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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

4 Steps To Rekey A Car Lock

by Ralph August 30, 2021

To rekey a car lock, you are likely going to need a locksmith at a certain point. We will outline what the process to rekey a car looks like for you to better understand when you might require professional services. Ultimately, the cost to rekey a car will depend on how much work you can do yourself.

All information will be kept as general as possible to maximize helpfulness. Each car will have specific processes, but this is the basic intel you need. Whether you want to rekey an ignition or rekey a car door lock, the process is superficially similar.

Here is an overview of the steps to rekey a car:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Removal
  3. Rekeying
  4. New Key


What does it mean to rekey a car lock?

Rekeying car locks refers to the process of changing the internal components (wafers, sliders, disks, etc.) of a lock cylinder to open with a new key. This process essentially functions as a car door lock replacement, except it will not fix a broken lock.

Can you rekey a car door lock?

Any keyed car door lock cylinder can be rekeyed. You must be able to open the door to remove the paneling and access the cylinder. Once the cylinder is removed, the internal components can be changed or rearranged. A new key must be made to fit the new component arrangement.

What is the average cost to rekey a car?

If you hire an auto locksmith, the starting cost to rekey a car is $120 plus the service call fee ($15). The service call fee is for mobile locksmith service, which means the technician comes to your location, so the car does not need to be towed or driven to a shop.

Is it cheaper to rekey or replace car locks?

In most cases, rekeying a lock will be less expensive than lock replacement due to parts and labor. However, to rekey a car, the amount of labor can be almost as extensive as changing the locks. Parts are likely to cost more for replacement, but car rekey services often have the same starting price as replacement.

Can I rekey a car door myself?

It is possible to rekey a car door yourself. In some cases, you may also need some specialty tools. The simplest DIY method to rekey a car lock is to rearrange the existing internal wafers, sliders, disks, etc. The new key will have to be cut to correspond to the new arrangement.

How do I get a new car key after my locks are rekeyed?

Once you rekey a car lock, a locksmith can decode the lock and determine the key code. A precise key can be cut from code using a key cutter. If you have a classic car, where parts and codes are not readily available or parts have been changed, it is still possible to more methodically make a new key.

Car Rekey Service

Chances are, a locksmith is going to be the best service option to rekey your car locks. We will talk a bit about non-professional car rekey service options, but for the moment, let’s discuss what this process looks like when it is handled by a professional.

1. Evaluation

There are a few main aspects of your vehicle that have to be evaluated before you rekey a car. The three main considerations are parts, function, and time. The parts element is the most straightforward. What internal components does the lock use, and how available are they?

The function of the lock has to do with whether or not it works. You might need car door lock repair or concern yourself with the cost to replace a car door lock rather than rekey it. If the car key broke off in the ignition, you will need broken key removal before it is possible to rekey the car lock.

Time is a factor because this corresponds to the difficulty of the car rekey. Some vehicles are more complicatedly built than others and may take some time to remove side door or dashboard panels. Once the locks are accessible, the difficulty of making a key will also add time.

Key Takeaways:

  • Find out what parts are needed and how available they are.
  • If anything is not working, it may not be enough to rekey the car locks.
  • The complexity of the job affects how much time it will take to rekey car locks.

2. Removal

Often, the most time-consuming and labor-intensive part of addressing any car door lock cylinder is gaining access to it. As opposed to rekeying residential locks, it is significantly more difficult to rekey a car lock. You will encounter a mix of screw types and pull to replace panels.

Whether it is an ignition or a door lock cylinder, removing the surrounding panels will expose wires. If this work is not done properly, you can damage the panels themselves and disconnect or fray important electrical components.

It pays to have a professional who knows about car cylinder removal in terms of process and risks. That way, when you set out to rekey a car, you don’t end up needing car ignition repair or have to end up replacing your car door lock cylinder.

Key Takeaways:

  • Removing a car door lock cylinder is often complex and time-consuming.
  • Electrical systems can be damaged by improper disassembly. 
  • The lock cylinders and surrounding components risk being lost or broken with amateur removal.

3. Rekeying

To rekey a car, you have to understand a bit about automotive locks. Unlike rekeying a residential door, the internal components to rekey a car are far less universal. You have wafers, sliders, and disk detainers, all with manufacturer-specific sizes.

To replace these components, you need new components that will fit the lock cylinder. A simple way around this is to rearrange the existing components. For example, by moving the third wafer to the first position, the first to the second, etc., the old key will no longer work.

The difference between rekeying vs replacing locks is when you rekey a car lock, you are not necessarily repairing the cylinder. If you are rearranging existing lock components, wear and damage that cause sticking or unresponsiveness are unlikely to be fixed.

Key Takeaways:

  • Each car cylinder lock’s internal components vary based on the make, model, and year.
  • Instead of replacing these components, they can be rearranged.
  • Rearranging components to rekey a car risks carrying over issues with the lock.

4. New Key 

When you rekey a car, you are replacing your existing key as well. This is not the same as standard car key replacement, as this new key does not correspond to any existing vehicle information. The key will be made based on a brand new key code.

For this new key to be made, you need a key cutter that can make cuts from code because there is no key to duplicate. Getting this code will take professional tools and knowledge. But if there is any wear to the wafers, sliders, or disks the new key might need to be customized.

If in the future you have lost your car key and have no spare, the locksmith or dealership will not be able to use your VIN (vehicle identification number) to cut a key. Anyone making a new key will need access to the current key code or will have to decode the rekeyed car lock.

Key Takeaways:

  • To rekey a car, you will need to make a new key.
  • You need to get your new key code and be able to cut a new key by code.
  • If you lose your spare key after you rekey a car, you will need to know the new code.

DIY Car Rekey

Based on your level of skill and access to professional tools, it is technically possible to rekey a car by yourself. However, it is unlikely that you will be able to do all the work without a locksmith. Just be aware of the risks before starting to rekey a car door lock.


If you are looking for the cheapest way to rekey a car, any work you can do yourself will lower the final service price. You may not be able to cut the key yourself, but you may be able to get a key blank online for a better price.

By doing this work yourself, you can develop new skills and learn more about your vehicle. Most car enthusiasts enjoy learning about the mechanical elements of their vehicle, and locks can be just as fascinating as other aspects of engineering.

Key Takeaways:

  • The more labor you do yourself, the less you have to pay for.
  • Buying parts on your own can reduce the final cost.
  • You can learn more about your vehicle and add to your skill base.


The cost to rekey a car can go up if the work you do yourself damages the vehicle. This includes but is not limited to damaging wiring, losing parts, and breaking panels. Parts as seemingly trivial as screws can be difficult to replace because of their nonstandard sizes.

When removing the cylinder, you also have to be careful not to lose track of the order of assembly. Anything put back in the wrong place can result in the car key not working. And handling the key making improperly can create the same problem.

Key Takeaways:

  • Damage caused by improper servicing can increase costs.
  • Electrical systems can be disconnected, and parts can be misplaced.
  • Lost parts or misassembly can cause a car key not to work.

In Closing

If you rekey a car yourself, you can save money. If you let a professional rekey your car, you can save time, hassle and have some peace of mind. The cost to rekey a car can be reduced by making sure the work is done right the first time.

The lock specialty, merged with specific automotive locksmith training, makes a locksmith uniquely poised to help with this. And when you ask, “Where is the best car rekey service near me?” a mobile locksmith’s answer is, “Wherever you are parked.”

Category: Automotive, Car Keys

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