Key Blanks & Key Accessories FAQ's

Q. What is the difference between brass keys and nickel-plated keys?

A. In both cases the base material is brass. Nickel-plating the key extends the shelf life of the key and helps to maintain a "like new" look for a longer period of time.

Q. I have been told that the nickel-plating on a key will wear out the cutting wheel on a key duplicating machine prematurely. Is this true?

A. While Nickel-plating is hard, the wear difference on a cutting wheel is insignificant. Cutter wear is more affected by the speed and the pressure a person applies when duplicating a key. In addition, foreign objects that come in contact with the cutter and/or contact with the vise jaw will have an adverse affect on cutter life.

Q. Why are some keys made of nickel-silver material?

A. It is more difficult to break a key made of nickel silver material. It is often used when the keyway is thin.

Q. Why not make all keys out of steel?

A. The internal components of the lock are commonly made of brass or nickel-silver. Making all keys of steel would result in premature wear on the parts.

Q. I've heard that keys have thumb and finger sides. What does this mean?

A. If you hold a cut key in your right hand, with the bitting (cut edge) facing up, your thumb would rest on the thumb side and your finger would rest on the finger side of a key. While this applies in North America, this is not the case world-wide. In other countries, the bitting (or cut edge) may go into the lock with the facing down and therefore, the thumb side would be determined while holding the cut edge down.

finger side thumb side

Q. What is the difference between the Ilco® decorated (painted) keys and those offered by competitors?

A. The special process used in decorating Ilco painted keys provides a long lasting, more durable finish and a higher resolution to the designs and photographic images.

Q. How do I use the key blank illustrations in the Ilco 60 catalog to identify a key?

A. The image of the key blank in the catalog is actual size. Laying the customer's key on top of the image printed in the catalog will allow you to compare the two.

First, look closely at the point where the keyway grooves blend into the bow (head) of the key. The ends of these millings there are referred to as "run-outs".

Milling Run Outs

Second, look at the millings (grooves) in the blade of the key.

Milling Grooves

Third, the silhouette (profile) of the keyway under the key blank image emulates the keyway of the lock. Place the tip of your sample key on the image as if you were intending to insert the key into the picture. That provides a method of comparing your sample key to the key blank being represented in the catalog.

Checking Milling profile

Q. What is a "Universal Mill" ?

A. The question seems simple; however the answer is a bit more complex. First we must separate universal mill key blanks from sectional (or multiplex) key blanks. Sectional key blanks are specifically manufactured to fit master keyed lock systems.

These key sectional families are found in large installations of locks such as shopping malls or apartment complexes. When a customer needs more keys than a single keyway can support, sectional key systems are used. Key combinations are unique on any given keyway then are repeated using a different keyway. High-level sectional keys function similar to the "universal mill" keys in that they bypass several or all of the lock keyways in the system.

The difference is that these keys are used in a professionally planned security network. Even in professionally controlled circumstances, precautions must be taken when using any sectional keyway family. In contrast, universal mill key blanks are created to simplify key duplication.

A universally milled key may enter more than one lock and are designed to be thinner than the original key. The more keyways it has been designed to enter, the thinner the key blade. The Ilco brand of keys does not feature “universal mill” however Ilco has long supported sectional key blanks or professionally controlled security networks.

Automotive Key Blank FAQ’s

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Q. What is the difference between a Transponder, Electronic and VATS key?

A. A Transponder key transmits and responds by means of a transponder chip. The chip transmits, receives and responds to a coded signal data using radio frequency transmissions. When the key is inserted and turned in the ignition it sends a unique code signal to the on-board computer or ECM (Electronic Control Module). If the computer recognizes the signal it will allow the vehicle to start.

Transponder Key

An Electronic key contains a battery powered electronic circuit board rather than a transponder. This circuit board in this key mimics a transponder by transmitting a unique code signal to the vehicle’s on-board computer Electronic keys feature a two part design. The electronic components are separate from the blade.

EK Examples

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AVATS key has a resistor embedded within the key-blade. Each resistor has one of fifteen possible values. Sometimes the resistors are referred to as a "pellet" or "chip". These keys require only a reader to determine the resistor value. They do not require a cloning or programming tool.


[click to enlarge]

VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System) keys are exclusive to GM makes & models. You may hear this referred to as Ford PATS™ (Passive Anti-Theft System),Securilock® (Ford PATS System), or GM’s PASS Key® III or PASS Key® III+ system.

Securilock is the registered trademark of Ford
PASS Key is the registered trademark of GM

Q. What is the difference in Read Only and Read / Write Transponder Keys?

A. Read Only transponders will not allow modification of the electronic code and you cannot write to this type of key. A Read Only key can receive but cannot transmit.

Read/Write (RW) transponders will allow modification of the electronic code and you can write to this type of key. A Read/Write key can receive and transmit.

Q. What is the benefit of the electronic key?

A. Electronic keys are quickly and easily cloned using an RW cloning tool. By using an electronic key, you can eliminate "on-board programming" (requires physically programming to the vehicle) or the need to have two original keys to add an additional (or 3rd ) key.

