Quick And Dirty Immobilizer Hack Lets You Use Cheaper Dumb Keys

Car enthusiasts can find themselves in a pickle if they’re into cars from the 80s and 90s. These vehicles are much beloved by some, but one can find themselves having to fork out immense amounts of money for repairs and out-of-production parts. Once a car passes that 15 year milestone, suddenly manufacturer support can start to dry up. Even just getting a set of keys can be a problem.

Modern cars tend to use a small chip implanted in the key as a security measure. This chip functions similarly to an RFID chip, being energised by the car’s reader when the driver turns the key in the ignition. If the chip returns the right code, the computer allows the car to start. Getting a new key cut and recoded is expensive, particularly on older cars. Naturally though, there’s a way to hack around the problem.

The trick is to perform surgery on an existing good key, to extract the working chip inside. This chip can then be permanently affixed to the immobilizer’s antenna in the steering column. This allows the driver to use any properly cut “dumb” key to start the car, as the chip will always provide the right signal at startup. It takes some finesse to avoid damaging the delicate chip inside and to know where to look – but with a little work, it’s achievable by even the novice hacker.

It’s a simple hack that can save hundreds of dollars, and is a great way to keep your modern classic on the road for cheap. You can always take things a step further though, and CNC yourself a key from scratch if you’re so inclined.

The Bane of Aftermarket Car Alarms

The humble car alarm has been around almost as long as the car itself, first being developed by an unknown prisoner in Denver, circa 1913. To the security-conscious motorist, they make a lot of sense. The noise of a car alarm draws attention which is the last thing a would-be thief wants, and the in-built immobilizers generally stop the car being moved at all without a time-consuming workaround. Both are a great deterrent to theft.

It may then surprise you to know that I, dear readers, consider the aftermarket car alarm to be one of the most heinous devices ever fitted to the modern automobile. Combining the unholy trifecta of being poorly designed, cheaply made, and fitted by only the most untalented or uncaring people to wield a soldering iron, they are a blight that I myself refuse to accept.

It was my very own Mazda that suffered at the hands of a car alarm system. Two days after purchasing the car, the keyfob died, and thus the car would no longer start. My other car was already out of action due to bent valves, and I needed to get to work, so I figured as a competent hacker, I’d be able to quickly disable it.

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