Automotive Lock-Repair Opportunities

May 4, 2020
ASP's catalog has the information required to service your customers’ older vehicles.

You might believe that you no longer have to perform automotive lock-repair jobs because you make a good living programming transponder keys. Don’t get too confident too quickly. As this article was written, much of the country was on lockdown because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Because many of your customers face financial setbacks, a new vehicle might be out of the question for them, which means that older vehicles will stay on the road longer, increasing the demand for repairs.   

Even before the coronavirus crisis, some people believed that automotive lock repair was a dead business, citing the elimination of passenger door locks and rear compartment locks on some new models and the increasing use of push-button start instead of mechanical ignition locks. But tens of millions of vehicles that have an ignition, two door locks and a rear compartment lock remain on the road. And they’re staying on the road longer. The average age of vehicles on the road in the United States is between 11 and 12 years. If you priced a new vehicle lately, you’ll find that that average age likely will increase.

The mechanical ignition lock hasn’t disappeared from the newest models of vehicles. Although the higher the luxury level a new vehicles is, the more likely it will be to have push-button start, even some high-selling models, such as the Toyota Camry, still have a mechanical ignition lock. Plus, although rear-compartment locks are increasingly rare even on the low-end models, the key-operated passenger door lock still is there. So, the demand for automotive key repairs will be around for many years despite the doomsayers.

The locksmith faces several challenges to be successful in the automotive repair business:  determining the parts necessary for a job, pricing the job right and getting timely delivery of parts. ASP Inc. has addressed all of these issues in its newest catalog, now accessible at This article will take you through the steps of how to get from the customer coming to you to finishing the job.   

Identifying the Right Parts

Through the years, automotive lock manufacturers have come and gone, and now there are two: STRATTEC Security Corp. and ASP. Although some applications are covered by both, ASP and STRATTEC are mostly parallel companies that have similar parts for different makes and models. If you don’t know which company has the necessary part, ASP’s catalog lists all makes and models. If the vehicle you’re working on isn’t covered by ASP but is covered by STRATTEC, the ASP catalog will tell you that.     

After you know the year and model of vehicle you’re working on, go to, click Catalog on the home page, then click “LOCKSMITHS IN THE USA AND CANADA.” This will take you to a long list of PDF files, starting with Acura Door Locks. Click on the correct vehicle, and the file opens, showing you all of the appropriate information that’s available. Some applications are simple and straightforward; others require additional exploration to determine what’s required.  

For example, let’s assume you have a job to replace a Honda ignition lock. Depending upon the year and model, it could be simple or complicated.

Clicking on Honda Ignition Locks takes you to a file listing all models and years, along with the key-blank reference. If you have to know only which tumblers or keying kit to use, check the key-blank reference and then scroll to the end of the file, where the tumblers and keying kits are listed according to which key blank is used. If you require a replacement cylinder, let’s start with a simple example — the 2000 Honda Accord. This is listed as Accord 1998-02, using an HO03 key blank, and the ignition cylinder is C-19-120.

Now let’s look at a more complicated example — the 1995 Honda Accord. You can’t know exactly which cylinder to use until you take apart the old lock, because there’s a design variation. This one is listed as Accord 1994-97, using HD103 key blanks. Two different part numbers are listed, with a note to scroll down and read the further information at the end of the grid. Doing that, you see an explanation about the two different designs for the end of the plug. Depending upon the design of the lock you’re working on, you might be able to replace the cylinder only, or you might have to replace the housing, too. Read all the way through the information, and you’ll get the correct parts to finish the job.  

The 1994-97 Honda Accord ignition is probably the most complicated of all to determine which parts to use. Most other applications are much easier. If you can follow how to figure out what to use for a 1994-97 Accord, everything else will be a breeze.

