What Can Be Done About A Car Key That Snaps In Half?
It's a nightmare to deal with lost keys when you're already late for an important appointment, but a broken key is even worse. Trying too hard to fix the problem yourself can just make it harder to clear the lock out and cut a new key. Before you panic and resort to gluing the key back together or sticking wires into your car's ignition, find out what to do instead and why it's important to keep what's left of your car key in order to get it replaced.
Retrieving a Key Fragment
Don't make the mistake of assuming you can just use what's left of the key to at least open your car door or start the car. Inserting what's left of the key will only knock the fragment inside further into the lock without allowing it to turn properly. It's also a bad idea to try to attach glue or another sticky substance to the key stub and fish for the fragment. Any kind of adhesive that goes anywhere near your car's door locks or ignition will only increase the cost of repairing the damage.
Thin pieces of wire, with two separate lengths for applying pressure to the top and bottom of the fragment, are one of your only options for removing a stuck fragment on your own. Unfortunately, any kind of metal tool can do serious damage to a lock, especially a sensitive ignition tumbler used inside the car. It's best to use a key recovery tool designed specifically to fit inside a lock and hook the grooves on a trapped piece of broken key. If you don't have this tool on hand, your best bet is to call a locksmith for help to avoid the cost of a brand-new ignition cylinder or door lock.
Avoiding DIY Repairs
In lucky circumstances, the key snaps while there's still a small section of metal protruding from the lock. A pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers will give you a good chance of grabbing the metal without accidentally pushing it further into the lock. Once you've got the second fragment of the key in hand again, don't assume you can just reattach the pieces and make use of the key again. Even the best attempts at welding or applying tons of adhesives will result in a distorted key edge pattern. The key is all too likely to snap again, making it even harder to get the fragment out a second time.
Cutting a New Key
A locksmith with the right equipment can duplicate the design from just part of a broken car key, but they'll likely need your VIN number as well. Retrieving the other half of the key out of the lock is necessary for using the lock again and makes it easier to cut a new key without having to look up the information on the key from the manufacturer's database. Verify that the locksmith you call is equipped to both retrieve the broken fragment and use it to cut a duplicate for the fastest help at the scene of the locked vehicle.
Finding the Unique Code
Keys with very uneven breaks or lost fragments that fly off into the bushes must be replicated according to the manufacturer's code for your specific make, model, and year. The fastest way to get a car key cut according to code is to supply your vehicle's unique VIN to the locksmith. They can use this number to retrieve the pattern of your key, or the correct code if you use a digital transponder key instead, to restore your access to your vehicle as quickly as possible.