Every now and again certain vehicles make their way into my life; for lack of a better description they might be called “Career Vehicles” since the cash register never seems to stop ringing due to repeated “issues”. Sometimes it involves an individual who misplaces his/her keys regularly, has a poor memory or too many irons in the fire and can’t keep up; what ever the reason I get to make second, third or even fourth time service calls to replace the same key. I’ve learned to keep good notes so the second time around is much easier; just click my computer on.
A long time back I ran a lock out call for a fellow and used a fancy tool made just for that model; had his vehicle open in quick order. I jotted down the key cuts and asked if he’d like a spare key to keep in his wallet to prevent his being locked out again; but he was in a hurry and declined. An hour later the same fellow called, sheepishly he explained how he’d locked his only key in the car. This time he was a mile further down the street. I did cut him that spare key and used it to open the car. Life supplies interesting moments, doesn’t it?
This morning had one of those interesting moments. A small car lot that specializes in repossession sales called to have me make a door key to an Impala. I’d made keys for an Impala at that same lot about a month or so earlier and recorded the information; a good thing since the door key was different than the ignition which had been changed out in a rather crude and unprofessional manner.
Going back on the calendar to a week ago; the door key information came up on my computer and worked perfectly; but the ignition switch had been changed out yet again so the information I had wasn’t any good. Their mechanic decided to take out the ignition switch and replace it one more time with one from the local auto parts store. I offered to change the combination of the new ignition switch so that it would match with the door key; basically it would be the way it was when it came from the factory, one key fits all.
I didn’t charge them for the extra labor and handed the ignition switch to the car lot owner and explained how much simpler it would be having to keep up with only one key instead of two. I’d already made keys for that unit a couple of times as it was and a little “good will” with a regular customer never hurts. He would later give that ignition switch to his mechanic to put it all back together since the dashboard looked like a bomb had exploded.
That gets us back to the present when I got called out to make a door key for an Impala. I asked a couple of questions before heading over thinking it must be the same car, it was; but they insisted the key they had didn’t work in the door. I pulled up the information on my computer and cut the door key which worked perfectly; but was not only different than the ignition key which they handed me, it was also different than any “old” ignition keys I’d recorded.
It turns out the mechanic didn’t want to “waste” money on the new ignition switch which had already been purchased and matched to the door. He decided to take that switch back for a refund; but he left the only key for that car in the returned ignition switch.
He then took the beat up ignition switch, the one left over from the bomb detonation, and took it to some locksmith shop down the road where a key was fashioned for it. That key worked; but didn’t spring back from the Start position the way it should and so I looked at the way the key had been cut hoping it might enlighten me as to why.
There’s a “maximum adjacent cut” rule for General Motor keys which states there are not supposed to be more than 2 cut differences on adjacent cuts because the shallow cut’s landing surface will be narrowed to a point where it becomes non-existent. The key which had been fashioned for this ignition appeared to violate that rule in a couple of places. In the middle of the key were a pair of One Cuts (same a No cuts) adjacent to a pair of Four Cuts on either side.
One of two things had happened; either the key machine used to cut the key was way out of adjustment and the Four Cuts were actually Three’s or some interesting things were going on inside that ignition switch. I cut a replacement key with my hand cutter, which cuts a near perfect factory key based on probabilities and it worked; but still did not spring back from the Start position. My guess is the cuts to match the wafers had not been “read” properly and one or more of the cuts were off; but it did work, not great, so the ignition switch would not be removed from the dash board.
I handed the secretary my bill along with an explanation so she could justify one more locksmith expense to an already long list of repairs for that unit. When the owner signed the check I gave him an explanation of what was going on as well. This is when I found out the mechanic had returned the brand new ignition, the one I had matched to the door at no charge. He just shook his head and accepted the fact that he had a minimum wage mechanic; you really can’t fix stupid.
I added the latest key information to my existing list of keys that have at one time worked on that vehicle. After all, this Impala has become a career vehicle and will eventually find its way onto another work order.
This will also appear as a feature article on Fiercely Independent Locksmiths of America’s website where our motto is, “Refining our God given talents one lock at a time”.