Ziptide January 2019

Jan. 2, 2019

Key Code Sources?

I hope you will be able to assist me with something I would like to do here. I am a locksmith on the Caribbean island of Dominica, for 28 years now. As a matter of fact, I am the only locksmith here. (Believe me, it’s a blessing and a curse.) One thing that has bothered me over the years is the fact that, where automobile keys are concerned, a large number of the owners will wait until their last key is lost, broken, or too worn out to copy before coming to me. 

Over 95 percent of the vehicles here are Japanese. In the past they usually would put a key code number on the right front door lock. I will instruct my customers to bring me the lock, and, using the codes provided by Locksmith Ledger, I cut a new set of keys. And here is where the problems begin.

I am finding that, not only do some vehicles no longer even have a lock on the right front door, but there are no codes numbers on the locks of the newer models. I am sure you are already aware of this.

As a public service, I would like to see about having a short article printed in the local newspaper, explaining this new situation to the vehicle owners in the country. I would urge them to have enough keys on hand and keep at least one key available for making new copies in the future. Currently, this does not appear to be the case for the majority. I would like for the article to be as informative and factual as possible. I do not have all the facts on this development in the automobile industry, but I imagine you do.

If you could send me some information I, and my customers, would deeply appreciate it. Sadly, with limited resources here in the developing world, I have had to send some away with no keys, who lost their last key and there was no code number on the vehicle.

Lynn Feagin


Key codes began to be removed from vehicles in the 1970s. The problem was that a thief could forcibly remove a door lock, then go away and either have a key made or make one himself. Then the thief would return and drive off with the vehicle.  I do not know the vintage of the vehicles you are working on, but in about 1995, car makers began installing transponder security as a second security defense.  This has caused a new problem due to the high cost of transponder keys. In USA a duplicate transponder key plus programming may cost $50 - $250.  People would rather pass one key around to the person using the car instead of buying four or five keys so everyone will have their own key. All of this has been caused by insurance companies who are demanding action to stop the high amount of auto thefts.   

What you are describing is a world-wide problem.  The only solution is to be prepared to fit keys without key codes.  First, a company called Lishi makes tools for every car which can be inserted into the lock to decode the cuts without lock disassembly ( Second, there is a group which has formed to provide key codes by the VIN number printed on the dashboard,  You must pay a bi-yearly fee to join the group plus pay individual vehicle manufacturers to obtain each key code by VIN. 

Editor-in-Chief Gale Johnson

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