How does a valet key work?

Some cars, including the car I just bought, have a valet key. This key works on everything except the glove box and trunk. How does the mechanism for that work? As far as I can tell by looking at them they have the same cut. Can a locksmith or auto dealer copy a valet key so it could work as a normal key? I ask because if I lose my normal key I would be left with only a valet key.

Also, what do you call the type of reverse key that some high end cars use? Hereis an example.

Thanks for the replies, as always.

One car I had had a valet key that was cut just like the full access key, but it was noticeably thicker; i.e., it was too thick to enter the locks on the glove compartment and trunk. I suppose there are many things that could be done to make valet keys function as intended.

I’ve seen valet keys which were slightly longer than the regular keys. The ignition keyhole is deeper, allowing the key to go all the way in, but the other keyholes are not, so the key only goes in part way. But the functional part of the key was not on the extended portion, so the driver’s key worked in all the keyholes.

I suppose a really dedicated evil valet could file off the end of the key while you were having your dinner and steal your gas station receipts, though.

[B ]aeropl** why not have your ignition key copied now? Assuming, of course, that the price wouldn’t be outrageous. Then you won’t have to worry about it.

It would certainly depend on the key if a locksmith could make a functional copy with a valet key. I’ve had varying degrees of success on getting copies made of ignition keys at locksmiths. Many simply don’t carry the blanks required for the overly-large keys we have nowdays.

Your dealer can certainly make a copy of a key for you, and in most cases you don’t even need to bring the key in. They can make the key based on the VIN number, or a key number you were given when you bought the car. Prices will vary based on the make of the car and whether the key has a computer chip in it. I’ve heard of prices ranging from $15 (what I payed for a key to a 2000 Hyundai Tiburon) up to $80 (presumably for a Lexus or the like).

Dammit…don’t foil my evil schemes! :wink:

One can also make keys and locks with some tumblers/notches nonfunctional. That is to say, for a particular lock, it might not care about the depth of the notch on a particular position on the key, but another lock might care about that notch. We have keys like this in my department: Grad students are issued keys which will open the doors to the building and to the grad offices, but nothing else. Those grad students who work in labs have a key which will open the building, the labs, and the grad offices. Faculty have a key which opens the building, the labs, the grad offices, and the main office, plus their own individual office. Folks who work in other departments in the building have keys that also open the building and presumably their own doors, but none of the physics department offices or labs. I suspect that the locks on the building doors only actually regard one or two of the notch-positions, ignoring the rest.

All of these keys look very similar to a casual glance, though if you hold them side-by-side and compare carefully, you can see slight differences.

My Altima came with a valet key which seemed kind of silly. What’s the point of a key that opens the doors but not the trunk when there’s a trunk lever inside the car?

My car has a lock next to the electronic trunk switch thus, I can lock out my trunk switch. I’ve got locks on the rear seats as well so that they can’t be folded down to get into the trunk that way.

Both Hondas I’ve owned have had valet keys, and there is a lock beside the trunk release. So even though there is an internal trunk release, it still can be locked out so that the valet (or other non-authorized person) couldn’t access it.

My 1993 Altima has a manual (not electronic) trunk release and a quick inspection didn’t show any means of disabling it. Which isn’t to say such a thing doesn’t exist, but I’ve yet to locate it.

Obviously there is a design flaw here. They should have put the trunk release in the glove box! :smiley:

Many cars have a switch to disable the in-car trunk release. My Maxima has one, I bet your Altima does too. In my car you would never stumble across it by mistake, it is inside the trunk next to the latch mechenisim (sp?), you put you finger in a hole and push a small switch up or down. (my car has a manual cable release, not the fancy electric one)

Your truly sophisticated valet key also limits engine rpm to 1500 and blocks attempts to increase sound system volume into the eardrum-melting range.

On closer inspection my valet key is the same length and width but the cut at the very end is slightly different. I never thought about it but that key would really only be useful for locking the glovebox because there is a trunk release button inside the car.

I need to call and find out, but people have said it costs about $80 to copy my key (it’s the reverse cut type like I linked to in the OP). I’d rather not spend that much money if i don’t have to.

Sounds like the key I lost once. I once used someone’s Lexus to do them a favor and somehow in the hectic day I lost the key with it’s keyless entry transmitter. That ending up costing about $300 to replace :eek:

What I never understood was a station wagon/minivan/SUV with a valet key. Since there is no seperation between the storage area and the passenger compartment, if someone wanted to get there, all they would have to do is go in the back seat.

In my minivan, the valet key is for the glove compartment and storage drawer.

When you do, double check whether it’s possible you should have gotten two ignition keys. I know that was the case with VWs (another German car with the funky keys), but I have heard of a few instances where the dealer misplaced the extra key and neglected to tell the buyer that he/she was entitled to two keys.

And Hondas and Fords and GMs… unless you buy the car used and they only give you one key.

When someone else bought my car new it came with three keys but by the time I bought it from a wholesale auction it was missing the extra “master” key. :frowning: