Someone or maybe a group of someones must have a strange sense of humor because they are the ones who create onboard key programming procedures. They must be the engineers in charge of security setups on all the makes of cars. Engineers have a warped sense of humor for the most part. I know because I am an engineer at heart. This sense of humor allows them to come up with ways of onboard programming keys and remotes that tax most people’s minds.
Onboard Programming Procedures Can Be Mind Boggling.
Take Toyota, for example. To program an additional master key for some older models of Toyota, you must follow this procedure:
1. Place an already programmed master key in the ignition.
2. Press the gas pedal 5 times.
3. Press the brake pedal 6 times.
4. Pull out the key.
5. Insert the new key but do not turn it on.
6. Press the gas pedal once. Wait 1 minute for the security light to stop.
7. Remove the key. Press the brake pedal. Wait 10 seconds. The key is programmed!
Now, I picked a programming procedure for Toyota that is not so complicated, at least compared to others. You should see what the programming looks like for the remotes on several models. Opening and closing doors multiple times, pressing buttons, turning keys on and off multiple times—it boggles the mind!
It’s not just Toyota, either. Nissan, Honda and Mazda are all amazing in what their devious engineers require us to do to start and drive their cars.
Case Study in Complicated: a 2002 Mazda MPV
One fine example is the car that I did just this past weekend.
Mazda has some interesting quirks in their older models from 1998-2006 especially.
I was called to make keys for a 2002 Mazda MPV because the new owner had bought the vehicle without keys. The dealership told him that no one but a Mazda dealer could make keys for the MPV, but I had told the customer (in response to his phone inquiry) that I could.
The reason the dealership thought they had exclusivity is that you have to use a properly cut Mazda factory key, no substitutes at all from the aftermarket. The key costs so stinking much that the dealerships do not sell many to their “adoring” public. I bought an original from one of my suppliers prior to going to the job, so no problem there.
First, the Key Cuts Have to Be Determined and the Mechanical Key Cut.
After the usual preliminaries, I used a special tool to pick and decode the door lock. My tool was designed just for that Mazda MPV. That procedure told me what 8 of the 10 cuts were to complete the key. The ignition lock yielded the other two cuts fairly easily.
I then cut the Mazda original key very carefully. I only had one shot at getting it right. The key worked just fine, so the mechanical part was out of the way. Now the fun began.
Then the Serial Number Must Be Obtained from the Lucas Box and Converted to a PIN.
On Mazdas of that vintage, the immobilizer is called a “Lucas box.” The box is located under the dash, and I don’t do well standing on my head. The box has a serial number on it, and you need to carefully record that.
Having done that and gotten my inner ear to recognize vertical up again, I took that number and plugged it into a computer program to calculate the pin number for this vehicle’s “Lucas box.” After 5 minutes, the computer spit out an 8-digit number that is the “code” for programming in the key.
Onboard Programming Involves a Lot of Flashing Lights.
Now it got fun.
The programming involves turning the key on and off 5 times, then turning it back on to make sure the immobilizer light is blinking rapidly on the dash. Then you have to turn it back off and watch the blinking light for 5 minutes.
The light slows way down after 5 minutes, and then you input the code by turning the key on for the number of flashes of the first number and then turning it off; then turning it on for the number of flashes of the second number and then off; and so forth, until all 8 digits of the code have been input (via the correct number of flashes for each). Unless you do this every day, it is hard to do everything right the first time.
On the third try, I managed to input the right blinks 8 times, and the key was programmed. I went to sleep that night seeing a blinking light in my head and counting flashing lights. What a procedure!
Theoretically, a car owner could get the key cut by code from a dealer, obtain the serial number, and pay for converting it to the pin number. Then you could program it in yourself. I have yet to hear of this happening, but like I say, it is possible.
Call Me If You Need a Key or Remote Programmed.
If you want me to do it, and you have some strange desire to turn my dreams to flashing lights, I would be happy to do it. By my going to the car, I can save you the cost of towing to a dealership. The key will be an expensive part of the bill, but Mazda made the procedure that way, not me. I can still save you some money and hassle for your older Mazda.
Other cars, as we have said, have onboard programming. I will be up front and let you know if it is doable on your vehicle and how easy or hard it is to do. I send many people to key duplicators to get a GM key they can program themselves in under 30 seconds. But if you do not want the hassle or are technically challenged, give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk about your specific car.
I teach many people how to onboard program their key for the next time they need a key—no charge for the education. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll come up with the best solution for you and your car.
#66 – DEALERS: can’t live with them, can’t live without them
When potential customers call me for a quote because they have lost all the keys to their vehicle, many times they say, “The dealer wanted ‘X’ amount of dollars and would have to have the car towed to them.”
Getting Replacement Car Keys From a Dealership Can Be Expensive.
New-car dealerships are usually the highest priced option for replacing keys or locks on cars, especially now with the electronics built into those keys. It is not unusual for a dealer to charge a couple of hundred dollars for a key, not including the programming.
Towing Charges Can Add to the Cost.
And, you must get the car to them. Towing companies are sometimes covered by roadside insurance, but if you do not have that, it could cost another couple of hundred to get your vehicle towed to the dealer. I specialize in coming to the vehicle, so there is no towing charge if I do the work for you. I hear people talk about shelling out $600-800 to take care of a lost key situation through the dealers.
Dealers Have an Important Role to Play.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to bash dealers or rail about their prices. There are many good dealers out there, selling and servicing a variety of makes and models. They have to have access to replacement parts, usually through a distribution network where the retail price is pretty well etched in stone. And they are the ones that have to figure out those hard problems that other repair shops can’t seem to sort out.
Labor costs for factory-trained union mechanics are very high, but these are the ones that have to have the answer, and you are paying for their expertise. The dealer is the place of last resort, as it were. The final authority.
But There is Also A Place for Locksmiths.
With the realities of life being what they are, there are people such as myself who see that service can be rendered at a lower price, and satisfactory parts can be obtained wholesale more reasonably to be sold to the public.
We (locksmiths like me) are the competition. Some locksmiths go at this in dog-eat-dog fashion, desperate to pull in as much work as possible at any cost. They badmouth dealers (and fellow locksmiths) and toot their own horns excessively in the chase for that almighty dollar. Dealers are easy prey when it comes to setting up villains to rant against.
Some of My Best Customers are Dealers.
I have never looked at competition in that way. Since the beginning of my career back in Colorado in 1981, my customers have always included dealers and dealerships. Just like everyone else competing for the lost key jobs, they look for an edge and do have people that have their cars towed to them for just that.
All is well and good if the dealership has a tightly wired parts department that has code equipment and a good variety of replacement locks and keys. But there are times when codes fail, the right key blank is not in stock, or it is just more cost effective to call in an outside service. That is when I get the call.
I do work for several dealerships now and try to solve problems that they give me at a reasonable price to them, so that they can be somewhat competitive in the marketplace also. I never try to pull these customers away from the dealership. I do my best, if customer contact is necessary, to act in the way a responsible employee of that company would. It’s a bit of a fine line to walk, I admit.
When I offer “discount” prices and services to dealerships and smaller repair shops, it would appear that I’m competing against myself or cutting my own throat. But the way I look at it, it is work I would not have otherwise. With the volume of work that the dealerships provide me, it is easy justifying “volume” discounts.
Again, it is a fine line to walk, but if I walk the line, everyone benefits. I do, because of the steady work and thus steady income. The customer does, receiving dealer-level servicing at lower than usual price, and so does the dealer, who can compete by not having to replace locks when key origination will do.
Your Best Option (Dealer or Locksmith) Depends on the Vehicle and Situation.
Yes, I’m still in competition with these very same dealerships. If you call me, I will quote you a price that will almost always be less than the dealer’s. But if you want the security and “last stop” guarantees of taking it to a dealership, I won’t try to badmouth them or stop you in any way.
Many times I will recommend a dealer if I think they can do a job more thoroughly, or in some cases, even cheaper. An example would be if a dealer can cut a key by code where I would have to disassemble a steering column with an airbag. I do not have access to code numbers by VIN (Vehicle ID Number). In other cases, the reverse might be true. I might be able to originate a key without disassembling anything like the dealer would have to do.
Call Me at 618-466-9347 to See What Solution I Can Offer You.
Just as in most things, there are multiple solutions to problems with locks and keys. I am one of those solutions.
If you want to know what I can do and what it will cost for me to do it, give me a call at 618-466-9347. I may, or may not, be the answer for your problems, but I will do right by you, even if it means recommending a dealership.
That’s the only way I know how to run a business: being straight with customers. Call us at 618-466-9347 for that straight answer.
#65 – THE BATTERY-LOCKSMITH CONNECTION
Today’s Technology Runs on Batteries.
Most technology that we deal with on a daily basis runs on batteries of some size or shape. This ranges from the pancake flat ones in your phone to the massive battery assemblies that power your automobile and back to the tiny button batteries that operate the security controls for that car.
The advances in battery technology parallel the advances in other electronic technology because, simply put, necessity is the mother of invention. High tech needs better batteries. Therefore, better batteries show up to power that high tech.
Li-on Batteries Have Advantages Over Older Types.
Li-on, or lithium ion batteries, have been at the forefront of that better battery parade. Nickel-cadmium (NiCad) and nickel metal hydride batteries were the standard for powering tools for about 20-25 years, but they had serious deficiencies in power and rechargeability. They’re still in use, but in the last 5-10 years they have been relegated to the yard sales of our lives.
The ability for a battery to be recharged ad infinitum is what adds so much to the value of that battery. Li-on batteries charge quickly and can handle a deep draw without damage or “memory” problems. Li-on batteries will be around for a while, I suspect.
Locksmiths Get Involved When Batteries Fail.
Now, all this talk about batteries—why should you be concerned, and why, as a locksmith, am I writing about them?
Well, the long and short of it is this: a higher number of my service calls are because a battery failed somewhere in the system. For example, a car battery may fail, and after the battery has been replaced, the keys or key fobs may not work and may need to be reprogrammed. I think you get the idea.
Some cars, certainly not all, have a tendency to dump their transponder key memory after sitting awhile with a dead battery. One that I get calls on all the time is a Japanese car which shall remain nameless. I get 1 or 2 calls a month concerning vehicles of this particular brand dumping their keys from the onboard computer.
Changing or Recharging a Car Battery May Affect the Keys or Fob.
If your car does not start right away after recharge or change of battery, and the key light is showing on the instrument panel, stop cranking. Some cars will have their ECU (it’s one of the onboard computers) lock up in this situation, and some require a trip to a dealer to have the ECU reset. If you stop cranking, all that has to happen is to have the keys reprogrammed by a dealer or by someone such as me. Give us a call, and I can quote you a price for a service call to the car and reprogramming.
Batteries Fail in Car Remotes or Proximity Keys.
Other battery problems are with the remotes and proximity keys. Almost all use a “button” battery of some type or size with a nominal charge of around 3 volts. These batteries last a long time and do quite well for their size, but like any battery, they drain down to the point where they do not work.
If you are starting to have intermittent failure to work when you activate the buttons on your remote, it’s time to change the battery.
Some Vehicles Have an Emergency Key to Use in Case of Battery Failure.
Most car companies have realized that they need a “Plan B” for when the batteries fail. FOBIK (Fob Integrated Key) and proximity keys are supposed to have an emergency key inside them that will unlock your door if you have a battery failure of either the car’s or the remote’s battery. The time to make sure that your emergency key works the door lock is before the emergency because if it doesn’t work after the emergency, you now have two emergencies.
Most emergency keys will not start the car, but they are designed to give you access, so that batteries can be charged or changed. In the case of proximity (push button start) keys failing, the emergency key gets you in, and by holding the key to the push-to-start button, the car will start. There are exceptions and variations to that, so you should check your owner’s manual on what to do with your particular car.
I Can Reprogram Keys and Remotes after a Battery Change or Failure.
So, as you can see, there is a connection between locksmiths and batteries. I carry around extras of the most common types of button batteries for my own use, but you should not rely on me to be your battery salesman. What I can do is reprogram keys and diagnose what the problem is, if there is an issue about changing or charging a battery. Most are simple solutions; some are not. I will let you know if I can help you, or whether you will be visiting a dealer to solve your problem.
Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we can talk about your situation. I’ll do my best to help. Hopefully my “no charge” (for advice!) is the only “no charge” you have to worry about!
#64 – IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
Little Things Can Cause Big Problems.
In spite of all the technological advances in electronic security, there are many tiny little problems that sometimes torpedo that technology. It’s much like what happens to NASA from time to time, only on a smaller scale. NASA has many times scrubbed launches over defects in little parts, valves and “doo hickies.” Although the part itself may be inexpensive, the scrubbing of the launch can cost NASA multimillions.
I believe it all started with Richard III, the play by Shakespeare with the classic line, “A horse, my kingdom for a horse!” For lack of a horse, the war was lost (supposedly!).
I’ve seen vault doors that had to be drilled simply because a 10-cent screw fell out and blocked the lock’s mechanism. That sort of thing is what makes safe technicians have nightmares and causes them to double check – or even triple check – everything they do.
Chrysler has been on my mind of late for two minor problems that kept cars from going down the road.
Case Study 1: A Chrysler with a Little Ignition Problem.
The first problem has developed into an actual recall, and I have run into it several times. The in-dash ignition that Chrysler went to in the mid 2000-2010 range developed a problem where you have to turn the key in the ignition further and further over time because of wear. The problem finally culminates in the car not starting at all because you can’t turn the key and ignition far enough to engage the starter.
Before it gets that bad, there can be problems programming in a new key because the “on” position of the ignition has so much play in it that the electronics of the ignition switch are not properly activated. On one recent Chrysler, I failed the first two times trying to program the key until I realized that after turning the key to the “run” position, I had to turn it back just a little to be in the proper key position. Just a little thing wrong with a little part, and the car doesn’t go.
Chrysler’s solution to this problem is installing a new housing with an incredibly strong spring in the lock that you push to turn the key. Time will tell whether the problem is completely solved or whether a new problem has been created.
Case Study 2: A Jeep Proximity Remote Key with a Little Problem.
The next vehicle with a “little” problem was just a small job today, when I received a call to “reprogram” a proximity remote key for a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The customer had one remote that worked fine, but the other remote simply wouldn’t work. Since the call was from a dealership (not a Chrysler dealership, though), they had already used a tool to test if the remote was putting out a signal. And it was.
I went through a programming cycle with my equipment just to see what would happen. My programming tool indicated that the remote was programmed—but it still wouldn’t work. Time to go to the desk in my mobile shop for some further evaluation.
I checked my tool, and it indicated the proximity remote was putting out a signal. I took the battery out and checked the voltage on the familiar CR2032 battery. It read 2.81 volts.
Now, one would think that would be sufficient since it is close to the 3.0 volts specified on the battery. Nope, it doesn’t work that way.
I pulled out a fresh battery, double checked its voltage (3.25 volts), put it in the remote, and reassembled the remote. It worked just fine now, with all button functions working correctly. Apparently the original battery had enough power to send a signal but did not have enough power to activate the remote system of the car. So, for want of a small fresh battery, the vehicle would not start with that remote.
It’s Just Like Life.
It’s always just the little things. It is a good lesson for the rest of our lives also. It often can be the little, inexpensive pieces of life that block major happenings in our lives. Something to think about. . .
We Solve Big and Little Problems with Car Remotes and Key Systems.
Something else to think about: we do try to diagnose problems with remotes for vehicles as well as those involving key systems.
Give us a call if you’re having a problem with your car’s remote or its key system, and we’ll see if we can help you, or at least send you in the right direction. Some problems, such as issues with onboard receiving antennas and other electrical problems, might only be solved at a dealership.
But if we can, we’ll help and try to get you down the road with the optimum solution. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we can talk about the little (or big) things causing your problem.
#63- A TALE OF THREE FORDS
It’s no secret that I cut and program a lot of keys for Ford cars and trucks. There are a lot of Fords in the area I serve, and even though I don’t currently own a Ford, for many years Ford vans served me well. My first service van was a 1967 Ford Econoline that was a former telephone company van.
Over the years, Ford locking systems have been fairly straightforward when it comes to originating keys and servicing locks. Even up through the current models which feature flip keys, proximity remotes, and laser-cut high security keys, the technology available in the aftermarket allows for fairly easy servicing.
Ford F150 trucks—yep, I do a lot of those because it is the best-selling truck. It is not unusual for me to originate keys for 2 or 3 F150s a week. Three in 1 day is a little unusual, though. Each of the following jobs was a little unique in its own way. In each case, the keys were lost or stolen, and my task was to originate new keys.
F150 #1 was an 8 a.m. job after a snowstorm the day before. The lock on the door, which contains the first six tumbler positions, was in desperate need of lubrication. At first the tool I use to measure those 6 tumblers would not indicate any of them properly. After applying lubrication and working it in with a keyblank, the lock reading produced good results.
The next step was to determine the last two tumbler positions (found in the ignition but not the door) by using a progression method. That’s a fancy way of saying trying every possible combination until the lock turns. That sounds like a lot, but with a clipper tool and a little knowledge of the lock, a working key can usually be produced in less than 5 minutes, as was the case here. The truck was a ’98, so it did not have an immobilizer system which would have required programming the keys into the vehicle.
So, with the keys made and me watching on, the owner cranked up the truck and was delighted to be on the road again. But little did I know that F150 #1 was to become F150 #4. Later on that. . .
F150 #2 was a ’97, and it was part of an estate. The only thing that was a little different was that when I asked how long it had been sitting, the husband and wife who were executors of the estate just said, “Awhile.”
I worked and worked to get the driver’s door lock loosened up, but it took almost 15 minutes of working with it to get results. The first key was a little stiff, but clipping 1 position down 1 more depth yielded a smoothly working key. The ignition turned with just one additional clip on each of the last two positions.
The couple was interested in seeing if it would turn over, so I put jumper cables on it from my service van. But first the hood would not open, and I had to lube the latch to get it working. The battery was ancient.
When I tried to turn it on, I could tell the starter had frozen up from corrosion. It was only then that one of them admitted the truck had sat for a couple of years! Well, at least they now had keys. A little work, and it would probably do well for a new owner. Again, there was no need to program keys since it was a ’97 truck.
F150 #3 was another oldie but goodie. It was a ’99 that had sat for 2 months, but the locks were in good working shape. I cut the mechanical key I originated onto 2 H72PT Ford transponder (“chip”) keys, and with the help of a jump box, I programmed the keys into the truck with my equipment. The current from the jump box was not enough to start it, and the gentleman wanted it to run before I left. He jumped the truck from another car, and with a little coaxing, it fired right up.
3 F150s: 3 keys made, 2 trucks running—not bad. I went to bed that night, dreaming of F150s dancing in my head. (3 Fords a leaping? Sorry about that!) I was asleep when the owner of F150 #1 called back.
Return to F150 #1
She said that she was unable to shut off the vehicle and thought it might have something to do with the new key I had originated. I didn’t say it, but I suspected not. I’ve learned that you must demonstrate that you did not create the problem, and to do that, it means a service call.
When I got there, the lock, as she had said, would not turn to the off position. I took the lock out (which takes 15 seconds on F150s of that vintage) and showed her that it was working smoothly and properly. The problem was that apparently the gearing had broken that the lock operates to move the electric switch back and forth. It is not an uncommon problem, especially with the shifter arm causing some resistance against the linkage. Unfortunately, she needed a mechanic, not a locksmith, to solve this issue.
I felt sorry for her, but she at least understood that her problem was not due to the keys I had made for her lock. Someone had a lot of work ahead of them to replace the gearing. It would be almost as easy to replace the whole column. If you want to learn more about that droopy shifter arm problem, I think you can still find a tech bulletin on it.
We Can Help With Your Truck or Car Lock Needs.
