How can I replace a lost 1989 VW vanagon key?
June 3, 2014 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Totally embarrassing, but I lost the sole remaining key to my family's 1989 VW Vanagon (on my way to make a copy, natch) ... I'll be calling locksmiths and my mechanic today, but if anyone has any experience and/or knowledge of fixes for such a SNAFU, I would appreciate tips. (No, I don't have a picture of it. Yes, very stupid. Trust me; I've heard it.)
posted by mrgrimm to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
I would suggest you have the ignition and all locks replaced so that you have a different key -- even if you are able to have it fixed without doing so. That way if the key is ever found by a less-than-honest soul, the van won't be stolen.

I had the ignition replaced about two years ago on a Jeep (not due to a lost key but because the ignition was faulty -- the car would just shut off suddenly, often, disturbingly, when traveling at highway speeds -- and then turn itself back on just as suddenly) and it cost somewhere around $180 at a local mechanic I use for everything.

We had the same key in the end, so it may not have been a complete ignition replacement.

Unfortunately, you're definitely looking at a higher cost than that here, since you're replacing door, hatch, and possibly fuel door locks as well, and particularly if the ignition is designed with theft deterrents in mind.
posted by tckma at 7:22 AM on June 3, 2014

Call Volkswagon and see what they recommend. It may be replacing the ignition, or they may have another fix.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:23 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Call your local VW dealership. Something similar happened to me with an older VW and they were able to do some magic with the VIN (maybe? I don't remember the details) and I came home with new keys with not a lot of hassle.
posted by anastasiav at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2014

Per this thread I found there may be a key code on the locks themselves. I'm having difficulty figuring out if this applies to your year. Either way, call your local independent VW mechanic and see what they say.
posted by sacrifix at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2014

Either one of those avenues should easily get you a replacement key. I once broke (yep) my only remaining key for my car in the car door. There are locksmiths who specialize in car key replacement, and I believe (if my memory serves me correctly), some have special permission to make them from master keys in their inventory.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:49 AM on June 3, 2014

Call the dealer. I had my 1990 Corolla key cut off at the dealer (using the VIN as reference) after my last key (not the original with the key code on it) broke. It is easy peasy.
posted by vespabelle at 8:06 AM on June 3, 2014

OK, I talked to dealer and locksmith. Apparently the only way to make a key is to get the code for the door handle (locksmith said ignition or door handle; dealer said only door handle), as sacrifix posted.

Now, how to get that handle off if I can't open the door. Any suggestions? Hopefully, the trusty Internet will save me from a tow or service call. ...
posted by mrgrimm at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2014

You will have to open the door. Have a locksmith open the door, or try the old coat hanger trick. Part stores also sell "slim jims" for popping locks, or at least I have seen them before. I searched "car lock out tool" on a few local part store sites, and found some in stock. It is a flat piece of metal with a hook on the end that you can stick down in between the window and door. You try to hook the linkage to the lock, and pull it up to unlock the door. I am guessing an 1989 Vanagon has pretty low tech locks, but if it has electric locks that is less likely to work. More research is recommended though so you don't mess something up inside the door. If in doubt call a locksmith to get the door open.

Once the door is open, the door panel will need to come off. From there you are on your own, but you may be able to find the identifying information without going much further.
posted by ohjonboy at 9:13 AM on June 3, 2014

The metal insert taken from a hanging file folder works well as an impromptu slim jim, if you happen to have one of those around the house. Legal size is best.
posted by jamaro at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

This method works pretty well...
posted by AnneShirley at 9:38 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's a good trick, and it's basically what the tow truck operator did (I have BWC and I never use it, so I burned a service call).

I got in, took off the door handle, took it to Rex Key (in Berkeley CA), and got 3 keys made for a total of $29. Good deal. I won't link to their site b/c Google thinks it's malware, but they probably couldn't care less. They serviced about 20 people in the 10 minutes I was there.

Anyway, my only contribution to posterity is to say that, for an 1989 vanagon, it's a LOT easier to get the door handle off the side (sliding) door, and it was much less corroded that the two front handles (I didn't try the back hatch.)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:49 AM on June 4, 2014

« Older What to look for in credit unions/good ones in MD?   |   Panleukopenia outbreak in our house. What now? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.