Top 6 Best Car Key Programmers on the Market in 2021
Buying a car key programmer can be confusing. Not only do these tools offer a wide range of functionality, but you will also need to choose a unit compatible with the model of the car you wish to work on. You will also need to ensure that the programmer is up-to-date, (and has the capacity to keep it that way).
To make the buying process easier, we have put together this in-depth review guide. Each of the car key programmers below has been carefully selected to ensure maximum versatility (in terms of vehicle compatibility), and reliable function.
For our findings at a glance, just head to the table below. For detailed reviews of each of our selected car key programmers, keep on reading.
Best Car Key Programmers – Top 3
- Best Car Key Programmers – Top 3
- Car Key Programmers – The Reviews
- 1. TOP PICK: XTOOL X100 PAD2 Pro Programmer Automotive Full System Diagnostic Tool
- 2. V33 Key Programmer SBB
- 3. BEST PREMIUM: Autel MaxiIM IM608 Key Programming, Full Diagnostic Scan Tool
- 4. SODIAL(R) 2014 CK-100 Auto Key Programmer
- 5. XtremeAmazing CK-100 Auto Car Key Programmer
- 6. XTOOL X100 Pro Auto Key Programmer
- Features to look out for when buying a Car Key Programmer
- Car Key Programming – A little background and how to use them
- Further Reading
Car Key Programmers – The Reviews
In deciding which top 5 programmers to review we paid close attention to function, versatility, and overall price point. We have also been careful to select units that are fully upgradeable so that they can work trouble-free on the newest model vehicles.
1. TOP PICK: XTOOL X100 PAD2 Pro Programmer Automotive Full System Diagnostic Tool
When it comes to car key programmers, you should look for one that also works as a multi-purpose accessory. In that regard, the XTOOL X100 PAD2 Programmer is a possible contender for the best car key programmer on the market today. It is crammed and loaded with many features beyond key programming.
Using this tool can also boost the performance of fuel and engine oil and make your car run more efficiently as a result.
From a specs point of view, the XTOOL X100 PAD2 weighs 8.35 pounds and comes in a robust case that makes it easy to tuck away in the workshop ready for use.
Its primary car key programmer functions are as follows:
- Key Programming and PIN Code Reading
- Vehicle Identification Number Programming
- Remote Control Programming
- Update Of Database With Automobile Details
- (Covers all the functions of the X100 PAD, with added VW 4th and 5th IMMO functions)
With these functions, it will help any car owner to manage the programmable aspect of entry to the vehicle. You can also create multiple keys that can be synced to your car security system.
As mentioned above, the XTOOL X100 PAD2 is also very useful in managing different aspects of the mechanical functioning of the vehicle.
On top of these multiple advantages, the tool is able to update itself regularly via Wi-Fi to be always useful for all the above-mentioned functions for years to come, (click here for Xtool product update notices).
It is also multi-lingual and you can always access the information as it gets printed immediately.
The XTOOL X100 PAD2 is a versatile key programmer with a ton of features beyond security management.
However, it is more suitable for owners of luxury cars of prominent brands, (see the list of applicable vehicles by clicking the Amazon link below). If you own one of the compatible cars and you’re in the market for a car key programmer, this is the one to buy.
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2. V33 Key Programmer SBB
The V33 Key Programmer SBB is another top quality, automatic key programmer. One of its best known features is that it can be accessed in up to 9 different languages.
Apart from that, it is also applicable to owners of vehicles of multiple well-known brands. It is also a wonderfully light and nifty product that weighs less and thus can be carried anywhere. It would also do good to understand all its features and specifications.
Many key programmers have also become multi-purpose accessories for managing and monitoring the functions of a vehicle; the V33 is no different as the main functions of the tool are wide-ranging.
Firstly, it has an electronic parking and steering control feature. This is for improving the mechanical functionality of the vehicle. Any car owner would be able to drive and park the car more safely.