These weren’t my only jobs for the day, but the three were a substantial part of it. So, if you have an F150, you can rest assured that I’ve done a few. And if you need keys for any other type of vehicle, give us a call. Chances are, we’ve done a few of them also. Call us at 618-466-9347, and let’s talk about your car lock needs.
#62- WRASSLIN’ WITH REMOTES
Remotes Are Here To Stay.
Whether you consider them tools or toys, or both, remotes are here to stay in some form or another. Whether it is a separate remote or the new wave of app-based phone controls, people love their remotes and move quickly along with the tech advances. Several generations of children have grown up with remotes for TV/radio or sound systems, house alarms, garage door openers, and such. For most, it was and is a natural progression to use remote keyless entry for cars and businesses.
Most Remotes Provide Some Sort of Security.
It presents an enormous challenge and opportunity for anyone who wants to invest the time, money, and effort to supply the needs of the tech-hungry masses. A lot of the burden (and opportunity) has fallen on the locksmith because most remote operations are associated with security of some form.
Most remotes perform a certain function but supply security as well. The lowly garage door opener has the basic function of opening and closing the garage door. But it also provides security in that without the remote, that garage door is not going up, at least not without extreme physical force.
It is the same with auto remotes. They not only supply the convenience of easy unlocking and starting, but they have substantial electronic security built in that the average hacker cannot easily bypass.
Wireless Signals Didn’t Exist 150 Years Ago.
It may seem like 150 years is a long time, but in the history of man, it is just a hiccup. “Just” 150 years ago, there were no wireless signals being put out in any form or fashion. There was no radio or even wireless telegraph yet and no signals of any type in the air. I’m not sure, but I think most people today would go insane without electronics.
There are Potential Dangers from All the Radio Waves in the Air.
There are concerns about filling the earth's atmosphere with a continuous, high level of signals that in some cases are extremely powerful. Even small levels added together result in huge amounts of powerful “radio” waves in the air. Although the subject is quite controversial and still unsettled, phones and remotes produce radiation that can cause cancer. Of course, the big producers would deny that, but the large microwave towers that were built to relay phone signals put out huge amounts of microwave radiation. If the phone is going to be used for remote functions as well as for a phone, even more radiation is going to go forward out of these towers.
I wonder, and I would not be the first, what it would be like to see all the invisible radiation around us. Perhaps we would understand how dangerous the radio waves are to human beings, animals, and the ecology in general. Something to really think about.
Auto Remotes Are Not Very Reliable.
What I have seen and have a beef with is the lack of reliability in the remote industry that is associated with the auto industry. The signal that travels from the typical remote to the receiver’s antenna of an auto is not infallible or foolproof. It can be interfered with very easily, and the quality of even original equipment is suspect. Just when most people get to the point of relying heavily or even completely on a remote, it fails. The real problem comes when there is no backup plan and no easy diagnosis of the problem to correct, enabling you to get on your way.
Remotes from One Japanese Carmaker Are Especially Suspect.
One car whose remotes are quite suspect comes from Japan. (I will not name it out of courtesy for the local dealership.) The vast number of different remotes with different frequencies, combined with low quality, causes an inordinate number of problems with these vehicles, many that cannot be solved easily or cheaply. I grind my teeth every time someone calls about a car from this company, and there are quite a few calls.
There are problems not only with the remotes but with the weak antennas on the cars, resulting in poor reception and range as well as on-board computer problems that cause programming problems.
I have New Tools to Help Deal with Remote Problems.
I have purchased new tools to help deal with remote problems and analyze the signal going to and from your auto. They are not the answer for all the problems of signal generation and reception, but I have to take the next step in solving some of the problems that are out there. I do my best to keep up, but quite honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in new technology. If you feel that way from time to time, I can understand. With complicated technology come complicated problems, and aftermarket technology is always a few jumps behind.
Be Sure You Have a Mechanical Backup for Your Remote.
In the meantime, there are options for the moment. For example, older vehicles have less technology to go wrong. I would avoid cars set up with push button start proximity for as long as I could. That’s just my opinion, but my attitude has basis in fact. In the meantime, make sure you have backup mechanical lock and key setup working to keep yourself from being stranded if the proximity remote fails.
Let Us Help with Your Auto Remote or Key Issues.
Well, I know I’ve spent a lot of time on the soapbox in this article, but we have reality to deal with. If you need help with an auto remote system, whether it is a key, remote or a combination, give us a call. I’ll do my best to sort out your problem and suggest the best solution for you. Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and I’ll see what I can do with my new signal frequency and strength tools. It could be as simple as replacing a $20 remote, as with some Fords. It could be that easy, and we will try to get you quickly on your way. Call 618-466-9347. The chance that you get me live is not so remote!
#61- THE JOYS OF NEW TECHNOLOGY
Smartphones Can Do Amazing Things.
As bad as I hate to admit it, I really like the new phone technology that is incorporated into my current “phone.” I put “phone” in quotations because it is so much more than just a phone. It is a computer, internet access device, a “hotspot” for other devices to connect to the internet, and a source of information beyond belief. Compared to what I used for the first ten years of locksmithing—and even the flip phone I had not so long ago—this is “StarTrek Next Generation” stuff. I expect that one day, teleportation of small objects will be possible with the purchase of a special “app.”
For now, I have apps that can pull pin numbers, provide key codes, and cite detailed information on the exact make and model of the car to be worked on. I am still learning what is available—one of those situations where I don’t even know what I don’t know.
Technology Is Not Perfect, Though.
But there is one problem with technology. When it fails, it fails big. The more complicated it is, the harder it falls when it fails. Whatever love I have developed for my phone and its capabilities, the possibility of failure has left me with the desire to maintain the old paper reference manuals and code books. If you were to peek into my van (and many do), you would see many books, thick books, that the phone superseded but did not replace.
It is not just failure I worry about, but also incomplete, inaccurate, or inaccessible information. Locksmith apps are not perfect. A lot of information is being developed and assembled on the fly. Often it is necessary to double check the app information through a hard copy source.
Multiple Methods Make For Better Success.
I try, and have always tried, to have Plan A, B, C, and so on, when it comes to originating and programming keys. This means not walking away from a job if you have a backup or alternate method or tool to complete the job when the first method doesn’t work. That helps both the customer and the locksmith.
Even though I have one major expensive tool for key programming, I have 9 or 10 more tools that fill in the gaps around the edges of coverage. For example, I have a tool called the KP 819 that is a cheap, Chinese made tool that only covers 3 or 4 car companies, but for many Chrysler cars, it is quicker and easier to use than anything else I have. For a long time it was my primary tool for Chrysler, and I still use it 3 or 4 times a month.
Times Have Changed and So Have I, But Not Completely.
When I started locksmithing, a pager was the state of the art in communication. Vehicle info was not assembled anywhere. Paper code books by Reed, Curtis and HPC were on the shelf of every auto locksmith, but not much else was available.
So, it is with great expectations and some fear that I move through the final years of my locksmithing career. I enjoy and use the new technology for its easy access to massive amounts of information, but don’t expect me to pull the old books off the truck, even if they sometimes get in the way and put a drag on gas mileage.
The most recent reminder was on a high security key (or laser key) code that just did not seem right. On the application it said it was a good code, but when I went to the code site, it was sorry, that’s unpublished. Plan B was to pick and decode the lock, and after making the appropriate cuts on the key, it worked just fine.
Call Us For Your Automotive Lock and Key Needs.
Whatever your automotive lock and key needs may be, we will use the best technology we have to get you on the road quickly and efficiently. If there is a hiccup, we’ll do our best to get it done with Plan B or even Plan C, if necessary. We rarely give up. It just isn’t the way I was raised.
Use some of that technology and give us a call at 618-466-9347, where I answer the phone. I do not have voice mail. If you get a busy signal, I’ll call you right back since my phone picks up your number. But you will talk to me, a locksmith who has been around for a while. Call 618-466-9347, and let’s work on your lock problem together.
#60-TRYING TO SAVE A BUCK
No, This Is Not About Bambi.
Let’s get one thing straight ahead of time for all the animal rights advocates, in case the title above misleads you. This article is not about going out in the woods to save Bambi and friends from the local deer hunters. Although I do not hunt deer, I have nothing against those who do. It is a great way for fathers to pass on to their sons and daughters a healthy respect for animals in nature and a mindset of taking what you need, but needing what you take. In other words, don’t just shoot down a deer for antlers. If you’re going to waste the meat, you’re not my kind of hunter.
Small Lots and Shops Seek to Cut Costs When It Comes to Keys.
Now that I’ve put my soapbox away, let me tell you about the many, many small auto lots and repair shops that are desperately working to put food on the table. The used cars that they deal with to repair and sell often have lock problems or maybe only one key. Some even buy cars from the local auto auctions without keys, hoping to snag a real bargain by just getting keys made. Sometimes they find a diamond in the rough that way; other times, it’s just another stone.
I Help with Lower Cost Alternatives.
And this is where I enter the picture for a lot of smaller lots and repair shops. The dealers, with their expensive locks, keys, and repairs, are viewed as the last option in the world of trying to save a buck. I try to correct problems and make keys as inexpensively as I can because I know what the next step is if I cannot help them. They call me for remotes, remote head keys, proximity keys and such, hoping against hope that there is a “cheaper than the dealer” aftermarket solution. Sometimes there is, and a few times, there isn’t. (And by the way, I’m not trying to put down new car dealers. They have certain costs for their factory-original merchandise and need to make a profit, too.)
It usually plays out that the small car lot will accumulate 2, 3, or 4 cars that need second keys and/or remotes. I do what I can to supply what they need, and I try to let them know what I can and can’t stock. A good example is GM flip key remotes versus Cadillac remotes. Because of the volume of GM vehicles I do, I can keep GM flip keys in stock, but I cannot afford to keep the myriad of very pricey Caddy remotes in stock.
Remotes and Proxies Can Be Purchased on the Web at the Buyer’s Risk.
Often times the owner of the small car lot will order what he needs off the internet, usually eBay, but there are other sites also. They usually check with me first to see if I can program the equipment once they get it, and I do my best to program what they order. I can program many remote head keys, remotes, and even proximity keys for a wide range of foreign and domestic vehicles. But some days, it just doesn’t work like a well-oiled machine.
Example 1: A Chrysler with a FOBIK and Emergency Key
One small sales lot that I work with started me off with a Chrysler with a FOBIK (Fob Integrated Key). The emergency key for the FOBIK can either be a “big” metal blade key with a transponder chip in it or a small key where the chip is integrated into the remote instead. In this case, the big emergency key they had would start the car, but the blade would not turn the mechanical door lock. They had ordered a FOBIK for the car, but when I went to program it, the car display said “damaged key.”
I pulled one out of my stock, and it programmed right in. I decoded and cut the proper small emergency key for the fob, and that took care of the “no correct key” problem. But that left them with a worthless, non-returnable electronic key that they had ordered. They were just trying to save a buck, and they still came out ahead. Even adding in the price of the unusable key they had ordered, their total cost was much less than for the dealer proxy FOBIK that would have been required for that car.
Example 2: A Ford F150 Truck with a Remote Head Key
Sooo, on to the next vehicle. It was a Ford F150 truck about 8 years old, and the lot had a remote head key from the internet for me to program. I had a sinking feeling when the chip was sitting in the bag outside the key. I put the chip in the key and cut the key, but the key would not program. A bad chip. . . Another remote key was pulled from my stock and programmed without a hiccup.
Again, even with the increased cost of paying for my remote head key and the loss of theirs, they still saved money over taking it to the dealer to program in an original. That’s why it is still worth the risk to get an internet product. Most keys and remotes on the internet are good. It just happened that both of these ended up being bad.
I Understand the Need to Keep Costs Down.
I feel for the small dealers and small repair shops. Small margins per car or job mean doing what you can to save money and be competitive, and I do what I can to help them out.
Sometimes, they pass a second key job directly on to me. In other words, the car lot or repair shop recommends that the customer call me to get a second key for their vehicle, rather than serving as the middle man. If that’s your situation, I’ll do my bet to do whatever you need to get your locks and keys in order for a reasonable price, just as I do for the dealers or repairmen.
Call Me at 618-466-9347
If they tell you to call me, you can do that by dialing 618-466-9347.
I will do my best to repair locks or replace keys that you need. Don’t fault the smaller dealer if he cannot come up with that second key on his own when you purchase a vehicle. It’s probably not because he didn’t try. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk about your car.
#59-AN ODDBALL “SANDWICH” OF A DAY
If you have been following the articles I’ve written over the past year, you know that there is never a dull day, a routine day or a “normal” day. Oh sure, there is a lot that is routine, but almost every day there is something out there in left field. Today was a fine example of an oddball sandwich, or one odd job in the middle of a routine day.
Two Easy Ford Jobs Began the Day.
Seven-thirty is about as early as I can start in the morning without moving back the morning schedule, and that was the scheduled time for my first job A local construction company just needed 2 Ford “chip” keys cut and programmed. They had a key, so just adding keys to the computer was fairly simple and, dare I say it, mundane. (I always wanted to use that word in an article!)
Ford is, and has been, my bread and butter when it comes to transponder key work. The tools and inventory needed to do Ford work are substantial, but I’ve made the investment to cover almost every make and model that Ford has produced. Not just transponder keys, but also laser transponder and Tibbe key technology (used for Transit Vans) are included in what we offer. So, programming two regular chip keys is routine.
The next job was just duplicating and programming a remote-head laser key for a C-Max Ford. This is not a very widely known vehicle. The Escape and Focus are much more popular. The C-Max has the same basic Ford system, and again, even with the laser-cut blade, all went well with the cutting and programming. All’s well, isn’t it?
A Mid-Day Opening of a Mercedes Was Questionable At First.
And then, after lunch, things got a little strange.
I got a call from a gentleman who said he had keys locked in a vehicle at the local community college. The car was a Mercedes, but when I asked him what model and year, he did not know. Up went red flag number one. . . .
I then asked if he was the owner, to which he replied, “No, but it’s my daughter’s car, and she’s not available.” Red flag number two just sprang up. . . . He had no proof that he was supposed to have the car or that he was even related to the owner. Not good.
I then looked at my phone, and the caller’s number was for a cell phone from Louisiana—4 states away. Well, the third red flag that popped up over that was enough to force me to politely decline the job. After hanging up, I just had a feeling that that was not the last I would hear of the Mercedes.
Sure, ‘nuf! A call later in the afternoon from a local county deputy sheriff confirmed that I was going to see that Mercedes. I told the deputy that I had turned down the job because the gentleman had admitted he didn’t own the car and had no proof that he was related to the owner.
The deputy said that he had already verified that the man belonged with the car, and they had in fact opened the car. However, doing so had set off the alarm, and now the trunk button was disabled. Guess where the keys were? Yep! In the trunk!
Opening the Mercedes Was Challenging.
I arrived on the scene, which was actually at a grade school with the same name as the local college, not the college itself. I now received quite a bit more information about the job, including the fact that several birds (parrots and such) had been locked in the car. This was something the caller had not told me.
Mercedes has high security locks which can be very hard to pick. There were just two locks available. The ignition was the plastic Fobik type like Chrysler Fobik, which means there was no way to turn it on.
The trunk lock would not accept my high security pick, so the door lock was the only option.
It took awhile, but I finally picked and decoded the door lock. The next step was to make a key of sorts to unlock the trunk lock. The Lishi picks I use have a system for making keys that allow you to clip out a temporary key. It is assembled from 3 parts, and it doesn’t take long. With a little lubrication and some encouragement, the trunk lock finally yielded. The keys were found in the trunk.
Everything ended with the right result, and no birds were harmed in the opening of the vehicle. (A little joke.) The gentleman had been showing different birds to some of the grade school kids, and he was not used to his daughter’s car. That’s how the keys had ended up in the trunk.
As you can gather, it was not a “normal” job.” I get a call to open a Mercedes maybe once a year. Working on the door was strange with a parrot watching me pick away at the lock. I don’t think he liked me. . . .
The Day Ended with A Simple Chevy Job.
Well, that ended the excitement for the day. The top layer of bread for the sandwich day was a simple Chevy Equinox job. I just had to duplicate a chip key and do the on-board programming, which takes all of 15 seconds to do. I was so relieved that it was so easy that I gave the customer a bit of a discount. I headed home, satisfied that I had helped some people that day, and in one case in spite of myself.
Let Us Solve Your Hard or Easy Auto Problems.
If you need lock work, whether it is the bread of routine, or the meat of the different and unique, just give us a call. We will do our best to solve your lock problems, no matter what. However, remember that I work better without a parrot staring at me. You can reach me at 618-466-9347.
Let’s face it. Some people make a lot of bad choices, in all areas of their lives. Then to go from bad to worse, they make the same bad choices, expecting different results. It can be in the area of the friends they keep.
Friends Are Not Perfect.
Most people, after having lived long enough, realize that friends are imperfect. They can make mistakes or even mislead you. Once aware that they have made a mistake, true friends will do their best to correct it. There are many people who know this kind of friendship, and they are blessed.
But there is also a “friend” who is not a friend. These are people who pretend to be your friend and use that position of trust to extract as much as possible from you without pushing you, their “victim,” away.
The Consequences of Getting In with the Wrong Crowd
This prologue is meant to lead into a tale of a young lady who, according to her father, “got in with the wrong crowd.”
As always, the story starts out innocently, with the new friends offering fun and excitement, and then moving down the wrong road from there. The late teens can be a difficult time because there is always someone at your elbow offering you alcohol, drugs, or just free-wheeling partying. I know those are difficult years, not only because her story is not the first I have witnessed over the past 37+ years in business, but also because I was a teen once.
This young lady had a little money and her own car. Some leeches who initially were her friends got her started with alcohol, and then on to drugs.
They took advantage of her gullibility and used her car for a rolling party wagon. Finally, after one rolling party, they dumped her out and took her car from her.
She was confused enough not to even realize that when someone takes your car without permission and does not return it, that it has been stolen. I’m sure she didn’t want to believe it of her “friends,” but her father straightened her out on that.
The car, a transponder-based GM vehicle, was recovered without keys, and I was called to an impound lot to make keys for it. As always when doing a car like this, I take the old key out of the computer (in other words, I remove the old key from being recognized by the computer), so that just the new keys I make will be accepted by the computer and start the car. Problem solved. Well, maybe not.
The Consequences of Getting Back with the Wrong Crowd
About ten days later, I got another call from this family. This time the young lady wanted me to take the key I had made out of the computer because the car had been stolen—again—by her so-called friends. Of course you have to be at the car to remove keys from its computer, and this time she didn’t have the car because it hadn’t been recovered. She thought keys could be removed remotely like everything else in modern life.
She was truly disappointed, but the “low jack security” of shutting down a car has not been made available to the general public yet. It is used by used car lots that sell and/or finance cars with shutoff equipment that is used if the buyer/renter misses a payment. But that sort of thing isn’t available to others just yet.
Obviously, after her father had pulled her out of the cesspool following the first theft of her vehicle, she made the decision to jump right back in where her “friends” were. The result of this bad choice was the same as the first one.
I can do a lot of things, especially with transponder-based keys, to eliminate unwanted keys from starting cars. But I have no way, even with physically changing all the locks, to guarantee that a car won’t be taken while someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I don’t know what happened in this case, but I wouldn’t doubt that she just handed over the keys to her friends.
If this story sounds very much like your situation with an “adult child,” I truly understand your pain and frustration. Situations similar to this story crop up about once a month for me anymore, and sometimes more often than that.
Call Me If You Need Keys Made For Your Vehicle.
If you need keys made in a bad situation such as the one described here, I will work with you as best I can to make sure the car cannot be taken by the “thieves” again. Trust me, I do understand how hard the situation can be for parents—parents who never stop loving their children, even when they make bad decisions. So, with as much discretion and compassion as I can offer, I’ll try to help you with your key replacement needs. Call me at 618-466-9347, and we can talk.
