponder is part of your car’s security system, along with the immobilizer in your car. But what is it exactly and how does it work? Well, the transponder is basically a chip that also sends radio signals. When you insert your car key into the ignition, the transponder will send radio signals with a tag to the receiver inside the car. And then, if the tag matches, it enables your car’s ignition system.
After the ignition system is enabled, when you turn the key, the car will start its starting procedure. This includes cranking the engine with a starter motor and simultaneously firing the ignition system so that the spark plugs will fire and the engine can begin the combustion process and turn on.
If the tag doesn’t match, then the immobilizer will disable the ignition system. As a result, when you turn the key, only the starter motor will turn. But since the ignition system remains off (the spark plugs won’t fire), the engine won’t start. This is similar to the symptoms of a car that has a new battery but won’t start. In some cases, the immobilizer may prevent the starter motor from working in the first place.
One last note, this type of key is called a transponder key. Most modern cars have this, but as recent as the early 2000s, some cars still don’t have transponder keys. Instead, they use a regular key with a separate fob to control the door lock mechanism. And yes, some Dodge vehicles from the early 2000s still use regular keys rather than transponder keys.
Are There Different Types Of Keys?
Good question. Why yes, there are different keys out there that Dodge and other carmakers use. Here are the different types of car keys:
- Basic Key: This is the type of key that older cars use. No chip, no transmitter or transponder, just a good old key that you use to lock and unlock the door and start the car.
- Transponder Key: This type of key is common up until the mid-2000s. It’s similar to a basic key, and oftentimes it doesn’t have any buttons to lock or unlock the door – there’s usually a separate fob. But the key has a transponder that communicates to the car, which as mentioned, adds an extra layer of security
- Key Fob (Remote Keyless Entry): This is one of the most common types of keys today. The key and the door lock buttons are all in one housing, and there’s a transponder that communicates with the car.
- Switchblade Key: A switchblade key is similar to key fobs in terms of how they work. But the difference is that the metal key that you insert into the ignition can fold away into the plastic holder, hence why it’s called a switchblade key.
- Smart Key Fob (Proximity Key): When people say keyless entry, this is what they usually mean. A proximity key is the type of key where you don’t need to push a button to lock or unlock the car. In many cars, the door will lock itself when the key is out of range and unlocks when the driver pulls the door handles. Or sometimes there’s a sensor on the door handle which the driver can touch to unlock the door.
How Does A Keyless Proximity Key Work?
As mentioned, the keyless proximity can activate the door lock mechanism without the push of a button from the driver. This system will also often allow the ignition system to work as soon as it detects the key inside the car. But how does it work? Well, it works largely similarly to your conventional key fobs: by using radio signals.
The difference is that while a conventional key fob waits for the driver to press a key to send a signal, a keyless system constantly transmits this radio signal from the key fob. If the signal matches, then it will activate the necessary mechanisms in the car on its own– such as the door lock – for the driver’s convenience.
For example, when a keyless system detects a key is nearby and you pull the door handle, it will unlock the door automatically for you. If it doesn’t detect the key, then it won’t activate. And the same goes for the ignition system: if it doesn’t detect the key inside the car, it will disable the ignition system. Resulting in a car that won’t start, and adding an extra layer of security for your car.
How To Program A Dodge Key Fob Without A Working One: Do I Need The Original Key Fob?
Each car has a unique tag programmed into the receiver and key fob. When you purchase a new key fob, it doesn’t have this tag since it hasn’t been programmed. In other words, it’s a blank key. This is why you often need the original key fob: to copy the tag from the original key into the transponder of the new key.
Without the tag, the transponder in that new key won’t be able to communicate with the immobilizer in the car. As a result, the immobilizer will disable the ignition system, and the car won’t start. This programming process usually involves using a scan tool to connect to the car.
As a safety measure, the system often requires the original key fob. This way, indecent people with bad intentions won’t be able to steal your car since they don’t have the original key fob.
How To Program A Dodge Key Fob Without A Working One
There are several ways to program a Dodge key fob without the original one. This process will depend on what type of key you have in your Dodge. Some Dodge cars use a separate fob for the door lock mechanism, and the key for the ignition itself doesn’t have any buttons. And it may or may not have a transponder. Others have the fob, the key, and the transponder in one housing.
If you have the latter, such as the one shown above, then here’s how to program it according to Dodge dealerships:
- Enter your car and sit on the driver’s seat. Within 10 seconds, press and release the “LOCK BUTTON” of the key fob five times in quick succession. Timing is crucial, so make sure to not miss that 10-second window and press it quickly.
