How to Get a Replacement Car Key

Replacing a car key can be a messy and frustrating experience. Sometimes the key breaks, while other times it may bend or wear down until it no longer functions correctly. Losing a key is particularly frustrating with the constant worry that, part-way through the process of securing a key replacement, the owner will find the initial key somewhere obvious — like the pocket of a jacket that was misplaced. Whatever the reason, the key is essential to proper car use, so every car requires at least one working key.

When To Get a Replacement Key

Key is lost. Losing a key is frustrating. Plus, the possibility of finding a lost key remains unless the key was lost in the ocean or while traveling. If you have a spare key, replacement isn’t immediately necessary unless you can’t find the original. If you cannot find your key, and don’t have a spare, start looking for replacement options right away — and don’t worry, most places that replace car keys don’t need to the original to perform the task.

Key is not functioning. Sometimes the key wears down until it no longer retains its shape. It may also snap or bend, rendering it useless. Some more high-tech keys may be laser-etched or have wireless codes the car scans to ensure they are the correct keys. While this is great for security, damaging these codes can render an otherwise fine key useless. There is also the growing problem of having a broken remote built into a functioning key. The key can be used to lock and unlock the doors and turn on the car, but the malfunctioning remote reduces convenience. Always check the battery in the remote first to see if that's the problem. For security reasons, any issues with the keys or locks need to be addressed immediately.

5 Steps To Get a Replacement Key for Your Car

1. Obtain VIN. First, get the vehicle identification number (VIN) from the dashboard or engine bay of the car. Note the exact make, model, and year of the vehicle. If the VIN is hard to find, check out the vehicle’s title or insurance paperwork to find out.

VIN

2. Contact a locksmith. Older cars, especially those made by non-luxury manufacturers, have the easiest keys to replace. Making a call to the local auto locksmith can solve the whole problem in many cases. Additionally, a locksmith can end up saving you a lot of money compared to a dealership.

However, If the key is from a more modern car, the shape may be too complex for a local locksmith or it may need to be programmed to work with a certain vehicle. Some locksmiths are capable of digital programming replacement keys, but many cannot imitate a code laser-etched onto the key.

3. Have a locksmith make the key, and a dealer program it. If a locksmith can make the new key but not program it, take it to the dealership for that final step. The module that needs to be programmed can be very expensive through the dealership, so be sure to research other options. For example, Amazon offers replacement car keys for many different makes and models.

locksmith working on as door with as special programming kit

4. If the key is very complex, have the dealership replace it. If none of the above options are viable, then you likely have a key with complex features for security purposes. The replacement may only be available through the manufacturer, and ordering the key may take a week or two. If this is the case, go to the dealership where the car was bought and see if either the warranty will cover the cost, or if the dealership will provide a discount to satisfy their customer.

5. Consider price versus reliability. Many cars use keyless entry devices these days — and they usually barely resemble an actual key. If one of these breaks and the batteries are not dead, then ordering a new car key is necessary. Sometimes, they cost little to purchase online, but going through a dealership is a more secure bet. You can even program certain keys yourself, at home. Others must be programmed by a professional. In some cases, the key is programmed at the factory and then sent to the customer, but this is only the case with a few high-end manufacturers.

Security is important, and an unlocked door can ruin a car just as quickly as a seized engine under the right circumstances. Car key replacement can be expensive, so be prepared. Always try to go through a locksmith when possible. Researching prices ahead of time can save frustration down the road.


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