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.

Honda Key Fob Turned CNC Work Of Art

Now that nearly every car on the road comes with an electronic key fob, people are desperate to find ways to repair these indispensable little gadgets without coughing up potentially hundreds of dollars at the dealership. There’s a whole market for replacement shells which you can transplant your (hopefully) still functional electronics into, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of putting the electronics into a new case, why not make it special?

That’s what [Michicanery] was thinking when he decided to build his own custom key fob. The end result is an utterly magnificent feat of engineering that’s sure to be a conversation for the life of the vehicle, if not beyond. Made of wood and aluminum cut on his OpenBuilds Lead CNC 1010, this build just might inspire you to “accidentally” drop your existing fob from a great height. Oh no, what a shame.

[Michicanery] starts by disassembling his original fob, which is the type that has a key integrated directly into the device. This meant his replacement would need a bit more thought put into it than a separate stand-alone fob, but at least it wasn’t one of the ones where you have to stick the whole thing into the dashboard. To make sure the build was strong enough to survive a lifetime of being turned in the ignition and generally fiddled with, he cut the central frame and buttons out of 1/4″ thick aluminum.

The top and bottom of the fob were then cut from Chechen wood and then chamfered on a table router so it felt a bit better in the hand. He applied oil to the pieces to bring out the natural color and grain of the wood, but not before engraving his own logo onto the back of the case for that extra touch of personalization. Not that we think [Michicanery] is going to have trouble identifying his keys from this point on.

Like the incredible watch cases we’ve seen recently, this is a perfect example of an everyday object getting a new lease on life as a bespoke creation thanks to a custom built enclosure. Granted we’re not sure Honda key fobs have quite the heirloom potential of a good watch, but we’d still prefer it over the black plastic original.

[via /r/DIY]

Color-Coded Key Opens Doors, Opportunities

Of all the ways to open up a lock, there are some tried and true methods. Keys, combinations, RFIDs, picks, and explosives have all had their time and place, but now someone else wants to try something new. [Erik] has come up with a lock that opens when it is shown a pattern of colors.

The lock in question uses a set of color coded cards as the “keys”. When the cards are inserted in the lock, a TCS230 color sensor interprets the pattern on the cards and sends the information over to an Arduino Uno. From there, the Arduino can command the physical lock to open if the pattern is a match, although [Erik] is still waiting on the locking mechanism to arrive while he continues to prototype the device.

This is a fairly unique idea with a number of upsides. First, the code can’t be “stolen” from inside a wallet like RFID cards can. (Although if you can take a picture of the card all bets are off.) If you lose your key, you can simply print another one, and the device is able to handle multiple different keys and log the usage of each one. Additionally, no specialized equipment is needed to create the cards, unlike technologies that rely on magnetic strips. Of course, there’s always this classic way of opening doors if you’d rather go old school with your home locks.

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3D-Printed Kwikset Keys Parametrically

Good ol’ Kwikset-standard locks were introduced in 1946 and enjoyed a decades-long security by obscurity. The technology still stands today as a ubiquitous and fairly minimal level of security. It’s the simplest of the various standards (e.g., Master, Schlage, etc.) with a mere five pins with values ranging from 1 (not cut down hardly at all) to 7 (cut deeply). This relative simplicity made the Kwikset the ideal platform for [Dave Pedu] to test his 3D-printed keys.

Rather than simply duplicating an existing key, [Dave] created a parametric key blank in OpenSCAD; he just enters his pin settings and the model generator creates the print file. He printed ABS on a glass plate with a schmeer of acetone on it, and .15mm layer heights. Another reason [Dave] chose Kwikset is that the one he had was super old and super loose — he theorizes that a newer, tighter lock might simply break the key.

So, a reminder: Don’t post a picture of your keys on the socials since at this point it’s certainly possible to script the entire process from selecting a picture to pulling the key off the print bed. Looking to technology won’t save you either; Bluetooth locks aren’t much better.

A Vintage Morse Key Turned Into USB Keyboard

Time was when only the cool kids had new-fangled 102-key keyboards with a number pad, arrow keys, and function keys. They were such an improvement over the lame old 86-key layout that nobody would dream of going back. But going all the way back to a one-key keyboard is pretty cool, in the case of this Morse keyer to USB keyboard adapter.

To revive her dad’s old straight key, a sturdy mid-20th century beast from either a military or commercial setup, [Nomblr] started with a proper teardown and cleaning of the brass and Bakelite pounder. A Teensy was chosen for the job of converting Morse to keyboard strokes; careful consideration to the timing of dits and dahs and allowances for contact debouncing were critical to getting the job done. A new wooden base not only provides stability for the key but hides the Teensy and makes for a new presentation. The video below shows it in action; our only complaint is the lack of sidetone to hear the Morse as you pound out that next great novel one click at a time.

Lovingly restored telegraph gear is a bit of a thing around here; we featured this vintage telegraph sounder revived with a Morse code sender not too long ago.

[via r/DIY]

Thanks to [Liz] for the tip

3D Printed Key-Code Is Plastic Digital Logic

3D printers are great for creating static objects, but if you’re clever, it’s possible to print functional devices. If you’re absolutely brilliant you can go far beyond that, which is the case here. This door handle with a key-code lock does it all with 3D printing using mechanism designs that look like alien technology. This is just one application of a much more interesting mechanical digital logic they’re developing (PDF).

Working from the [Hasso-Plattner-Institut], the research team is focusing on metamaterials as mechanisms in and of themselves. The crux of this lock is a series of bistable springs that — if the correct code is entered — will trigger in series to unlock the door. The project builds on the grid of shearing cells seen in the door handle we featured last year. It happens quickly in the video, but the intricate cascade of the handle unlocking is a treat to witness.

It’s a fascinating show of mechanical design. The common elements of digital electronics are all present: set or unset bits, logic gates, propagation issues, the whole works. But there are added challenges in this system, like the need for special cells that can turn the logic chain by 90 degrees and split the signal into more than one part.

This signal splitting is seen in the upper right (bifurcation) and leads into what is in effect an amplifier. The locking bolt must be moved twice the distance of a normal cell, so a dual-cell input is necessary to offset the loss of force from the incoming smaller cells. Cognitively we understand this, but we’re still trying to gain an intuitive sense of the amplifer mechanism.

One thing’s for sure, the overall concept is far cooler than this admittedly awesome door lock mechanism. The paper is worth your time for a deep dive. It mentions their design editor software. You can play with it online but we don’t think it’s been updated to include the new logic cells yet.

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Hack A Padlock Key From Plastic Scraps

Not too many years ago, if you wanted a decent copy of a key made, you had to head to either a locksmith’s shop or the nearest hardware store, where real people actually knew their trade. Now we generally take our keys to the Big Orange Box o’ Stuff and have it copied by a semi-automated machine, or even feed it into one of the growing number of fully automated key-copying kiosks, with varying results. But as [BlueMacGyver] shows us, a serviceable padlock key can be whipped up quickly at home with nothing but scraps.

The video below details the process – soot the profile of the key with a lighter, transfer the carbon to some stiff plastic with Scotch tape, and cut out the profile. With a little finagling the flat copy makes it into the lock and opens it with ease. Looks like the method could be applied to locks other than padlocks. As for raw material, we think we’ve found a use for all those expired credit cards collecting in the desk drawer.

We’ve given a lot of coverage lately to hacks involving locks, including copying keys from photos and making bump keys with a 3D printer. But we like this hack for its simplicity. True, you need physical access to the key to copy it, and that limits the hack’s nefarious possibilities. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

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