The unit also has a control and support system for checking and monitoring the functions of spark plugs, brake pads, coolant liquid, and other crucial components. These will be monitored closely.
The V33 also has an alert system for tire pressure, engine oil, and even the exhaust system inside the vehicle. In this way, the driver will be alerted immediately about any problems occurring in these crucial aspects.
It is also good for managing the personal information of the vehicle and updating the same from time to time. This also includes the personal identification number of the vehicle and other details for future use and reference.
As mentioned previously, it is also multi-lingual with 9 languages installed. The languages include English, Spanish, Russian, French, Italian, and German.
The V33 is a quality car key programmer compatible with many cars. It comes with a multi-lingual feature for ease of use. Definitely worth considering if such features appeal to you.
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3. BEST PREMIUM: Autel MaxiIM IM608 Key Programming, Full Diagnostic Scan Tool
Our best premium pick is the excellent car key and IMMO program tool from Autel. This advanced device has an abundance of features that puts it at the very top end of the market when it comes to car key programming and diagnostics.
The package comes with the integrated Car Key Programmer XP400, a feature-heavy device that can read transponder data, clone and generate exclusive keys, as well as read/write on-board EEPROM data.
The system has a wide range of IMMO applications too. Designed for technicians, the Smart & Expert Modes help guide working professionals through all the related functions at their disposal. Not only does this increase the speed of your workflow, but it also allows the user to easily access some of the more advanced functionality of the unit from the word go.
Key Learning, Remote Control Learning, Remote Control Adding are all incorporated into the inbuilt guide system.
During an active test, the system is built so that the tester outputs commands to the ECU. This in turn drives the actuators for immediate diagnostic ability.
Running such tests allows the technician to check the integrity of the system. The engine ECU data can be read on the fly, or you can choose to monitor the operation of the actuators. (In this scenario, you can switch a solenoid or relay between two operating states to ascertain the output and potential malfunction).
After you have conducted any repairs and/or replacements, the Autel IM608 can then be used to reprogram adaptive data for relevant components through ECU Coding transfer.
The list of functions with the Autel IM608 doesn’t stop there. It also has more than 30 service and OE-level diagnostic scanner options built-in. You name the test, and it can pretty much run it.
Service functions such as oil reset, Engine/ABS/SRS/SAS/DPF, BMS reset and brake reset (to name but a few) are all available within the system.
Another important issue to mention is the fact the XP400 Programmer combined with the Wireless J2534 VCI unit, provides users with easy wireless PC communication (with modern vehicle diagnostic bus).
Finally, Autel provides a free year of updates, plus a life-long after-sales service. The updates to the system are run via free software updates online, while remote control tech support is available 24/7.
Overall, the Autel MaxiIM IM608 Key Programmer is a system very difficult to beat. Trusted by professionals, this is one of the best car key programmers currently available in 2021.
If you are a working technician and you need all the features at your disposal when it comes to programming and vehicle diagnostics, this is the device to buy.
4. SODIAL(R) 2014 CK-100 Auto Key Programmer
Beyond security control, car key programmers are very useful and effective in monitoring and managing the performance of the vehicle and its different operational aspects.
However, it is crucial that the best car key programmer is light, easy to use, and versatile.
In that respect, the SODIAL (R) 2014 CK-100 fits the bill. It is a lightweight, simple-to-operate product that does all the required functions of any good programmer effortlessly.
Moreover, similar to the V33 it is easy to use no matter where you are from as it comes in different languages.
It also manages and updates the information about the vehicle. This includes updating the registered vehicle identification number in the records and also saving other vital details about the vehicle in the administrative records.
It provides a control and support system for important mechanical components like spark plugs, brake pads, and coolant fluids.
It alerts the driver immediately about any possible problem in these parts. It also provides a control and support system for engine oil, brake fluid, car exhaust system, and tire pressure.
All these are potential areas of accidents and disruptions. The car key programmer will inform the car owner immediately about these warning signs.
