Lost Car Keys? Here’s What to Do

Lost Car Keys? Here's What to DoLosing your car keys is an incredibly stressful experience. People often let their emotions get the best of them and tend to react badly when it happens. But we did some research and found the right way to respond to this unfortunate situation.

The right actions to take will depend on the type of car key you lost. Here’s what you should do when losing the following kinds of keys:

  • Traditional Car Key: You should call a locksmith, and they’ll make a new one right on the spot. But a locksmith won’t be able to help with some older or unusual vehicles. This situation might require buying a new key and ignition lock cylinder from a repair shop or the car’s dealer.
  • Car Key Fob: You can still use your key to unlock your car and get it running. It also helps that fobs are available for purchase as aftermarket products and easily programmable.
  • Transponder Key: People who don’t have a backup transponder key will need to have their vehicles towed to their dealership. You’ll also need proof of ownership before the dealer lets you purchase a new key.
  • Car Key Fob and Switchblade Key: You can get a new key made at a dealership. They must be programmed and cut on-site. You can purchase them online as well.
  • Smart Key: Without a backup key you will have to get your car towed into the dealership. They’ll get you a new key and pair it up with your vehicle.

Of course, there’s a bit more to this topic than simply replacing your missing key. We discuss several other questions that might be on your mind in our later sections. Keep reading, and we’ll make sure this process becomes as painless as possible.

How to Move a Car Without Keys

Knowing how to move your car without keys is pretty important if you need to get it to the dealership or a safe location.

1. Position Wheel Blocks

The first thing to do is place wheel blocks behind or ahead of your vehicle’s tires. This action will ensure the car remains in place during the process. If you don’t use them, it can make the vehicle start rolling backward or forward when it’s being placed into neutral. A rolling car can result in serious injuries when it’s not stopped on time.

2. Locate the Transmission

You’ll want to turn on a flashlight and crawl underneath your vehicle. Locate your vehicle’s transmission, which is usually near the engine. We suggest having a friend or two keeping track of what’s going during this process. It shouldn’t be something that’s done alone.

3. Find the Proper Cable

Find the cable that runs alongside your vehicle’s transmission. The right cable will have a lever and a switch connected to it. Proceed to disconnect this cable and push the level backward until a clicking sound occurs twice. You should push this level towards the back of your vehicle rather than its front.

4. Push and Move the Car to a Safe Location

You’ll want to remove yourself from under your car. Proceed to push on it without removing the wheel blocks. If the job was done properly, your car would move slightly when it’s in neutral.  After the car’s in neutral, you can then push and move it to a safe location.

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How Can I Start My Car Without a Fob?

Losing your car’s key fob isn’t an ideal situation by any means. But there’s still a chance you’ll be able to open your vehicle and start it without one.  Let’s first look at how to get inside your car without your key fob.

Open the Door Manually

Some cars will allow you to open them manually. In other words, these vehicles will still have a key for entry rather than just totally relying on the fob. This method won’t work on cars that depend entirely on keyless entry, for obvious reasons.

Remotely Open the Vehicle

If your vehicle does feature keyless entry, it might have a safeguard that allows you to access your car remotely. All it requires is using the app located on your smartphone and contacting the customer service department. It should work just like a remote key.

They would then open your car and sometimes will even start the engine for you. Major car manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Ford, and Honda have this safeguard in their vehicles.

Starting the Engine

Once inside your vehicle, it’s time to start your engine. Car manufacturers are aware that these key fobs have the tendency of being misplaced or failing from time to time. As a result, most of them have put a fail-safe in place for these situations.

Keyless entry systems are made to ensure you can still start the car manually when a fob’s misplaced or dead. Most people don’t notice, but keyless entry vehicles have a slot hidden behind the wheel.

This slot is covered by a plastic cap that a person can pop off when the car needs a manual start. You insert your emergency key and get the car running.

How do I Get a New Key to My Car?

Man holding car keys

Replacing your car key can be a hassle. Getting a car key made for a modern vehicle tends to bring more stress and frustration than most car owners realize. In most cases, this annoying task will require the following five steps to get your replacement key.

1. Obtain VIN

The first thing to do is to get your car’s vehicle identification number. This number will be located on your car’s dashboard or engine bay. You’ll want to note the car’s year, model, and make. If the VIN ends up being hard to find, check your insurance paperwork or vehicle’s title.

2. Contact a Locksmith

People with older cars made by non-luxury manufacturers will have the easiest time replacing their keys. It’s just a simple task of calling a nearby locksmith who can solve your entire issue in many cases. Using a locksmith will also end up being much cheaper than buying a new key from a dealership.

But more modern cars might have keys with a shape that a local locksmith can’t copy. These keys might need to be programmed with a specific vehicle to work, as well. In some cases, an experienced locksmith might be capable of digital programming replacement keys. But many won’t be able to imitate a code laser-etched onto your key.

