Toyota Smart Key System Description


The Toyota Smart Key is a convenient evolution of other standard keyless entry systems. Rather than having to click a lock or unlock button on a clicker fob, the Smart Key will let you enter and start your vehicle without ever touching the key! Sounds great, but how? And what are the security risks of such a design?

This article will discuss the details of the 2004-2009 Prius Smart Key, but bear in mind that the 2010 and newer Priuses, as well as Camry HV or any Lexus Smart Key are designed somewhat differently. I’ll try to remember when to point out functional differences!

In a nutshell



What does “registration” mean

Registering a Smart Key is the process of matching the key to the car so you’ll be able to enter and start the car with it. A new Smart Key must be registered in both the Imobilizer system and the Smart Key system. Art’s Automotive holds California and Federal locksmithing licenses, and we own the Toyota Techstream scanner, so we are able to offer the same Smart Key services as Toyota dealerships.


A Smart Key also has a “standard key” insert, which can be used to open the driver’s door in the event the 12V aux. battery goes dead, and the electronic systems (such as the Smart Key system) stop operating.

We do not cut key blanks in house, but our Toyota dealership will cut the key blank based on VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) for a fee. Typically around $25 (call for a current price). The advantages to this method are that you don’t need an existing Smart Key insert, and it is more convenient since the car and Smart Key are returned to you ready-to-go, or “turn-key” ­čÖé┬á However, if for some reason your driver’s door lock cylinder has been replaced or recoded, a key insert cut by VIN will not work. This sometimes happens after used parts are used for body repair. Once a key is cut, you’ll have to pay for it, so if you suspect that your door lock cylinder may have been changed, it may be a better idea to go with the option below.

You can also have an existing Smart Key insert cut by a locksmith or hardware store. The advantage is that it’s usually a bit cheaper. The disadvantage is it’s a little inconvenient and sometimes copied keys do not come out well and are “sticky” or don’t work at all.

We do not recommend leaving the key blank “blank.” Sooner or later, you’re bound to have a discharged battery and a real headache.

Adding a key

A new Prius comes with two Smart Keys, but up to five Smart Keys can be registered to a single car. See what we charge to register a Smart Key by clicking here. Used Smart Keys and “new” keys purchased from EBay or off the internet will be more expensive to register (read more about used keys below).

Replacing a key

If you lose a key, you’ll want to replace it and delete, or “un-register” the lost key. If you only have one operational Smart Key, you should do this even if you are not concerned about someone finding your key and stealing your car. The reason it this, if you lose all keys, it will be more expensive reset and register new keys.

Used Keys / Ebay Keys / Customer Supplied Keys

Any key that has EVER been registered to any vehicle has that vehicle’s specific identification burned to it, and the key cannot be registered to another vehicle. We often see others shops try to perform this procedure and fail. The most common problem is that the shop can register a used key in the Immobilizer ECU, but not register in the Smart Key ECU. This means the “clicker” won’t work, the smart functionalities won’t work, but it will plug into the dash and function.

Once a vehicle ID has been burned into a key, it can NEVER be erased. However, there is a trick to┬áREPLACE the┬ávehicle ID on the key, but it is time consuming, and must be repeated for every used key. Each used key will take 1.25hr labor to register. So if you have one used key, it will be 1.25 hour labor at today’s hourly rate (our hourly rate may change). If you have two used keys, it will be 2.5 hours. Three, 3.75, and so on. There will also be a Security charge for the reset code from Toyota. This is currently $38 regardless of the number of keys to be registered.


Sorry for yelling, but we do not have any control over the alleged functionality of an eBay key. We must perform the procedure regardless of whether the cheap eBay key you provide is actually functional, therefore you must pay us for the service. After learning my current technique, I have a perfect record of success with used keys so far.┬áNo other shop in the area is capable of doing this at the time of publication, and most shops won’t allow you to bring your own parts at all.┬áThere is no reason Art’s Automotive should bear any responsiblity for a customer who purchases a the wrong key or Ebay knock-off that does not work. Want 100% guarantee? Buy a new key from us!

Please do not try to “trick” us by telling us you purchased a key new from the dealer when in fact you purchased it from EBay or another online vendor. It will end up costing you more in the end. The one half hour labor charge for the standard registration (which will fail), then another hour + a $38 Security fee on top of it to complete the reseed process

Resetting after all keys have been lost

If you’ve lost all keys, you can tow your car here and we can register new keys. However, there are some conditions.

1. You must have photo ID.
2. The car must be registered in your name and you must bring a valid registration card.

There will be no exceptions made. Ever. Please don’t ask.