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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

What To Do When You’ve Lost Your Car Keys And Have No Spare

by Hugo Reed April 12, 2021
Car Keys Left On Street

I am not too sure about you, but I know that I have found myself saying the phrase “I lost my car keys” more than once. Trust me when I say that if your car key is lost, you are about to experience an expensive headache you do not want to deal with. However, if you are currently reading this, then I will forego crying over spilled milk with you.

I will also avoid lecturing you on the reasons why everyone needs a spare car key. On the off chance that you are reading this to prepare yourself for when this inevitably happens, then I applaud you. Not many people have the amazing foresight that you do (at one point that might have included me, but I have learned from my foolish ways).

Follow this basic process:

  1. Search The Area
  2. Check The Vehicle
  3. Gather Vehicle Info
  4. Get A New Key
  5. Consider Cost
  6. Get A New Spare

If your car key is lost, you will know how much of an annoying and frustrating ordeal it can be. In some instances, you can work your way out of a car lockout quite easily, and a huge part of that has to do with the availability of spare keys or other potential entry methods. Alas, if you are reading this, then you have probably lost your car keys and you have no spare.


Will a self-service key machine make a new car key without the original?

Self-service key duplication machines, require an existing key. For security purposes, keys made without a spare must be overseen by trained professionals. This prevents criminals from making unauthorized car key duplicates.

Can hardware stores make a new car key without a spare?

If your local hardware store or auto parts store has an employee-manned code-cutting machine, the key can be made using your vehicle identification number (VIN). Even with this type of machine, you may still need professional car key programming, which requires the technician to have access to your vehicle’s onboard computer. 

Where can I get a new car key made without the original?

The dealership or an automotive locksmith are the two full-service options to replace a car key with no spare. With older cars, the dealership may not be able to access your key information. A mobile locksmith is the only option that will come to your location and make new keys with no spare on site. 

How can you make a new car key without a spare?

The simplest way to make a car key without the original is with the VIN. This unique number corresponds to a key code registered to the vehicle. In some cases, this key code could no longer be accessible or useful (ex: if the ignition was changed/rekeyed). In more complex cases, the locks can be decoded by trained auto locksmiths to manually determine the key code.

What does it cost to get a new set of car keys?

The starting cost to make a new modern car key is $120 per key. Car key programming is $85. Additional fees may apply depending on the required service. Prices will vary, but most new car keys made without an original will end up costing over $200.

Do Not Panic

The first thing that you need to understand is that panicking will not help you. Ideally, you should try your best to remain calm. I know this is much easier said than done, but it will do you a lot of good to relax. People often overlook the impact that a sense of calm has when you are locked out.

It is one thing to say “I lost my car keys” and it is a completely different thing to say you have lost your car keys and you have no spare. For the latter, you will most likely be locked out of your car and unable to drive it. This is one of the most harrowing lockout experiences. In some other lockouts, you at least still have a key that can be used to start your vehicle once you get back inside. However, if you have lost your key and you have no spare, you will be rendered stranded and immobile.

Like I said, lockout situations are no fun at all, but they can become a lot worse if you do something unnecessary out of frustration. “Calm, your mind you must, young Jedi, if car key lost you have.” (In case you were wondering, that was Master Yoda, he was a master locksmith and his favorite lockpicking tool was the Force.) Once you have calmed yourself enough, you need to take stock of the kind of car key lost.

Find Your Car Key Type

Car Key Fob And Car

This is when things begin to get tricky, but it tends to happen to a lot of people so of course there is a solution to it. I am sure there are several articles that have been written on the importance of having a spare key. This does not only apply to car keys, but to house keys and commercial building keys as well. But each key has special considerations, so check which type of car key you lost.

Back in the day, things used to be much easier in regards to car keys. You have a key and that key corresponds to a car that is yours (bada bing bada boom). These days, however, things are slightly more complicated than that because of numerous technological advancements. Not all keys are universal, so when you have a car key lost without a spare you need to pay attention to the type of key that you had, so that you know which key you need to get.

1. Transponder Key

If you have a fairly modern car, there is a high possibility that you have a programmed transponder key coupled with a keyless entry remote, or that you only have the transponder key. Most cars that were manufactured after the late 90’s come with transponder keys. 

A transponder key is much different than a traditional key because it takes the pairing process between a car and a key to a heightened level. These keys maximize communication between devices and in effect makes cars much more secure than they have ever been. Although the use of these keys lends themselves to better security, they make it a pain to figure out a solution for a car key lost.

2. Keyless Entry Remote

Keyless entry remotes are commonly referred to as key fobs. In some cars, these key fobs are paired with transponder keys. However, within the past few years, newer car models have done away with the transponder key and rely solely on the keyless entry remotes. 

These kinds of keys are constantly communicating with your vehicle and it essentially makes your car much more accessible to you. There are many advantages to having a keyless entry remote, but it is hard to see any of them once you have lost your car keys and have no spare. The reason I say this is because the key fob replacement process is not as cheap as it is with traditional keys.

3. Traditional Car Keys

Traditional car keys are the old faithful. They have been around for years and they are relatively easy to replace or duplicate. These kinds of keys are a staple in much older vehicles unless they have been retrofitted to accommodate modern technology. They do not offer much security for your car, but they are the best kind of key to own if you ever lose your key and have no spare. 

