Locksmiths use many different tools to make a “1st key” as they call it in the trade. Techniques vary based on automobile and the year it was manufactured. Some keys can be made by converting your V.I.N. (Vehicle Identification Number) to a Key Code that details the spaces and depths of the keys cuts (see photo), decode your door locks right through the key hole or simply by taking the locks apart and seeing how they are pinned. For motorcycle keys I use a scope, much like a doctor would use to look in your ear, to spy the keyway.
Chevrolet stamps the key code on the ignition lock. The lock can be easily popped out and code read once it is picked over.
Ford trucks are a bit different. I like to decode the door lock, but simply bringing in a door lock to a locksmith shop won’t get you too far. There is not enough information in the lock to make a single key that will turn every cylinder. Example: a 2000 Ford Ranger pickup has an 8 cut key, meaning simply there are 8 spaces on the key that have cuts of different debts. The door lock has 6 wafers in it, in positions 1-6, and the ignition has 2-8. This means that I could make a key from a door lock but the last 2 cuts on the key would be unknown. Finding them is a process called progressioning. I have a computer program that makes this last step simple, but I might have to go through a few keys before I find the right combination that works the ignition.
So what about Dodge? The 2002 Dodge Pickup is an 8 cut key, like the ford, but has 7 wafers in the door and 5 depths. This means that if I have a door lock from one of those trucks I can make 3 to 5 different keys and 1 of them will work in the ignition. Here’s how. Lets say we decoded the door lock that has positions 2-8 and we get “?1324213”. I know from experience the 1st cut can not be a 5 or a 4 so it can only be 11324213, 21324213 or 31324213. But, even though the new key will turn the ignition, it won’t start the truck because in 2002 Dodge started using Transponder (transmit & respond) chips in their keys that need to be programmed to the vehicle (part of the theft deterrent system), so a locksmith would have to go out to your truck and program the keys to it there on site.
Note: most cars and trucks operate using transponder systems now.
If you have missing keys the best thing to do is to call around and get quotes from different locksmith shops and ask them what your options are, but better than that, get an extra copy of your truck keys before they get gone – we do that too.
Generating new keys a fun challenge for me. If you like puzzles, the locksmith trade might be a good carrier choice for you, or at least a fun skill to have. If you would like a free quote on a 1st key, or a key copy give us a call at (530) 514-0252