Directions: Unlocking Vehicle Key Codes for Independent Shops

Directions: Unlocking Vehicle Key Codes for Independent Shops

There’s been some good news for the independent shops – the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) announced in February that the Secure Data Release Model (SDRM), which allows properly vetted technicians and security professionals to access automotive key codes, immobilizer PINs and other security-related information, has finally been released to the service repair industry.

Charlie Gorman, NASTF chairman said the NASTF Vehicle Security Committee has been working on the SDRM model for more than three years, and that the organization is pleased to have achieved this historic agreement. “Until now, there has never been general access to the security-related information available directly from the vehicle manufacturers,” said Gorman.

Gorman said up until the development of SDRM, aftermarket service providers were unable to provide services that required the use of security-related information. In some instances, information and/or special tools required to perform certain repairs like immobilizer reset functions were protected by the automaker’s security policies.

A Sore Spot for Car Owners
However, during the past several years, incidence of key fob repairs and “smart” key replacements has increased due to proliferation of advanced security technology on large populations of mid-priced vehicles. Where in years past, these security technologies were mainly used on luxury vehicles, nearly all vehicles sold today offer some sort of keyless entry units.

According to the AAA, about 17% of calls to AAA nationwide last year were vehicle lockouts. In 1980, only about 1.4% of the calls to the automobile association were for vehicle lock-outs.

As more and more vehicle owners with these advanced security systems either lost their keys or just needed to get a code reset in a key fob with a dead battery, consumers were feeling the pinch in their wallet. According to an article last year in the Boston Globe, area dealers were charging from $80 to $350 to replace a key. Recent national articles on the subject showed average “smart” key costs $150 or more, up to $335, to replace. A regular ignition key costs about $12.

Ask anyone who this happened to and they’ll tell you – lose your key and you’ll have a hassle on your hands trying to get an affordable replacement.

In fact, last year I was told by area shops that they could not reprogram the key fob for my wife’s Jeep Cherokee after its battery failed. Following a trip to the dealership and a $198 bill (they threw in a free car wash), I too was outraged that the dealerships had a hold on this information that should be available to my local independent shop.

Will the SDRM program mean every independent shop will offer more affordable key replacement? Maybe not, but at least many shops will now have their foot in the door to offer this service.

Details about the SDRM are now available on the NASTF website at This information covers the registration process and the requirements necessary for a repairer or other security professional to access this security-related information.

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