It is important to always think about a key in conjunction with its lock and this will help give you a better idea of how secure each of these elements is. It is relatively easy for spare car keys and duplicate car keys to be made of these traditional keys. The main reason is simply the fact that you will not have to pair any of the car’s internal electronics with the key.

Lost car keys, no spare?

Like I said when we got started, we’ve all been there so, you should know that I am not judging you. I am merely here to help you navigate this annoying predicament that you might be stuck in. Once you have taken the time to figure out the kind of key you have, you need to start troubleshooting your situation. This simple process will help you figure out the best solution to your list of problems.

1. Search The Area

This point ties in well with the introductory paragraph that outlined how important it was to remain calm once you discover that you have lost your car keys. The simple act of maintaining your composure gives you the ability to properly assess your surroundings again. Before you dive into any of the steps about how to handle any situation where you find yourself saying “I lost my car keys”, you should always make sure that your keys are actually lost.

I say this to people all the time, and it is mostly because I have seen so many people do it. There is always a tendency to misplace keys and then write them off as being lost when you have not taken the time to adequately search for them. 

Take the time to search your immediate area again until you are completely sure that your keys are lost. There is always the chance that you placed them down somewhere and simply forgot where they were. In situations like this, it helps to look in locations that might seem unlikely. This might sound cliche, but it can save you time and money.

2. Check Your Vehicle

Once you have ascertained that your car keys are not in your immediate surroundings (this may be in your office, house, restaurant you just had dinner at, etc.) the next place you should check is your car. There are several causes for car lockouts, but one of the leading causes is forgetfulness. Sometimes people simply forget their keys from time to time, and that is why it is such a common occurrence to find car keys that have been locked inside a car.

If you do happen to find your keys locked away in your car, then you will not have to worry about not having a spare key. At this point, you will need to get in touch with a locksmith who will be able to get you back to your car to retrieve your keys. However, if you have not been so lucky then you should continue reading.

3. Gather Vehicle Information

In order for a locksmith, or even a dealership, to help you when you have lost your car keys and have no spare, they will need you to provide them with various bits of information. The information that you provide will help them get you the right key that you will need to operate your vehicle. 

Essentially, you will have to be able to tell whoever is helping you the kind of replacement key you need. Being able to identify that you need a transponder key or a traditional key is only part of the entire process. Due to the fact that there are so many different car models available you will have to narrow your focus to your specific car so that you can get the right key. 

You will have to provide your vehicle identification number (VIN), as well as the make, model and year of your vehicle. Most of this information can be found on insurance cards or the car registration document. If you are locked out of your vehicle and unable to access these documents, an examination of your car door lock by a professional can help determine the necessary replacement key.

4. Request A Key

If you have lost your car keys and you have no spare, you will definitely have to deal with someone at a dealership or at a locksmith shop. The only way to bypass one of these venues is if you know someone that has the skills and equipment to carry the job out without charging you any fee. I personally do not know any such person, but if you do then you can skip this section and move on down the line.

Essentially, you will have to make the decision on who you want to reach out to help you in this scenario. The decision for this is not exactly clear cut because each of these avenues has their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a quick look at these so we have a somewhat better understanding of what each of these can give you when you are looking to get spare car keys.

If you have a much older car, then calling a locksmith will most likely be your best bet. This allows you to bypass the dealership and their expensive costs. A locksmith can easily fashion you a replacement key, and you will not have to worry about programming the key because it is for a much older car. If the price is the most pressing factor, then you could introduce the local hardware store into the equation. 

The only caveat with hardware store key duplication  is you will most likely need to have a working key to copy. In this situation that will not work. A majority of the newer car models have intricate keys that some locksmiths do not know how to tackle, so depending on how unique your car is you will have to settle on contacting your dealer to help you get a new key.

5. Cost Considerations

In a situation like this, it is very easy to be swayed by the cost of things and forget that sometimes you need to focus on how dependable and reliable things are. This is not to say that you should not try to explore more cost effective avenues, but you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that you need a functioning key to last for a good amount of time. 

Your keys are an important part of your automotive security, so you do not want to invest time and money in replacing your keys, only for them to wind up being a liability. Do not be swept up in the haste of replacing your lost car keys that you overlook security.

6. Make A Spare Car Key

Once you have made the decision on who you would like to reach out to in order to get a replacement key made, you can relax and breathe easy. However, you should take advantage of this situation and have an additional spare key made. I know earlier on I said I wasn’t going to harp on people not having spare keys, but it is something that needs to be addressed. A spare key is not just some minor addition that has no value. 

It can come in handy in any number of situations so make sure you have one and you are prepared for any outcome. If you had one then you probably would not have read this entire post! The truth is, it might seem costly to get one now, especially if it has to be programmed to your vehicle, but in the long run it pays off.

In Summation

If you have lost your car keys and have no spare, then I hope that reading this helped you in some way or form. Ideally, you should have a general idea of the course of action you can take. For those of you that are reading this as a preventative measure, I hope you never find yourself saying “I lost my car keys”. Always remember that if you lose your car keys in an emergency situation that you feel has the potential to threaten your life, then don’t try to speed read this post. Reach out to the appropriate emergency services, unless you need a locksmith, then call us.

Category: Automotive, Car Keys

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