Looking for a Locksmith

While looking for locksmiths today on my smartphone, I got one heck of an eye opener. I never knew there were so many locksmiths in my little town of Benicia CA. All I wanted was to see where my listing appeared in the bunch. I have to say I was disappointed to find that there were many locksmiths I had never heard of higher up on the list than me. How could this be? Most of them had local telephone numbers and even local addresses. Closer scrutiny to the addresses revealed that they were not locksmiths at all! There was a pizza parlor,  a cigarette shop, a dry cleaner, a coffee shop, a mail drop, and an address for somebody's house.

The online directory of locksmiths, and other service providers has turned into a cesspool of shady scum bags all trying to put one over on vulnerable consumers. Local telephone numbers all remote forwarded to the cell phones of scammers. Fictitious addresses hoping to fool consumers into believing that they are close by and ready to respond quickly. It's a mess, and it makes me feel ill! In my little town, you have a one in ten chance of reaching a legitimate locksmith by browsing the online listings. In larger cities, the chances are even worse. The worst part of this is that you usually don't call a locksmith until you have a reason to. More often than not, that reason comes in the form of an emergency.  You are locked out of your home, you have lost the key to your car, or some other such reason. This is not the time to be trying to determine who is and isn't a reputable locksmith.

What's the solution? I don't have one. I do however have some suggestions. Call any business you frequent and ask them who they use for their locksmith work. Businesses use locksmiths much more often than individuals do. They have locks changed when employees come and go. They have safe combinations changed for the same reason. Chances are they know a good reliable locksmith.

If you have to choose from the online listings, pay attention to the way they answer the phone.  Do they answer using a company name, or just a "hello locksmith"? Ask questions.  Ask where they are located before letting them know where you are. Nail down exactly what the fees are going to be. What is the trip charge? what is the fee above and over the trip charge for the service you need performed? What types of payment do they accept. Be wary of anyone who demands cash payment.

If you are told that the service call or trip charge is $25.00, move on to another company. This is 2011, not 1965! It is economically impossible for a professional locksmith to drive a modern insured well equipped service vehicle across town or further for $25.00! What you can expect to get for $25.00 is a gypsy in a rental car with a DeWalt drill and a big pair of chanellock pliers. He will drill a huge hole down the center of your door lock  and tear what is left of it off with the piers, and try to intimidate you into paying $300.00 for the privilege. For another $150.00 he will replace the lock with a $15.00 Chinese import lock from Home Depot complete with it's own key that does not match the rest of your house locks.

 Happy Hunting!



Terminology We Use

A lot of the time I spend on the phone with customers is spent determining exactly what it is that they want to have done. Many times, it is much different than what they originally request.

A common call will sometimes begin with the caller saying "I need to have my car re-keyed." If I were to take the request at face value, that would mean removing all of the locks from the car and changing the physical combination (or key code) to a different code, then creating new keys to match and re-installing the locks in the vehicle. Chances are, the person has lost the key for the car and simply wants a replacement key so that they can drive the car. There is a big difference between the two procedures both in cost, and time and materials required to do each job.

Other times, the caller may just say "how much is a key for my car?"

This could mean two different things. The caller could need...

A duplicate key that they currently have in their possession

A key made from scratch to replace a lost or stolen key, but they do not have an existing key to copy from.

Again, two very different things in both procedure and cost. A duplicate of an existing key is in most cases quick and easy. A "Fit", creating a key without the benefit of having an existing key to copy from takes more skill and time, and therefore is more expensive.

When we are putting together an estimate for the cost of services, we need to know what it is that is needed in specific terms. Over the years we have become pretty good at asking the correct questions to determine what is needed, but the more questions we need to ask, the longer we need to spend on the phone, rather than getting the job done. We have all day, but many times a caller will be under pressure less than patient with all our questions. By familiarizing yourself with some of the terminology below, you can save yourself some time, and us as well.

Duplicate Key:An exact copy of a key that you have currently in your possession.

Fit a key: Creating a key when you have lost or otherwise have no existing key available.

Re-Key: Changing the locks on a vehicle so that the original keys no longer work, and providing new keys that do work.

Extract:  Removing a key that is stuck in a lock or has had part of it broken off.


Toyota and Lexus Immobilizers

Maybe you have had this happen to you. You own a 1998 - 2003 Lexus or Toyota vehicle and you lost your keys.  No big deal, you think. You'll just get a new key cut and be on your way.

