Non-working car keys can be a major problem. Between work commutes, medical and financial appointments, and social trips, a typical person may depend on a functioning key dozens of times every day. Losing or breaking a car key can be an extremely stressful time, but the process for getting a replacement is actually fairly simple.
Step 1: Determine Key Type & Gather Information
Having a replacement key made may require some basic vehicle information, depending on the key job and type. Find the vehicle's VIN, make, model, and year. It is also necessary to identify the type of key required by the vehicle.
Basic keys are relatively easy to identify. If the key is all metal and does not have buttons or a thick plastic head, it is most likely a basic key. Some keys, especially those for newer vehicles, also have electrical components. Most cars manufactured after 1995 have transponder chips. This technology, which is embedded into the key, communicates with the car's engine control unit, sending a message to the engine that the key is correct and the car should start. A key without a transponder chip -- or with an incorrectly programmed chip -- can cause the car to "lock down" and become completely unresponsive.
Step 2: Find "Key People"
Key repair means finding a balance between saving some cash and protecting the integrity of the vehicle.
The cheapest and most accessible option for replacement keys is usually hardware stores or "big box" retailers. Many hardware stores will have at least basic key equipment, so any non-electronic keys can be made in these locations, providing the establishment is able to get the correct key blanks.
Keys that include transponder chips or built-in key fob buttons are more complicated and will likely require more than a quick trip to the local hardware store. For these types of jobs, it may be necessary to seek out a body shop or auto repair establishment. However, keep in mind that some repair shops may contract with area locksmiths to have keys duplicated or fabricated, so it may be better to contact locksmiths directly. Either of these options will also work if more extensive lock work is required, such as re-keying the ignition or door locks.
Another key replacement option is visiting a car dealership. This will likely be the most expensive route, but it's also the most likely to ensure that the new key works and that no harm will come to the vehicle when using the new key. A dealership specializing in the same make of vehicle will be able to acquire factory replacement equipment and go through all the necessary steps to be certain that any electrical components are activated correctly.
The DIY Route
If a replacement key is not needed immediately, checking online may be an option. There are several websites that sell key blanks for specific vehicles, which could end up saving money compared to a car dealership or physical retailer. It's also possible to purchase replacement keyless entry remotes online, but many of these will require the user to program them later on.
Losing or breaking a key is definitely stressful, but finding a replacement is easy. Gathering vehicle information (including key type) and finding an acceptable technician to cut and program keys will ensure that the new key works just as well as the originals. Contact an area locksmith, like ARC locksmith Service, for more information.