This is the second of a multi-part article on key programming. If you missed part one, click here.

Welcome back, everybody. Last month I promised to pass on the tin foil “Hat Trick” technique.


The Challenge:

Let’s say you are replacing a faulty ignition switch tumbler on a vehicle with “chipped keys”; this covers most modern vehicles today. The new tumbler is in place, but the vehicle needs to be sent somewhere for key programming. And it’s not going to start until you do.


The Solution – Saving A Tow Bill:

1) Our example below is a 2003 VW Passat, but this technique should work on any transponder type key. Cover the plastic head of one of the new unprogrammed keys with tin foil, and ground the tin foil. This prevents the new key’s chip from being read by the anti-theft transceiver. 

New key wrapped in tin foil and grounded. Obviously, the anti-theft system is unhappy.

New key wrapped in tin foil and grounded. Obviously, the anti-theft system is unhappy.

2) Rubber band an old programmed key to the new key. Insert the new key into the ignition tumbler and start the vehicle. The transceiver will read the old key’s chip, and providing you’re not having a bad hair day, the vehicle will start, run, and drive.

Two keys w Tach hi res

Rubber band an old programmed key to the new key. The transceiver will read the old key’s chip and the car should start. Important note: we had to place the old key in five different positions relative to the new key before the engine would start. We swapped the old key end to end, front to rear, and placed it on both sides of the new key. We used the rubber bands once we found the right position.


Author’s Note:
 The photos above accurately demonstrate the tin foil “Hat Trick” procedure. But our Passat did not have a new key tumbler. It did have a brand new, factory cut, unprogrammed key that would not start the vehicle. New tumbler or old, the strategy is still the same.


A Variation:

I have seen instances, a Honda Odyssey comes to mind, where a new ignition switch was installed and the vehicle then driven to us for programming. This shop left the ignition switch covers off and actually taped an old key to the anti-theft transceiver (halo). The new unprogrammed key was used (without a tin foil “Hat”) to turn the ignition on and start the car.   


Another Solution:

At Motor Works we commonly order new tumblers and have them “repined” by the dealer to the old key code. This way the customer does not have a second set of ignition only keys, that will not work in the locks. It also allows us to immediately start and drive the car with the old key before programming.

Note: you can also have the tumblers “repined” by a locksmith, but if the dealer performs the work and you need to warranty the new tumbler, you’re less likely to have a hassle.


Naw! No Way!

There’s something a bit unique about our 2003 Passat that might impress your tech buddies the next time you get together. Subtly work the conversation around to the point where you can nonchalantly mention, “Hey, did you know Volkswagen had a V-8 engine option its 2003 American spec Passat?”

After enduring several minutes of pointed comments about your parentage, IQ, common sense, and how many times did you repeat kindergarten, you’re ready to pull the “Ace out of your sleeve.”

Before you demonstrate your superior intellect, you may even want to suggest a small wager on the outcome. Author’s note: give some careful thought as to what the stakes should be. Speaking from personal experience, betting first-born children went over very poorly with my first six wives.

A 2003 4.0 L (BDP) V-8 4Motion Passat. According to Wiki, this engine was used in the Passat from 2001-2004, and developed 271 HP. Interestingly enough, from 2005 on, the U.S. Passat had a 3.6 L VR6 option with 276 HP.

A 2003 4.0 L (BDP) V-8 4Motion Passat. According to Wiki, this engine was used in the Passat from 2001-2004, and developed 271 HP. Interestingly enough, from 2005 on, the U.S. Passat had a 3.6 L VR6 option with 276 HP.


The GM Blues And Saving Our Reputation:

We recently had a 2001, 3.1L Chevy Malibu come in running poorly when the weather was damp. To no one’s surprise, plugs, wires and a coil made the engine purr like a kitten once again, even in fog and rain. The car belonged to a college student on a very tight budget. Delighted with the work and the price, he thanked us and drove away.

The following morning I received  a call from the student, “My car is stuck in my driveway and it won’t start.” GULP! Thankfully, he seemed calm. I intended to keep him that way. I could easily imagine the “You didn’t fix my car right” conversation we could have had. “Ok”, I said. “I’ll pack a kit and be over in 20 minutes.”

Upon attempting to start his car I noticed the Theft light was flashing. RATS! This poor kid. I explained to him he was probably going to need a PASSLock sensor which is inside the ignition switch. He told me his funds were exhausted from our previous repair, and he had to get to work.

I felt terrible and began to wrack my brain for solutions. (This process usually involves considerable gear clash noise in my head, fluttering eyelids, and smoke leaking from my ears. The student politely said nothing.)

“I’ve got an idea”, I told him. “Let me try something.” Motor Works has had considerable success performing the 30-minute vehicle theft deterrent relearn process on older GM cars with intermittent PASSLock sensors. Sometimes these cars will restart for days or even weeks with a VTD relearn.

Sure enough, I knocked on his apartment door after 12 minutes. “I’ve got your car running” I told him, “but it may not start again.” “That’s great” he said, “at least I can get to work.” I explained how I had performed a relearn on his theft system. Note: this relearn succeeded on the first try after only 10 minutes.

“Would you like me to teach you how I did it”, I asked? Well, long story short, 20-minutes later I left his apartment with a warm handshake and a huge smile on his face. I had also impressed four other friends of his sitting around his living room. This included shaking hands with his girlfriend and answering questions about automotive courses at the local Junior College where I used to teach.

As I walked out the door I waved to everybody and wished him good luck. The last thing I said was, “By the way, there are no charges for any of my services this morning. You are important to me!”

Thanks for stopping by.

See you soon,

Marty out-

P.S. Try to watch these and not laugh.

Note: all three links are from the same website.

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