Not so fast! You are about to learn more than you wantet to know about the first generation of Toyota Immobilizers. Turns out that the engineers at Toyota neglected to consider the number of people who lose their keys every day here in the US. They forgot to put a back door into the system to allow for matching transponder keys to the vehicle after all keys have been lost. Worse yet, the system will not recognise a valet key for the purposes of programming additional keys.

Toyota's Solution?  Buy a new engine control module. Cost? Upwards of $1000.00 for the module, plus keys and installation.

There must be a better way!

There is!

Keys For My Car can clear the key register in your Toyota or Lexus immobilizer, and return it to you ready to match your transponder keys to the internal key register. Better yet, we can provide the keys as well, already matched to the immobilizer. All you do is plug in the module and you're done!  We can do this for less than half the cost of just purchasing a new module from Toyota.

Just fill out the provided order form, box up the ECU or ICU and ship it to us. If you have keys, send them as well. If you don't have keys, we can help you with that problem. We will clear the key register and or program the keys the same day we receive the shipment and have it on the way back to you the following day.



Keeping up with the cars

I was out at the rail yard the other morning and had a few extra minutes to look at some of the 2010 year model vehicles I had not seen yet. There is one manufacturer that has a 2011 model on the ground waiting for the new year to turn over before taking the wraps off.

At this point it appears that it's going to take additional investment in tools and software to be ready to service the keys and remotes on this new gang of vehicles. Pushbutton start systems are becoming more common all the time. At first glance you would think that would make our job easier, but looking further it becomes clear that eliminating the traditional key makes it more, not less complicated to secure the vehicle.

Most of the current keyless vehicles are not completely keyless. Most all have at least one if not multiple locks securing the vehicles, and keys, albeit hidden within pocket prox fobs that are available to unlock the vehicle in the case of a dead vehicle battery or a failed electronic security component. In the absence of a regularly used physical key, there must be a means of allowing access to the vehicle to authorized drivers while securing the vehicle from everyone else.

Many of these autos use what is known as a prox (proximity) system to accomplish this. The vehicle has a series of exterior and interior antennas that communicate with the prox fob that usually remains in the drivers pocket or purse. as the driver approaches the vehicle, one or more of the external antenna's begins communication with the prox fob carried by the driver. The car goes into pre-unlock mode and awaits the drivers signal to unlock the door, usually accomplished by the driver touching a button on the door handle. Once inside, communication is handed off to the interior antennas, and the vehicle understands that the driver has entered the car. Now the vehicle control system is waiting and ready for the driver to touch the start button to bring the engine to life. At this point, the driver comfort system may begin to make adjustments according to the driver that the current prox fob is registered to. This may include the seating position, mirror positions, favorite radio station, temperature setting, steering wheel tilt, pedal positions, and more. To sum it up, not only do the new keyless cars still have keys, but they have much much more as well.

When we get involved in replacing lost keys for these vehicles, we usually need to begin by making the traditional mechanical key and then proceed on to choosing the correct prox transmitter for the vehicle in question and begin the electronic initialization procedure to match the prox to the vehicle as well as setting customer options and preferences. This procedure is done with handheld electronic scan tools and in some cases laptop or touch screen computers connected to the vehicles on board diagnostic port by way of a J2534 interface device. These tools are specialized, expensive, and driven by software that changes frequently.

While it may seem that it should cost less to service these cars, once you look closely you can see that not only does it require making a mechanical key and an electronic key, but it also requires tools that run thousands of dollars vs hundreds of dollars. These tools require frequent software updates that are quite expensive as well. Some of the tools require continuous subscriptions to the vehicle manufactures data services also. At Keys For My Car. we are committed to keeping up with these changes in equipment and procedures to keep our customers on the road.



New wrinkle in national locksmith scam

In a new twist to the ongoing national locksmith scam, scammers are now using upscale residential addresses that do not belong to them in an attempt to appear local in the community. They have been using fictitious address for years, but until now they have been commercial addresses like coffee shops, restaurants, and sometimes even local locksmiths. This is a new low for these slime balls, and their lack of ethics is astounding. How long before an innocent homeowner has his property vandalized or worse in retaliation from someone who was ruthlessly ripped of by a phony locksmith?

You can see my tips on how to avoid falling prey to a phony locksmith at: