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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Can I Cut My Own Car Keys?

by Wesley June 6, 2022

Cutting car keys is a specific skill that not many people understand the nuances of. Precision and technical experience are required, as well as accessing the right equipment. Without these things working together in perfect unison, successfully being able to cut car keys is impossible.

Unlike how other handy work around the house can be simple, cutting car keys is difficult because you have to know what you are doing. Can it be done on your own? Sure! But the majority of people will need some assistance to cut car keys, and this is when calling an automotive locksmith is your best option.

Although an auto locksmith is going to be your most reliable choice with an extensive catalog of car key cutting services, there are essentially four places where you can get cut car keys:

  1. Car Dealership
  2. Hardware Store
  3. Your Own Garage
  4. Automotive Locksmith

All four locations are capable of cutting car keys, but as we continue to dive deeper into the discussion, you will realize some are more convenient. And prior to beginning that discussion, let’s set a good base of knowledge about cutting car keys.

FAQs

Does Home Depot cut car keys?

Yes. Without spoiling too much about upcoming details on hardware stores and big-box retailers. Home Depot does, in fact, cut car keys. However, the store’s ability to cut the specific key you need is not always guaranteed. If you own a make and model of a vehicle that has been in production for a longer period, then there is a good chance Home Depot can cut car keys for you.

But the more complicated and more modern the vehicle, the less likely Home Depot or other retailers will be able to fulfill your request. This is not their fault as a company but rather more of an inventory problem. And they cannot make a car key without a spare to copy from. We will have more on this topic later.

Can locksmiths cut car keys?

Any key that will open your car can be made by a locksmith. Information is available to professional locksmiths on just about every car key that exists. This provides locksmiths with exclusive access to cut car keys at any moment when you need their services.

When a key is more standardized it makes the job easier, but a great locksmith can adapt and possesses the skills required to cut car keys of any type. And it goes beyond cutting car keys too. Reprogramming transponder keys for newer vehicles that no longer use traditional car keys, is one of the many services an automotive locksmith offers.

How long does it take to cut car keys?

An experienced locksmith can cut car keys in a matter of minutes. The fastest way is to cut a replica of your key with an existing key (most likely from an on-hand spare key) right in front of you. If that is not an option, locksmiths can cut a new key based on a code.

The code is pulled from your vehicle’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). There are two slightly more complicated methods as well. Locksmiths can decode the keys themselves or decode the ignition cylinder. Both of these procedures could take more time, depending on the situation.

What does it cost to cut car keys?

There is no real definitive answer on what it will cost to cut car keys because every scenario is different. Your car’s make and model is a major cost factor and affects the other services you may need to complete the task.

Like we talked a little bit about with key codes, it can get complicated. The locksmith may have to disassemble the entire lock to get the code or extract the ignition cylinder and retrieve it that way. All of these methods take time and labor, which adds to the overall cost.

To give you a ballpark range, cutting car keys the traditional way will set you back anywhere from $1.50 to $4, either at a local hardware store or with an automotive locksmith. It is very simple and affordable, but a locksmith is going to have more options for key cuts.

Modern cars with transponder keys that need reprogramming are going to cost a lot more. Locksmiths start at around $120, and car dealerships consistently ask upwards of $150-200 for the same service.

Certain hardware stores will have machines that allow you to program certain key fobs from an existing working remote. But newer key fob duplication will require either an auto locksmith or the dealership to complete the request.

1. Car Dealership

To successfully cut a car key, you need many things. To get around the years of training and financial investments in professional equipment, you can simply call a dealership. For the sake of getting good customer service, it will probably be easier to contact the same dealership you bought your car from.

There are a couple of reasons to use a dealership to replace car keys. First, they will already have your information on file. Second, you likely have a working relationship with management and that should render better and quicker service. If you reach out to a random dealership and ask them to cut car keys, they have no incentive to follow through.

You fall way down the priority line because the amount of money they can make selling a brand new car or other premium services will be insurmountable compared to cutting car keys. And in general, there are several issues with turning to the dealership rather than a locksmith.

The dealership may know cars, but locksmiths know keys. Any mechanical work or interior technology fixes are what dealerships know and practice. They can replace windshields, taillights, and spark plugs with perfection. But when it comes to keys, this is where they lack the functional knowledge.

You should go with a company with true expertise in the processes and tools that are involved in properly cutting car keys. We will have more on why automotive locksmiths are more equipped to cut car keys later. But for now, just know that dealerships are large corporations that work to serve their bottom lines.

There is nothing wrong with this approach. Dealership prices are fixed with little to no room for negotiation because they adhere to strict policies. Implementing these pricing policies is necessary because they have to ensure they make a profit. They report to car companies, who report to investors and shareholders, that expect to see monetary gains every quarter.

You are probably thinking, what does this have to do with coming in to cut car keys? Everything is connected, and it tells you how car dealerships are managed from the top down. You will be better suited to getting your car keys cut by a locksmith in terms of both price and efficiency.