3. Let the Locksmith Make Your Key, and a Dealer Program it

If your local locksmith can’t program the key, have them make it and take it to a dealership. The dealer will then program your new key to work with the car. We suggest looking into other potential options as the module that needs programming can get expensive when using a dealership.

One potential option would be using Amazon. This website will have replacement car keys for various models and makes.

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4. If Your Key’s Very Complex, Let the Dealership Replace it

If you can’t find a replacement using Amazon or similar means, it’s time to bite the bullet and have the dealership replace it. Your key most likely has sophisticated features embedded within it for security reasons. This issue could cause the replacement key to be only available through the original maker.

You’ll have to order the key using them, which could take a week or two. We suggest going to the dealership where your car was bought and seeing whether the warranty will cover the key’s cost. There could also be a chance the dealer will provide a discount.

5. Weigh Price Versus Reliability

As you know, many cars use keyless entry devices rather than traditional keys. These devices sometimes don’t even resemble how we imagine a key looks. When one of these devices breaks, ordering a new one becomes necessary.

Purchasing a keyless entry device will sometimes cost a little less online, but we still suggest going through a dealership. It’s a safe and more secure option. You might even be able to program keys yourself at home, which is a process we’ll cover in a later section.

Other keys will require a professional to program them. If your key comes from a high-end manufacturer, it might need to be programmed at the factory and then shipped to you. All this info is a long way of saying that getting a car key replacement can be a costly task.

You should always look for safe ways to keep the price down. One example is trying to go through a locksmith whenever it’s possible. Researching prices before starting this process can go a long way in saving yourself from stress in the future.

Can a Locksmith Make a Car Key Without The Original?

An experienced locksmith can make a car key without you providing the original. You’ll need to supply them with your vehicle’s VIN and proof of ownership. If you give them these pieces of information, they shouldn’t have any issues making a new key.

Does AutoZone Make Car Keys?

AutoZone does make car key copies. If you have an older car with a traditional key, this process consists of them cutting the key blank to fit your car’s door lock. But more modern vehicles come with chip-embedded keys, which might be out of AutoZone’s capabilities. People with new cars will likely need to contact a dealer or locksmith capable of programming these keys.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Lost Car Key?

Car key lying on table

The cost will vary depending on your key’s type. If you have the following keys, these prices should generally be what to expect when buying a replacement:

  • Traditional Key: $10
  • Car Key Fob: $20
  • Transponder Key: $200-$250
  • Car Key Fob with Switchblade Key: $125
  • Smart Key: $320

Can I Program a Car Key Myself?

Programming a car key yourself is possible. The process itself will take about 30 or so minutes to get done. The steps for doing it will differ depending on your key’s type.

How to Program Traditional Keys

  1. Enter your car’s driver seat with the key within your hand. You must ensure every door is closed in your vehicle.
  2. Place the key in the car’s ignition and turn it to “Acc,” or the second position. Remember, your car’s engine shouldn’t be running.
  3. Proceed to wait 10 minutes and 30 seconds. You then switch the car’s ignition back to the off position.
  4. You’ll want to wait a few moments, like 5 or 10 seconds, and repeat the third step.
  5. Steps 3 and 4 will need to be completed three times. After doing the process a third time, your key should then be programmed and ready to function correctly. You can test it out by clicking your key’s lock and unlock buttons to see whether they work.

How to Program Keyless Entry Devices 

  1. Enter your car’s driver seat with the fob within your hand. Ensure each door is closed correctly.
  2. Push and release the device’s start button a total of 15 times within 1 to 2-second intervals. You’ll want to do these intervals back to back as quickly as possible. During this process, refrain from having your foot on the brake. You don’t want to start your vehicle’s engine.
  3. After doing the 15 presses, try pressing and releasing your key fob’s lock button. This action should cause the doors to lock immediately, and the device will be ready to function correctly. If it doesn’t happen, you’ll want to repeat these steps.

Can I Claim for Lost Car Keys on My Insurance?

Man pressing lock/unlock button on car key

A key replacement will sometimes be included in your car insurance policy or with roadside assistance. It will depend on which insurance company covers your car. Many will include lost car keys in their standard policy, others will offer it as an extra add-on, and some won’t provide it all. Due to this, you should check your policy and see where you stand.

We hope our article answered all your questions about lost car keys. But if you do have more, please drop a post in our comment section. We’ll make sure to answer them as quickly as possible.

Keep a spare available to you at all times

Having a spare car key is going to solve half your troubles should you lose your main key. With two car keys, you can grab the spare and have full use of your vehicle while taking care of replacing the lost one. It won’t be a super urgent task either – you could keep on using the car.

Just don’t delay getting a new car key made! Remember how awesome it was to have that spare handy, and make sure you will have another one in the future too.

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