VATS/PASS Keys Part 1: Key Decoding

Advancing technology makes it harder and harder for thieves to steal your car. That’s good. It also makes it more complicated to replace or duplicate keys. And that can be bad if you don’t know how those systems work.

Embedded chip keys are commonplace and laser-cut “sidewinder” keys are becoming more popular. Another type of high-security car key is known as a VATS or PASS key and was used on some GM vehicles made in the 1986-2003 model years. Those names are acronyms for Vehicle Anti-Theft System and Personal Automotive Security System. Regardless of what they’re called, these keys work the same.

Each key has a resistor chip embedded in the key blade that pairs with a VATS decoder module in the ignition switch. The decoder measures the resistance in the key and if it matches the module setting, it sends a signal to your car’s computer to start the engine.

How do you know if your key is part of a VATS or PASS system?

It’s pretty simple. The resistor in VATS and PASS keys is easy to see. It’s located along the key blade, is usually a different color, and it protrudes slightly on each side of the blade.

How do you get a new or duplicate key made?

In order to make a VATS or PASS key, the keymaker needs to know the resistor code as well as the cut pattern. There are fifteen different codes that are determined by the amount of resistance over the implant. They are determined by using an ohmmeter to measure the resistance or a device known as a VATS interrogator.

The ohmmeter value is matched with a code table to get the right code, whereas the VATS interrogator reads the resistor and displays the code directly. Then the locksmith chooses a key blank with the proper code and cuts the key. If the key is missing, a locksmith can get the cutting code from the car manufacturer which may also include the resistor code. If not, he can locate the code stamped on the ignition lock, but on some models this may require removing the steering wheel.

Decoder modules and VATS interrogators may sound more like spy gear than car parts, but the pros at Alexius Security Lock & Key, Denver’s Hometown Locksmiths have the necessary equipment and knowledge to solve your VATS/PASS key dilemmas.

Lock problems seem to come at the worst possible times. When you need fast, affordable locksmith services, call Alexius Security at 303.974.0215. Our mobile locksmith service answers every call 24/7 and responds promptly, arriving with all the tools and knowledge to get you going. We work on everything from cars and motorcycles to RVs, boats, aircraft and construction equipment, including those with sophisticated locking and theft-prevention systems, and all of our services come with an upfront, honest price quote before the work is done. Plus, we do it for less than a dealer would charge.

Alexius Security Lock & Key, Denver’s Hometown Locksmiths, has served the Metro Denver area with honest, affordable locksmith services for over 16 years. Our staff is highly-trained, professional and courteous. Our business is bonded and insured and our products and services are guaranteed. That’s why we’ve received a Better Business Bureau Gold Star certification five years in a row and are part of Angie’s List and the Tom Martino Troubleshooter Network.

Just give us a call at 303.617.3717 or use our online contact form for prompt, professional attention to all your security needs.

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