Frequently Ask Questions

Key Blanks & Key Accessories FAQ’s

Q. What is the difference between brass keys and nickel-plated keys?

A. In both cases the base material is brass. Nickel-plating the key extends the shelf life of the key and helps to maintain a “like new” look for a longer period of time.

Q. I have been told that the nickel-plating on a key will wear out the cutting wheel on a key duplicating machine prematurely. Is this true?

A. While Nickel-plating is hard, the wear difference on a cutting wheel is insignificant. Cutter wear is more affected by the speed and the pressure a person applies when duplicating a key. In addition, foreign objects that come in contact with the cutter and/or contact with the vise jaw will have an adverse affect on cutter life.

Q. Why are some keys made of nickel-silver material?

A. It is more difficult to break a key made of nickel silver material. It is often used when the keyway is thin.

Q. Why not make all keys out of steel?

A. The internal components of the lock are commonly made of brass or nickel-silver. Making all keys of steel would result in premature wear on the parts.

Q. I’ve heard that keys have thumb and finger sides. What does this mean?

A. If you hold a cut key in your right hand, with the bitting (cut edge) facing up, your thumb would rest on the thumb side and your finger would rest on the finger side of a key. While this applies in North America, this is not the case world-wide. In other countries, the bitting (or cut edge) may go into the lock with the facing down and therefore, the thumb side would be determined while holding the cut edge down.

finger side thumb side

Q. What is a “Universal Mill” ?

A. The question seems simple; however the answer is a bit more complex. First we must separate universal mill key blanks from sectional (or multiplex) key blanks. Sectional key blanks are specifically manufactured to fit master keyed lock systems.

These key sectional families are found in large installations of locks such as shopping malls or apartment complexes. When a customer needs more keys than a single keyway can support, sectional key systems are used. Key combinations are unique on any given keyway then are repeated using a different keyway. High-level sectional keys function similar to the “universal mill” keys in that they bypass several or all of the lock keyways in the system.

The difference is that these keys are used in a professionally planned security network. Even in professionally controlled circumstances, precautions must be taken when using any sectional keyway family. In contrast, universal mill key blanks are created to simplify key duplication.

A universally milled key may enter more than one lock and are designed to be thinner than the original key. The more keyways it has been designed to enter, the thinner the key blade. The Ilco brand of keys does not feature “universal mill” however Ilco has long supported sectional key blanks or professionally controlled security networks.

Automotive Key Blank FAQ’s

Q. What is the difference between a Transponder, Electronic and VATS key?

A. A Transponder key transmits and responds by means of a transponder chip. The chip transmits, receives and responds to a coded signal data using radio frequency transmissions. When the key is inserted and turned in the ignition it sends a unique code signal to the on-board computer or ECM (Electronic Control Module). If the computer recognizes the signal it will allow the vehicle to start.

Transponder Key

An Electronic key contains a battery powered electronic circuit board rather than a transponder. This circuit board in this key mimics a transponder by transmitting a unique code signal to the vehicle’s on-board computer Electronic keys feature a two part design. The electronic components are separate from the blade.

EK Examples

Transponder Key

AVATS key has a resistor embedded within the key-blade. Each resistor has one of fifteen possible values. Sometimes the resistors are referred to as a “pellet” or “chip”. These keys require only a reader to determine the resistor value. They do not require a cloning or programming tool.


EK Examples

VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System) keys are exclusive to GM makes & models. You may hear this referred to as Ford PATS™ (Passive Anti-Theft System),Securilock® (Ford PATS System), or GM’s PASS Key® III or PASS Key® III+ system.

Securilock is the registered trademark of Ford
PASS Key is the registered trademark of GM

Q. What is the difference in Read Only and Read / Write Transponder Keys?

A. Read Only transponders will not allow modification of the electronic code and you cannot write to this type of key. A Read Only key can receive but cannot transmit.

Read/Write (RW) transponders will allow modification of the electronic code and you can write to this type of key. A Read/Write key can receive and transmit.

Q. What is the benefit of the electronic key?

A. Electronic keys are quickly and easily cloned using an RW cloning tool. By using an electronic key, you can eliminate “on-board programming” (requires physically programming to the vehicle) or the need to have two original keys to add an additional (or 3rd ) key.

Q. What is the life expectancy of the batteries contained in this key?

A. The lithium batteries used in the EK have a very long life expectancy and the battery is replaceable in the event that it should need to be replaced. These keys use a 3V lithium CR2025 battery, which are readily available.

Q. Will I need to reprogram the key if the battery dies or when I change the battery?

A. No, the circuit board will remember the code.