It happens practically everyday. A customer walks into the workshop to have a key cut for his vehicle – however – he has no key to be duplicated. Instead, he brings the particular lock off the transport that contains his unique key code: a code that allows him to have new keys made just like the original keys. With that code, usually, in less than ten minutes, the customer walks out with a new set of keys.

However, the point of this article is not to explain the procedure. No, its purpose is to make the public aware of an important change in the automobile industry. Due to increasing crime and other security issues, manufacturers are no longer putting key codes on the locks of their vehicles!!!

Actually, this is not a new trend. Key codes began to be removed from vehicles in the 1970s. What does this mean for those who own and drive vehicles?

Well, many who own vehicles may have only one working key for their use. Evidently, they assume that at least one of three things is not going to happen in their case:

They will never lose it.

It will not wear out

It will never break or be damaged

If one of those three possibilities should occur (and one of them eventually will), and there is no key code, getting new keys will be a problem that will not be easily solved.

A new generation of keys are being produced now. The way they are cut and operate within a lock makes replacing, or duplicating worn keys a problem; here’s why:

Most vehicle keys produced years ago had a ‘shoulder,’ which stopped the key when it was inserted to the correct position to operate. When this key is duplicated, the shoulder is also used as the starting point to begin cutting the key. However, many keys today do not have a shoulder – it is a straight blade.

They are sometimes referred to as ‘tip stop’ keys, because, when inserted, into the lock, they do not stop until the tip of the key reaches the back of the lock. As time passes, this creates a problem.

With the tip of the key continually hitting the back of the lock, it flattens out,becomes blunted. Eventually the key now goes into the lock too far and will no longer work properly.

Now, a key cutter cannot cut it properly. Since there is no shoulder to align the two keys, the only point of reference would have been to align the tips of both keys in the key machine, which is now impossible because the original key is worn out – so no workable copies can be made from it.

With these changes in the industry, the wise course is to have at least one key that is not being used. If a vehicle is owned or used for ten years or more, the locks may stay pretty much the same but, over the years, many keys will be lost, broken, or wear out. In reality, the original keys should never be used as the “primary use keys”; they should only be used for making copies.

[Side note: No key machine is capable of making “exact duplicates”; every copy is just a little different from the key from which it was made. So you can understand what may happen eventually when copies are constantly made from other copies – eventually they may not work.]

One more thing:

Sometime, around 1995, automakers began installing transponder security as a second security defense. The cost of transponder keys is much higher than conventional keys. In the USA a duplicate transponder key, plus programming may cost anywhere from $135EC – $679EC; in Dominica one provider said the cost here starts at about $350EC.

People would rather pass one key around to the person using the vehicle instead of buying 4 or 5 keys so that everyone will have their own.

Some poor owners have lost their last transponder key. When that last key is lost, the person creates a unique and difficult problem to solve. It has cost some between $3000 – $4000EC dollars to have their keys replaced.

There are a couple of options to replace lost keys without key codes. But frankly, for this industry, Dominica is considered a “small market” and, right now, those options are not profitable, and so, not realistic.

Vehicles are expensive. Avoid one less problem by having enough keys in good working order.

[Some of the principles mentioned here also applies to non-automotive, domestic keys]