OEM & Aftermarket VATS keys and secondary keys for GM vehicles.

How To Decode A VATS Key

The VATS acronym stands for Vehicle Anti-theft System and is also known as PASS-Key or Personal Automotive Security System. Each VATS key has a resistor embedded in the key-blade, and each resistor has 1 of 15 possible resistance values. These resisters are often referred to as a resister pellet, VATS Pellet or VATS Chip. After inserting your VATS key into the ignition lock, contacts inside the lock make contact with the resister, and the VATS system is able to read the resistance value of your key. If your VATS key has the right resistance, then the car will start, if not, then the car is disabled. The resistance value of a VATS key is also called the VATS code. VATS codes are numbered 1 through 15. In order to buy a new key for your VATS equipped vehicle you must know the correct VATS code for your car. If you have a working VATS key you can determine its VATS code by decoding the key. Decoding a VATS key is very simple, but it does require knowing how to use an ohm meter. Any multimeter will have an ohm meter and any Radio Shack, electronic or hardware store sells them. Harbor Freight often times advertises a coupon in magazines for a free digital multi-meter just for showing up at their store and presenting them with this coupon. This low end and free digital multi-meter from Harbor Freight is one of the best meters I have ever used for measuring VATS keys. Go figure....

The resister embedded in all VATS keys have a metal prong protruding out both sides of the key blade. These metal prongs are used to make contact with contacts inside the ignition lock so the VATS system can measure the resister in the key. In order for you to measure the resisters resistance, place one lead of the ohm meter on the metal prong on one side of the key, and the other lead on the metal prong on the opposite side. With the leads in there proper position, a resistance value can be measured by the ohm meter. Its important for the meter leads to make good contact with the resisters metal prongs in order to get a good reading, and the meter leads should only touch the resister metal prongs and not the key blade.

Vats key showing resister prongs

Once you get your reading, match the resistance value measured by your ohm meter to the resistance value in the right column of the chart shown below. The resistance value measured by your ohm meter will probably not match any of the resistance values in the chart, but your resistance value should be very close to one resistance value in the chart (usually no more than 3 to 5 percent difference). The closest resistance value in the chart to your measured resistance value will correspond to the correct VATS code used in your car as long as you measured your key correctly. The corresponding code number is the identification number of your VATS code. It will be a number between 1 and 15.

It is very important that you know how to use an ohmmeter in order to measure your key correctly. You must know the difference between ohm and kohm, and you must know which meter setting to use and how to read your meter. Measuring your VATS key and deterimining your VATS code is your responsibility. The information I present here is for educational purposes only, and is not responsible if you order the wrong VATS code.

VATS Code: Resistance Value In Ohms:
1 402
2 523
3 681
4 887
5 1130
6 1470
7 1870
8 2370
9 3010
10 3740
11 4750
12 6040
13 7500
14 9530
15 11800

How To Find Your VATS Code When You Lose Your VATS Key

Here are four options to try when you lose all your VATS keys and you don't remember the correct VATS code for your car.

  1. Check your cars owners manual. Sometimes the VATS code is written down in the manual.
  2. Find a local locksmith who has the tools to interrogate the vats system on your car and determine the correct vats code. It may be hard to find a locksmith that still deals with this technology, but they are out there.
  3. Give your dealership a call and see if they can find the VATS code using your cars VIN. You always have the option of taking your car to your dealership and letting them find the correct VATS code for you.
  4. Purchase 15 different vats keys with VATS codes 1 through 15 and try each key until you find the correct one that will start your car. This will aslo require buying a new VATS ignition lock and having all 15 keys cut to fit the new lock. If your GM car that uses a 10-cut vats key, then you will need 14 vats keys with VATS codes 2 through 15. sells all 15 VATS keys and a new ignition lock for most GM cars equipped with a VATS system for $149.95. Contact us for more information.

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