#57 - THE JOYS OF SUCCESSFUL IMPRESSIONING
I Enjoy Working on Older Vehicles.
I do enjoy the chance now and then to work on older vehicles and do my part in getting their locks and keys back in working order. There are so many new chip-key vehicles that have to be done, and I do appreciate the work because it pays the bills and puts food on the table. But modern key origination jobs leave you with just a tiny bit of an empty feeling, kind of like eating Chinese food and being hungry again a short time later. It satisfies, but not for long and not completely.
It’s Satisfying When You Get a Key to Turn.
When you tie into making keys for an old Ford truck, and it’s just you and a 40-year-old pin tumbler ignition going head to head, there is real satisfaction when that key starts to turn. With a pin tumbler lock, you can tell you are getting closer and closer, but there is just one point where you can feel it is ready to turn. Inexperienced locksmiths at this point might get excited and force the key to the “on” position, but that doesn’t really help anything. With too much force, you can actually break the key. The experienced locksmith just continues gradually until the key turns freely.
The other trick is to decode your working key and cut a key by code (a key cut to factory specifications). This involves translating the cuts in the key (the “zigzags”) to corresponding numbers, and then cutting a key from those numbers, usually using a tool called Curtis clippers. (See Article #42 for more info on Curtis clippers.) You do this so that the key will work the other locks keyed the same, such as the door locks.
Very Few Vehicles Have Pin Tumbler Locks Anymore.
There are very few pin tumbler locks on autos these days. None of the Big Three automakers have used pin tumbler locks on their vehicles since Chrysler stopped using them in 1988 and Ford in 1992. (There are a few odd exceptions, as always.) GM just didn’t use pin tumbler locks in this “modern” era. They used a sidebar wafer lock as their standard lock from 1936 to 1995.
Renault and Fiat used to be fun to make keys for, as they had pin tumbler ignitions and impressioned fairly easily because of the narrow blade on most of their keys. Their keys marked very easily in the impressioning process, and the marks stood out well.
Impressioning Is a Valuable Skill for a Locksmith.
Impressioning is one of the best tools in a locksmith’s “skill box.” It involves taking a key blank and carefully “jiggling” it in the lock a certain way so that marks are made on the key blank from the lock’s tumblers. The marks are barely visible except to the trained locksmith’s eye, and they indicate where the key blank should be cut. It’s not a one-step process.
After a mark is observed and a corresponding cut is made in the key, the key is re-inserted and jiggled to determine additional cuts. Cut by cut, the final key comes into being. Patience is necessary because if a cut is made too deeply or where it is not appropriate, the key won’t work and it will hinder the determination of other cuts. In that case the process has to start again from scratch with another key blank.
It really helps to be able to impression a key when picking just isn’t getting you anywhere. In the last year there have been several house lockouts where picking wasn’t working or practical, and impressioning saved the day. When the impressioned key finally starts to turn, there is such a relief, knowing that the job is all but over. It’s much like running a marathon and seeing the 26 mile marker, knowing that just down the road from that sign (.21 mile, to be exact) is the finish line.
Successful Impressioning Is Satisfying and Pleasant.
I guess we all like to experience something that is pleasant over and over again. It is one of the good things about life to have that opportunity.
I guess the conclusion to all this rambling rhetoric is that I enjoy that one specific moment of success and like to experience it from time to time. You could actually play a small role in my happiness by calling me with your lock and key needs, especially on the older vehicles. But some modern vehicles are impressionable, too, so they will work as well. You can probably tell that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Obviously you have good reasons for needing keys other than just contributing to my happiness.
Call Us If You Need Keys for Your Vehicle.
But in all seriousness, if you do call needing keys, I will do my best to make sure we both walk away with that satisfied feeling of a job well done. Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll see what we can do for you.
#56 – 2 ODD DUCKS AND A GOLDEN GOOSE
People constantly ask me questions about locksmithing. Usually these people are customers. Most are either curious or just wanting to nervously pass the time while I originate their key. Usually the question is what is the most unusual car, most expensive car, or rarest car you’ve worked on—something like that—and I do have my stock answers for most questions. I’ve written about some of these autos over the past year in the website articles like the one you are reading now.
But, as almost always, the calls this week have jarred some old memories, good and bad, of cars from the past. Thus the odd name for this article.
Odd Duck #1: The Corvair With Its Rear Engine Design
The first call that brought something to mind was from an older gentleman, who apologized for being nervous because he had never before called a locksmith. He asked if I knew what a Corvair was, and I said, “Sure, of course.” He then proceeded to tell me how he had laid down the keys to his 1968 Corvair somewhere in the house or garage. He needed them fairly quickly, and I assumed that he was going to display his Corvair at a local car show in a small town nearby.
The Corvair was an odd car that GM put out in the late 60s, and it had a rear engine design like nothing else on the market. It got a very bad reputation, in part thanks to Ralph Nader, who made a career of finding safety problems with the car. Yes, it had its problems, but it was a fun, “zippy” kind of car to drive.
I asked the gentleman the basic details about his Corvair’s lock and key setup—whether the locks were original or had been changed out. He was very surprised that I knew about its two keys: one for the ignition and doors and the other for the trunk, which on this car is in the front and not the rear. I quoted him a price, and he said something like, “That’s just the incentive I need to keep looking for my keys, but I’ll call you back if I don’t find them.” I guess he found them because I didn’t hear back from him.
The trunk lock on the Corvair was the worst to work on and make a key for, if there was no glove box to work with. The lock had a special cap, with a hinged cover flap that could not be removed without damaging it, and there were no replacements for that cap. In the early years of the car, owners simply had the lock drilled out and replaced when the key was lost.
By the time I started working on Corvairs in 1981, replacement locks were not available.
Since the trunk lock was a sidebar lock, it was not practically or easily picked. Locksmiths used various methods, but “tryout keys” and Compton picks were the most widely used tools. (Tryout keys are rings of many possible keys for a particular vehicle. They don’t represent every possible key for that model, but there may—or may not—be one that is close enough to allow opening the vehicle. They’re called “tryout keys” because it’s a trial and error process. You try each one in the lock, using a special technique, and continue until the lock opens or you’ve tried each of the tryout keys, whichever comes first. Using tryout keys is time consuming and is usually only resorted to on vehicles for which other opening methods are not available.)
Because of the difficulties, many locksmiths just turned down Corvair jobs, but I always managed to originate a key on the 15 or so that I’ve done over the years. Those same tools (tryout keys and Compton picks) are used when the ignition has been changed and is not the same as the door locks anymore. I have always had good success with the ignition locks also.
Odd Duck #2: The Pontiac Fiero With Its Challenging Door Lock Setup
GM had another odd duck, or in this case another rear engine design, that was put out as the Pontiac Fiero. The collectors for this car are just as many and just as committed as those for the Corvair. The Fiero was fairly standard also in its ignition setup. Standard disassembly would yield a code number or provide for easy replacement of the lock.
The real snorter for the Fiero was the door lock setup, which was unlike anything seen before. Many locksmiths, even after taking classes on how to remove the lock cylinder, declined to do so because of the unusual need to at least partially remove the outer door skin. There was a glove box lock on most, thankfully, so I only had to take one door apart in the field. Messy at best would be the description.
The other odd thing about the Fiero was the presence of flimsy rods used for linkages between the lock and the latch. This came into play when keys were locked in the vehicle. The most common problem was that the car opening tool would bend the linkage just a little, but enough so that the window would not roll down. It did not take much effort to cause the problem, but it would take another hour with that door to fix it. That was known in our business as one to be very careful with.
The Golden Goose: The Corvette With Its “Tilt & Telescoping” Steering Column
The final car is the golden goose of the GM line, or at least it seems that way to me. The Corvette was built for speed—pure speed and only speed. Maybe some think that bucket seats a foot from the ground are comfortable, but I am not of that opinion.
My locksmithing jobs relating to Corvettes over the years have been few in comparison to other cars, but they were always good money makers, due to the “tilt and telescoping” steering column one has to disassemble in order to remove the ignition lock for the code or for replacement. It always required special tools, and it generally took about twice as long to do, compared to other cars, so you could make a little more on labor.
The current problem with these golden geese is in dealing with the older ones. There are 3 major plastic parts that get very brittle with age. Even when you try to remove them gently, they easily explode into multiple pieces. And, of course, the parts to replace them aren’t available. . . .
On most older Corvettes, including the last 3 or 4 I have done, I’ve used tryout keys to good success, especially on a pre-’74 Corvette with the door and ignition the same. The door locks work fairly well with the tryout key procedure, and as they always say, so far, so good.
Corvettes have always caused a little pause in my heartbeat when the customer says that name because one of the first “child locked in car” episodes I dealt with as a young locksmith was a Corvette. And it was tough. . . .
So, we do have our moments with GM. Of all the antique cars I am called to work on, GM by far has the most collectors out there of the Big 3.
We Can Help With Your Old or Collector Car.
If you have a “collector” car or a car that’s just old, I can generally fit a key to it without too many problems. Thirty-seven years in the business have taught me that old, corroded locks can be coaxed back into standard usage with a little care, patience, and a lot of lubrication.
So, call us at 618-466-9347, and let us help you put your antique or collector car back on the road. You might just be surprised at what can be done, even with the odd ducks or golden geese!
#55 – THE KOREAN INVASION
Kia and Hyundai: names that belong to two car companies that remain a bit of a mystery because of their relative newness.
The 70s and 80s Saw an Invasion of Japanese Cars.
In the 70s and 80s, part of America ran toward the Japanese invasion by buying up cheap Toyotas, Datsuns, and Hondas, while part of America ran away from them. We were still very much in an “American made” mindset then because we knew cars made here meant American jobs.
But improving quality, modest prices, and time allowed a gradual integration of Japanese cars into the American economy. It helped that the Japanese car companies saw the value of having an assembly plant or two in this country.
A Wave from South Korea Began in the 90s.
Just after America had absorbed the Japanese wave, we had another wave from South Korea, starting in the 90s.
The early Kias and Hyundais were short on quality, but just like their Japanese predecessors from a generation before, very low priced. Quality has gradually improved up through the present, and both now offer some of the best warranties in the industry.
Lock Systems on Cars from South Korea Are Very Inconsistent.
But, we’re here to talk locks, aren’t we? There is one thing that can be said about South Korean car lock systems: they are consistently inconsistent.
For example, the issues include 2 or 3 different systems possible on one year and model; key codes that have the same prefix used on the same year but for both 7 and 8 tumbler locks; and multiple possible keys. It’s barely predictable whether a certain make or model will have a transponder system or not. In addition, there is very little interchange and crossover of transponder and proximity keys among their models. (In other words, a certain type of transponder or proximity key can’t be used on multiple vehicles.)
This Inconsistency Impacts Inventory.
What does all that locksmith mumbo-jumbo mean for you? A lot, as a matter of fact. Kia and Hyundai require a large investment in inventory just to cover the basic consumer needs. Plus, their after-market availability is non-existent. Original locks, keys, and remotes are available from suppliers, but they are about the same price as from the dealer. It’s hard to make money if there’s no wholesale-retail setup to make a profit. Combine all of that with just the fact that there really aren’t a lot of Hyundais and Kias on the road, especially compared to the Big 3 and the Japanese contingent, and it becomes hard to justify doing much with them.
As I said before, a large investment in inventory is needed to cover the basics since keys, locks and remotes for one model can’t be used on other models or other years.
Be Prepared for High Prices on Keys and Remotes if You Buy Korean.
So, that leaves the consumer at the mercy of the dealers, who do take advantage of the situation. So, be forewarned, if you buy Korean, you should make sure you get keys and remotes in advance and shop around for availability and price.
Some of the older Hyundais and Kias take standard keys without transponders (“chips”) and are available in the after-market. Late model, higher-end vehicles will have transponder systems and proximity keys that will run several hundred dollars to replace if you lose them. A recent check with a suppler on a Kia proximity key, including the emergency key and shipping, showed the cost was just shy of $200—and that would be my wholesale cost.
Prices Should Drop as Time Goes On.
As the Korean car companies further integrate themselves into the American economy, we can expect after-market companies to pick up the slack on remotes and keys, with the price going down accordingly.
Give Us a Call with Lock-Related Needs for Your Hyundai or Kia Vehicle.
I stock all mechanical keys, including high security, for Hyundai and Kia. I have transponder keys to fit most models that need them. Where I fall down are the very expensive remotes and proximity keys. I can order them (which would take a day or two) or you could purchase the proxy or transponder key for your car from the dealer.
In either case, I can put the correct cuts on the key and program it into the car’s computer for you. Even if you just need a remote added, I can usually make it worth your financial while to program it for you, compared to the cost the dealer would charge. With a little patience and a little planning ahead, we can help you enjoy your Korean vehicle and maintain good quality keys for its locks.
Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and let’s talk Korean—about what I can do to help you with your Hyundai or Kia lock and key needs.
#54 – LABOR DAY WEEKEND: A Tale of Two “Emergencies”
Labor Day, according to all those in the know, is for ceasing your labor and taking a day or two off—three, if you can wrangle it. Maybe people in the union areas would be upset to know that it is just another day for me. Just like all other holidays, the lights are on, and the phone gets answered. Even the locksmith companies that advertise “24/7” service don’t answer their phone on many of the holidays, and by default I get the call because I do answer mine personally every day, every hour. When I get calls on a holiday, they sometimes involve unusual requests—some I can accommodate, some I cannot.
Call #1 – a No Go
My first call on Labor Day Weekend 2018 started off fine and then kind of ran off the tracks. The male caller said “no problem” when I told him that he needed to produce ID before I would open his car. Then the hiccups began. . . .
It turns out that the vehicle was at a repair facility that was closed for the weekend, and the owners of the car repair shop were not in town. The customer saw no problem with me going to the repair facility and was shocked and upset when I said no.
He demanded to know why he, a respected member of the community (according to him), could not have his car door opened. Sooo, I laid it out as best I could. I told him that he the customer, someone unknown to me, was calling from a town that is generally outside my service area, plus he wanted me to go to a repair facility I had never heard of and whose owners/operators did not know me.
The main sticking point, though, was that I was being asked to trespass on private property to open a car that was under the care and custody of a repair facility. I had no way of knowing if my prospective customer had paid his repair charges, but even that did not matter. The trespass part, as well as the custody by a repair facility, was enough to stop everything. Without prior permission, these restrictions are inviolate; you just cannot break the law to satisfy a customer.
A second and third call from the same individual resulted in the same refusal. More later on what happened after that.
Call #2 – Assistance Provided
The second call, on Labor Day, was from a son and daughter-in-law who were desperate to get into his mother’s house to get certain personal belongings and check on the welfare of her dog. They had just taken his mother to the hospital and needed her personal ID and papers because he needed to transfer her to another hospital.
My wife, who is very good at checking and verifying ID documentation, went along on the job. Once we got there and did a variety of checks, we determined the job should proceed. After I picked open two locks, the son and daughter-in-law were reunited with a very happy dog, and the necessary keys and documents were found.
Why One Job and Not the Other?
Why did we take the second job and not the first? The second job was taken because due diligence would allow us to determine that they had a right, if not a duty, to have the house opened. The fact that they had at least a minimum of documentation was a plus. They had also secured the alarm code from the alarm company.
The first job, even with documentation of ownership of the car, would not have overridden the act of trespass and violation of repair facility custody duty. No amount of documentation, or even police presence, could change these two issues.
Time Sometimes Solves Emergencies of the Moment.
The first caller’s problem was cured with a little passage of time. The day after the holiday, the repair facility reopened for business, opened the vehicle, and released it to the owner. The owner brought the vehicle to a dealership where two new keys were cut, and I programmed these keys into the vehicle’s computer at the request of the dealership.
Time sometimes has a way of solving what we consider to be emergencies at the moment. The exceptions are demonstrated in the second job, where people’s health and animal welfare are also considerations.
We Don’t Turn Down Many Jobs.
I don’t turn down a lot of automotive or safe jobs. If someone calls who does not qualify as having a right to have work done (i.e., a third party), I will direct them to have someone there who is a documented owner or manager contact me. People usually come up with someone if the job is on the up and up. The jobs without that authorized person sort of disappear into the mist, and I never hear anything further.
Lesson: Prepare in Advance.
This whole article does have a point: Perhaps you could prepare a little in advance. For example, if you have elderly parents who might need your assistance sometime, you might consider asking them for an extra key for their home and cars and copies of documents (maybe even a power of attorney) giving you permission obtained in advance. These items could help in other areas, not just locksmithing emergencies.
Call Us for Your Emergency, Even If It’s on a Weekend or Holiday.
Back to locksmithing—we do handle emergencies and do work on weekends and holidays when needed. If you have a real emergency, call us at 618-466-9347. We will tell you what you need to provide as ID documentation and whether we can do the job for you. Sometimes we can’t, but most of the time the customer can satisfy the minimums on documentation. No matter what, we will answer the phone--even on a holiday--and try to solve your problem.
#53 – PUTTING IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE
After 52 weekly articles, I thought perhaps I could stop and try to put it all in perspective, so bear with me as I make that attempt.
Comparisons Make Some Things Look Small.
How high can you jump? As in the field event known as the “high jump.” 3 feet, 5 feet, maybe even 6 feet? The world record now is around 8 feet, and I know that even in my “athletic” youth, I couldn’t jump even 5 feet.
Now, how high can you fly in a plane? For all practical purposes, around 50,000 feet, roughly. Kinda makes that 8 feet look rather small, doesn’t it? And if we skip the small stuff now and look at the stars at night, we are talking about looking at objects that are hundreds and thousands of light years away. Let that sink in for a while. . . .
Each of Us is Small in Comparison.
What I am getting at is how small and unimportant we are in comparison to the size of the visible universe. Each of us, even if we just consider the earth, is only one of billions who have lived on this tiny little planet.
I Know How Insignificant I Am.
I have many people tell me how important their job is and how much they accomplish each day. Some look at me and think what a great and wonderful job I have. But I know how insignificant I am because the job has a way of keeping me from getting a big head. Every day I find out just how much I don’t know about a job where I am considered to be a master. I make mistakes, and I fail to see problems coming at me. Sometimes I’m not as sensitive as I should be to people’s needs.
Time Has a Way of Fading Legacies.
What I do at the moment may be necessary and essential, but over time, it becomes far less important and consequential.
When I pass from this mortal coil, I would like to have left a legacy of some sort, but even the important figures of a time period fade or disappear after one life span, 70 to 100 years.
Time Helps Put Things in Perspective.
Perspective. . . In drawing, it’s taking a longer view to look at the relative sizes of objects. In life, it’s taking a longer view of events in the past, or what is coming in the future. One of the benefits of age is that we can look backward and take a fair view of how our life has played out, both the good times and the bad. Time has a way of smoothing out the rocky speed-bumps of the past. It also has a way of making what we thought were monumental accomplishments seem relatively inconsequential, like that 5 foot high jump compared to light years of distance.
I Just Solve Lock Problems.
Yes, when you come to me with lock problems, I can, through education and experience, solve many or even most of them. At the time, it may matter a great deal for the customer because that car is needed to get to a job or transport kids to school, or for seniors to get to medical appointments. But I know that I just solve lock problems. That’s all I can do for my part of the equation in a balanced universe.
I’m Not as Good as I Could Be.
Even if I solved your problem, I know that I am just not as good as I could be. Perhaps that is what is at the root of many of the problems of this world: pride. According to the Bible, that is what brought Satan down from his lofty perch as one of God’s premier angels.
But I Do My Best to Stay Up with Technology.
I have a lot fewer days, months, and years left in locksmithing than have already passed. Knowing this, I do my best to stay current and practiced and try to solve your lock and safe problems as best I can. Things are changing rapidly in both the auto and safe arenas, and even the experts are surprised at how quickly technology is developed and applied.
