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  #1  
Old 01-23-2012, 08:07 AM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
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My car key is having trouble unlocking my car door. How do I fix this?

This morning I had a difficult time getting into my locked car (it is a 1995, there is no remote key entry).

The key seems to be having more trouble unlocking the driver’s side door, and the key has been completely unable to unlock the passenger side door for years.

I am guessing that the key is so old it is getting worn down and therefore does not align the pins correctly? Is this right?

How can I fix this? If I get a new key made, won't it just replicate the errors already in the key?

Last edited by Hermitian; 01-23-2012 at 08:12 AM..
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  #2  
Old 01-23-2012, 08:17 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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I'd first suspect the lock, not the key. Try spraying some graphite or lock lubricant in there.
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  #3  
Old 01-23-2012, 09:37 AM
silenus silenus is offline
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If the above doesn't work, you'll need a new key. The "key" is to get one from the dealer, not just have one made at Walmart. Yes, it will cost you a bunch more money, but they'll give you one for that lock, not a copy of yours. They only make a certain number of locks, so the dealer can check your particular car and get the right key.
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:40 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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You don't necessarily need to go to the dealer for the key if you know the keycode. I had a car for which the keys were worn down, so I got the keycode from the dealer and had a new key cut by a locksmith from the code number. It was expensive to have the key cut that way, like about $30, but I also had a cheap copy made of that key, and from then on I used the cheap copy. And my plan was to keep the key made from the keycode stored in my house and to use it as a master to get new copies made as necessary. (Although I sold the car before I needed another copy of the key.)
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  #5  
Old 01-23-2012, 09:41 AM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
If the above doesn't work, you'll need a new key. The "key" is to get one from the dealer, not just have one made at Walmart. Yes, it will cost you a bunch more money, but they'll give you one for that lock, not a copy of yours. They only make a certain number of locks, so the dealer can check your particular car and get the right key.
Or try the spare key (if the OP still has one). If that works better, get another copy made of that one and get rid of the original. Though I have to admit, I've never heard of keys wearing out (which isn't to say it doesn't happen).
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  #6  
Old 01-23-2012, 10:24 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Keys do wear out (they're made of brass, not steel). A good locksmith, as opposed to a key copier at a hardware store, can determine and replicate the original dimensions. Lock cylinders also wear and sometimes jam from something breaking or shifting inside. In some cases, the problem can be excessive resistance/stiffness in the lock's linkage mechanism or the latch. In the OP's case, I'd suspect key wear relative to the driver's side and a cylinder fault on the passenger side.
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  #7  
Old 01-23-2012, 11:52 AM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
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Thanks for the replies. I think I can formulate a plan of what to do from some of this information.
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  #8  
Old 01-23-2012, 01:35 PM
thelabdude thelabdude is offline
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Yes, most key cutters are sloppy. Their machines are set up to do points, not loops. I have found that a ''duplicate'' of an old,worn key has the points of the original.
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  #9  
Old 01-23-2012, 05:47 PM
Digital is the new Analog Digital is the new Analog is online now
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Back in the early 90s, I was a party with a friend who lost his car keys. We called AAA. They came out, popped the trunk, read some code on the lock, and cut us a new key on the spot.

The scariest part of it was they didn't ask for any idea or proof that one of us owned the car..but that's probably for a different thread..


-D/a
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  #10  
Old 01-23-2012, 08:14 PM
colonial colonial is offline
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Step 1: spray WD-40 on the key and into the lock.

Step 2: probably will not be needed
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  #11  
Old 01-24-2012, 09:25 AM
ftg ftg is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
Step 1: spray WD-40 on the key and into the lock.

Step 2: probably will not be needed
Step 3: Take the door panel off the car, take out the lock, clean out the gummed up, dirty WD-40 you foolishly sprayed in there. Re-assemble.

Never, ever use WD-40 for something like this. In the long term it makes things worse.
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  #12  
Old 01-24-2012, 10:32 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Originally Posted by ftg View Post
Step 3: Take the door panel off the car, take out the lock, clean out the gummed up, dirty WD-40 you foolishly sprayed in there. Re-assemble.

