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How to Replace Lost Car Keys

by Contributor

Losing your car keys can be one of the most frustrating moments of vehicle ownership. You are stuck with a 4,000-pound piece of metal that will not move for lack of a 6-ounce key. To replace your lost car keys, it is best to start with a locksmith, because they are typically far less expensive than dealerships. In some cases, however, a trip to the dealership is necessary. If the vehicle is locked, you will need to have a lock-out service performed. In many cases, you will also need to replace your remote key fob.

Lost Keys

Step 1

Gather all of the important information regarding the vehicle, including vehicle identification number; year, make and model; vehicle registration and insurance information. Have your driver’s license or state-issued identification card handy also.

Step 2

Contact the vehicle’s registered owner if the vehicle is not registered in your name, and ask him to come to where the vehicle is located, because the locksmith will require the registered owner’s permission for this service.

Step 3

Call three to five locksmiths regarding the price of a key replacement service and lock-out service, if needed, for your year, make and model vehicle. Answer all of the questions the locksmith has about the vehicle. Ask the operator whether the locksmith is bonded and insured, for your protection. The operator may ask about the security system, and whether the vehicle has keyless entry and a starter inhibitor. For certain vehicles, the locksmith will not be able to replace your vehicle’s keys and you will have to call the dealership. Mercedes, Volkswagen and Jaguar are examples of cars that only the dealership can make keys for. If the locksmith advises you of this, call the dealership and arrange to have the vehicle towed there via a flatbed truck.

Step 4

Choose the locksmith from the group you called that best suits your budget and time constraints, as some locksmiths may take several hours to get to your vehicle.

Step 5

Wait for the locksmith to arrive and give him all of the vehicle information and documentation he asks for.

Watch as the locksmith uses a “Slim Jim” or other tool to unlock your doors, if needed, and key-like tool to obtain the key pattern so he may cut a new key. Once he has cut the key, the locksmith will attempt to mate the key to the vehicle’s passive anti-theft system. On most vehicles, a locksmith can perform this task, but in some cases you may have to visit the dealership. The vehicle will not start without the key mated to the PATS, so you will need to set up a tow truck. There is no need for a flatbed, unless your vehicle requires one, because the tow truck driver can still use the cut key to unlock the steering wheel and perform other pre-towing procedures.

Lost Remote Fob

Step 1

Purchase an appropriate replacement remote fob from a local dealership or automotive parts store.

Step 2

Logon to the Internet and navigate your browser to the “Program Your Remote” homepage. Click on the maker of your vehicle on the sidebar on the left of the screen.

Step 3

Click on the model of your vehicle on the following page.

Step 4

Find the model year of your vehicle on the following page and click the link that reads “Programming Instructions” next to your vehicle’s model year. If your vehicle is not listed, contact your local dealership’s service department for programming instructions.

Follow the instructions on your vehicle’s page to program the remote.


  • Only allow trained professional locksmiths to perform a lock-out service, as an untrained amateur may cause damage to your vehicle’s locking mechanism or side airbags.

Items you will need

  • Vehicle registration
  • Insurance information
  • State-issued identification card or driver’s license
  • Vehicle’s registered owner
  • Replacement remote key fob (optional)

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