The best I can hope for is to stay even with the technology, at least enough to be of value to people who need auto or safe lock servicing. Just keep that in mind when I solve your problem and you tell me I’m the man, or your savior (I’m horrified by that), or a genius. As time passes, I know how small the job will appear and how inconsequential I was in your life.
Whatever I’ve Accomplished Has Been by God’s Grace and Mercy.
Life is a gift from God, and I know that one day everything I’ve ever said or done will be on display. My greatest hope and prayer is that people will see now what they will see then—that every accomplishment or deed done in locksmithing is and has been by the grace and mercy of God. If you are grateful that your problem is solved, thank Him. Without His grace, both you and I would not see success.
Bear with Me if I Fail.
As I wind down my career over the next decade (by choice or not!), bear with me if I fail. I will always give you my best, but that may not be quite as good as it used to be as I get older and older.
One of the things I want to do is that if I have truly wronged someone that I may have the rare chance to make it right. Correcting a mistake in life is one of the most wonderful things that we can be allowed to do.
Writing Weekly Articles Has Provided Perspective.
This year of writing weekly articles to post on my website has given me a lot of time to put my career in perspective. My goal now is to help each of you with your lock problems, one at a time. And, by the grace of God, we will succeed.
Call 618-466-9347 with Your Lock Problem.
Call us at 618-466-9347, and let’s see if we can handle your lock problem.
#52 – AN INTERESTING WEEK
It’s been an interesting week, but just about every week in locksmithing is interesting. Every job brings its own tiny little twist that makes it unlike anything else I’ve run into.
Customer Sometimes Say or Do Strange Things.
For example, this week I received a proposal of marriage from a female customer. She was disappointed when I told her I had been happily married for 42 years. Another customer just wanted to take me home. At a third job, a man chased a woman around the car I was working on to get a “hug” from her while she yelled, “You just want to play with my ___!” (Fill in the blank yourself!) Alright, yes, it was a little nuttier than usual. It must have been something in the water. (Viagra, perhaps?)
But there were also some jobs that involved some interesting locksmithing. Let’s take a look. . .
One Job Involved Lock Components from Multiple Car Companies.
What was really strange and unusual about the first job was the number of different car company lock components involved. The vehicle in question was a 1962 Isuzu box truck with quite a few miles on it. I knew there was a specific key blank for this truck, but I had some time and thought I would see if some blanks would fit that I had not used in awhile. Some of the old Chevy Geo’s were Isuzu cars that were rebadged as Chevrolet but still used Isuzu locks. One Geo key blank, the X184, was an exact replacement for the Isuzu truck blank. Using a Geo car blank for an Isuzu truck means using up rarely used, excess key blanks, and I’ll take that every time.
But it is not enough to just have a good key blank; the spacing and depths have to match, too. I didn’t have any special equipment like my Lishi picks/decoders for either Isuzu or Geo Metro. I did remember that the X176 key blank for Mitsubishi was about the same as the X184 Geo blank. (This Mitsubishi was also the same as some Chrysler models in the mid 90s.) Upon checking, the spaces and depths were compatible.
Since Lishi does have a decoder (MIT8) for the Mitsubishi X176 keyway, I used it to decode the lock. Then I cut the key on my Curtis clippers which were set up for the Toyota TOY50, which is for still yet another keyblank, the TR40. The key worked perfectly the first time. A second key was cut, I collected my money and left.
So, let’s see what companies were involved in my Isuzu key. Chevy Geo, Isuzu, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Toyota all had a hand in that Isuzu key origination job. Granted, that was unusual. There are other crossovers between car companies, but usually nothing quite like that.
Lots of Curves are Thrown My Way by an Unused Church Van.
The other job I wanted to tell you about was a 1994 Ford van that had sat without a battery for 5 months. When I went on the job (to originate keys for the vehicle since they didn’t have any), I had no idea the amount of obstacles one vehicle could throw at someone.
It was a church passenger van, not used for awhile and being sold as surplus. Making keys for a 10-cut Ford system involves two steps: making the door part of the key (6 cuts) and then adding 4 more cuts to the key from the ignition lock.
When a lock hasn’t been used in a long time, it’s usually necessary to loosen it up with some lubricant, so I lubed up the passenger door lock. I got really poor results in determining the cuts of the key with my decoding tool. No Big Deal. I just moved around to the driver’s door and lubed it. After a false start or two, I clipped out a key that fit the lock. The fun was just beginning. Although it was the right key and turned in the lock properly, it would not push the lock button up to unlock the latch and the door. I thought, No Big Deal (II). I’ll just open one of the other 3 doors that have locks.
The results were the same for each door—all the door locks were malfunctioning. Well, I thought, No Big Deal (III). I’ll just use a car opening tool to pull up the interior button on one of the doors. No success on any of the 4 doors. No Big Deal (IV). I’ll just use an across-the-car tool to pull the door handle. Finally! Something worked! I went around, hopped in, and “progressed” the final key (figuring out the remaining 4 cuts) from the ignition in about 3 minutes.
Since the customer was a church, and a lady from the church was my contact, I thought I would be a good Samaritan and go the extra mile to get the car running. I put the battery in, connected the cables, and found it was deader than a door nail. I got my much-used jumper cables, hooked them up from my van to the church van, and by golly, that van started right up, even after 5 months of no use.
The lady from the church said, “Your middle name must be Jesus,” which alarmed me greatly, since Jesus is my Lord and Savior and I would not ever think to compare any pathetic thing I do with His magnificent glory. I know she was well intentioned, but I still expressed my dismay.
There’s Always Something to Keep Things Interesting.
So, you see, it has been an interesting week. And you can also see that people say and do some strange things around me. Even after 37 years in the business, I run into situations that are new, different, or challenging.
I leave you with a final story from my week. I had a lady do a “happy dance” after I got her vehicle going (by originating keys for it). The lady had talent and was actually doing it for her friend.
Call Us and We’ll Try to Get you Back on the Road.
So, no matter how unusual your problem or how difficult the solution, we’ll try to get you back on the road, if you have a lock or key issue. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll do our best to sort out your auto (or safe) lock problems and put you at 100% again. But, please, just a polite thanks will do. Proposals, unwarranted praise, and hugs are just too much for me and will be met with some dismay. I’m just a locksmith—and a happily married one at that. That’s all I am.
If you want me to help you with your lock problems, just call 618-466-9347, and we’ll give it our best shot. If nothing else, it will be interesting.
#51 – A HORRIBLE SAFE JOB
Recently I had a horrible safe job involving a safe with a malfunctioning electronic lock. No, I didn’t do a horrible job or damage the safe or anything like that. The by-product of the safe opening (by drilling) was just a single ¼-inch hole, easily repaired to standard and hidden from view when the new lock was assembled on the door. By the time I finished the job, the safe sported a new S&G mechanical lock with a new dial and dial ring.
You see, when you drill a safe that has an electronic lock that has failed, a lot of times the lock is not repairable. In this case, the customers had decided that they wanted the electronic lock replaced with a good old-fashioned mechanical one with a dial.
The Electronic Safe Lock Had Died Several Years Ago.
The electronic lock on their safe had actually died almost two years previous. When the safe owners finally got around to trying to open it again, obviously time and a new battery weren’t going to fix the problem. That’s why I was called in: to open the safe and put it back in working condition.
The Safe Opening Required Drilling for Hours through Half-Inch Thick Hardplate.
I did mention that it was a horrible job, didn’t I? It was horrible because I went through 18 carbide drill bits and several hours of penetrating carbide hardplate plates that added up to almost ½ inch thick. The plates were not fixed and could move just enough to catch the edge of the carbide bits and destroy them.
I have not wrung myself out with sweat like that in a while. I was in an open garage with high temperatures and high humidity. It reminded me that I wasn’t as young as I used to be—either that or hardplate was getting harder than it used to be.
Yes, it took a pretty good physical toll on me, but that’s not the truly horrible thing about the whole job.
The Safe Could Have been Opened (with Damage) by a Thief in Minutes.
The safe was a gun safe that only cost about $600 new. It is featured in several YouTube videos as being one that can be opened in a matter of minutes with some common hand tools. In other words, the safe I had taken several hours to open, using industry standards of keeping the opening hole under the dial ring, could be just pried open by the common thief. I am limited, many times, by factory warranties that are “lifetime” as long as the safe has no visible drill holes. This means that side or top attacks are out. The drill hole has to be hidden behind the dial.
Proper Openings Require Protecting the “Automotive Quality” Finish.
I can appreciate how nice the modern gun safes look with their “automotive quality” paint and finish, but it is a pain to deal with drilling in the hardest possible place in order to protect a finish. Safes are easily repaired to physically withstand the drill attack that opened them, but, well, that finish just can’t be damaged.
Moral of the Story: Buy the Best Quality Safe You Can Afford.
I would advise all of you to consider buying the best possible gun safe you can, when you are in the market for one. I had to charge this owner more than half of what the safe was worth to give him access to his possessions and to put his safe back in use. His safe simply was not up to what would be considered minimum standards for protecting high value weapons and accessories.
Yes, that is horrible—but what would be more horrible would be not to tell him that even though it took me several hours to open it, it would not take long (for a thief) to destroy the safe to get at its contents.
And that is the whole point of this article—to tell you to buy the highest quality possible when buying a safe. Big box stores are more worried about sales volume and their bottom line than how really secure your possessions will be.
Locksmiths with a Retail Shop Can Guide You to a Safe That Best Fits Your Needs.
I don’t have “a dog in this hunt” anymore since I do not sell safes. Since my business is mobile only, it would be kind of hard to have a mobile showroom and still have space for tools and inventory in my work van. But any locksmith who has a walk-in store can help guide you to a safe that best fits your needs.
You Can Also Research Safes on the Web.
There is a ton of information on the web. Take the time to sort out the best fit for you and your budget. Just remember that “heavy duty” is more important than “automotive quality finish” when it comes to protecting your precious articles.
Call Us If You Have Questions or Need a Safe Opened.
If you have questions or a safe that needs opening, give us a call. Depending on many factors, including the brand of safe and lock and the age of the safe, some safes can be manipulated open without the need for drilling, but others (such as those with electronic locks) cannot. (Don’t believe everything you see in the movies about safe openings! See my article #11.) We can tell you if your safe is worth repairing after your valuables have been retrieved. Don’t let the idea of “lifetime warranties” sway your opinions if the safe is simply not well made.
So, give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll answer your questions as best we can. We don’t want to see you lose your valuables to a criminal, either.
#50 – “YOU THE MAN,” or HOW I SPENT MY 42ND ANNIVERSARY
It seems that every generation has its particular culture, ways of dressing, hairstyles, and even words and catch phrases. A good example would be “groovy” or “far out” from the 60s. Just like the commercials from those time periods, such as “It’s the real thing,” the jingles and taglines are imprinted for a lifetime. I guess that’s why advertising works. They know how to put a product permanently in your mind.
“You The Man” is a Common Phrase These Days.
One phrase that I hear all the time is “You the man.” I don’t know if you have used it, but its use seems to cross several generations of customers. It is used when I complete the task at hand, usually one where they weren’t expecting much in terms of results. It is also used after I have gone out of my way to help someone in situations where no one else was available. Therefore, I was “the man”. . . . .
The dictionary says that it is used as an expression of praise or thanks for someone who has done well. In sports, there are many situations where “the man” is the one on whom the whole team’s outcome rests. In basketball, it is the designated person who takes the last shot to win the game. In baseball, the situation is always 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, behind but a hit would win the game.
These “men” are often called clutch players, people who do well in pressure situations. In St. Louis, there is a statue of Stan “The Man” Musial in front of Busch Stadium because he made a career out of hitting well in clutch situations as well as in general.
Many Small Towns Don’t Have a Locksmith.
So, what does this have to do with locksmithing?
Well, many small towns in Illinois do not have a local locksmith to call when they need one. Lost keys can mean a very expensive tow job to a dealer and expensive replacement keys. Of the 5 counties I service, many people do not have a locksmith within 25 miles. And many who do have a locksmith within that range may not have one equipped to handle the newer transponder-based key systems for vehicles.
So, what happens to someone in a small town in these counties when they have an emergency? Well, they often end up finding me. The internet has made it easier for people to find me because they don’t have to have phone books from the nearest major city, as would have been necessary in the past.
The Best Laid Plans. . .
Soooo, my wife and I carefully planned out our recent 42nd wedding anniversary with a couple meals of our favorite foods and some serious down time. However, it didn’t happen that way this year.
Making Keys for a 2008 Taurus in Lime Kill Holler
The first long service call was about 50 some odd miles round trip to an area I knew fairly well. Lime Kill Holler is what they call it, with a spring that is locally famous for its good water. But, trust me, you won’t want to make the drive to get it. A 2008 Taurus was the object of the trip, and making keys for it (to replace lost keys) went fairly smoothly. I programmed in two remote head keys, and the vehicle started right up.
Making Keys for a 2002 Mercury Villager Heading Home to Iowa
After a long trip back to civilization on very slow going roads, we made it home. (My wife had come along on the job.) I had barely had time to pour a cup of coffee when another call came in from a small river town at the farthest point northwest that I travel for jobs. A family had lost the only set of keys to a 2002 Mercury Villager and was desperate to get back to Iowa.
I was a little reluctant at first, but after checking with my wife, we decided to take the job. The young lady did ask if there was anyone else to do the job, and the echoes of “You the man” rattled around in my brain. My answer back to her, truthfully, was that there is no one else to do your job.
It was 95 miles round trip, but everything went pretty smoothly. Good roads, easy job, and my wife with me for conversation and companionship. We pulled back into Godfrey about 5:30 p.m., picked up a pizza and salad from a local establishment and enjoyed the meal. We both were tired. No wonder—we had logged almost 170 miles on the road, part of which was on country roads at 35 miles an hour and on city streets as well.
I Am Sometimes “The Man.”
I realize that sometimes I am “the man” more in the sense that there isn’t anyone else available. If you are in my general service area, I will do my best to make sure your auto lock and key needs are met, or your safe is opened and/or repaired.
Call Us and We’ll Try to Help You Out.
I no longer offer 24 hour service (there’s only one of me, and I can’t work night and day), but if keys are lost in the evening, I can usually arrange for the job to be as early the next morning as needed so that you are not inconvenienced for long. I also do jobs on Saturdays and Sundays as needed. I don’t go out of my way seeking the long distance jobs, but if they need to be done, and there is no alternative, we’ll try to help you out.
Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll do our best—even if the place has a name like Lime Kill Holler.
#49 – 10 MINUTES
10 minutes—That doesn’t sound like a long time. Usually how fast 10 minutes pass depends on what you are doing at the time. If you are really interested in what you are doing, or doing something pleasant and enjoyable, they pass very quickly. Too quickly sometimes.
10 Minutes Can Seem Like Forever in Some Situations.
But 10 minutes can seem like a lifetime to someone watching the clock or timing a tedious task. One second just adds to the next, and the next—you get the idea. Some people compare tasks that happen slowly to be “as interesting as watching paint dry.”
As a sidebar, I used that line when I had a customer ask to watch me pick and decode the lock on her car. Her answer to “watching paint dry” was that she was a painter by trade and was used to watching paint dry. After 37 years, you still hear a new one now and then. . . .
Anyway, you say, what’s up with this 10 minutes you’re talking about? Well, 10 minutes mean a lot in the locksmithing business.
“Can You Get Here in 10 Minutes?”
For example, if two competing shops can offer the same price, but one can get there in 10 minutes versus a half hour for the other, guess who will get the job? Now, a lot of things enter into this. Does the company really have someone less than 10 minutes away, or are they just blowing smoke to get the job but will actually arrive a half hour later?
I have known outfits like this over the years, and in the short term, I have lost business to them, but word gets around. You can’t force the truth from someone, but lying will have its own negative payback eventually.
You can’t force the truth from someone, but lying will have its own negative payback eventually. When a company takes advantage of the general public’s desire for “instant” service, they will flub up and lose that person for good if the service claimed is not delivered.
10 minutes is an extremely short period of time, and even in circumstances where I can make it to a job in 10, I will always estimate a minimum 15 minutes. Traffic can be a service killer, and 10 minutes race by when you’re trying to get through heavy traffic.
It Takes At Least 10 Minutes Wait Time to Program Some Cars.
“10 minutes” has other locksmithing applications. For example, that is the amount of time it takes for most programming tools to program a transponder key for most Fords. After the key has been originated and then cut onto transponder keys, the tool is connected to the vehicle. After some initial steps, a countdown timer starts, and for 10 very long minutes, you are in a holding pattern and must simply wait. Even with multi-tasking by writing out the bill, putting away your tools, and cleaning up, that 10 minutes is more like watching the paint being made, then painted on, and then drying.
I have often wondered if someone will get the idea of suing Ford for taking large numbers of 10-minute segments out of the locksmith’s life, but I doubt it would get anywhere. The courts move at a snail’s pace also, and you would lose many 10-minute units that way also.
GM has a 12-minute wait during programming on a lot of their vehicles, but that is still better than using the “onboard” programming methods that require 3 (yes, count them, 3) periods of 10 minutes each to program a new key from scratch. Someone might as well start reading War and Peace with that kind of time to pass.
“How Long Will It Take?”
If I have learned anything over the last 37 years, it is that most people are in a hurry when they need keys for their cars. Many will ask how long the procedure takes, so they can plan their time. I give them the most honest answer I know how. The big “If” is always thrown in, as in, “If” everything goes as planned and there are no hiccups, it will take a certain amount of time.
Just for a general reference, a non-chip domestic key such as Ford, GM or Chrysler often will be under the 15-minute timetable, but I always quote the whole job when talking time. ID check, extra keys, remotes, and payment time are included.
Other keys, such as chip or transponder keys, can take 30-45 minutes generally, if they are not sidemilled keys. Sidemilled, or laser cut, keys can add a half-hour to 45 minutes to that, depending on the make, model, and programming considerations.
So, at most, it may take about an hour and a half, even for the most difficult setups. That’s not too bad, but if you are one of those for whom 10 minutes is too long to wait, it might seem rather tedious. We will do our best to do your job as quickly as possible, but never at the expense of a quality outcome.
Call Us For An Honest Estimate.
If you have lost your keys or need your safe opened in a hurry, we’ll do our best to tell you upfront when we can start and approximately how long it will take. We will not lie to you to get your job. Many people know that I will recommend another locksmith if I cannot get to your job in a timely manner. So, give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll let you know what we can do for you. You might even be pleasantly surprised that we can often get to you and your job very quickly. But 10 minutes? We won’t promise that even if we may be able to get there in 10 minutes. Life is too full of little time-stealing hiccups!
#48 – THE JOYS OF INVENTORY
What pops into your mind when you read the word “inventory”? Is it any of the following?
He’s going to bore us so badly that he might as well post a video of paint drying;
He’s finally run out of topics on locksmithing; or
He’s going to try to justify charging enormous prices for locks and keys.
Prices For Everything Have Gone Up A Lot Over the Years.
Prices for locks and keys have gone way up over the years. I remember a lot of places sold keys for 50 cents a piece when I first started out back then. A top of the residential line lock from Schlage was about $50-65, depending on style and finish. But what hasn’t gone up in price a great deal in the past 37 years?
The Universe of Inventory is Mind Boggling.
Inventory is fun to play mind games with. For example, try to picture every article manufactured for us to live: cars, refrigerators, washers, dryers, trains. Think of absolutely everything that is manufactured. Yes, millions of items. . .
Now picture all the individual parts that make up all these things. Ok, billions, right? Now picture 10,000 of each of these individual parts sitting in parts warehouses all over the country. Billions upon billions. I told you it would play games with your mind.
Even Locksmith Inventory Includes Tens of Thousands of Items.