- Afterward, press and hold the “UNLOCK BUTTON”. While holding it, insert the key into the car ignition and turn it in the ignition to “RUN” mode. Do not take your finger off of the “UNLOCK BUTTON.”
- While pressing down the “UNLOCK BUTTON”, do the same on the “PANIC BUTTON” for one full second. Afterward, release both buttons together.
- Next, hold down the “UNLOCK” and “LOCK” buttons together before releasing them simultaneously.
- And finally, press the “UNLOCK BUTTON” once again.
How Do I Enter The Car If I Don’t Have The Original Keys?
If you have a key fob rather than a conventional key, the key fob has a physical key within the fob. Ejecting them is as simple as pressing a button or sliding a switch, and the physical key will come right out. Then use this physical key to unlock the door by inserting it into the lock cylinder, just like you would with a normal key.
Some Dodge cars may require you to remove a plastic piece covering the cylinder, others have the lock cylinder immediately accessible. Most car keys aren’t unique, so if you bought an OEM key fob specifically for your Dodge car, the lock pattern should match and you can unlock the door. If you’re having trouble entering the car, read our helpful guide here.
Hold on, that doesn’t seem very secure, does it? Someone else with a similar car as yours can have the same key pattern and unlock your car then? Well, technically, yes. But as mentioned, modern car keys have transponders inside them with a unique tag for each car. If the transponder doesn’t have a matching tag, then the car won’t run. So don’t worry about someone driving off with your car.
How To Program A Dodge Key Fob Without A Working One: Using DRB-3
This method is for Dodge cars where the ignition key and the fob are separate. However, this method requires using a DRB-3 scan tool, which is a factory scan tool. This is the scan tool that Dodge and other Chrysler-brand car mechanics use to diagnose or program a Chrysler car from 1994 to 2007.
It costs thousands of dollars, so unless you already have a DRB-3 tool lying around for some reason, this method isn’t really viable. Not unless you want to spend thousands of dollars on a scan tool that you will rarely use. Still, if you have a Dodge mechanic friend, you may be able to get a hold of it. In any case, here’s how to do it:
- Connect the DRB-3 tool to the car’s OBD port, it usually lies underneath the driver’s side of the dashboard.
- Turn the DRB-3 tool, go through the menu, and select ‘DRB-3 Standalone’.
- Select ‘Customer Preference’, there are two options, select the one appropriate to your Dodge’s model year.
- Select ‘Program RKE’ on the menu.
- Press enter and then hold the key fob against the DRB-3 tool.
- Press the Lock and Unlock button on the key simultaneously for a few seconds, and then press the unlock button.
- There should be a chime, and this indicates that the key is successfully programmed.
Again, this method will only work if you have the very expensive DRB-3 scan tool. And this will only work for Dodge cars from 1994 to 2007 since Dodge cars after 2007 use a different type of scanner.
What Else Can I Do?
There is something called a manual programming procedure, here’s how to do it:
- Connect pin 1 of the 16-way data link connector to chassis ground or to pin 4 of
the 16-way data link connector.
- Close all doors and turn the ignition key off.
- Turn the ignition key to Accessory or “ACC”.
- Turn the ignition key off again, and the door locks will cycle once.
- Press any button on the key fob 3 times in a row to program it. The door locks will cycle once again once programming is complete.
If you’re still having trouble programming the new key, then we recommend going to a dealer or an automotive locksmith to solve your problem.
How To Program A Dodge Key Fob: If You Have A Working Key
Just in case you have a working key, or you just found your spare and you now need to program the new one, the programming is a lot easier. One device that will help you with the process is SimpleKey, and here’s how to use it:
- Get a hold of the SimpleKey programmer.
- Activate the new key fob by pressing the ‘Lock’ and ‘Panic’ buttons until a blue light comes on.
- Afterward, enter the activation code. It’s going to be different depending on your car’s make and model, and you will be able to find this in SimpleKey’s user manual. It will chime once it’s activated.
- Take the SimpleKey programmer, turn the dial according to the manual depending on your car.
- Turn the hazard light on, and then use the working key to turn on the car.
- Connect the programmer into the OBD port, it will beep three times to indicate that it’s now communicating with the car.
- Turn the engine off, and then pull the working key out.
- Afterward, take the new blank key and insert it into the ignition. Press the button on top of the programmer, you should hear three quick beeps.