Two additional pieces of information are unique to Honda ignitions: First, highlighted at the beginning of the section is the warning about reverse-thread bolts holding the ignition lock to the steering column and, second, which models use this design. The use of reverse-thread bolts began in 2012; older locks use traditional bolts. Replacement reverse-thread bolts are available as part F-19-501. More important, if you work on one of the models that uses the reverse thread and you try to remove the lock from the steering column without knowing this, you could end up making a trip to the Honda dealer for a new ignition lock and housing.   

To our knowledge, the reverse-thread bolts are unique to Honda and are on only the following models:

  • Accord, 2013–20
  • Civic, 2012–20
  • CRV, 2014–20
  • Fit, 2014–20
  • HR-V, 2015–20

Let’s assume that someone brings you a Honda or Acura ignition lock to service, and you don’t know the year and model. These ignition locks have a casting number on the side of the housing, and the Honda Ignition Lock section of the ASP catalog has a chart that associates which cylinder is used for each casting number. For example, one of the more popular housings has the number S5A. On the chart, “Ignition Lock Housing Cross Reference,” you’ll find that number in the left column. In the middle column, you’ll see the key-blank references. Some S5A ignition locks use the HD103 key, which is the C-19-123 cylinder, and some use the HO03 key, which is the C-19-119 cylinder. Even if you don’t know which year and model the lock came from, if the casting number is S5A, you can figure out which cylinder is used.

This example was for a make and model that’s supplied only by ASP. For other models, the ASP catalog sections tell you where you can find the necessary parts. For example, a 2000 Chevrolet Camaro uses a VATS ignition that’s available only from STRATTEC. If you go to the ASP catalog’s Chevrolet Ignition Locks section and find the row for Camaro 1989-02, you’ll see that. STRATTEC has a good parts lookup section on its website,, where you can find the right part for that 2000 Camaro. However, STRATTEC’s website doesn’t list anything that isn’t in its product range. If you aren’t sure, start your lookup with ASP. If it isn’t there, it will tell you where to find the information.

Unfortunately, some locks are made by factories, such as HUF, that release parts only to the car dealers. An example is the 2005 Chevrolet Equinox. If you go to the ASP catalog, Chevrolet Ignition Locks section, and find Equinox 2005-06, it refers you to the Chevrolet/GM dealer for parts.   

Determining Your Price

After you figure out the necessary parts, the next step is to quote your customer a price for the job. Go to the home page of and click on “Pricing,” which takes you to a password-protected page that has a price-list file that you can use as a guide to quoting a job. There are three price columns on this file, and the pricing is structured to give everyone a reasonable profit while remaining competitive.

Dealer price: This is the suggested retail price for a similar part sold by car dealers. These prices are subject to change at any time by the car manufacturer, and actual selling prices by any particular dealer might be higher or lower. This should be considered a guide only to help make sure that your quoted price is competitive.

Max price: This is a suggestion for the maximum price that you should charge your customer for the part to maximize your chance of getting the job instead of the customer going to the dealer. Of course, there’s no obligation to follow these prices; they’re only suggestions, based on current market conditions.

Locksmith price: This is ASP’s suggestion for the maximum price that you should be charged for any part by a distributor. Of course, distributors are under no obligation to follow these prices, but if you believe you’re being overcharged, find another distributor.  

One other consideration is shipping charges, which aren’t included in the above estimates.   For a customer whose priority is the lowest price and can wait longer for the job to be finished, you can opt for a slower, less costly method of delivery or include those parts in a regular order. If you require special delivery of a part, that will increase the shipping cost. There’s no general rule about this. The best suggestion is to give your customer the option. A repair of a door lock might be able to wait. If the ignition were broken and the vehicle can’t be driven, however, repairs might be required ASAP.

Remember when deciding what to charge a customer for a job that times have changed because of the internet. The public has many more resources to price-shop compared with a few years ago. The car owner now quickly can find out what the dealer charges for a part by looking online. Some dealers appear to discount parts heavily at first sight. Digging deeper, you’ll find that much of the discount often goes away by dealers adding exorbitant shipping and handling fees. But the first-impression discount price is often what sticks in the customer’s mind, and if you aren’t close to that price, the customer might go away. At one time, locksmiths could double their cost of every part. That simplified rule doesn’t work now.