But, for the sake of sanity and sensibility, we are just going to address security items, such as locks and keys. Simply put, to be a full-service locksmith in this day and age you must have tens of thousands of keys, locks, parts, and accessories to run a successful business. The old saying “You can’t sell from an empty cart” has graduated to “You can’t sell from an empty van and storage shed.”
Just in keys, there are tens of thousands of different types and keyways. Having “10 on the hook” of each would simply be impossible. So how does a small outfit like my mobile shop have just the one thing that you need, right on the truck?
Inventory Must Match Up With Current Demands.
Inventory is all about being current with demands. You have to have in stock what people are using, and consequently, what they will need in order to have their lock and key needs taken care of. Close attention to what is “moving” and what is being asked for will tell me what I need to be stocking. After 37 years, it becomes easy to pick up on early demand and manage the right level until demand falls off due to product change or obsolescence.
GM VATS Keys Exemplify The Ebb and Flow of Demand.
Let me give an example of that, to bring everything back down to earth. When GM VATS keys first showed up on the scene in 1986, so few cars had them that just one or two of each of the 15 different types was enough. As popularity grew, it became necessary to carry 4-5 of each type to insure that you could do every job that came your way. Then, GM changed lock designs, and over a period of about 10 years, demand for the single-sided VATS dwindled. On the down slope, you adjust inventory by not replacing. Now, I’m back to one or two of each, just enough to cover the rare VATS job.
Simple enough, you say. But how do you pay for inventory you have to keep on hand to do that rare job? That’s right, it’s paid for by the customer paying a price that is marked up from wholesale to retail by a certain percentage.
Markup on Inventory Varies From Shop to Shop and Even Within One Shop.
There is no standard markup on inventory in the locksmith industry, as locksmith shops vary widely in size and inventory. In fact, there is no standard markup for all goods within an individual shop because products vary widely and move in and out of inventory at varying rates of speed. Some locksmiths peg their prices to suggested retail or a percentage of that, but one has to be careful because “suggested retail” is inflated by varying amounts, depending on the manufacturer.
Yes, there is some guesswork involved. But what I try to do is to make each segment or product pay for the wide variety on the shelf.
For example, Chrysler has about 50 different styles of remote head keys that fit their vehicles manufactured over the last 10 years. I cannot afford to carry that many different ones, so I stock the most popular (such as the Wrangler remote head key) in multiples and rely on cross-usage to fill the gaps of the rest. Some crossovers will take the place of 4 or 5 remotes and cut down on individual stocking. You might sell a remote head key with a trunk button to a customer without a trunk, but all the other buttons are just right for his vehicle. With just a bit of flexibility, costs can be lowered for everyone.
An Item’s Price Has To Cover More Than Just Its Own Cost.
It is still a shock for most people who call for a price quote on a second key for their vehicle. That key has to do several things (from the locksmith’s perspective): it has to pay for itself (obviously), and it has to pay for others like it that stayed on the shelf this time. It has to pay for other overhead, and it has to pay some of my income. All of that? Yes.
Good Inventory Control Helps Us Stay Competitive.
It is complicated. As I said, there are thousands of items we have to have in stock so that we can draw on them immediately if we have a job that requires them. In most cases, the turnover of the fast-selling items is pegged to cover slow-moving items, and all becomes right with the world. Where competition comes in is when you try to keep your inventory costs as low as possible to keep your prices as competitive as possible. And that’s how we stay in business—by being competitive. We all benefit when inventory is managed well, and close attention is paid to it. A fine-tuned inventory guarantees you the best possible price I can offer you and still stay in business as a locksmith shop.
Call Us For a Price Quote at 618-466-9347.
So, whatever you need in the world of automotive and safe locks and keys, call us for a price quote. What we can’t do in low pricing on volume may be made up for in our well-managed inventory. Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll see if we have what you need in stock at a price that benefits both of us.
#47 – THIEVERY AND CAR THEFTS
For many years now, I have sought to understand thievery and the thief mindset—not just because I’m in a profession that tries to secure possessions against thievery, but partly so.
I’ve Had Things Stolen, Too.
You see, I’m just like a lot of you. I have had things stolen from me over the years. Notice that I didn’t call myself a “victim.” I dislike that word and even mistrust some people who go through life claiming they are a victim of this or that. No, plain and simple, a person or persons unknown have taken several things from me in the last 45 years.
The first theft from me really opened my eyes about thieves. It was 1975, the height of the CB radio craze. I bought one and had it professionally installed in my 1972 Ford Grabber, if any of you remember those cars. About 2 weeks after purchasing it, I walked to the parking lot where I parked overnight and saw my passenger window busted out. Sure enough, the CB radio was gone.
What made the biggest impression on me was that the thief had just cut the wires instead of unfastening them and had also ripped out the mounting bracket as well with a prying tool. I went through the standard range of emotions (hurt, pain, rage), and I generally wanted to “throttle” someone.
The police were handling dozens of these calls and were rather helpless because they were overwhelmed and undermanned to handle such a huge number of thefts. But I did learn some lessons about crime and thieves from this.
What I’ve Learned From Experience:
First, as long as windows remain breakable in cars, you should not store anything of value in an automobile. The locks on the doors were in use, but they just directed the thief to break glass.
Second, and associated with that, the thief does not care what is damaged in order to take what he has as his goal. Over my career I have seen thousands of dollars worth of damage done to the interior of a car just to get a stereo and speakers that cost a couple hundred dollars. It doesn’t have to make sense to the criminal. It just doesn’t matter. They don’t care.
Third, the fact that they don’t care is what allows them to act as a thief. They don’t care that they are taking something that does not belong to them. Most of the thieves I have talked to after they’ve been caught several times have a justification system in place.Their mindset is that they steal because: a) Society owes them for their growing up poor; b) Rich people have insurance, so it doesn’t matter; c) They only take what they need to live well; d) They have a drug habit and can’t get a job; e) f) g) on ad infinitim. Most are simply driven to have without having to work within the confines of a moral society.
Greater Security Is Not Necessarily the Solution.
As a locksmith, I can recommend greater and greater layers of security against thieves, but two things are troubling about that.
First, there is no such thing as “theft-proof.” The availability of time and tools increases the thief’s success rate, no matter the level of security.
Second, with locking criminals out, there is the fact that as you do so, you are locking yourself in. Five deadbolts on a door will dissuade most criminals, but how fast could you get out if you had a fire? It’s the old quandary about being a prison guard all your life. You spend your whole life behind bars guarding the ones who are sentenced to the prison. That you can leave at the end of the day is the only saving grace of such a job.
New Auto Lock Technology Has Led to More Carjackings.
We have also entered into a new era of security, where the common sneak thief has had to “up his game” to steal cars. I have written about it before, but the advent of transponder keys has made auto theft next to impossible. “Gone in 60 Seconds,” the Nicolas Cage movie, has suddenly become very dated.
The common thief has learned how to pick up a gun and put it to the head of the vehicle’s driver, taking keys, cell phone, credit cards and ID’s, all in one fell swoop. And with the standard “who cares” attitude, people who have resisted have died. In fact, a person doesn’t even have to resist. If the criminal wants no witnesses, it’s trigger time.
My Advice If You’re Carjacked. . .
We live in a much tougher world than when I first started in locksmithing. I have just a few pieces of advice that may or may not help at that fateful time when a gun is put to your head and you are told to hand over your keys:
Your life is more valuable than the vehicle you drive. This should be obvious, but it bears repeating.
Get a good description of the criminal and the car he or she showed up in, if at all possible. Give the police a real chance to take the bad guy off the street.
If you see that the carjacker is probably going to pull the trigger, and it’s about to happen, fight with the ferocity of a mother bear defending her cubs. Fight as best you can with whatever you have at your disposal. You can only lose what was going to be taken. The surprise of an all-out attack will disorient a criminal enough that you may have a chance to flee, or at least gain cover.
As I read back over the last paragraph, it is a crying shame that it had to be written at all. But we live in a different world, where once simple thieves, out of desperation, have picked up guns. Ironic as it sounds, heightened security in cars has placed us all in greater danger.
We Can Help If You Need to Replace Stolen Keys and Lockout the Old Ones.
In the meantime, I will continue to help those who recover their stolen vehicles. If you need to lockout old keys because of theft or loss of keys and/or need replacement keys made because your only set was stolen, give us a call at 618-466-9347. We’ll do what we can to make sure the thief doesn’t have a chance to do further damage. I pray that you will never have to use my services under such circumstances, but if they happen, we’re here.
Stay safe and be aware of your surroundings. A little less time looking at your cell phone, and a little more time looking around you, might keep you out of a bad situation.
#46 – HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED!
Over the years, I have gotten used to new technology pretty quickly. You just find the sources of information, study, and absorb it. All’s right with the world as you just proceed onward. But recently I had a job that left me wondering about how far we have come, and whether that advance is all good.
Toyota Has Been in the U.S. for Quite Awhile.
“Oh, what a feeling, Toyota!” Some of you out there might be too young to remember that ad campaign. Toyota has been in this country since the 60s and has progressively taken a larger and larger share of the market here. Some models are even assembled here in the United States. Who would have thought that could happen when 75 years ago their country of origin (Japan) was the enemy in World War II, and Japanese Americans were interred in prison camps around this country.
Toyota Locks and Keys Have Been Relatively Easy to Service.
There are some standard traditions about Toyota locks and keys that have made them relatively easy to service. For one thing, almost every Toyota ever made has a code on a lock somewhere on the car to eliminate the need for lock disassembly when you need to originate a key (i.e., make one from scratch when none is available to duplicate).
Toyota Uses a Limited Number of Key Blanks.
Also, very few different key blanks have been needed to stock all the Toyota makes and models. Early on, there was a 6-tumbler key that fit most models. When foreign cars went to 8 tumblers, Toyota still only had two different blanks. Finally, with the advent of split tumbler wafers, Toyota has had the X217/TR47 key blank for years with no departure in sight. In the meantime, for example, about a hundred new keys and keyways have been added for GM and its various divisions.
The Saga of Originating Keys for a 2012 Toyota Camry
But, back to the story at hand. My mission was to make keys for a 2012 Toyota Camry for which all keys were lost. The following is the procedure I used to originate two “chip” (transponder) keys.
The passenger door did not have a door lock, so I removed the driver’s side door lock by loosening a screw at the edge of the door. When free, the door lock slid straight out without the need to unhook any clips or linkages. On the lock, there were two numbers. From experience, I knew which one was the code number for the key that fit that lock as well as the ignition lock.
This is where things got really surreal. On my cellphone, I went out to a website on the internet. It’s a code site that I subscribe to. I logged in, put in the code, and chose the type of vehicle it came from. Up pops a screen with the exact cuts for the key, as well as physical dimensions for cutting that key. Now I know that the tech savvy people among you are saying, “So what?” You have to remember that you’re reading an article written by someone who became a locksmith in 1981. There were no personal computers then. Radio Shack had the closest thing, and it used a tape recorder for data storage and for the program. Things have come a long way in the computer aspect of locksmithing.
But now for the strangest thing of all. After cutting the two transponder keys with the info from the code site, I hooked up my combination tablet computer/key programmer and found that in order to program the keys into the car, I needed to have my computer/programmer accessing the internet at the same time. I tried linking to the home computer of the owner of the car but was unsuccessful.
Then I remembered that my cell phone could be a “Wifi hotspot.” After about 10 minutes of piddling around and looking for it on the phone menus, I managed to get the “hotspot” up and connect my key programmer to it. The keys went into the car’s computer very smoothly, and 5 minutes later, they were programmed, and I wuz done!
A cellphone which doubles as personal computer, internet device and now a “hotspot” so other devices can connect to the internet through it! Who could have imagined that when I started in locksmithing?!!
How Things Used to Be
I have many scars on my arms from pulling door panels from Toyotas and other cars to get to the code on the lock. For this job—not necessary. I have 5 large books of foreign car codes that I used to carry in my service van to find the key information. No more of that. The codes are on my phone, available 24/7. And obviously there was no need for a key programmer in 1981. There were no transponder keys at all then.
Originating keys for my first Toyota was done even more simply than described for the 2012 Camry. I had a pair of vise grips, a pippin file (a special locksmith and lutist file) and a T80R key blank for the lock. I carefully impressioned the lock. (Impressioning consists of filing down the key blank by hand with the file to correspond to the subtle marks the key blank makes when inserted into the lock.) I was successful with the first key blank. It took maybe 20 minutes, and to tell the truth, there was a great deal of satisfaction back then with a successful job.
There’s a Different Type of Satisfaction Involved Now.
The same can’t always be said nowadays. Yes, it is always somewhat satisfying to hand the customer a working key you’ve created, but it’s a great deal more satisfying when you went “head to head” with the lock with just a key blank. It may be the latent machinist or engineer in me. Locksmithing used to be a career where there was a lot of satisfaction working with the mechanical end, not the computer-based technical end of today.
There’s no need to feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. Every once in a while it is still necessary to trot out the old mechanical skills to get a job done. I recently found it necessary to impression the ignition of a 5-year-old Ford that had been replaced but not rekeyed to the door lock. And that old satisfaction was there when the key finally turned. . . .
We Can Make Keys for Most Cars, New or Old.
If you need keys for your car, you should know that we are up on the technology to do the majority of transponder-based cars on the road today. But if you need a key for an old MG Roadster or a ’69 VW Beetle, we can do that, too. And probably with a big smile on our face.
Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll get you on the road again.
#45 –MURPHY’S LAW
You’re probably familiar with Murphy’s Law: “It anything can go wrong, it will.”
Over the years, many people have mentioned Murphy’s Law to me and asked whether locksmiths are affected by it. The plain and simple answer is no. Surprised?
Murphy’s Law is Contrary to My Core Belief.
The reason I say no is that Murphy’s Law, along with all its corollaries, leaves out the core belief I hold: that there is a Supreme God who controls the universe, and whatever happens to me is the will of my Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This belief flies in the face of the belief that the universe is random, and events are not ordered. But Murphy’s Law, by its definition, suggests that the universe is skewed against the individual. You can’t have randomness and a skewed universe at the same time!
We Don’t Always Know Why Things Happen.
I’m not saying that bad things never happen to good people, or conversely that good things never happen to bad people. Just because we don’t always know why things happen doesn’t mean that an evil force named Murphy has our number and plagues us regularly and frequently.
Sometimes We Cause Our Own Problems.
I have lots of things happen that some might consider Murphy’s Law in effect. But since I believe God exists and works in my life, the bad and good are viewed the same: So be it. I could also point out that because we make mistakes, errors in judgment, or bad choices, we bring a lot of our problems onto ourselves. Actions have consequences. Bad actions often have bad consequences.
Breaking Drill Bits Can Be a Pain.
When drilling safes, I have one recurring problem: breaking drill bits. It is a royal pain to try to fish the broken piece out of the hole. It is time consuming and costly in terms of replacement bits. But I know it will happen from time to time.
Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes not. Sideways pressure when angle drilling a hole will sometimes cause the breakage, as well as a poor quality drill bit. When this happens, I just go with the flow, fish out the broken bit, chuck up a new one, and start again.
Breaking Keyblanks is Another Locksmith Annoyance.
Another thing that sometimes happens in locksmithing is breaking keyblanks when impressioning a key. (Impressioning involves originating a key from scratch by filing or clipping out a keyblank based on certain markings or other indicators.) When this occurs, I just duplicate what I have to that point and continue on from there. Now I know that both of these examples (breaking drill bits and keyblanks) are just minor things, but I have my share of scars to show that more serious things also happen. (See Article #33 on Scars.)
Planning Ahead Can Help Avoid Self-Inflicted Murphyisms.
The best way to avoid self-inflicted “Murphyisms” is to plan ahead and even rehearse what needs to be done. Sometimes this includes breaking a job down into individual tasks and practicing each task until you have the whole down. Musicians, as well as actors, do it. This is one area where the arts can teach the science people.
Good Routines Also Help.
As far as locks go, other ways to avoid Murphyisms might be to keep locks lubricated, keep keys in good shape with new factory spec keys from time to time, and develop good routines. Examples of the latter might be always putting your keys on a hook or in a dish near the front door when you come in the house or always putting them in the same compartment in your purse.
People who lose their keys and are locked out have usually varied from their normal routine. You can blame someone named Murphy, but if you changed your normal routine for exiting your car (or you don’t have a routine), you’d better go get your name changed to Murphy!
For an example of all of this, when someone can’t find their keys, I may ask them if perhaps they wore a different coat than usual, especially in colder weather, and often times those keys that Murphy’s Law allegedly caused them to lose now show up again.
Key Breakage Can Be Minimized by Some Simple Actions.
Some people break a lot of keys, a lot more than average. Frequently the reason is that they start the rotation of the key before it is completely inserted into the lock. That and they use the key to retract the latch and put undo pressure on the key. To avoid these problems, practice inserting the key completely into the lock, stop for a split second, and then turn. Turn only far enough to unlock the knob or lever, and then open the door lock with your hand instead of the key.
Don’t Cause Your Own Lock Problems.
These are just some examples. Many more could be given. The point is to think about how you, through good habits and routines, can cut down on some of the daily “lock and key” annoyances that can happen. Bad things do happen, but life becomes bearable when we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.
We’re Here to Help Solve Your Lock Problems, Self Inflicted or Not.
If you do have something bad happen to you in terms of locks, give us a call, and we’ll see what we can do to help, whether the problem is of your own doing or just happened to test your patience. For your own peace of mind, I don’t lecture or assess blame on the job. I just try to solve your lock problems. If you want, I can suggest ways to keep the problem from cropping up again.
In any case, there is no Murphy who has skewed the entire universe against you. Some days are just tougher than others, and I am here to make your lock problems seem a little less trying. Call me at 618-466-9347.
#44 –BRIDGING THE AGE GAP
A startling but obvious fact just hit me last week, and it is the topic of this article. It’s simply that when I started in locksmithing, most of my customers were older than I was, and 37 years later, most of my customers are younger than me. The experts would call this studying the demographics, but to me it just means I’m old and getting older!
There Can Be a Language Barrier Between Generations.
What does it matter? Well, for one thing, it is a lot easier to talk to someone your own age, but along with that age consideration, there can be a language barrier. Let’s face it: a 65 year old does not speak the same language as a 20 year old. Not only does the latter speak 20-something, but many I have run into do not have the communication skills to describe the reason they need my services.
Keys Aren’t Part of the “New Normal.”
I realize that experience and time are a big help in understanding the basics about lock and key operations. Some young people in their 20s have never used an actual key because they enter their home by way of a garage door opener or an electronic lock on the front door, and their car uses proximity electronics with push-button start. Yes, it is possible to NOT have a key ring with 2, 3, or even a half dozen keys. The people born right at the turn of the 21st century have a “new normal” life that does not include rings of keys. So, when electronics fail, many times words also fail them to describe what they need done.
Some Don't Know They Have an Emergency Bypass Key.
Many younger people do not realize that a key bypass on an electronic lock means that you can use a key to open the door if the electronics fail. To take that one step further, many do not realize that they even have an emergency key inside their electronic proximity key to open their car door in case the battery is dead. Older folks seem to understand this a lot more, partly because they are familiar with keys in door locks on houses and cars.
An Owner’s Manual Contains Helpful Info.
The other reason may be that they have read, or at least skimmed, the little book that comes with every car: the owner’s manual.
The owner’s manual provides basic instruction on how to operate the vehicle’s locks and keys and what to do in an emergency. Younger drivers seem to rely more on the internet, rather than an owner’s manual, to get information about their car.
Keys are a Grown-Up Responsibility.
Keys are a responsibility—a grown-up type of responsibility that requires you to not only know which key goes to which lock, but also to take care of and keep track of them. Some young people learn this lesson the hard way, and some the easy way. More often than not, when teenagers lose their keys, the parents have spares to duplicate, but sometimes not. Even if the parents have a spare, the cost of replacing a key is high when programming is needed, too, as is the case with most newer setups.