It provides sufficient support for steering control, throttle functions, and even electrical parking control for the vehicle in tight corners.
This helps the car owner to improve the stability and maneuverability of the vehicle during driving and parking. This feature also prevents accidents.
It comes in languages such as English, Italian, Dutch, French and Spanish.
This is a light, highly functional car key programmer with some varied functions and at a good price point. However, it does lack the amount of in built languages when compared to the V33 and does not exude the same quality as our top pick from XTOOL.
5. XtremeAmazing CK-100 Auto Car Key Programmer
This car key programmer is an updated version of the earlier CK-100 model. It is fully automatic and delivers on the promise of being an excellent programmer.
It is lighter and more flexible to use than many of its competing products. It weighs merely 2.2 pounds and has a very comfortable size in the dimensions of 11.6 x 8.8 x 3.2 inches. This makes it very convenient and easy to use and install.
However, when judging any car key programmer, it is advisable to understand all the different aspects of its performance and functions.
It is a very good tool for registering and updating crucial information about the vehicle. It also helps in backing it up for future reference and use. The car owner will have no problems using it for insurance claims or repair services.
It is very good at monitoring the performance of mechanical parts and mechanisms like brake pads, spark plugs, engines, and electrical components. These will be supervised constantly and any potential disruptions of the same can be informed and notified to the car owner right away.
Coolant fluid and brake fluid will also be checked upon automatically and potential disruptions or problems of the same can also be notified to the car owner.
It is able to check on other vital aspects of driving, navigation, and parking. It helps in smoother steering control as well as better throttle navigation. It also enables safer and more seamless parking functions in corners and small spaces.
It keeps on evaluating and monitoring the other aspects like tire pressure, exhaust system, and even engine oil that would need resetting from time to time.
It has a multi-lingual control feature. The included languages are English, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, French, and so on.
As light and small car key programmer, this will take care of the needs of many car owners. It is not the best quality programmer on the market, but at this price point, you would not expect it to be.
Check the compatibility and if you are after an easy to use tool to program your keys this could well be the answer.
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6. XTOOL X100 Pro Auto Key Programmer
If you are still looking for the best car key programmer in terms of flexibility and ease of use, the XTOOL X100 Pro Auto Key Programmer is clearly a very good contender out there.
It is not only very good in all the requisite functions and activities, you can also register and manage the information of a vehicle within its database.
It has its own strong and dedicated database in which details like the car registration number and car type can be entered quite conveniently.
After that, the predetermined functions of the programmer can also be configured and that makes it even more customized in being used for all your specific requirements and purposes.
The primary programming functions of this X100 product impressive.
It helps to control and monitor the mechanical movements and functions of the vehicle. It helps to keep a check on how the car can be steered and parked smoothly and safely.
It has a support and control system for monitoring the internal mechanisms and components of the vehicle. It helps to notify and control the performance of brake pads, spark plugs, coolant fluid, and other such crucial parts inside the vehicle.
It also helps to keep a check on tire pressure, car exhaust system, and even the engine oil and fuel reset requirements for any particular car.
Apart from these distinct features, it also is very flexible in programming the entire database of the car’s history and other information. It can read the car keys quite smoothly with the help of an ECU immobilizer. It is also easy and effortless to update it online.
It can be connected to the Internet and the updates can be downloaded into the car key programmer. It comes with a one-year warranty too.
It can be concluded safely that this is a car key programmer that does its job very well indeed. It is also useful in keeping all the relevant information about the vehicle intact.
This very nearly got our top-rated pick, however it missed out against the more comprehensive programmer from XTOOL based on a range of functionality. Highly recommended for those on a smaller budget, however.
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Features to look out for when buying a Car Key Programmer
Car key programmers contain many features today. However, depending on the model you buy, the level of features will vary. Budget options will generally focus on programming new keys for the door locks and ignition.
More advanced key programming devices will allow you to control, reset, and program the vehicle’s immobilizer as well as run diagnostic checks on the overall security alarm system.