- Pull the new key out, and press the button on the top again and it should chime.
- Unplug the programmer, turn the hazard light off, and turn on the vehicle with the new key. The new key should work.
Again, this method will only work if you still have the original key as it requires you to turn on the car. It will also only work with certain Dodge and other Chrysler-brand vehicles, check this list to see if it will work with yours. The programmer costs $200, but is often on sale for around $120 and comes with a new key fob included.
Dodge Key Replacement Cost
Programming a new blank key for your car is a painful process, especially when you don’t have the original keys. If you haven’t succeeded at this point, you’re probably thinking of just going to the dealership and get them to do the job for you. But how much will that cost you? Well, quite expensive, if we’re being honest.
Here are the estimates depending on the key types:
- Basic keys typically cost no more than $30, and you can have any decent locksmith make a new key for you.
- Transponder keys are around $170 on average,
- Key fobs or remote keyless entry is somewhere around $150 – $200 on average.
- Switchblade keys are slightly more expensive at around $200 – $300 due to the switchblade mechanism.
- Proximity keys are the most expensive due to the complexity of their system and programming. They’re anywhere between $200 to $600 on average, with some cars costing more than that.
How about the key replacement for Dodge cars then? On average, expect to pay anywhere between $80 – $450 at the dealer, depending on your car’s make, model, and key type. The cost doesn’t usually include taxes, but already includes the cost of the programming itself.
Why Are Replacement Keys So Expensive?
It’s mostly expensive because of the technology inside the keys. Especially when it comes to proximity keys, where the keys, the immobilizer, and the door lock mechanism are much more intelligent and complex. Additionally, some keys may be laser-cut. Laser-cut keys are more precise and harder to duplicate, but they cost at least $60 more than standard keys.
And finally, dealerships often put a premium on OEM spare parts. This is because OEM spare parts usually come with a warranty, and dealers have to make money as well since they have to purchase these OEM parts from manufacturers, leading to more expensive parts.
Are There Cheaper Options?
The next best choice is to go to a car locksmith. Many of them can reprogram new car keys without the original at the fraction of the price that a dealer asks. The cost will vary depending on your car’s key type, but it’s often as much as 60% cheaper than dealership prices. And many of them offer home service, so they will come to your house and you don’t need to worry about towing. Often at no extra charge at all.
If you want to program a new set of keys, whether with a locksmith or at the dealer, here are the things you will need to prepare:
- Inform them of your car’s make, model, and year.
- Provide proof of ownership of the vehicle, such as the registration and title. If for example, you’re programming your parent’s car, ideally they should be there when the technician comes. Or having a valid ID of theirs may also be enough, inquire this with the locksmith before making an appointment.
- The locksmith will typically ask for your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as well.
- Knowing the key identification number will also be helpful for the technician. You will be able to find this in your owner’s manual, but this is not necessary.
And finally, if you think your old keys have been stolen, let the locksmith or dealership know. They will reprogram the car so that the old keys will no longer work and no one can steal your car.
Should I Go To The Dealer Or A Locksmith?
If you can, we recommend programming a new key for your Dodge at the dealership. Especially if your car is less than 10 years old, as newer car keys are typically more difficult to program, and not every locksmith is capable of doing it. Newer cars will often only work with OEM keys and won’t respond to aftermarket keys.
Dealers will also often offer a warranty just in case there are errors with the keys. And since they use OEM keys with OEM devices and software, it provides better peace of mind that the new keys will work, and your car will be secure. The downside to going to a dealership is, of course, the higher price, and they usually don’t offer home service. So if you can’t drive your car, you’ll have to tow it.
However, if your car is over 10 years old, and you’re on a tight budget, then programming a new key with a locksmith is a viable option. They will likely be much cheaper, and they will be able to do it since older car key systems are less complex. Search for locksmiths in your area, and read customer reviews if there are any before making a decision.
We have several more tips about choosing the right car locksmith, and you can learn more here.
How To Program A Dodge Key Fob Without A Working One: Conclusion
So, yes, you can program a Dodge key fob without the original one. By pressing the buttons on the key fob in a certain pattern and in quick succession, you should be able to program the new keys. If not, there are other ways as well. But to be honest, we think it’s too much of a hassle and isn’t worth going through.
Car keys obviously play an important role in your car’s security. If you can’t program the keys, we recommend going to the dealer or a locksmith to have it do for you. It may be quite expensive, but a small price to pay for security and peace of mind.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.