When I got my first set of keys, the cost was about $4 for a set of keys for the pickup, the car, and the house. The comparable set of keys now could cost as much as $200-400, depending on the age of the vehicles. That’s a bit of a difference, and if a teenager has to pay for them, that’s a lot of hours of labor at the local fast food joint.
Some Don’t Understand What is Needed to Get Another Working Key.
But, back to the original subject: how to communicate with someone 45 years younger than you are. I get requests from younger folks thinking they can just stop by and pick up another key for their car, as if I had one hanging on the rack ready to go. At the very least, they expect a key can be made if they provide the VIN number on their car. Yes, there are some older folks that think the same way, but not the ones who have had to replace keys before. Many have already gotten an estimate from the dealer first and are driven to shopping around for a more affordable price.
It may be just me, but older people seem to understand what I tell them about their lock situation. They question more, but that’s okay, too. Anyone wanting to learn more about the locks they have has my approval.
The Age Gap Affects Expected Payment Methods.
Even the method of payment has some obvious differences based on the age gap. The younger crowd does not understand a business that doesn’t take credit or debit cards.
In that situation, many needing emergency services have to go to an ATM for cash because they do not have any cash at all on them, not even a dollar bill. Many older persons, through experience, always carry what used to be a “secret $20,” but which is now a secret $50 or an emergency $100. Frequently, all I have to do for payment with the older crowd is to have change available and not a list of the closest ATMs.
At the very least, they may have a check with them that came with the account tied to their debit card, just for this type of situation. People under 30 often have never written a check. Yes, the personal check is becoming a dinosaur, but I’m a dinosaur, too.
I Ask Questions to Determine the Real Lock Problem.
Obviously there has always been a communications gap between 60-somethings and 20-somethings. I do try very hard to figure out from what I’m being told what the problem is. Over the past few years I’ve learned to ask the right questions to figure out what the problem really is. I’ve had some young people not realize that their car battery was dead, thinking instead that something had to be wrong with the key. Again, the right questions help sort out some of these communication problems.
Young or old, everyone has a lock problem now and then. Just because you may be young and unfamiliar with locks and keys doesn’t mean I won’t try very hard to figure out what you need and how to solve your problem, so we can give you a ballpark estimate even over the phone.
I Enjoy Solving Lock or Key Problems for All Ages.
I do enjoy doing work for all ages because no matter how young or old customers may be, there are two things that make my day. The first is the light of understanding when they understand what I am telling them about their locks. The second is when I see a smile from them, knowing that I gave them the best I have for a reasonable price.
So, young or old, give us a call at 618-466-9347. We’ll sort out your lock problems and solve them if we can.
#43 – SERVICE VANS: The Mobile in Mobile Locksmith
The American Economy is Rooted in Service Vans.
The service van is one of the solid roots of the American economy. Think of all the services you use besides the obvious locksmith: plumbers, heating and cooling contractors, carpenters, electricians, pest control contractors, and technicians for telephone, cable, and dish, etc. The list goes on forever. They all drive to your location in a service van, which serves as a mini office, shop, and store on wheels.
Large Companies Have Fleets of Nearly Identical Vans.
Large companies have fleets of vans, numbering in the hundreds or thousands, that have exactly the same setup and content, so they are interchangeable. A service man for a large company should be able to drive a different vehicle from the fleet and still know where to find each and every tool. The “cookie cutter” approach to service vans promotes efficiency and simplicity.
Fleet Vehicles Are a Good Buy.
Large fleets rotate their van inventory every several years to minimize repair costs and overhead. These vans are generally a good buy because routine maintenance and service records are kept by their in-house mechanics.
I’ve owned several vans over the years that were a result of fleet turnover sales. You usually get a good deal and know up front what needs to be done for repairs. Since the very beginning of my business, always being a one-man shop, I’ve never purchased a brand new van. Used vans have served me well.
My First Service Van was a ’67 Ford Econoline Van.
The very first van I purchased was a ’67 Ford Econoline van from the locksmith who trained me and then sold me his business. Tom had purchased it prior to my being employed by him, so it was the only locksmith van I knew.
He had not gotten around to fixing up the interior as a shop; everything just kind of sat in containers on the floor. The first thing I did when it became mine was to put up key racks and put in a desk to use as tool storage and work bench. Mobile key machines at the time were either 12 volt or a hand-cranked Acme machine that could use 110 if available at the jobsite.
Its Desk Held Special Memories for Me.
The desk in my first service van was not just any desk. It belonged to my grandparents. From my earliest memories, it sat in their living room until my grandmother gave it to me when I got married. Later on when she made the trip to Colorado to visit us, she was thrilled that the desk was serving me so well in my business.
That desk lasted through many service vans, but finally it just literally came apart at the joints. I replaced it, reluctantly, with a newer, sturdier version. I still use a couple of drawers from the original desk for storage in my shed.
I’ve Had Many Service Vans Over the Years.
The vans I have used over the past 37 years, as you might imagine, have been many. I started with Ford, as it was part of the business I bought, and stayed with Ford for many years. I switched when I bought a one-ton Chevy box van, for the extra room and ability to stand up inside. Since then, Chevy or GMC has been the brand of most of my vans, although I consider Ford and Chevrolet equal in general quality. I have not owned a Chrysler or Dodge van, but from what I’ve seen, they are comparable in quality, too.
Recently I disposed of the old 1980 Chevy box van that I used steadily for 6 years and then on and off for another 5 years. When I get through with a van, it is worn out. The last 3 or 4 have gone directly to the salvage yard, never to be seen again.
My Van-Side Marketing Is Basic to Say the Least.
For many years, I painted all the vans yellow and had them lettered with my name and phone number on the side. Yellow has always been my business “color.” The yellow vans were eye-catching and helped with safety, since it’s hard to overlook a yellow vehicle.
I’m not sure why, but the last two vans I just left white and put yellow magnetic signs on the side doors. Going that route lowered costs and simplified getting the vans ready to use in my business.
Now, what does all this reminiscing have to do with you as a prospective locksmith customer? How does my choice of vans help you?
I Know How to Setup an Efficient Mobile Locksmith Shop.
Well, I know from many years of hands-on experience how to put together a locksmith shop on wheels that has the right tools, equipment and inventory to do your job quickly and efficiently. From time to time, the interior may look a bit chaotic, but I take the time to replace tools and inventory at the end of the day. You can be assured that if your problem is fairly common, we can come to you and do the job on site, without having to make another trip somewhere to get a part or key blank.
You Can’t Always Tell the Quality of a Business by the Exterior of its Service Van.
With the advent of huge multicolor graphics that fill all sides of service vans, it is sometimes tempting to choose the “eye-grabber” company for service needs. But, as you may have already discovered from other services, a fancy graphics job on the company’s service van(s) does not always guarantee a qualified technician or well-stocked van.
Call Us at 618-466-9347 When You Need Mobile Locksmith Service.
What you can depend upon with my business is the word of mouth testimony of my steady customers. My van may not be the prettiest, and its “plain Jane” magnetic signs are pretty basic compared to big, eye-grabbing graphics, but inside is a smart shop developed on 37 years of experience. When you’re locked out of your house or car or need other mobile lock or key service for your safe or vehicle, give us a call at 618-466-9347. And yes, we’ll let you take a good look inside our service van (whose name is “Alto,” by the way), if you like. (Just don’t touch anything!)
#42- FAVORITE OLD TOOLS from 37 years of locksmithing
37 years (which is how long I’ve been a locksmith) is at once a long time and a heartbeat. One of my favorite Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” has a line that goes “Weeks turn into years, how quick they pass, and all the stars that never were, are washing cars and pumping gas.”
I guess we all dream of rising to the top of our profession, possibly even getting a little notoriety along the way. But, at the end of the line, we’re just who we are, a locksmith and businessman, earning his daily bread.
The tools that we started with have gotten old, at least the ones that have not gone by the wayside. Tools get lost, broken, stolen, and become obsolete all too soon. Like anyone who uses tools, it is easy to become attached to certain tools.
My Old Acme Key Machine Features a Hand Crank.
One tool that I have tucked away in storage, but just can’t part with, is my old Acme key machine. It was one of two key machines I purchased when I originally bought the business from the guy who trained me.
The key machine came with a crank, and in the days before inverters which converted 12 volt DC power to 110AC, I cranked out many automotive and residential lock keys. I guess if we had a grid failure and a battery shortage, I could still be in business with my hand crank key machine.
My Vice Has Been Used Through the Years.
Another basic tool is the vice I started with. It has been about 4 different colors and fastened to more than a dozen benches, but it still works, although it is not in my current van.
My Curtis Clippers Are Indispensable.
I guess the tool that has really stood the test of time is my Curtis clipper. This device is used to cut keys “by hand.” After attaching the appropriate cam set and carriage, you adjust a series of levers to represent the cuts on the key. Then you insert a key blank (one with no cuts in it) and screw it in place. Finally, you squeeze the clipper handles together to clip out each cut in the key. (For example, if it’s a key with 8 cuts, you squeeze it 8 times, once for each cut.)
I have the clipper I started with back in 1981 plus 3 others purchased over the years. In the 80s, there were very few accessories needed to cut most of the auto keys. I have my clippers set up on the most popular keyways, such as the current Ford, GM, and Chrysler, which haven’t changed much in the last twenty years.
I use my Curtis clippers every single day, without fail. The only problem with them is that they are no longer made and are rapidly becoming obsolete because repair parts aren’t made anymore. They should be completely obsolete about the time I am completely obsolete, too.
My Greatest Old Tool is Intangible.
Yes, many tools have come and gone during my career. Some have endured and paid for themselves many, many times over. But the greatest tool that I started with is a burning desire to stay current with new products and locks and to learn what is needed to service them. I’ve never lost that desire, even though with the recent transponder technology, it is easy to get a little overwhelmed. There is just so much new to know; the amount increases daily.
I guess when I can no longer keep up and start to fall behind in learning the new stuff, I’ll know that my career is in its twilight. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Need a Car Key? We Can Help.
So, whether you need a key for your very new car with its advanced technology or for an older model with older technology, we will be there to help you. With new tools and an “old” continuing desire to stay current, we’ll have you back on the road in no time. Call us at 618-466-9347, and let us go to work for you.
#41- KEY CODES: what they are and how they can save you money
In an ideal but imaginary world, there would be no need to disguise information from the general public for security reasons. But alas and alack, we live in a real world where there are people who would like to take things (such as automobiles) from you.
Codes Can Be Deciphered to Make Keys.
In locksmithing terms, a code is generally a random number or series of letters that, when deciphered, yields information that allows a professional to make keys for a lock. Individual codes are grouped together into “series” for specific locks. For example, the current code series for Chrysler is M0001-2618. It has been in place for most Chrysler vehicles for about 20 years.
Now you say, why should I care a whit about codes? What can they do for me? It sounds like a bunch of “mumbo jumbo”!
Well, they are important and absolutely necessary if you want to keep your costs low if and when you lose or need to replace your keys.
New Cars Come with Key Code Tags.
The key code for your car came with the keys when the car was purchased brand new. If you are fortunate enough to afford new cars, you should take the opportunity to hang on for dear life to those code tags. With the codes on those tags, a person can, with the proper ID, fairly easily obtain replacement keys. Keys by code can be cut by locksmiths, not just dealers, so having the code opens up a whole range of possibilities to get a low price when you need a key cut but don’t have a key.
Cutting a Key by Code is an Easy Process.
The first step in having a key cut by code is presenting proof of ownership, which includes personal ID and car registration and/or title to the car. Once you are matched up with the vehicle, so to speak, the code is looked up in the code series for your vehicle.
The code translates to a sequence of numbers that represent the direct cuts of the key. In other words, each of the “zig-zags” of the key is assigned a number, based on its relative depth, and these are the direct cuts. The code for a 10-cut Ford lock, for example, translates to a 10-digit number. Each digit represents one of the 10 direct cuts of the key.
The proper key blank is selected, and the key is cut by the dimensions of spaces and depths.
Problem solved, right? Well, maybe.
Sometimes Programming at the Car is also Needed.
Now, of course there is always a monkey wrench to throw into the smoothly working gears of life. If your car has a transponder-based immobilizer system, that key cut by code will turn in your locks but not start the vehicle. A service call is needed to program the keys, and this can only be done at the car. You can have the car towed (some insurance companies will pick up this cost), or you can have someone come to you. Of course, the latter is what I do. I come to the car and make the keys on site as well as program them. Think of it as one stop shopping in reverse to save you money, time and hassle.
Keys Can Still Be Made Without the Code.
All is not lost, though, if you don’t have the key code in hand, and you’ve lost all the keys. The work can still be done, but usually at a significantly greater cost. If you purchased a pre-owned (or “previously enjoyed”) vehicle, you probably never received the key code tag along with the key(s). Codes can sometimes be available from local dealerships or may be written on or in the owner’s manual. In some cases, the actual code tags may be left in the glove box. Having the code just saves money and expedites the procedure, but it’s not crucial.
Usually Keys Can Be Originated Directly from the Locks.
In most cases, keys can be originated (made from scratch without having another key or the code) directly from the locks. It can be time consuming and a little pricey, depending on what needs to be done to determine the keys.
In the “old” days, the vehicle’s door panels were removed or the steering column disassembled to access the locks. Now there are special lock-decoding devices for many locks, but they require a great deal of skill and effort to use successfully. Having the code will allow you to have a key cut quickly without lock decoding.
Having the Code May be Helpful to You Later, So Try to Obtain it, If Possible.
You might check NOW with a dealer for your car to see if they will provide you with your code, prior to your needing it in an emergency (such as having your keys lost or stolen). Having the code is also helpful if you have very worn keys and would like a new factory-spec key to be cut by its proper code. Also, in extreme cases, cutting a key by code may be the best way to open your car.
In any case, if you can get hold of the key code for your car, do so. By obtaining it and keeping it in an accessible place, you can save yourself some money down the road. You can save anywhere from $35 to $100 to $150 (extreme case!) by having the code in hand to give to your locksmith.
Codes or Not, Call Us If You Lose Your Keys.
Codes or not, if you do lose all your keys, give us a call and let us quote you a price. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we will do our best to put you “on the road again.”
#40- OPENING OLD SAFES
One of the interesting things about safe work is that you run into genuine antiques from time to time. Some are still used daily and just need to be serviced or have a combination changed occasionally.
Parts Aren’t Readily Available for Old Safes.
Others need minor repairs to put them back in working condition. This is somewhat dependent on availability of parts, usually salvaged from junkers. Yes, we’re talking about safes that can be 100-150 years old. Try to picture putting a Model T back in running condition. The parts aren’t on the shelf at your local auto parts store. It’s even worse with safes that old.
Some Safes Have Been Unused for Years.
Then there are the safes that have been locked up for an unknown number of years. It may have been 40-50 years since the safe has seen any use. That type of safe often is a rusting hulk in an old shed, barn, garage, basement or abandoned building.
Locked Up Safes Bring Out the Treasure Hunter in People.
I’ve had my share of opening safes like this over the years, and the customer will always talk about putting it back into service. But the gleam in their eye says there is a bit of a treasure hunter inside.
That curiosity born of the treasure hunter inside is enough to justify a phone call to the local “safe cracker,” in this case, me. About 50% of callers with a locked-up antique safe end up scheduling a job. The 50% that turn down the quote just can’t make the connection that it costs big money to open some old safes.
A Recent Quote to Open a Locked Up Hall’s Safe
A recent example of this was a call from a senior citizen who received a safe for free. This is not unusual. A locked up safe is much like a boat anchor that is only in the way, if not being used for its original purpose.
n this case, I made a service call to see the safe before giving an estimate. After filling in the prospective customer a little on the Hall’s Safe and Lock safe sitting under his machine shed, I quoted the gentleman what I considered to be a gentle price. He was a little disappointed when I told him how little room was actually inside and that a second money chest was also probably installed inside.
As I drove away, I thought for sure that I wouldn’t get the opening. The safe was very rusty, and the paint it did have was peeling. The big surprise was that the dial turned freely, all wheels were picking up, and the handle appeared to be free and working. I dismissed the safe from my mind and continued on to the rest of my day.
The Job Is Arranged.
About two weeks later, the gentleman called up and wanted it open. I think that the treasure hunter inside him finally got the best of him. It really was a reasonable price I had quoted. I thought the safe could be put in working condition and told him so.
Immediately is often the best time to open a safe in this situation. I was on scene in about 40 minutes with all tools ready.
The Work is Performed.
The plan was to drill one hole less than ¼” in diameter at a 30⁰ angle from a predetermined point on the door face. The hole was drilled with a 3/16” bit, and I was close to where I needed to be, but not exact. I expanded the hole to ¼” and was able to view the inside of the safe lock. About 10 minutes after that, the safe handle turned to the unlock position.
The Safe is Opened.
As I often do in the case of these old safes, I let the gentleman have the “honor” of swinging open the safe door. I took a load of tools to the truck while he approached the door and gave it a yank. The next thing I heard was, “Look at all these termites.” I hurried back and saw a safe just absolutely full of small black ants (no, not termites!) everywhere. It was one of the most awful messes I’ve seen, with eggs and ants everywhere!
“Treasure” is Found.
Inside, besides 2 small cubbyholes and a shelf, was another safe, just as I had predicted. Fortunately it was unlocked. Since the point of the opening was to determine the combination, I set about to do that while the owner searched his newly opened treasure box for valuables. Believe me, both of us were surprised when he pulled out a roll of Susan B. Anthony dollars. Not a great amount of “treasure,” but certainly better than nothing.
The Job is Completed.
I did what I needed to do to put a combination on the outer door and left the welding of the door (repairing the drill hole) to the man and his son. (This gave him a little lower cost than if I had done the repair.) As I said goodbye, thinking that everyone was happy, the gentleman said one last thing that made my day. “You have a good attitude for this work. You don’t let little problems bother you.” High praise from someone who was 80+ years old.
The point of this article was to let you see, blow by blow, what happens on an old safe opening like this.
Call Us If You Want Your Locked Up Safe Opened.
If you have a locked up safe, or know someone who does, give us a call at (618)466-9347 to see what it would cost to open it and whether it would be possible to put it into working condition. You would be surprised how reasonable it can be, especially in comparison to the cost of a new safe. Depending on the type of safe, age, and condition, some safes can be manipulated open without any drilling, while others (such as the one above) need to be drilled to avoid spending an inordinate amount of time on the opening.
And yes, if you have that bit of treasure hunter in you, that’s ok, too. But just know that very few old safes contain anything except an odd paper clip. Call us now at (618)466-9347 for your free estimate. And yes, the safe has to be yours, and you have to prove it!
#39- SECURITY MADE EASIER FOR SENIORS:
Suggestions From an Old Geezer
Time—it just won’t stop or even slow down. The last 37 years have passed so fast that it sucks the wind out of me. And as time passes, there are more reminders of what time does to people, places, and things.
Good Health is Not a Given.
For example, I am living and working in the general area where I grew up and graduated from high school. People I knew way back when have become old, sick, and/or disabled, and a growing number have died. I don’t mean to be morbid, but we don’t have much time on this earth.
Just recently, I was called out by the local sheriff’s department to open a house for a stroke victim/survivor. One of the deputies (whom I have known for awhile) met me and said that the lady knew me from high school. She was now wheelchair bound. I remembered her as someone who was a freshman when I was a senior.
It brought to mind that, by the grace of God, I am not only healthy, but still put in a full day’s work at age 65. Her condition reminded me that it is not a given to have good health.
We’re All Getting Older.
No, I’m not using this to announce a retirement or such. I have no plans to ever retire completely. But as I look forward, I realize that I will need to gradually slow down—but not YET.
