I've been reading about locksmith scams
September 14, 2012 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I bought a new 2012 Toyota Corolla LE. I received 2 Master keys (Smart keys with buttons) and a valet key (starts the car, but doesn't open the trunk). The dealership wants crazy $ to make more keys. They're equipped with an immobilizer, so only those keys can be used to start the car. I want a spare that will open the doors in case I lock myself out, either for a Hide-A-Key under the car or my wallet. Will a $3 duplicate from a hardware store accomplish this? If not, is there a cheap way to go about it?
posted by anonymous to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had the same situation. Hardware stores couldn't duplicate, but a locksmith shop was able to make a "dumb" key for door opening.
posted by mightshould at 7:03 AM on September 14, 2012

Yup, I had a dumb key for a few of my cars. Thanks for the reminder, I need to get one for this car ...
posted by tilde at 7:07 AM on September 14, 2012

My dealer sold me a sub-$10 chipless key blank that I had cut to use as a door-opener. The dealership (Nissan, if it matters) said that if I tried to start the car with it, after a few tries the immobilizer would kick in and I'd brick my car. Helpfully, the dumb key is shaped completely differently than the smart key so there's been no confusion.
posted by workerant at 7:28 AM on September 14, 2012

Also, about locksmiths? Do some homework now. Ask around for recommendations for legitimate locksmiths and put those numbers in your phone now. The locksmith scams work because you have limited time and limited access to information in a crisis. Pre-screen your options before you need one.
posted by workerant at 7:31 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's a locksmith near me that can do electronic duplicates. They charge about half what the dealerships want. I assume they use grey market, or third party knockoff parts. They also do remote programming---which you can do yourself if you're brave enough to follow a youtube tutorial and risk bricking (bouldering?) your car.

I'd phone around. You may have more options than you think.
posted by bonehead at 7:46 AM on September 14, 2012

I have a 2003 Toyota and I went to my local "Tru Value" hardware store and they were able to make a "dumb key" for me that opened the doors but wouldn't start the car. For the cost of a few bucks it's worth a shot.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 8:18 AM on September 14, 2012

I want a spare that will open the doors in case I lock myself out...

Are you sure that's even possible? I've owned a few Japanese cars over the years, and many of them are engineered to make it impossible to lock the keys in. Either the doors lock using the remote (which means you have it in your hand) or the driver's door cannot be manually locked unless the door is fully closed (which means someone is either inside the car, or outside with the key).

Sounds like, though, you should be able to get a dumb key made to calm your fears.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thorzdad, something like that would be WONDERFUL. The only cars I have run into that, however, are generally cars that are push button / proximity types (for example, the newer Camry and Prius). However, those were TRUE Smart Keys.

With a true smart key system (Camry, Prius) you can't do it accidentally, (lock a set of keys in there), but you can on purpose (with a second set of keys and overriding the "yo, hang on dummy there are keys in here" alarm.

The OP is calling his key a Smart Key but the presence of a "key with buttons" and a separate "valet key" leads me to think this is not a car with the Smart Key system, but a "Type A" key system.

It is TOTALLY possible, in my experience, to lock those things in. I have done it with late model cars with similar key systems (though not specifically a newish Corolla).

1. Get a "open the $&%*#(@)*$# door" key made by a locksmith.
2. If you like the guy/gal, get his name and number and hold onto them for dear life. Heck, put his name and number on your car somehow, so you can dig him out if you lock your phone and wallet in, too!
3. My retired editor said never make a list with only two items. This item left intentionally blank to annoy her in the great eithernet in the sky.

Most of my cars I've had since I ditched the early 80s pickup truck are designed to not let you lock your keys in the car if they are in the ignition, but are fine with it on the seat, floor, purse, or other mischance. Thank goodness for handy firefighters with slimjims and/or children able to unlock doors from the inside on command.
posted by tilde at 10:16 AM on September 14, 2012

I've got a Matrix, the Corolla's sibling, with a key system identical to the one described. It's entirely possible to lock the keys in the car. You can lock the car by pressing the all lock button on the driver or front passenger's side. If the keys are inside at this point, you're screwed. It's entirely understandable why the OP wants a door lock key.
posted by bonehead at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2012

If you have two Smart Keys you should he able to program a third one yourself. On my car I just need an umprogrammed smart key, then I insert both my programmed smart keys into the ignition and turn it halfway on one after the other, followed by the blank one and when I turn that one part way it programs the chip. I always have three for this very reason! Google and see if you can do that on your car.
posted by fshgrl at 11:09 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this helps, but I noticed the other day that my neighborhood TrueValue-affiliated hardware store had a big sign up advertising that they could cut "high tech" replacement keys for much less than a dealership. I didn't investigate further, but it suggests that what you want might be possible, for some makes, at least.
posted by Good Brain at 11:19 AM on September 14, 2012

fshgirl: is there something similar for uncut smart keys? Or I should say "not so dumb keys" as his key is not, according to toyota, a true smart key.

I'm asking because I bought the "smartish" part of my not so smart key that has no "key" part to it (so you can't cut it or put it in the car ignition or lock). So then if programmed correctly, can be used to lock and unlock the car (you know, for the kids, or to save my lazy butt from digging my keys back out of the bottom of my purse when I've got an arm ful of groceries). Or do I have to go to a dealer/ car shop that does this (mine does) to get it done right?
posted by tilde at 11:21 AM on September 14, 2012

Small derail: the best way to insure that you NEVER lock yourself out of your car, is to ONLY lock it with the buttons on the smart key. If you never, EVER lock the car by pushing the buttons on the door then closing the car doors, but ONLY via the key in your hand, then it's impossible to lock yourself out.

Stashing a spare in the wheel well or under the bumper? First thing car thieves check for.
posted by easily confused at 3:32 PM on September 14, 2012

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