The key to your 1956 Lincoln Continental looks nothing like the smart key for your 2020 Toyota Prius. You might be wondering if you can even get replacement keys for classic cars. The answer is yes, and it’s a lot easier and less expensive than you might expect. Whether your original key is so worn out it doesn’t turn over the ignition any longer, or you bought a ride without a key, we have the answers right here.
Head to the Hardware Store or Your Local Locksmith
Before scouring the internet for a classic car key guru, begin at your local home improvement centre with a key kiosk. Since Ford, Chevy, and other US-based manufacturers built millions of cars in the last century, they used standardized key blanks until the mid-90s. The home improvement centre in your neighbourhood may find a matching domestic key blank for less than $10.
These key kiosks use your old key as a model for the new key. So, if your key is well-worn, you may need to turn to an experienced local locksmith. A locksmith with years of experience will be willing to cut a few keys and make minor adjustments to get the new key to work in the lock. You may have to pay for his time and the throwaway keys.
Checking Your Key for Size
Just because you can’t find a key blank that says Pontiac or Edsel, don’t despair. You simply need a key blank with the exact measurements as the sample key.
The bow refers to the head of the key. The bow can be any shape or style as long as it doesn’t interfere with the lock’s function.
The shoulder is the widest part of the key, close to the bow. The shoulder width must be an exact match.
Also, check the thickness of the key. This specification does vary from one car make to the next.
The Shank refers to the long part of the key. Measure from the longest tip to the shoulder. This must also precisely match.
An uncut key blank must be able to completely slide into your car’s ignition cylinder. If it doesn’t, when it is cut, the cuts will not engage the moving parts of the lock, and it won’t work.
Find Original and Collector Key Blanks at Local Swap Meets
If you own a classic European car, locating a matching key blank might be more challenging. Check out your local parts swap meet featuring your type of ride: BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, or an antique show. Even if you don’t find the key, you may meet somebody who makes replacement keys for classic cars or has a relationship with the right guy.
Does Your Classic Car use a Remote?
Yes, some cars built in the 80s and 90s are now part of the classic car scene. Yours might have a remote to unlock the doors. The earliest remote key fobs did not use chipped keys in the security systems. It’s fairly simple to replace the remote and the key separately. Check with a dealer or parts store.
If your key comes with a chip and a remote, you will need the key code for your vehicle. It may be included in the original owner’s manual, part of the VIN, or stamped into the side of the glove compartment. Authorized locksmiths can access the database and cut a key according to the code.
Single Side vs. Double-sided Cut Keys
The earliest car keys were single-sided ones that looked much like your house key. Ford introduced a double-sided key in 1965. However, most car keys remained single-sided until the mid-80s.
It’s more likely that your local key kiosk will only be able to cut a single-sided key. Look for an automotive locksmith when duplicating a double-sided key.
The double-sided keys started appearing along with the prevalence of power door locks and remote key fobs. The double-sided key will work in the ignition or the door lock, no matter how you hold it. The single-sided key must be inserted with the teeth pointed up.
Re-key the Ignition for a Total Solution
Even after getting a replacement key for your classic car, the ignition lock may be so worn out that it’s nearly impossible to get the key to work. If this is the case, your best bet is to replace the ignition lock cylinder and key with a new set.
Protection that Goes Beyond the Locks
While the key is your first and best line of defence for protecting your classic car, it’s not the last. Wayfarer Insurance offers quality and affordable classic car policies that ensure you can continue to enjoy your collector car for many more years. Click or call to get your quote today.