You, the customer, are going to get older, too (believe it or not!). You need to think about what that means in terms of security and your ability to use keys and operate locks.
Consider Lever Locks for your Home.
For example, do you have the old standard round doorknobs in your home? As we get older, we lose the ability to grip a knob tight enough to turn it. If you can’t turn the knob, you can’t retract the latch and open your door.
At some point, you should consider putting lever locks on your doors. They allow you to operate your door locks easier and could help allow you to live in your own home independently. Lever handles should be considered not just for entry doors, but for any door that has even a passage set on it, such as interior doors. If you have a home built in the last 15 to 20 years, you may already have lever sets on your doors.
Large Head Keys are Available.
Along with the loss of hand grip, finger grip also has a tendency to weaken proportionally. Some seniors find turning a key in a lock too painful or too difficult because of age-related loss of strength. Some help is available for this. Many locksmiths sell the standard key types, such as Kwikset and Schlage, in large head versions. The larger head is easier to grasp and turn.
Electronic Locks Can Be Helpful.
Electronic locks have also helped seniors who can afford them, as long as memory isn’t an issue. Generally a 5 to 6 number combination will allow access to the home. Battery operation means the lock will operate in an emergency when the power is out. If you have elderly relatives, it might be a good idea to take them shopping for an electronic lock to put on at least one of their entry doors.
Locks on Newer Cars are Easier to Operate.
As far as seniors and their cars go, those who have held on to the 25-year-old car they bought when they were still working may have more difficulties than those who have gone on to newer cars. If the car does not have a remote to operate the door locks, then locking and unlocking them with a key might be difficult.
Also, the ignition key may be difficult to turn. The spring pressure of the ignition switch might be too much for some elderly folks. There is not much help available that is affordable. There are aftermarket remote systems that can make life easier, but it can be expensive to retrofit.
If you are elderly but still need to drive (and are able to), you might consider moving up the ladder to a more recent model with remote opening and push button start. Just as a general observation, I have seen many more 80-year-olds—and yes, even 90-year-olds—still driving because cars are easier to operate. Now with self-driving cars just over the horizon, there may not be an age barrier to operating cars. (More thoughts on senior-related automotive issues can be found in my article #21, “Car Keys for the Elderly,” posted on this site.)
Call the Old Geezer with your Lock-Related Questions and Needs.
So, if you’re getting older (and who of us isn’t?), you might think about some of these things to make your security easier. And remember, if you need some questions answered about security and getting older, you can talk to someone who is “old” and getting older right along with you.
Give us a call at (618)466-9347. Although I don’t do residential locksmithing these days, I can still answer your general questions. My focus now is automotive and safe work, so I can probably take care of your needs in those areas. If you need some help because of your age, we just might understand what you need to work around that age problem. We’re there, too.
When you call, ask for “The Old Geezer.” No, ask for Al (the only one who will be answering the phone, anyway), and we’ll see if we can help with your problem.
#38- STRANGE PLACES AND SITUATIONS
I’ve done some really odd things in the course of my locksmithing career and been in some strange places and situations. I’ve worked on locks in underground mines, worked on locks on explosive lockers, made keys for a 60s vintage VW van on top of a car carrier, and I’ve even made keys for a dinosaur. Yes, a dinosaur. More about that one later.
Workin’ in a Coal Mine
Generally speaking I don’t fear any situation that I get into. However, it is a little thought provoking the first time you go underground and move your tag over to the “in the mine” position. If something did happen, the people doing the rescue must know exactly how many people are in the mine.
I’ve been more than a half mile underground, and one thing you have to remember is to take whatever you possibly could need for the work you are about to do. You must also bring your own high-quality light—the sun isn’t going to shine down there. I’ve been in coal mines, limestone mines, and even an oil shale type of operation. You have to go where the locks are, especially if equipment lacking keys is immobilized underground.
One job I did underground was to change the lock on an explosives locker. I have a great deal of respect for two things: high-voltage electricity and explosives.
I try to avoid jobs that bring me near either, but sometimes you just do what you have to do. It was uneventful, but I won’t make a bad pun and say it was a real blast. (I told you it was bad.)
Up on the Roof (of the Mall)
One job I remember that was really hard to do was on the roof of the Westminster Mall in the North Denver Metro area. The door to be rekeyed was to a huge air conditioning unit, and the air flow was such that the out-swinging door took a great deal of force to open and hold open.
Two hands on the door knob and a foot against the jamb allowed it to open, but I had nothing to prop it open. Sooo, I just put myself in the gap while I was removing the deadbolt. It wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I was also young and dumb at the time. It was one job that I was glad to have in the rearview mirror.
A Successful Operation
Many jobs have specific requirements for protective equipment. I often have to wear a hard hat, safety glasses and such, but in one situation I had to don full surgical garb to work in an operating room with an operation in progress.
Security Check at the Nuclear Plant
Probably one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had was going through the security check to enter the Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant north of Golden, Colorado. Don’t get me wrong.
I’ve been in other places and situations with weapons present or even drawn, but the guards there were about as no-nonsense as they come. There were loaded M-16s everywhere, and entry involved a vehicle search and tool box search. I was happy to leave both times I had jobs there.
The Dinosaur and the Locksmith
Oh, you still want to know about the dinosaur, don’t you? Well, a bank in Grand Junction, Colorado, had a 4-foot dinosaur made for a promotion to collect money for a charity. The dinosaur had a small opening in which to drop coins and cash, as well as a locked compartment that they dropped into.
The bank managed to lose the keys and called me to make keys for their dinosaur. The lock on the money compartment was, well, let’s just say in the nether regions of the animal. Fortunately, the lock was simple, and key origination was easy. I got some very strange looks while doing that one, but if you’re going to be a locksmith, you have to get used to people looking at you like you have 3 heads. It’s just part of it. As for the job, just another day, another dinosaur job.
Help with Your Lock Problem, Unusual or Not
You don’t have to have an unusual situation to get me to do your job; you just need to have basic lock work done. (And these days, I limit my services to automotive and safe work and lockouts.) Give us a call at (618)466-9347, and yes, we’ll still do a dinosaur if you have one.
#37- HOW TO AVOID SEEING MY UGLY MUG
One comment I get from customers, somewhat jokingly, is “I never want to see you again.” I would be hurt if I didn’t understand what they meant. No one wants the unexpected time and expense of a lock problem. Locks are not supposed to fail. Security items are supposed to be strong and durable, aren’t they?
Well, for the most part, yes. But there are conditions and situations where locks need attention to make them work properly and extend their lives. Let’s look at a few.
1. Lubricate Your Locks Periodically.
Most locks need lubrication to work properly. Depending on the amount of use and the type of lock, locks should be lubed at least every other month. Some locks that get used a lot in harsh environments need lubrication even more often. Besides allowing for smooth operation of the lock, lubrication decreases the amount of wear on the keys, tumblers, lock plug and housing. It permits the key to enter and exit the lock smoothly.
But Don’t Use Graphite on Auto Locks.
A word of warning: Do not, I repeat, do not use graphite on automotive locks that have wafer tumblers (found on virtually all modern vehicles). Graphite will clog up the locks and cause them to quit working. Graphite is fine for pin tumbler locks (like house locks), but even then it must be flushed out from time to time to eliminate buildup. For cars, use a silicone-based lubricant.
2. Replace Worn Keys.
The next thing we need to look at is key maintenance. No, I’m not making this up. Your lock is set up to a factory specification combination and is designed to be operated by a key that is cut to factory specs. As we discussed before, lubrication can extend the life of a key, but keys eventually wear to the point where they catch or stick a bit. At that point, minor damage and excessive wear start within the lock cylinder. The solution is to replace the worn key with one that is cut to factory specs.
Hold Back a Key Cut to Factory Specs as a Pattern for Duplicates.
How can you keep one handy? When you first start with a new car, you should hold back one or even two factory cut or factory spec keys to be used only as pattern keys. This will allow you to duplicate a reasonably accurate copy every time. Remember that a copy is only as good as the original. Of course, if you need a key in an emergency, you can use one of your pattern keys, but go back to a duplicate as soon as you can.
We Can Decode Your Key and Make You a Pattern Key Cut to Factory Specs.
If you buy a vehicle that does not have a good key, a locksmith can decode your key and cut a key to factory specs so that you have a pattern key to work with. When people ask me to duplicate a key, I will often automatically decode and cut a key to specs if the key appears overly worn.
3. Have Extra Keys Available to Avoid Lockouts.
The third item branches right off the last one. Keep enough keys handy that will be available to you in case you happen to get locked out, either by misplacing your key or locking it in your vehicle. If you think I relish people locking themselves out, you are mistaken. I get no joy from people’s misery and hardship. I have enough good hard honest work that I don’t need to wish bad fortune on anyone.
Lock and Key Maintenance Should Become Routine.
In previous articles, we have mentioned most of the items discussed in this article. But in the real world, repetition is needed to imprint good habits on our daily routines. Routine maintenance of locks and keys should become just that—routine. Just as you routinely change your oil or replace your tires, you should periodically lube and inspect all locks and keys on your vehicle. If you don’t, you might have to look at my ugly mug one more time, when you didn’t really want to. Save yourself some pain.
Call Us at 618-466-9347 for Help.
But, if you do have problems or need a good factory-spec key to work with, just give us a call at 618-466-9347. I really am not that ugly, just comfortably homely!
#36 – RETHINKING YOUR PERSONAL SECURITY
Companies Will Store All Your Passwords in One Place.
One of the big trends in the computer arena has been companies offering to store and hold your passwords in one place. The service offers you the “convenience” of having all of your passwords in one place. Gee, what could be wrong with that?
Well, quite a bit actually. When you hand your personal security over to another entity, you become subject to their rules, security, and diligence, or lack thereof. The security breaches with some of the largest companies in the last 5 years have been nothing short of legendary.
Computers have been hacked and manipulated to expose hundreds of millions of peoples’ personal data to thieves who either use it or sell it to other criminals. The Equifax credit reporting company hack was one of the biggest, and this is a company that claimed to protect your information above all. Didn’t happen.
Companies Like OnStar™ Can Control Your Car.
There are other areas where security is handed over to various companies that could in the future be a real problem.
By now, everyone has heard of OnStar™, the GM satellite service to open your car or call for help in an emergency. They have the ability to control various functions on the car. On the surface, that’s fine. No sour grapes here. I stay plenty busy without opening cars with keys locked in them.
But can this system be hacked? If someone could, it would create a major security problem for those who have signed up for this service. Instead of just carrying a spare key, people hand over responsibility for their own security to a company whose vulnerability to attack is of yet undetermined. The trend is there and growing to choose convenience over personal control of security.
Safe Companies Keep Records of Safe Owners and the Factory-Set Combo on Their Safe.
One final example that I have run into in the last 10 years is the number of safe manufacturing companies who keep ownership records to go along with keeping a record of the original, factory-produced combination. Many people simply do not have the combination changed when they accept delivery of a safe because it costs money for a manual combo change.
Even electronic safe locks with customer-friendly changing instructions are often left on the factory or store set combo for whatever reason.
Yes, in an emergency, you can call the company and with proper documentation acquire the combination that was on your safe when it was shipped. But to be sure that you are the only one who knows that combination, you should change it or have it changed by a competent safe technician.
One thing you can count on: we do not keep a record of safe combinations and will not do so even if requested. No way, no how. I would not want that information stolen or forced from me. If I don’t have it, no one can take it.
You are Responsible for Your Own Level of Personal Security.
Just as you cannot depend on the police for personal security such as bodyguards, you must be responsible for your own level of security. I’m not suggesting you run out to buy a gun, but you as an individual must decide what you need to do to provide the level of security that you require. Just remember that delegating that responsibility to other people or corporations might make you more vulnerable to security breaches of various types.
Call Us with your Security Questions.
It takes a little effort to be your own security chief. Anything worthwhile does. If you have questions about security or just need help with a safe combination change, give us a call at 618-466-9347. We’ll try to help you make good choices for you.
#35 – REACTIONS TO “THE IMPOSSIBLE”
Customers Can Be Rude or Crude.
Customers are people. Just regular people. And being regular people, some are rude, some are crude, and some simply border on blasphemous. It has always been my intention to allow customers to be as distasteful as they wish to be because we still have the right of free speech in this country.
It is not illegal to be a lout, or a person who uses foul or abusive language, or for the women, a shrew. After all, some may consider me to be distasteful because I’m a conservative Christian who tries to conduct business in a civil and polite way. I’m not perfect, but I do try, even if some would only give me a pass on a pass/fail system.
Quick Openings Sometimes Result in Bad Reactions.
The problem that arises out of all of this is the customer reaction to a very quick and clean auto or safe job. I have seen the air turn blue from the invectives issuing forth after what the customer considered impossible happens.
Example 1: A Quick Safe Opening
Several recent safe jobs come to mind, the first being an opening on a small, very popular brand of safe. That I was able to open it in about 3 minutes without a known combination was just too much for this younger customer, and the foul language began. I need not fill the page with symbols of profanity. I’m sure you know what it is. Some was directed at himself, the safe, and yes, me.
It has never been my desire to cause someone to stumble or to bring out the worst in someone. But it happens.
What is even worse is if the customer agrees in advance to an etched- in- stone flat rate, and then starts calculating how much the hourly rate for a 3-minute opening comes up to. That’s when the corks really pop. Yes, it can figure into hundreds of dollars an hour if you want to use that type of twisted math. I always remind the customer that the price would be the same if it took 8 hours. But in any case, the anger produces words you wouldn’t normally use.
Example 2: A Quick Solution to a Non-Turning Safe Dial
The other safe was just the opposite problem. The dial on a round-door Gary safe could not be turned to throw the bolts into the locked position. I walked to the safe, and in less than 10 seconds, the dial threw the bolts and was turning freely. I then found out that an employee had spent the better part of the previous day trying to get the safe to work. He had a few choice words, without profanity but with all the anger and bewilderment.
Your Problem is Probably Not New or Unique.
At this point, I must make a few things very clear. With 37 years in the business, I have seen the same problems multiple times. The problem may be new to you, but I may have faced it possibly dozens of times before. Consequently, the same solution works time and time again.
I am not a magician, nor do I claim to be. When I solve a lock problem, it is with tested, trusted, tried and true methods developed by other locksmiths as well as myself.
Customers Sometimes Demand to Know How Something was Done.
When one of these jobs occurs where I am able to provide a quick solution to an “impossible” problem, not only does the air sometimes turn blue, but demands are made.
Some indignantly claim that they have a right to know how I just did something. For the most part, I will try to explain what I did without revealing trade secrets that would allow someone to violate someone else’s security.
Customers Sometimes Want to Buy My “Master Key.”
People also want to buy a copy of the “master key” I have that opens every lock. That cannot happen because “there ain’t no such animal.” Of course if there were such a thing, I would have to deny it.
Some Jobs May Take Longer Than Expected.
As I said, I’m not a magician, and I don’t use sleight of hand to fool people into thinking I can do impossible things. Jobs are not impossible, but they can be very difficult even for me, with skill and experience on my side. The other side of the coin is when a job takes longer than the customer thinks it should, based on what he has seen in the movies or on TV. In this situation, derogatory and sarcastic remarks from onlookers are not welcome or appreciated and do not speed the process up.
Call Us About Your “Impossible” Auto or Safe Lock Situation.
But, if you are facing an “impossible” automotive or safe lock situation, don’t be afraid to give us a call, and see if there is something we can do for you. And if you let slip a few choice names or swear words when the impossible happens, just know that it is what we do every day for a living and not worthy of unnecessary anger or indignation.
Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll do our best for you, even if you turn the air blue.
#34 – ANNIVERSARY REFLECTIONS
Having just passed another anniversary in locksmithing, perhaps a look back and some observations about the future would be in order. 37 years in one profession is not unusual, but many of my customers nowadays are impressed by the number. It has passed so quickly that every time I draw a breath, it seems like another year has passed. And the years just keep going faster and faster.
Continuing Education is a Must.
One thing I had not prepared for at the beginning of this trip was the constantly increasing need to continue my locksmithing education. It has progressed to the point that I spend no less than an hour a day learning new methods and techniques, and some days two or three hours. That is not an exaggeration.
There used to be only a dozen or so car companies, and now there are at least 3 times that many or more. In order to keep up with key origination and programming techniques for that many companies, and that many makes and models of each, a systematic approach to imprinting them on the brain is absolutely necessary. No, I’m not complaining, because it is still very interesting to learn new things. It is hard, but as I have learned over the years, if you are not moving forward at a high rate of speed, those who ARE will make you look like you are moving in reverse. So, learning goes on, a habit developed of necessity.
The Cadillac Exemplifies Some of the Changes Through the Years.
I recently had a chance to originate keys for 3 Cadillacs: a 1969, a 1984, and a 2001. The ’69 and the’84 were very similar in terms of lock types with the major difference being that the ’84 lock was bolted in, while the ’69 had a spring-loaded retainer. The passing of 15 years between them had resulted in only a few minor changes in the lock area, but the 17 years after that saw a different type of steering column, a radically different type of locking system with a type of built-in electronic security.
And still later, a 2017 Cadillac has the option of a proximity system that allows you to leave the key in your pocket. When you walk up to the car, it automatically unlocks, and you sit down and press a button to get you on your way. To say that there has been a quantum leap in electronic and computer technology is a monstrous understatement.
The Jeep Has Also Been Transformed Significantly.
Another example of a vehicle that has had some serious transformations over the years is the good old Jeep. Starting off as a general purpose vehicle designed for the military, it was basically a replacement for the mule or horse for light transportation of men and material. The original was so simple that you could buy surplus kits from the government and assemble one yourself.
Fast forward to 2018 and picture yourself trying to assemble a Jeep Grand Cherokee with multiple computer systems on board plus a drive train (engine and transmission) that is hardly recognizable. It’s not hard to see that today’s cars are simply computers on wheels.
Some of the Future Changes in Cars Are Predictable.
But where is all this headed in the future? Let’s have a little fun looking at what’s coming at us on down the line.
Proximity Remotes Will Expand in Use.
The trend to proximity remotes, push button starting, and remote starting will most certainly continue and will expand throughout the entire auto industry.
There are several things that will need to happen. For one thing, the problem with third party amplification of proxy signals to steal cars has to be addressed. There are solutions which are being looked at. For example, look for shut-off buttons on the remotes, or on the vehicles, or both.
Cars Will be Voice Controlled.
Look for cars to react to personalized voice commands, not just for on-board entertainment but also for driving functions. With cruise control morphing into self-driving cars, the control of the vehicle will not be with knobs and switches, but with computer commands. The driver will pass from primary control to an advisory, corrective position.
Emergency Locks and Keys Will Be Less Obvious.
Emergency locks and keys will still be available for power failures but will become less obvious and more exotic in design and function.
Eventually Cars Will be Controlled by Chips Imbedded in the Person.
We are getting to a plateau after that, with the next big leap being cars controlled by thought, with keys being transponder chips imbedded in the person. I do not and will not go there. I thank God that I’m at the end of my career because I will never deal with chips imbedded in humans. As long as those chips are in keys that anyone possessing the key can use, I can deal with that.
I suggest also that you might look into the reasons for not imbedding chips in your person. There are many: physical, mental, and spiritual. Yes, spiritual. I leave it to the student to conduct his or her own research.
Let Us Use Our Training and Experience to Solve Your Auto Lock and Key Problems.
So, things could get out of control in the future, but for now we can and will still handle your automotive lock and key needs. Just give us a call at 618-466-9347. We work hard to keep up with your car’s technology. We will do our best to make sure you continue safely moving down the road again.
#33 – SCARS
(Caution: not for the faint of heart!)
Scars? Yes, I have a few. Actually more than a few. . . When you do general locksmithing and auto locksmithing in particular, wounds and the resultant scars are bound to happen.
