Why did my car key suddenly cease working?

2001 Toyota Corolla and last week when I went to put the key in the ignition it suddenly wouldn’t turn anymore. I had just driven it, on my lunch break, and was out where ever I was and trying to return to the office.

Thankfully I had a spare key - always have one on me - and that still works fine. I’ve laid the two keys alongside each other and can see no discernable difference, but the first key won’t work in the locks now either, and of course this doesn’t make me feel reassured.

I’ve used the same key since I got the car, about 3 or 4 years ago. What just happened? We had a killer heat wave last week, I don’t suppose the key changed shape or something?

Does the key have a transponder? Googling suggests that’s a possibility in your generation (E120). In this case, perhaps the electronics were damaged.

I am by no means an expert in this area, but I was always under the impression that the transponder made the engine turn over, not “allow” the key to turn.

Your key just wore out and is no longer lifting one or more pins to the right height. It is pretty funny that it happened so suddenly - usually you’ll notice that it becomes progressively harder to turn the lock - but it’s not unusual. I’ve had house keys stop working with no warning.

The Wiki on pin-tumbler locks has some good illustrations.

ETA: Make yourself a new backup key by copying your currently working spare key.

ETA2: IIRC, car locks use wafer tumblers, but it’s the same concept.

Actually that’s a BIG relief. It has given me trouble on occasion, but nothing in recent memory - last time I remember it giving me trouble was in the dead of winter and I think I presumed it was just the cold or something.

Thank you! I will go and get a new key made ASAP. THANK YOU!

BTW that sounds exactly right. The key fits, and it starts to turn, but you can feel it not quite clicking right.

If the key has a transponder, it’s a little more complicated to make a copy, of course.

Glad to be of service, Anaamika. :slight_smile:

This is a good point. I’m not familiar with Toyotas, but a quick search shows that they used transponder keys in 2001. This will vastly increase the cost of duplicating the key, unfortunately.

I must not have one, then. I made this copy myself, plus one for my SO and it didn’t cost anymore than an average car key.

Either way, it’s worth it for the piece of mind. I am hypersensitive about not locking my keys in the car - I won’t even shut the door until I have my keys verifiably in my hand - but look how useful the spare key came in anyway. Otherwise my SO would have had to come and get me. And as I was picking up pizza at the time, that would have sucked as then the pizza would have been cold. :frowning:

Good deal. Spare transponder keys can cost $200 - $300 from the dealer.

I keep a spare in my wallet as well. It’s easy and it can save a lot of hassle. I started doing it after paying a wrecker $40 to slim jim my door open.

Call around to your local locksmiths. We have two in my city that have the equipment to make transponder car keys. Test the new key and make certain it works before paying.

I took my good transponder key to their shop and they used it to make a copy.

The dealer will charge a lot more.

She doesn’t need a transponder.

It’s quite possible the copy you had made works to open the doors but not to start the car. Which is fine if all you need it for is locked-my-keys-in-the-car emergencies.

No, the original is the one that doesn’t work, the copy works just fine for starting and unlocking.

It’s still advice worth following for those who do have transponder keys. :slight_smile:

That is so.

Yep. My friend thought he’d lost his keys (he hadn’t, but it’s a long story). Anyway, he called me, I called AAA, they sent out a locksmith, and the locksmith was able to make him another transponder key. Cost him $80 - still expensive, but a damn sight cheaper than the dealer.

Turns out his keys were in his bag the whole time. Ah well, I’ve spent worse afternoons.