Here is an example of some of the features you can expect to find on a modern car key programmer.
- Add a key/ new key programming – This is the primary function of all car key programmers. This will allow you to create a new key for the car from a blank key. The same code will be used that exists on your current or missing key.
- Reset/relearn keys – This function is useful if your existing keys have malfunctioned. Using this feature you will be able to reset the key to the factory setting, and therefore ready to program.
- Remote control programming – Replacement remote controls and key fobs are programmed using this feature. The device will insert the relevant code into the remote control so that it is compatible with your vehicle.
- Key cloning – If your aim is to make a clone of one of your existing keys, this function will do it quickly and efficiently.
- Read keys from IMMO memory – This allows you to generate new keys using information stored in the vehicle’s memory. In cases where all originals are lost, you will be able to use this function to create a new key from a blank.
- All keys replace – This feature will allow a complete reset of the vehicle’s coded entry system while producing new keys with the new code. All old keys will be deactivated using this method.
- PIN code reading – This function gives you access to the vehicle IMMO system. This is where the PIN used to gains access to your car is stored.
- Reset immobilizer – If you are having issues with your immobilizer, you can use an applicable car key programmer to gain access to reset and/or troubleshoot the issue. You can also force the immobilizer to recognize new keys with this feature.
- Program immobilizer – This is an advanced feature that allows you to program the IMMO. It provides comprehensive control of the vehicle’s electronic security. With this, you essentially have “factory floor” access to the security system, allowing you to change parameters and even switch it off.
Car Key Programming – A little background and how to use them
Car key programming is one of the first skills an auto locksmith has to master. This does not mean that the average non-skilled consumer cannot attempt to program themselves, however.
A wide range of vehicles are now covered with the most basic hardware, that is available at reasonable prices.
Our 5 car key programmers reviewed above are a good example of that. These tools are sold independent of vehicle manufacturers, yet are designed to be compatible across a range of brands.
So how did we get to where we are now with car key programmers?
The introduction of the vehicle transponder
The transponder was first introduced into vehicle security back in 1996.
Manufacturers across the globe (affordable, low-budget offerings right up to supercars) started fitting small computer chips into the key that would communicate with the car telling it to switch the immobilizer off.
The impact on car crime was immediate. It was much harder for criminals to steal a vehicle now.
With the transponder receivers being hermetically sealed inside the car, the reliability of the system was and still is excellent.
All of this meant that auto-locksmiths (and in turn the consumer) had to step up their skillset in situations where keys were lost or damaged.
Car key programming leads to a full understanding of the range of transponders available and their applications on vehicles.
Car Key Programming
Car key programming using a diagnostics tool is a very popular method with auto-locksmiths, mechanics, and now the general vehicle owner at home.
In many ways, this has become the most used method of car key programming due to the fact automobile keys are so much more complicated today.
The codes that are created to communicate and sync with a transponder contain a trillion possible combinations.
This is required so that the ‘tech thief’, a car criminal armed with a laptop and programmer, cannot steal a vehicle while it is parked outside your house.
To increase security protocols further, some vehicle security systems require a 20-digit PIN code.
Not only is that extremely difficult to hack, but these codes are also synced between vehicle and key and are automatically wiped and changed each time the car is switched on.
Needless to say, the car key programmer is vital if you are to control this process and create a new workable key for your car.
Using the Car Key Programmer
Programming using a diagnostic tool is made simple as the programmer will do all the technical work for you, (well mostly).
The programmer is able to sync the new key and vehicle together by using a small series of commands, (these, of course, differ depending on the tool you are using).
The tool will then program both vehicle and key so that the initial start-up code is the same.
This is enough to allow entry into the vehicle where further, more in-depth programming can be carried out once access to the vehicle ignition is acquired.
All of the tools reviewed above contain instructions on how to use the programmer to gain access to your vehicle (assuming it is compatible).
However, in situations where you are unable to get the programmer to work, an auto-locksmith or specialist shop service is definitely advised.