2. Hardware Store

Big box retailers like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, and Walmart would love you to think of them as experts in the automotive field, but they are not. Maybe if you need new tires or engine oil, these are good places to stop by.

If you choose the retail route for cutting car keys, you will be way better off going to an auto parts store. Somewhere with employees who have experience and familiarity within the industry. Establishments among the likes of Advance Auto Parts, AutoZone, and O’Reilly Auto Parts.

Stores of this caliber can provide better guidance and handle more tasks than cutting car keys. However, there remain some limitations. For one, you still have to physically go to the store. This can be a huge problem because some people who need cut car keys cannot drive until they receive a new set.

You could hassle a friend to take you, or you could call a locksmith in the area who comes straight to you. Direct and mobile locksmith services are the most convenient option for anybody who needs cut car keys. You simply pick up the phone and wait for a technician to arrive quickly.

Another issue with hardware stores, and big chain retailers, is the process they use to cut car keys. It usually goes something like this, an unqualified employee takes your spare key and puts it into an automated machine to cut you a new one.

On the surface, it sounds great. But when you analyze it deeper and recall some of the concepts we brought up earlier, it does not make sense. A key cutting machine is not guaranteed to complete the job for you. In the event of needing to retrieve the key code from your car’s ignition cylinder, how is a machine inside a store going to do that?

Locksmiths are simply better suited to getting the job done right the first time, at your exact location, with the appropriate materials and equipment. Cutting car keys does not have to be complicated when you trust a professional.

3. Your Garage

Some people refuse to be helped when a problem is about their car. These are car purists. Genuine car enthusiasts who love everything about auto mechanics. Ones who are not fazed by getting grease stains on their clothes and love the way a socket wrench feels in their hand.

We all know someone like this, and it is amazing to pull it off when you think about how much time and effort is required to develop those skills. And in the case of cutting car keys, there is some danger involved in the process as metal is being cut with sharp, fast-spinning blades. This process will also send many metal shavings into the air, so eye protection is a must.

The amount of skill required for the precise operation of this equipment is quite high. And even after you have the correct automated machines does not mean you can adequately use them without training and knowledge.

Not everyone owns this kind of high-level equipment. Starting from scratch is not a viable option because it will cost you thousands of dollars and a ton of time to acquire the right pieces. The most sound plan will be to call an experienced automotive locksmith.

4. Automotive Locksmith

The final location where you can go to cut car keys is a locksmith. Location is a tricky word to use here because there really is no set location, store, body shop, or warehouse you have to travel to. The ideal locksmith company will have technicians on standby, ready to drive straight to your current location.

When you choose a locksmith to deliver their high-quality car key cutting service, you are getting experience and craftsmanship. You also have all of the available knowledge of a security expert who can offer multiple services.

You will be able to get your car key cutting accomplished, and if you need transponder programming or key fob replacement, this can be taken care of as well. Having a seasoned professional at your disposal and in-person will give you some direction beyond the research you have put into your service request.

We talked earlier about accessing key codes to cut car keys, which is extremely important. A professional locksmith can find out your key code with the VIN written out on the dashboard, or on the inside of the driver’s side door.

If the code cannot be found through the VIN, the locksmith may have to disassemble the lock altogether. This is done because the key code is usually stamped on the barrel of the lock. And as we mentioned earlier in the article, sometimes codes can be accessed via the ignition cylinder.

There are two main kinds of key codes that locksmiths use – bitting codes and blinding codes. Bitting codes are the specific numbers used on a blank key to cut car keys. In other words, the little cuts and grooves of a key that make them able to start a car, or in other cases, unlock a door.

Blinding codes are bitting codes in disguise. They require a special computer program or chart that is only given out to locksmiths and automotive professionals to prevent wide-scale code sharing. Another way to picture it is to think of the bitting code as the translated version of the blinding code.

For security reasons, most car keys have blind codes to protect people’s car key information. This makes hiring a locksmith more of a need rather than an option because they will have the necessary program to “translate” these blind codes to cut car keys.

Aside from finding the key code, maybe your car is locked, and you cannot get into it. Locksmiths can also help you with that by using standard car lockout procedures. We are not talking about the infamous coat hanger method that scratches up your vehicle trying to reach the unlock button.

Everything a locksmith performs on your car takes a skillful approach that has been backed by several years of on-the-job experience. Nothing done is an experiment or some type of irrational idea that might work. It is all proven practices that any security professional would applaud.

Closing Thoughts 

You have options for where you can get cut car keys, but there is no better option than calling a locksmith. From a convenience perspective, mobile locksmiths provide the easiest, most direct solution anytime you are having trouble with your car keys or locks.

Very few people learn how to cut car keys on their own with the amount of precision and carefulness of a locksmith. Between the specialized equipment and overall skill required, locksmiths are right for the job and come at a very affordable price.

Category: Automotive, Car Keys

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