I guess if you look at it as man versus machine, it could be considered a type of war as such. It isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be, due to the widespread dissemination in the lock industry of decoding tools which preclude removing locks and disassembling them to originate keys.
Making Car Keys Used to Involve Pulling a Door Panel.
It used to be standard on many cars to pull a door panel to originate a key for the car, especially the older 80s foreign cars such as Datsun (now Nissan) and Toyota. My forearms have many small scars from cutting them while reaching in to pull the lock retainer on those models in my early years. They were not easy to impression, and sometimes the ignition was just too worn to safely use this method. Tumblers in ignitions were thin and bent easily, so it was better to pull a door panel than to repair an ignition lock.
Consequently, the door panel was the best option—especially since many cars still put a code on the passenger door lock. Like anything with a little practice, the job went very quickly, and most jobs were done in under 30 minutes. But if first aid was needed, then it kind of stretched that time out a bit.
Door Frame Edges Can Be Very Sharp.
I have always carried a first aid kit in the truck. This took care of the smaller wounds and cuts.
And the kit was frequently used because the edges of the metal which made up the door frame were often very sharp. I used to joke with customers that the car company had one guy on the assembly line whose sole job was to sharpen the edges of the inner door panel with a file. It really did seem that way.
Screwdrivers and Other Tools Can Slip.
Some of my “owies” came from other sources. Some of the small puncture scars come from having a screwdriver or other tool slip and go into a hand. Most of these could have been prevented if I would have taken the time to fasten the lock in a vice and then carefully removed the face cap for disassembly. The worst wounds went to the bone—literally. I have a nice scar on the back of my left hand where the key machine wheel got me. That one hurt, but it was not the worst. . . .
The Case of the ’57 Chevy Trunk
I was bitten by a ’57 Chevy trunk, and it got me good. I was reinstalling a trunk lock in a ’57 Chevy after having made a key, and my hand just slipped. I cut my thumb on one of those factory-sharpened edges, and it went to the bone. For some reason, I did not have my first aid kit well supplied with tape, so I grabbed the duct tape.
The Duct Tape Solution
I folded the ½ inch flap of skin and flesh back in place and duct-taped the thumb with several layers. Somewhat afraid to take it off, I dismissed the idea of stitches and just left it for three days and then carefully replaced it with a standard bandage. It healed nicely and left a very distinct, unique scar. It reminds me to be very careful removing and replacing locks in some of the older cars.
What You Can Learn From This
Yes, all of that was kind of grizzly, but maybe you can learn something from this, especially you “do it your selfers.” Many people try to save money by removing door or trunk locks to save time or a service call. For those hearty souls who would risk bearing scars like mine, it is just not necessary in most cases.
You Don’t Need to Remove the Lock Yourself.
First, I only do service calls; you can’t bring the lock to me, so there’s no purpose in removing it. Second, the lock more than likely will not have a code on it, so a key by code isn’t possible. Third, most door and trunk locks do not contain all the tumblers that are in the ignition. Some lack as many as 4-5 tumbler positions that would be needed to make a complete key to start the vehicle. And lastly, most keys need to be programmed into the car, meaning a service call is absolutely necessary for a working key.
Call Us at 618-466-9347.
So, unless you want a lot of little scars like mine, just leave the lock in place and give us a call. The good news is that there are many tools now to decode the locks without disassembly and consequently, no more accidental wounds. Yes, I still nick myself on rare occasions, but again it is rare.
But, if you just give us a call before you start pulling that door panel, you may find out that there is no need for anyone to bleed. We can decode the lock and get you on your way with much less trouble than in the old days. And if you’re interested, you may even have extra time to ask about my scars. (Or not!) Give us a call at 618-466-9347.
#32–WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BACKUP KEYS?
Garage Door Openers Have Replaced House Keys for Many People.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people use their garage door opener as the key to their home. When they leave in the morning, they hit the garage door remote to close the overhead door, and they are on their way. The buttons for the garage door may even be integrated into the onboard electronics of their newer model car. Many people do not even carry a key to their house when they leave because they are part of that progressive crowd that has grown up relying on electronic technology.
I obviously don’t have a problem living in an electronic world because I work with electronics every day. Locksmithing is long on electronics nowadays and shorter on “smithing” than in the past.
Electricity Can Fail.
However, just like any situation where all the eggs are put in one basket, there can be some hiccups. Electronics depend on electricity, and depending on the technology, that could be 12 volt DC or 110 volt AC. Those hiccups can take the form of dead batteries, or power outages, or simply a breaker kicking off because of a power spike. The result: the garage door(s) won’t open, and if the residents are not carrying a house key, they are locked out.
More of Today’s House Lockouts Are Because Electronic Technology Failed.
Although I specialize in auto and safe work, I also open houses in emergency situations.
A much higher percentage of those house lockouts these days are because electronic technology failed and a mechanical key is not available. Sometimes not only is the key unavailable, but it doesn’t exist! An amazing number of times I have had people tell me that they don’t have a key to the front door of their own home.
Sometimes the Door from the Garage to the House is Accidentally Locked.
The other type of lockout that crops up is the inadvertent or accidental locking of the door from the garage to the house. Again, it is typically because the residents use the garage door as their security and don’t lock the door from the garage to the house. Frequently, they don’t carry that key (if they even have one) with them.
Since you are reading this, you must realize that carrying a mechanical entry key to your house would be a good thing to do. The motto “Be prepared” is without a doubt good advice when it comes to locks.
Lock Manufacturers Usually Provide a Mechanical Way to Unlock Electric Locks.
That is why on every car or electric lock, there is almost always a way to unlock it with a mechanical key. Whether it is the Chevy Corvette, which hides a mechanical lock on the back of the car, or Kwikset, which has a cylinder below their push button entry lock, they provide a means of mechanical access as a backup.
You should take a hint from that. If the people who make the electronics provide a means to bypass them in an emergency, shouldn’t you take heed and carry that key? Yes, they are careful to make that provision.
Most Vehicles Feature Mechanical Emergency Keys Inside the Fob or Proximity Device.
One of the big spikes in key inventory over the past few years has been in the area of mechanical emergency keys that fit inside the electronic key, fob, or proximity device for vehicles. Ford alone has 6 different types with more on the way. Every car company has its own versions.
Carrying a House Key is a Good Idea.
So, what should you do? Unless you want to avail yourself of my services, carry a mechanical key on your person that will unlock a door to your house to give you access. After you are “in,” you can most times correct the electronic situation that failed.
Also Make Sure Your Car’s Emergency Key Works.
As far as your car goes, dealers are pretty good at making sure the emergency keys are in the electronic keys. It would be a good idea to pull out that key and make sure you remember how to use it. If for some reason that key is not cut or is missing, we can make the mechanical key for you. We carry a wide variety of emergency keys for proximities and fobiks and can decode your lock for the proper cuts.
Feel Free to Call Us if You Get Locked Out.
And if you prefer to live out there on the razor edge with no backup key, don’t worry if you end up needing our services. We don’t say, “I told you so.” (See Article #30!) We are here to solve your lock problem, not make you feel worse than you already do. Give us a call at 618-466-9347 when your electronics fail and you need a mechanical solution.
#31–KEYS, KEYS, KEYS: That’s What It’s About, Isn’t It?
A lock can represent a problem, and consequently, a key can be seen as a solution to that problem. The key operates the lock. Problem solved. Aren’t life and locksmithing simple?
The one massive hiccup to that view of locksmithing is that it must be the correct key for that lock. “Therein lies the rub,” as Bill Shakespeare would say.
In the Movies, A Few Keys Will Open Every Lock.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of key types and keyways, with billions of possible ways of cutting all of them to fit their associated locks. Many people who lack knowledge of our industry but who have an impressive resume of films that involve locksmithing think that there are just a few “master” keys that will open every lock in the world. They are right, of course, but I can’t tell you that. (Just kidding!)
A lot of people have seen the Matrix series of movies. A little guy known as “The Locksmith” was in one of them. He had a huge ring of keys. Even I was impressed by the little guy’s ability to go through any door just by pulling up the right key from his key ring. And if it’s in the movies, it’s got to be true, right?
In Reality, There are Too Many Keys to Keep Them All in Stock.
If it were not for key catalogues being on computer now, most locksmiths would be permanently bent over from lugging around huge quantities of key catalogues. And, the point that I finally wanted to come to is this: we can’t keep all of them in stock, no matter how hard we try.
I have been in locksmith shops with wall after wall after wall of keys on hooks spaced very close together. Many hooks have from 1 to 10 keys or more. Big shops like that have hundreds of thousands of key blanks (uncut keys) in inventory.
If there is anything that will bury a new lock business or shop (or even an established one), it is inventory costs. That is the cost of buying and carrying large amounts of inventory to cover all possibilities.
Inventory Costs are Skyrocketing for Locksmiths.
The real problem in this electronic 21st century is that new inventory (for cars especially) does not consist of 50-cent key blanks, and there are quite a few new key blanks every year. The wrench in the works is the key that costs anywhere from $20 to $150 or more for just one—and that’s the wholesale cost to the locksmith.
It has gotten to the point where a locksmith would need to invest as much as $250,000 to carry all he or she would need to do every make, model, and type of car. That’s just inventory. Tools are a whole different expense and another article down the line.
As a one-man mobile shop, it is simply impossible for me to stock everything. I have watched (with much dismay) the amount invested in my inventory grow astronomically. In spite of that, I still can only carry so much, and I do my best to balance that out by trying to keep in stock the most needed and popular items.
The old saying, “You can’t sell from an empty cart,” is still somewhat true, but often what I don’t carry, even car dealers must also get from a regional supplier. I have had dealers occasionally call me to buy something they have temporarily run out of.
Customers Who Plan Ahead and Are Patient Can Get Extra Keys at a Lower Cost.
It is a different world, and the customer who plans ahead and is a little patient is way ahead of the crowd when it comes time to obtain additional keys.
If I don’t have your remote key or proximity key in stock, I can generally get it in two days. Or if you don’t mind that it is not exact, a crossover can be substituted that may have function buttons that are not used on your vehicle.
I try to stock remotes, fobik, and proximity keys that fit a variety of models to keep inventory costs down. This also keeps the cost to you, the consumer, down. But if you want an exact replacement and we don’t have it, we’ll do our best to get one for you.
Keys costing a customer $150 or more at a dealership are here to stay. With a little patience on your part, we can get the job done and keep the price for your replacement key lower, or maybe much lower, than that.
Give Us A Call for Your Extra Key or Remote Needs.
Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk about what you need in a key or remote. It might be a lot cheaper than the horror stories you have heard from friends and acquaintances.
I feel your pain. It’s a real pain very similar to the pain I feel when I look at my inventory costs. Give us a call and we’ll see if we can fill your need without too much pain for you.
#30 – “I TOLD YOU SO”
Probably the most useless phrase in any language is “I told you so.” It accompanies the concept of Monday Morning Quarterbacking in that advice given after the fact is just as useless as wagging your finger at someone and telling them, “I knew you would fail.”
In the lock arena, it would be very easy to tell people, “I told you to get a spare key,” or “I told you to write the (safe) combination down.” One “I told you so” moment is when the wife says, “I told you not to do it yourself.” It could be installing a deadbolt, changing a safe combination, or even attempting to remove and replace an auto lock yourself to save money.
I Can Understand How You Feel.
I have had my share of “I told you so” moments in other areas of my life, so I can sympathize with people who make an error in judgment. Not only do they have to suffer for the mistake, but they often have innumerable critics piling on. There is also the piler-on who didn’t even warn them in advance. Such people may say, “I could have told you that wouldn’t work.”
I Won't Say, “I Told You So."
You don’t have to worry about me saying this to you. I can understand the desire to save money or to go the extra effort to learn on the job how to do something new.
Yes, it can be out of pride. Or it can be out of spite to prove wrong that person who will eventually tell you, “I told you so.”
“It Is What It Is.”
Another popular phrase now comes to mind. “It is what it is” means that you just have to start now with the way things are now, not the way they were. That’s what a locksmith often faces: the need to pick up the ball and start forward when bad choices have left a disaster in their wake.
Rule #1 In These Situations: It Generally Is Not As Bad As It Looks.
Small repairs or minor parts replacement can correct a lot of would be disasters. Always hope for the best.
Rule #2: It Can Be Bad, But Still Be Correctable.
I try very hard to repair what can be repaired and also try to keep parts and labor costs low. If it is beyond my repair, I will suggest what I consider the best route to take.
For example, if someone damages a steering column on a vehicle very badly, the best approach might be to replace the entire column with one from a salvage yard. I do not replace columns, but if that is the most cost effective route for the customer, I do not hesitate to offer it as a solution in lieu of trying to patch something back together.
Rule #3: If You Really Bungled It, I Won’t Judge.
An example of really bungling it might be trying to change your own safe combination and closing the safe door with a relocker set off. In such a situation, I will lay out exactly what I need to do to get you back to square one. If there is nothing inside and it is a cheap safe, the options might include scrapping the safe entirely. Or it may end up being a project for the guys in the man cave on some rainy Saturday. It will always be your choice.
If I tell you something is beyond my ability to repair or correct, I mean it. In that situation, I will not accept the job in any form, but again I will try to provide you with options that do not include my services.
But you won’t hear “I told you so” or “I could have told you that.” Life is full of mistakes and hard enough without someone using the spurs on you.
Take the First Step in Solving your Auto or Safe Lock Problem by Calling Us.
So, give us a call with your auto or safe lock issue, and don’t worry that something you’ve done will be thrown back in your face. We’ll try to get your problem solved with the least amount of hassle. Take the first step toward correcting your problem by calling us at 618-466-9347.
#29 – PLAYING FAVORITES (OR NOT)
Political correctness stinks. Let me say it one more time, so you won’t think it was an error: Political correctness stinks. If there is one thing that has taken this country down the wrong road, it is P.C. and all evil spawn that issues from it.
Now that’s some way to start an article on a locksmith’s website, isn’t it? But as with most all the articles I have written to date, it is something I have to get off my chest.
Political Correctness Involves Forcing Others to Conform.
What is political correctness, anyway? It is when a subset of people decide that a certain conduct or speech, right or wrong, will further the goals of that group, and they try by force of will or even legislation to make all others conform to that conduct and speech. Political correctness is all about playing favorites—elevating one group or ideal above another, sometimes due to a real or perceived slight or offense in the past.
Liberty and freedom are words generally turned upside down by this group, as well as the big T word, Tolerance. It generally devolves gradually downward into the infliction of morals or maybe lack of morals on others. To think “live and let live” becomes a thought crime along the lines of Orwell’s 1984.
It is Easy to Offend P.C. Sensibilities.
In my day to day work, I’m sure that I offend some P.C. sensibilities simply because of the nature of my business and my personality. If I do not respond in a way that you consider correct, you may lose your temper or even call me names.
Let me tell you what I believe in, and then maybe the politically correct among you can latch on to your favorite personal slight.
I Make No Apologies for My Beliefs.
Above all, I believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Savior, and the Holy Spirit that dwells in me because of my belief. No apologies to any atheists, agnostics, satanists, or any other group. It is your complete summation of rights to believe what you want. I have been labeled intolerant before, simply because others cannot deal with my beliefs and faith. However, if you demand that I relinquish what I believe to make you feel better, that isn’t going to happen. And I am not intolerant if I don’t choose to give up my beliefs. You are confused about what intolerant means.
We Treat All Customers with Civility and Respect.
How does this apply to locksmithing? If you are my customer, you are not diminished by who you are, nor are you augmented by your station in life. How much money you have or don’t have, what job you have, what color, race, or religion you are Does Not Matter. You are a customer with a lock problem. I solve (or try to solve) lock problems. Each person will be treated with civility and manners that were learned at a very young age.
There’s an interesting phrase that crops up in the King James Bible about God being “no respecter of persons.” In a couple of places it talks about not regarding persons. This doesn’t mean having a lack of respect for people. It means not holding some in high regard while looking down on others.
Beliefs and Standards Impact Choices and Actions.
I learned a long time ago that most people make decisions and choices based on what makes them feel good. That can send you down the right road or the wrong road. I never try to help or correct people if they do not want or ask for assistance. But I will not conform to your standards to make you feel better about yourself.
So you can expect me to make sure you show ID to have auto or safe work done. (Not only does it make good sense to confirm that I am doing work for the person who actually owns the vehicle or safe being worked on, but it is also required by the State of Illinois in its locksmith licensing regulations.) I will not make out an incorrect invoice that will allow you to be reimbursed for expenses not incurred. I will not lower security for personal convenience. There is no amount of money you could pay me to do something illegal for you.
Three things I will leave you with:
1. Life is real.
2. People are real, but flawed.
3. Souls have no color. They are best when they are transparent.
Call Us For Help with Your Automotive and Safe Lock Problems.
Call us at 618-466-9347 and expect to be treated like any other customer, a person with a lock problem. We don’t play favorites or treat one customer better (or worse) than another.
#28 – WHAT HAPPENED TO QUALITY LOCKS?
We Live in a Throwaway Society.
Let’s face it. . . we live in a throwaway society. Even with several large organizations in this country dedicated to the environment and recycling, our landfills continue to fill rapidly. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not an extremist tree hugger type that thinks earth would be better off with a lot fewer people. I just think way too much is wasted and not recycled back into useful products.
Locks Are Impacted, Too.
The area of locks and hardware is not exempt from criticism in this matter. There comes a point when it is cheaper to throw away a lock rather than try to repair it, or even rekey it.
How did we get to this craziness? (and yes, it is craziness)
1. Quality has gone out the window at all levels.
For most products, there is good, better, and best. But nowadays, even the best is of much lower quality than previously, although I’m sure the manufacturers would vociferously disagree. Much of the quality decline is a result of chasing profit margins by using lower quality materials and questionable manufacturing methods. Included in those methods is using cheap overseas labor to make the locks that come into the United States. Try to find the lock factories in the U.S. There are very few to be found. China especially, but also other countries, has lured many companies to move production overseas.
2. Many goods cannot be repaired.
It becomes very difficult to repair an item if it is sealed together. If parts are destroyed in trying to access a broken or malfunctioning part, then it makes repairs much more expensive. In addition, repair parts are often not available at any price because the manufacturer wants you to have to buy a new lock. Parts distribution means dead inventory and dealers who want wholesale prices. The profit margin is in the lock, and when it breaks down, just sell another “unit.”
3. Insane levels of competition have twisted the normal wholesale/retail supply and demand model of economics.
Very large companies with no interest or investment in the lock industry can buy huge quantities and sell them through multiple outlets at a very small margin. “Home” stores like Lowes and Home Depot are competing against places like Sam’s Club, Big Lots, and Walmart and drive very slim margins down to almost nothing. In fact, I have seen locks used as “loss leaders” to get people through the door of the big box stores.
How in the world can a small locksmith shop or a mom and pop hardware store compete? Look around you. Obviously they can’t. Without the wholesale buying power of the huge chains and with nothing to repair or replace, very little is left to the “small potatoes” outfit.
Quality Decline is Noticeable Over a Long Time Span.
The drop in quality is more noticeable to an old geezer like me who has the long time span to view the demise. I recall that when I first started in locksmithing about 37 years ago, one company in particular stood out for its commercial grade locks. Solid as a rock, well engineered, well made, and with quality you could feel the instant you grabbed the knob. But today, I would not put the same level of lock from that company on the front door of my shed because it would not last.
The quality decline was very obvious to me when a local school changed out locks made in the 1950s for ones of the same brand with lever handles to satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Within a year, the failure rate was terrible, and the manufacturer came out with an expensive “kit” to repair the ones with broken parts. A person with a jaundiced eye and skeptical mind might think it was planned that way. There is enough planned obsolescence built into this national economy as it is.