All of the files posted on the website are available for download. It might be useful to store the files on your computer, so you don’t have to access the internet every time that you seek information. However, you’ll have to check with ASP for updates. If you download files, you should replace any updated file with the new one as soon as possible.

Information Options

An option for the part-number lookup and pricing guide is ASP’s Autotel program. This program includes information about key blanks, codes, spacing and depths, transponders and remotes, so it’s much more than a parts reference. One of the limitations, however, is that the program can’t be updated as easily. The most recent update was 2015. A new update should be ready by summer 2020, delayed mostly because of the necessity to restructure the program to add more fields to accommodate the recent expansion of the range of remote keys. For parts information only, it probably is better to use as the first stop.   More information about Autotel can be found at  

One more option for all types of automotive lock and key information, including parts lookup, is Michael Hyde’s Autosmart. The Autosmart books have been around for years, the latest being the 2019 edition. Particularly helpful is Michael Hyde’s new app for Apple iPhone or Google Android cellphones named MyAutoSmart, available on app stores with activation arranged by National Auto Lock Service ( In addition to parts lookup, app sections contain detailed information about transponder systems and programming equipment, making first keys, space and depths, which Lishi pick to use, keys, proximity remotes, etc. At the time of writing, all new ASP applications weren’t in this program, but updates were expected. Ease of updating again is one of the benefits of the MyAutoSmart app compared with printed material.   

Some versions of InstaCode software and apps also include a section for ASP parts lookup, even though the software is primarily for looking up key codes. As of publication, InstaCode wasn’t up to date with regard to ASP applications, but that hopefully will be complete soon. More information about InstaCode can be found at

Getting the Parts

After you figured out the necessary parts and get the go-ahead from your customer, the final step is getting the correct parts into your hands in a timely and efficient manner, so you can complete the job. Most traditional locksmith distributors are ASP distributors, ranging from stocking only a few items to stocking almost everything in the product line. Some distributors allow ASP to manage their inventory. ASP doesn’t endorse or show preference to any distributor, but every effort is made to inform locksmiths of what to expect from each. On, click the Where to Buy heading to take you to more information about the ASP distribution system.

It’s difficult to rely on one distributor for all of the requirements of your business. Some distributors concentrate on commercial-door hardware with little or no coverage of automotive products. Some distributors concentrate on automotive. Others are in the middle, offering a little bit of everything. The best suggestion is that if your preferred distributor isn’t filling your automotive needs, find another distributor who can.  

Remember also that many distributors work with a wide range of products, and distributor salespeople can’t be experts on everything. The ASP catalog is available to all distributors, but it would be helpful for you to figure out what you have to have on your own whenever possible and call the distributor with the parts numbers ready. Obviously, there will be times when you don’t have access to the information and you require the distributor salesperson’s assistance. A good sales representative always will be happy to help. The better prepared you are, the better chance you have of getting the correct part quickly and efficiently.

One final note: Be careful if a distributor tells you that a part is “discontinued.” Over the years, hundreds of parts have been discontinued, and most of those parts remain listed in catalog materials for the benefit of those who still have stock. But some distributor salespeople use the word “discontinued” to mean that they no longer keep that item in stock. The item still might be in stock at other distributors or at the ASP warehouse and available as a special order. ASP’s price list designates parts that actually are no longer available from the ASP warehouse, although it’s possible that some might be available as old stock from some distributors. If a distributor tells you that a part is discontinued and it’s on the ASP price list as an active part, call another distributor.

So, remember: There still are a lot of automotive lock-repair opportunities today and in the foreseeable future. A satisfied customer whose car lock you repaired today likely will lead to repeat business and recommendations to others for years to come.   

Buddy Logan is the owner of ASP Inc.