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How to Repair an Ignition Key

by Jack Hathcoat

Repairing an ignition is generally an easy job. Most of the time repair is necessary because the key is excessively worn. Having a duplicate key cut is not the answer, though, because this process only duplicates the problem. Over time, operating the key without proper lubrication has worn it to a point where it no longer sufficiently moves the lock wafers -- located inside the lock body -- allowing the key to turn. A new key, cut to factory specifications. solves the problem.

Straighten a bent and binding key by laying it flat and lightly tapping it with a hammer. Replace the key as soon as possible. A bent key is more likely to break in an ignition lock causing additional problems. Spray aerosol lube inside the key opening and slide the key in to move the wavers. Turn the key several times to distribute the lube.

Contact the car dealer parts department and inquire about the rules for cutting a new key from the information that is encoded in the vehicle identification number. Most dealers require proof of ownership and some form of identification, such as the original car title and a driver's license. There are other ways to obtain a factory spec key, such as using a locksmith. However, many locksmiths follow the same procedure and contact the dealer instead of dismantling the lock and decoding it to make a key.

Test the new key by operating the lock cylinder. It may not start due to theft deterrent measures. Many keys are also transponders and require programming procedures be performed before they start the car. If the key will turn, but the car will not start, chances are the key needs programming. Different manufacturers have vastly different procedures. The owner's manual usually outlines the programming process.

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About the Author

Jack Hathcoat has been a technical writer since 1974. His work includes instruction manuals, lesson plans, technical brochures and service bulletins for the U.S. military, aerospace industries and research companies. Hathcoat is an accredited technical instructor through Kent State University and certified in automotive service excellence.

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