Never, ever use WD-40 for something like this. In the long term it makes things worse.
Agreed. Powdered graphite or a dedicated lock lubricant, as mentioned above, are the safe things to use.
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  #13  
Old 01-24-2012, 11:58 AM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
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Huh. WD-40 was recommended to me (though I forget by who) for the jammed trunk lock on my 1996 Tercel. I've used it maybe 3 or 4 times in the past 14 years (and once or twice on the gas cap cover lock). It always worked immediately to clear up the problem and would last for a couple of years before I'd start to have trouble again.

It never occurred to me that it wasn't the right product to use. At this point, I don't really care, as the car is 16 years old and destined for the junk heap (as soon as I land a job...!) but I'll keep this in mind for the future!

The key problem I am having, though, is that over the years I've managed to twist two of the car keys, they have a very distinct curve to them now; one doesn't start the car anymore, but will open the door, while the other is still able to do both. There's one more spare in the house, at least.
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  #14  
Old 01-24-2012, 12:24 PM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mnemosyne View Post
The key problem I am having, though, is that over the years I've managed to twist two of the car keys, they have a very distinct curve to them now; one doesn't start the car anymore, but will open the door, while the other is still able to do both.
Often this is caused by stiffness in the linkage or the latch. If that's the case, removing the door panel and lubing the linkage pivot points and the inside of the latch will get everything moving easier and require less effort to turn the key. WD-40 is suitable for this, as these mechanisms don't have tiny delicate parts like lock cylinders do. Usually a twisted key can be straightened in a vise -- it should have smooth jaws so as not to knurl the side of the key.
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:50 PM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Agreed. Powdered graphite or a dedicated lock lubricant, as mentioned above, are the safe things to use.
I never use graphite on a lock, that is unless I plan on taking the cylinder apart and cleaning it. As you landle the keys you transfer oils from your hands to the key. YOu put the key into the lock and mix the oils and graphite together. Of course a car lock is normally a wafer lock not a pin lock so it may be able to take it.
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  #16  
Old 01-24-2012, 08:13 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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I've found the twisted key problems are due to the El-Cheap-o aluminum blanks used by some "key-copier" places.

Those brightly colored keys that look so cool are aluminum. Get one of the boring keys instead.


~VOW
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  #17  
Old 01-24-2012, 09:12 PM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Often this is caused by stiffness in the linkage or the latch. If that's the case, removing the door panel and lubing the linkage pivot points and the inside of the latch will get everything moving easier and require less effort to turn the key. WD-40 is suitable for this, as these mechanisms don't have tiny delicate parts like lock cylinders do. Usually a twisted key can be straightened in a vise -- it should have smooth jaws so as not to knurl the side of the key.
Yeah, I'm not going to do that work, nor pay someone to do it - the car's too much of a junk bucket to make it worthwhile. At this point it's gasoline and oil changes only (and I'm hoping to rid myself of the car before the next oil change, if I can afford to do that...!) Besides, the last time I twisted a key I pretty much know when it happened - tried to force the lock on a car that had a centimetre of ice all over it. I think the lock and trunk were basically frozen shut and I was too impatient to wait for it to heat up!

Thanks for the advice, though. It might come in handy one day.
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  #18  
Old 01-24-2012, 09:31 PM
Stink Fish Pot Stink Fish Pot is offline
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Agree with those that suggest graphite. They make a product especially made for this and has a name like door lock cylinder graphite. It will take a couple of attempts to get the graphite to jiggle down the nooks and crannied, but will be your best solution.

ETA - if the keys are bent, do not use that particular key ever again. When a cheap key breaks off in the cylinder of the lock, it adds a whole new set of problems.


Locksmith story for you all. I bought a used 68 Mercury that had the key for the ignition, but the key for the door locks had been misplaced. So, you could never lock the car, which was usually fine, but I always thought there would be that one day I forgot, so I drove to a locksmith. He took a blank key and a hand file, and in less than 10 minutes, had made a perfect key to lock and unlock my door. He'd put the key in as far as it would go, wiggle it, and based on the feedback, he'd alter the new key. I've never seen that since, and was very impressed. I had him make me a couple of keys based off of that key, and he charged me $10 for the whole thing.

I still am amazed. I wonder if all good locksmiths have this skill, and if so, how many of them turn to a life of crime to just take whatever vehicle they want?!

Last edited by Stink Fish Pot; 01-24-2012 at 09:33 PM..
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