Not my car, but the key fits, is this legal?

Over the past few years I’ve noticed two things about my model of car, a 97 Honda Civic. a.) Green like mine is a fairly popular colour, b.) the key to my Civic opens any other Civic of the same type.

You can see how a.) led to b.), my mother (who used to own it) my girlfriend and I have all stumbled upon Hondas the same colour as mine in car parks, unlocked them, gone to get into the car and suddenly realised there’s a lot of stuff in there that isn’t ours.

The immobiliser chip in the key would hopefully stop anyone else driving off with my Honda, but from a legal point of view, is it ok for a company to have a car that can be opened with any key made for the rest of the model line? One person could conceivable steal a key (or even use their own) to swipe something from the boot or front seat of any car in a city, without drawing attention to themselves at all.

I’m just guessing here, I don’t think there is a requirment that cars need keys at all. It might be an issue for insurance companies. In general i think it’s a bad idea and doesn’t build much faith in a company.

As a practical matter there are only so many combo you can cut onto a key. IIRC our keys have 7 different positions, and one of three cuts for each.
Looking at the key the cuts could run from
1111111 to 3333333 I doubt they would ever use a combo real near the end stops to make it harder to rake the lock, so a key might look like
1321122 now that key would not open a car with 2113311 but it might open 1321121 if there was a little wear in the system.
I will leave the math of how many useful combos there are to someone who has had their morning coffee.
Bottom line, sooner or later there will be a duplicate key.
Back in the days of yore, (1960s) if you got locked out of a GM car, you could almost guarrentee that if you got 20 other GM keys one would fit your car.

But every key? Three times the key fits perfectly in other cars of the line. I’ve not tried keys from other models of cars in their respective model lines, but surely thats a little too common?

I remember my parents telling me how Vauxhall’s (a GM subsidiary) Cavalier model from the 80s had similar problems. A bystander looking at someone who had lost their car key in a drain tried (a little forcibly) to take Mum’s key to use in the unfortunately key-less Cavalier.

GM, or at least the Buick Division of GM, didn’t use all that many different keys. I was in the Buick dealer in Iowa City in the late '40’s and an irate man was berating them because his car had been stolen. It turned out that two new, black Buicks had been sold and both were in the dealership for their 500 mile checkup at the same time. The first owner came in, was given his keys, went out and got in his new Buick, started it up and drove off. But it was the other guy’s Buick.

A story about keys:

A very small town in rural california, approx 1983 :
I was getting my car fixed at the only place in town that handled Ford/Lincolns, and saw the owner take a huge keyring out of a safe. The ring had maybe 50-100 keys dangling from it. I asked what it was, and he said he was holding the keys to open every Ford car in the country, which is why he kept it locked up in a safe.

Does the key look like this?:

In the forties, my dad was asked by the Brazillian Atache to take his car on board the ship he was leaving in. “Lincoln Continental, black, parked right in front of the Shipping office.” So, my dad did what he was asked. Some time after the ship sailed the guy who owned the Continental filed a police report. The other Continental was still there, around the corner, parked beside the Shipping Office, on a side street.

My dad never told any part of the story after that.


So when I was selling tires for Montgomery Ward in 1971 a guy with a mid 60s chevy comes in and buys a set of radials. I write up the repair order including the make and model, color and the license plate number.
About 2 hours later the customer returns and I give him his keys and receipt. He walks out and returns about 30 seconds later asking why there were no new tires on his car? :confused:
I went out and sure enough the old bald tires were on the car. I went to the tech and asked him what’s up. He looked at the paperwork and pointed to a different parking spot and said, I parked the white Chevy right there.
Turns out he did not read the plate number, he just walked up to the first white Chevy Impala he saw. The key fit so he put a new set of radials on it.
Thank OG I put the license number on the paperwork, they could not blame me.
I always wondered if the other guy ever figured out that he got about $300 worth of tires free.