Best Tools For Diagnosing Immobilizer Faults And Programming Car Keys


Have you considered adding ‘key ’ to the list of
services offered at your auto repair garage? Do you frequently turn
away those tricky immobiliser related ?

Programming new and immobiliser issues is an advanced service that could add a new stream of income to your auto mechanic business, but there are high startup costs and a requirement of advanced knowledge for this to be a real success. If you are ready to learn and have some cash to invest then this article is for you.

Your garage will most likely already own and utilize standard auto diagnostic such as those Snap-on and Launch , and whilst these are great for diagnosing and clearing faults they are not capable of preparing and coding all types of keys. To perform security related tasks such as key programming you will need a selection of very expensive main dealer tools, or an aftermarket key programming solution.

Some advanced and more specialist
garages may already be equipped with certain dealer tools, such as a
VCM2 for Ford diagnosis or VAS interface for VAG vehicles. However
without the correct security level access permissions these tools can
not be used for programming keys.

With so many aftermarket key programming tools available how do you know which to choose? It’s important to understand that there is no ‘one tool does it all’ solution. Most serious auto locksmiths will carry several tools in their van, worth over a combined £50,000. This figure may seem shockingly high but with the ever increasing cost of replacement car keys from the main dealers, auto locksmith businesses are doing better than ever.

The best option for auto repair garages
would be to either specialise their key programming in one particular
manufacturer or production region, i.e Europe, or invest in a few
tools to cover a wider range.

Here are our recommendations of the top
three tools to offer key programming at your workshop:

1. Smart Pro by Advanced Diagnostics

Advanced Diagnostics have been leading
the way in key programming for the last 15 years and have continually
developed and improved their tools and software. The latest offering
from Advanced Diagnostics is the Smart Pro. This sophisticated tablet
was launched at the end of 2018 and combines all the capabilities of
its predecessors with the added benefit of a colour touch screen.

The Smart Pro is a must-have tool for any serious key programmer and would be well suited for repair garages looking to take their diagnostics to the next level. The simple to use interface is packed with tips and images to guide the operator through each step. AD have bundled in useful information such as what transponder type to use, the location of the OBD socket, and manual methods for synchronisation of remotes.

Prior to the launch of the Smart Pro
you could choose either the AD100 Pro, with pre purchased software or
MVP Po, which was loaded with all software modules and required pre
purchased tokens. The new Smart Pro has done away with the need for
two machines and combined them in one. This gives the owner some
flexibility and the option of buying frequently used modules, whilst
calling on a bank of pre purchased tokens for more obscure jobs.

2. AVDI by Abrites

The AVDI interface from Abrites
connects to a laptop and requires software to be installed and
regularly updated. This tool is not as comprehensive as the AD Smart
but it is much more sophisticated and offers a higher level of

Whilst the AVDI is very costly, with
full licence purchases you will be able to perform much more than key
programming. With the master package you will also be able to install
and learn body modules and ECU’s, but at just under £25,000 you
will need to be sure of securing enough work to justify the cost.

The AVDI is the leading aftermarket solution for programming VAG and Mercedes keys and even out-performs the dealer tools in some aspects. For instance, VW dealers can only program a precoded key which they order from their factory in Germany. The AVDI is able to extract the 7 bytes of component security from the vehicle and precode a virgin key.

This level of diagnostic sophistication
will allow garages to save time on ordering dealer keys, but a high
level of knowledge and advanced training is required to complete such
tasks. It’s worth baring in mind that if keys are not ordered from
the dealer against the VIN then the key will be blank and need to be
cut first.

3. The X300 Pad by OBD Star

OBD Star are a chinese company
producing several diagnostic tools and have recently made a big
impact in the area of key programming.

The X300 Pad is similar in design to
the AD Smart Pro and also has a wide range of coverage. The main
attraction of the X300 is its low cost of £1400. The software is not
as intuitive as the Smart Pro and sometimes requires a fair bit of
guesswork to find the correct system. For example it’s not uncommon
for the tester to fail communication under its European software on
some cars, but succeed under the Asian menu. Once you have worked out
how finds the correct system this tool will cover more vehicles than
it’s AVDI competitor, although it is not capable of performing some
of the more advanced key programming jobs.

In addition to key programming this
tool also offers a high level of diagnostics and fault reading, so
for the price could well be a great first start for a car repair
garage looking to offer key programming.


Either three of these tools will allow
your garage to start offering key programming services and will be
ideal for getting you started in this market. When considering which
tool to buy you will need to consider how much time and money you are
prepared to invest and what level of key diagnostics you wish to

For entry level programming the X300
Pad wont get you off to a bad start and is by far the cheapest
option. To make the best use of this tool, you would need to order a
cut key from a dealer and program to the car once it arrives. Bare in
mind this process will work out a lot slower and most likely more
expensive for the customer compared to the solution a top auto
locksmith company could provide.

About the author

Hey there, I’m Mark Migliaccio owner of The Auto Locksmith. I have over 10 years of industry experience as an auto locksmith specializing in car keys and vehicle diagnostics. When i’m not programming car keys you will find me offering honest expert car key advice over at The Auto Locksmith Help & Advice Hub

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