How Do Locksmiths Cut Laser Keys?

Last Updated on October 5, 2023

How to Get a Laser Cut Key

Laser Cut Car Key

If you’ve bought a newer vehicle in the last decade, you may have noticed your car key was remarkably different than your key from older vehicles. This newer key style is known as a ‘laser cut key’. Another name for them is ‘sidewinder’ key.

Laser cut keys are high security car keys. They are also much harder to cut, they almost always need to be programmed to the vehicle by a locksmith in order for the car to run.

Milling a Laser Key During Key Duplication

To cut high security laser keys, locksmiths use a small milling machine to slowly remove the key’s metal. Milling uses a small bit, which looks very much like the tip of a standard drill bit. This bit not only goes up and down, but it can also be moved along the surface to remove material at a precise, preset depth. The upper and lower sides of the blade, or the inside of the blade depending on the car, can be milled out very precisely to that the key can turn the locks and ignition.

Why are they harder to duplicate? Well, it becomes evident when you consider how the cuts to the key are going to be created. The old style bladed key has notches that go along the edge of the blade to a certain depth. These notches cut with a relatively inexpensive machine using a standard carbide cutting blade / wheel.

But a laser key, you’ll notice, the cuts don’t go through the entire body of the key, so a cutting wheel cannot be use. The metal is, instead, milled out along the edge or down the center, but NOT all the way through the key. The machines that are capable of making these cuts works very differently.

There are different types of machines that can mill high security key blades. The less expensive are the ‘tracers’. A tracer machine copies an original key. The original key is secured into the machine on a movable table. It is placed such that a tracing pin can slide along the groves of the key (as in the photo above) at a calibrated and desired depth. On the other side of the machine, a new laser key is inserted under a milling blade on the same table and at the same desired depth.

When the machine is turned on, the milling blade spins, and the locksmith moves the table, which moves both the old and new key in unison. The locksmith guides the tracing pin along the groves of the already cut key while the milling blade cuts the new laser key. The new key on the other side is milled exactly as the original. Tracer machines can cost upwards of $2000.

You can watch this process on our YouTube channel.

The more expensive machine that does this milling is an ‘originator’.

An originator doesn’t need a key to copy from or a locksmith to manually move a table.

Instead, information about the key (key code, blank type, etc) is programmed into a computer, and the computer accurately cuts the desired key. This is also referred to as a CNC miller (CNC is for computer navigated control). These types of machines can cost upwards of $10,000.

You can see a laser key originator working on our YouTube here.

The added expense for a company to purchase one of these machines and the programming equipment needed to program the key to the car is prohibitive. That cost is passed to the consumer. fro average pricing, check out our article How Much Do Car Keys Cost.

But, the added security means this style key is here to stay, for at least as long as keys still open and start automobiles.

Disclosure: As an eBay / Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.

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