An extra car key can save big dollars

As the little computer inside your car key becomes more sophisticated, buying a spare is a good way to save money in case your key goes missing. Newer cars won’t start unless they read a signal from the key, making it difficult for thieves to hot-wire and steal your ride. But those keys also can be expensive. Normally you get two sets of keys with a new car. Older vehicles, mostly before the mid to late 1990s, came with simple metal keys that you could duplicate at the local hardware store for a few bucks.

Think it can’t happen to you? Dealers and locksmiths say people frequently lose one, or even two of their keys. It can cost more than $1,000 to replace both on some models. So it’s a good idea to get a third as soon as you buy a new car.

Here are three tips to save money:

1-Get an extra
Chip keys vary by make, model and years, but many automakers (mainly General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC) have a feature in which the car will automatically program an extra key if you have at least one, or
sometimes two of the original keys.

2- The cheaper option
If you’re prone to locking keys in your car, get a conventional metal key without a chip and have a locksmith or hardware store cut it to match your key. It won’t start the car, but it will open the doors, and you can get in without having to call a locksmith or tow truck.

3-Protect your fob
Make sure you don’t leave it in your pockets and run it through the washing machine. In most cases, that will fry the circuitry and you’ll have to spend $50 or more on a replacement.

By TOM KRISHER AP Auto Writer-Oakland Tribune