Q. What is the life expectancy of the batteries contained in this key?

A. The lithium batteries used in the EK have a very long life expectancy and the battery is replaceable in the event that it should need to be replaced. These keys use a 3V lithium CR2025 battery, which are readily available.

Q. Will I need to reprogram the key if the battery dies or when I change the battery?

A. No, the circuit board will remember the code.


Ilco® Electronic Cloneable Key System

Q. What is an electronic key?

A. It is a key that contains a battery powered electronic circuit board that may be programmed to replace some transponder keys.

Q. How do electronic keys work?

A. After being properly programmed, the circuit board mimics a transponder by transmitting a unique signal to the vehicle’s on board computer. This occurs when the key is inserted in the vehicles ignition and turned to the start position.

Q. Why do electronic keys cost more than regular transponder keys?

A. The electronic components in the key make it more costly than a transponder key. But, the higher cost is offset by the benefit of being able to clone keys for more vehicles than possible without this type of key and the reduced cost of mis-cuts due to the modular design.

Q. What is different about the new Electronic Keys (EK3) versus the “old style” Electronic Key line?

A. The electronics, heads and blades have been redesigned to offer a smaller size and a new cleaner look and a true modular system. With one universal head that fits all blades, locksmiths will now be able to have a much less costly inventory investment, and still service the same applications (vehicle makes, models and years have not changed).

Q. Will the new keys work in the Ford models that the prior design will not?

A. Yes.  The newly designed EH3 head has circuit boards that send a stronger signal and are located closer to the vehicles antenna.

Q. Why are the KK7-EK, MIT11R-EK, and the NSN14-EK no longer offered in the new design?

A. The same vehicles can be serviced using different part numbers. The KK7-EK uses the same blade as the TOY40-EK3, the MIT11R-EK is now offered as the MIT14-EK3 and the NSN14-EK is now offered as NI02-EK3.

Q. Are there any new key blades offered in the new line?

A. Yes, there are three new blades offered in the new line; Ford H73-EK3, Mitsubishi MIT9-EK3 and Subaru SUB1-EK3.  Please see the new latest Cloning Guide for vehicle applications.

Q. What equipment must I have to clone the new EK3 keys?

A. You will need one of the following Ilco tools : Ilco EZ®-Clone, RW4*.

Q. Does the new line of keys still require a battery?

A. Yes. It uses battery CR1632 which is an off the shelf item. Ilco still recommends replacing the battery every two years ensuring trouble free operation.

Q. Why are the letters A through P on the blades?

A. The letters are designed to make selecting the correct blade easier. Since there are several blades with similar designations, letters are less complex and easier to read.

Philips Cloning

Philips Electronic Keys

Q. What is the difference between the new Philips (EH3P) Heads and the electronic (EH3) heads?

A: The new EH3P Head is used when cloning keys for vehicles that use Philips encrypted transponder technology. The EH3 head is for vehicles that use Texas Instrument transponder keys.

Q. Can the new EH3P and the existing EH3 heads be interchanged

A: No. The circuit boards and communication protocol are completely different and are not interchangeable.

Q. How do I tell the difference between the two different heads?

A: The head sizes are the same and are identified using the part number on the head. In addition, these can be identified by color; the EH3 head has a black plug and a green circuit board, and the new EH3P Head has a red plug and red circuit board.

Q. How long will it take to clone this style of key?

A: Typically it takes 1-2 minutes at the vehicle using the SNOOP and an additional 2-3 minutes to clone the key.

Q. What battery is used in the EH3P Heads?

A: The head utilizes the same CR1632 battery that is used in the EH3 head. This is an “off-the-shelf” Lithium battery that is available at most stores. This is also available from Ilco in a 5 pack by ordering part number AX00004710.
Note: Ilco recommends replacing the battery every two years ensuring trouble free operation.

Q. How many new key blades available for this system?

A: There are 7.

Q. How are the new blades identified?

A: The letters R through X are stamped just below the U-shaped bow and the blade part number is molded in the plastic bow for easy identification.

Q. Are there new key kits available for the Philips cloning system?

A: There are 4 new kits available:
EKP-1 Philips Edge Cut Cloning Kit
5 EH3P Heads, assorted blades (20 total) used for EH3P applications (high security profiles are not included) and a plastic carrying case.

EKP-2 Philips Cloning Companion Kit
This kit was created for those who own the Ilco TI electronic key cloning kit.
3 EH3P Heads, assorted blades (9 total) used in EH3P applications (high security profiles are not included).

EKP-HS Philips High Security/Sidewinder Cloning Kit
2 EH3P Heads, assorted high security blades (8 total) used on Philips applications.

PBK-1 Plus Box Starter Kit w/keys
1 PLUS Box with SNOOP, 5 EH3P Heads, assorted blades (20 total) used on Philips applications, plastic carrying case and Clearview Sign

Ilco® Disassembly Tool

Y170 Blade

Q. How do you remove the head from the Y170 key blade?

A: In order to insert the Y170 blade into the Ilco® Disassembly Tool, the plastic block located at the base of the blade must be removed. There is a small Phillips screw through the block that will allow it to separate from either side of the key blade. Simply loosen the screw and remove the block. The key blade can then be inserted into the Disassembly Tool.