HONDA LOCKS: Bad Design, Good For Locksmiths

Aug. 1, 2008
Every Honda sidewinder lock on the road is a possible candidate for lock failure. Contact your local Honda and Acura dealers and see if you can’t get in on the action.

One can often judge a house by its hardware. If inexpensive lock hardware is used on the front door, then it can be assumed that other parts of the home may suffer from the same low quality. Extend that same thinking to automobiles, and Honda sidewinder locks come to mind. If the rest of the car is engineered with the same thinking that went into the locks, maybe other brands should be considered when purchasing a new car.

Mercedes first introduced specially milled keys in the late 1970s. These keys had cuts milled into the sides of the blank and soon came to be known as sidewinders. Honda introduced sidewinders on their 2002 CRV models. This sidewinder design is now used on several Honda and Acura models. The key blank is big and thick, making it almost impervious to breakage.

Tumblers are another story. Honda sidewinder locks have six tumbler spaces. The sixth tumbler at the tip is a single solid tumbler.

The first five spaces hold split tumblers which makes a total of 10 individual key cuts. (Photo 1). Each split tumbler has a small pointed ledge for interaction with the key.

This small pointed ledge is not very sturdy. In a short time the point can wear down enough so the key no longer actuates that tumbler. Photo 2 shows five tumblers all taken from the same ignition lock. The tumbler on the left and the tumbler in the center have points which are worn away. The second fourth and fifth tumblers are still operational.

Not all tumbler points wear at the same time and a worn tumbler can appear anywhere in the combination. It appears that point wear occurs more rapidly when there are wide variances between adjacent key cuts but that is only a theory.

A Chicago area locksmith brought this wear problem to our attention. He is being called by Honda dealers who need new replacement ignition locks set to the owner’s original key. The lock photos for this article were taken on a 2008 Honda with very few miles on the odometer.

It takes approximately 45 minutes for an experienced Honda mechanic to remove the airbag, steering wheel and housing surrounding the ignition lock housing. This locksmith is then called to rekey the new ignition lock.
Honda sidewinder ignition locks are held in place with one roll pin. The transponder antenna, held with a small Phillips screw, is first removed to access the roll pin.

This locksmith uses a battery-operated cutoff saw to remove a small area adjacent to the roll pin (photo 3). The roll pin can then be pried upward and removed. Once the roll pin is removed, the lock cylinder can be easily slid out of the housing.

Photo 4 shows the lock cylinder assembly. A second roll pin holds the plug retainer in place. A small punch or even a nail can be used to remove this roll pin. It may be necessary to insert a rake pick into the keyway and actuate the tumblers in order to finally remove the plug from the housing.

There are six different depths of cut for the Honda sidewinder. Auto Security Products makes kit A-19-108 which contains a supply of the six different tumblers plus the solid tumbler used in the tip space.