2014 Chevrolet Impala – Not Your Father’s Chevrolet

May 2, 2014
Part 1 of our servicing guide to the 2014 Chevrolet Impala addresses car opening, key generation and transponder programming. Part 2 will cover ignition and door lock servicing and removal. The new Impala uses the GM side-milled lock system with a Flip-Key fob.

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the 10th generation of the Impala name that was first introduced in 1958.  It is also the first American sedan to earn the Consumer Reports top score in 20 years, earning a score of 95 out of a possible 100.  The 2014 Impala is larger that the outgoing model and shares the same platform as the Cadillac XTS.  I spent two full days with this one and came away very impressed. This car is not only a nice ride, but it also incorporates a ton of brand new features, many of which are technical changes that are not readily apparent.

The new Impala uses the GM side-milled lock system with a Flip-Key fob.  The ignition lock is essentially the same as the one used on the Camaro, but the housing and the access to the housing has been changed to prevent the removal of the lock cylinder without turning it.  This new style housing is also being used on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.  In addition, most 2015 GM SUVs such as the Yukon and Tahoe are supposed to get this same ignition lock, if they are not equipped with a push-button start.  There seems to be some confusion regarding the door lock cylinder.  Some literature says that the new Impala uses the same door lock as the Camaro, but that was not what I found on the Impala that I disassembled.  I do know for sure that this door lock only uses cuts 3 – 8, and is challenging to remove.

The door latches now feature an integrated power door lock mechanism that virtually eliminates the possibility of unlocking the car with conventional inside-the-door tools.  As you can see in Photo 2, the entire vertical linkage rod is sandwiched between the inner door skin and the trim panel, making access to that linkage from outside the car impossible.  The base of the vertical linkage rod is connected directly to the integrated power door lock motor, which is part of the door latch mechanism.  The latch itself, as well as the lock linkage and the bicycle-style cable outside handle linkage, are all shielded either by the window track or by clever metal guards inside the door.  Attempting to use an inside the door tool on this vehicle is an utter waste of time.

Car-Opening Procedures

When I removed the front door panel, I discovered that the weatherstripping at the base of the window (Photo 3) fits so tightly that it would be almost impossible to insert an under-window tool.  In addition, the front windows are made of tempered glass which can be easily damaged by tools that contact the edges of the glass. I decided against trying an under-window tool on this car.

Another potential problem is the thin wrap-around metal trim (Photo 4) on the edge of the front doors. Using any kind of lever or hard wedge to open a gap into the vehicle is very likely to leave an unsightly ding that the owner will see every time they open the door.  Fortunately, the Tech-Train / Lockmasters air wedge (Photo 5) has rounded corners and incorporates a plastic stiffener inside the bag itself that allows it to be inserted without using a lever or a wedge.  Be careful to insert the air wedge (Photo 6) low enough that you have room to insert your tool above it.  Once the air wedge is in place and inflated, you will have just barely enough room to work with.

Once the air wedge is inflated, it’s not difficult to insert the long reach rod from the Jiffy-Jak Vehicle Entry System.  I did remove the rubber tip from the tool and added duct tape over the treaded portion of the rod (Photo 7) to protect the vehicle.  I’m also using the finish protector sleeve over the rod to protect the edges of the door and frame.  If you are using a different tool, or don’t have a finish protector sleeve, an inexpensive substitute is a flattened toilet paper tube.  The important thing is that you prevent the shaft of the tool from scratching the paint as it goes through the gap between the door and the frame.

Once the long-reach rod is inside the car, place it inside the handle trim and work the tip down so that the tip of the tool is against the door panel just below the handle (Photo 8).  In this position, simply twist the handle of the tool (Photo 9) to lever the inside door handle out and unlock the door.  It’s not necessary to pull the handle far enough to actually open the door.  As you lever the handle out, you will see the inside lock control button come up.  As soon as the button is all the way up, you can remove your tools and open the door in the normal fashion.  The new Impala is also one of the first GM vehicles in years that uses an inside door handle that will override the lock system.

One way to determine if the inside door handle will override the lock system is to look at the inside lock control button (Photo 10).  If the top of the button is flush with the top of the door, so that you would not be able to pull it up if you were inside the vehicle, that indicates that pulling the inside handle will override the lock system and unlock the door.

Unfortunately, two different 2014 Chevrolet Impala models are on the market.  The 2014 “Chevrolet Impala Limited” is actually a rebadged ninth generation Impala that GM is selling as a fleet vehicle and to the rental car companies.  That vehicle uses the Z-keyway lock system with the “Circle +” transponder system and can be unlocked in the same way as any Impala made from 2006 to 2013.

Generating A Key 

If I were called out to generate a new key for a 2014 Chevrolet Impala, my first choice would be to use the HU-100 2-in-1 pick set from Lishi (Photo 11).  I would begin by picking and decoding the door lock, which contains tumblers 3 - 8.  After cutting a key for that operates the door lock, I would then progress cuts one and two in the ignition until I had a working key.  The most cost-effective key blanks to use for this type of key generation would be the Strattec 5925267 (Photo 12), which is a package of five replacement blades for the GM Flip-Key fobs.

Once I had a key that operates both the door and the ignition, I could then insert that blade into a GM Flip-Key fob and program that fob to the vehicle.  If the customer did not want the remote, I could also copy the working cuts onto a Strattec 7013237 transponder key (Photo 13) and program that key into the vehicle.  In my opinion, that is a very poor choice, but sometimes it’s necessary.  GM Flip-Key fobs are one of the best bargains and high profit margin products in the automotive locksmith business.  Giving a customer a key without a remote really doesn’t save them much money and will prove to be an irritating thing to them in the future.

The only time that I do this is when the customer insists, or the customer wants an emergency key to hide somewhere.  Since the transponder in the 7013237 blank is completely encapsulated in rubber, the key is essentially waterproof and can be hidden much more effectively than a Flip-Key fob.

If you do not have a Lishi HU-100 2-in-1 pickset, or other device to decode the door lock without removing it from the door, the next best choice would be to remove and disassemble the door lock to determine cuts 3 – 8.  As you will see, this is not an easy job, and I suggest that you charge accordingly.  Of course, this is the same procedure that you would need to use if you needed to re-key the car to prevent access with a stolen or lost key.

Transponder Programming

Like most GM vehicles, the new Impala has onboard programming capabilities.  If no working keys are available, you can program a new key with three 10-minute cycles, just as on other GM vehicles.  If you have a working key, and the maximum number of keys has not already been programmed into the vehicle, you can program an addition key by simply inserting and turning it within 10 seconds of removing a working key.  (Vehicles made for the Canadian market may require two working keys to be inserted and turned before a new key can be added.)  The remote functions of the Flip-Key fobs will program automatically as you program the transponder function.

During the programming process, the transponders inside both the Flip-Key fobs and the Strattec 7013237 transponder keys will have vehicle-specific information “burned” into them.  After the transponders have been “burned,” they cannot be programmed into another vehicle.  They can be programmed back into the same vehicle if the programming in the vehicle has been lost or erased.