Lost Car Key Replacement

Last Updated on November 18, 2022

What to Do if You’ve Lost Your Car Keys

You’ve lost all of your car keys. It’s OK, don’t panic. There are solutions. Making keys is one of the services that local automotive locksmiths and car dealers provide. They can replace the lost car keys for you. Losing a car key is frustrating and can be expensive, but these steps will help you get your car keys made even when all car keys have been lost.

If you lose your car keys a locksmith can make you a replacement key for the car and will be the most affordable option. The service is called “car key origination,” and the first step is to get your VIN number. The second step is to call your insurance company to see if they’ll help pay for it. A locksmith can go to your car’s location and: use your VIN number to generate a new key, use another lock on the car to create a key, or impression a another lock to create a working key. If you’ve only lost the spare key, the process is even simpler.

Automotive locksmiths also replace lost car key FOBs and remotes as well. Car dealers replace lost car keys too. But you do not, in most cases, need a dealer to make a car key. The main advantage of hiring a Locksmith to make a car key, when you’ve lost all car keys, is that a locksmith can originate the car key on site, at your location. There is no need to tow the car to a dealer or a mechanic.

If you’ve only lost the spare key, and you have a working key, you can purchase they key online and then driver your car to a locksmith shop for duplication and programming (if needed).

Jump to:

Needed information. How to Find Your Car’s Vin Number
Save money. Contact Your Insurance
Can a Locksmith Make Car Keys?
Making Car Keys by VIN Number – Issues You May Not Know
Why Not Order Car Keys Cut by VIN Online?
How do Locksmith’s Make Car Keys When They Can’t use the VIN Number?
When You Must Use a Dealer to Replace Lost Car Keys
How to Find a Good, Local, Automotive Locksmith
How Much Does it Cost to Make Car Keys?


Where You Can Find Your VIN

Get Your Car’s VIN

You’ll need some information about your vehicle in order to replace the lost car keys.

You will definitely need the year, the make, and the model of the vehicle. An example would be “2010 Toyota Tundra”.

You may also need a VIN number if the locksmith or dealer is making the car key by VIN. The VIN is a unique identifier to your specific vehicle.

You can find your VIN number by checking the car. It’s located on the front of the dashboard on the driver’s side near the bottom of the windshield. You can usually see it looking through the windshield from the outside.

If you are not at the car, the VIN number is also listed on your insurance card, for easy reference, and it should also appear on the car title. If you don’t have these documents, you may be able to obtain the information by phone to the companies or governing agencies that provide them.

You will also need proof that you are the owner of the car before any credible locksmith will originate a key. The insurance card, registration, or title will usually be enough to prove you have a right to have a key made for the car.

If proof of ownership is in the car and it’s locked, a locksmith can perform the lockout service to gain access to the documents in the car, but if the paperwork is not found there, a credible locksmith will relock the car and walk away from the job. You would be surprise how many times we get calls from people wanting us to make car keys to cars they don’t legally have access to.

If you are in Phoenix Arizona market, you can schedule your car key origination with ACME Locksmith online.

Phoenix Market Only: Schedule Car Key Service with ACME Locksmith

Call Your Auto Insurance Company

Locksmiths Replace Lost Car Keys

We recommend you call the emergency number of your insurance company as soon as you realize your car keys are lost. Depending on your policy, it may be possible to make a claim for all or part of the cost of replacing your lost car keys. The insurance company may also recommend a local locksmith service that offers car key origination that they have contracted with to make the car keys and that they will pay direct.

In most cases insurers, and agencies such as AAA, will cover a portion of the cost (typically the first $100) of the auto key origination, and you will cover whatever portion remains.

Call a Locksmith to Make the Car Key

Making keys is part of a locksmith’s service and car keys are not exception.

Locksmith can make car keys using a special code for the vehicle that allows the locksmith to cut the original key for the car. The VIN number can be used to generate this code. You may even have the code in your glove box, they are often provided when a car is purchased. When codes aren’t available, the locksmith may use another lock on the vehicle, such as a door lock, to make the car’s door key and ignition key.

An automotive dealer may also provide the service but a locksmith will almost always save you money. Check out or article, “How Much Does it Cost to Make a Car Key.”

It cost less to hire an automotive locksmith for the key origination because they are small, local companies and not national corporate centers. Auto locksmiths can make your car keys using several techniques.

How Locksmiths Replace Lost Car Keys without the Original Key

Standard Car Key – Save Money and Pick Up in a Locksmith Shop

You can get a car key made without the original key.

The easiest way for a locksmith to replace lost car keys is to make the car key by code using the car’s VIN number. With the VIN number, locksmiths can retrieve the original car key cuts for the car telling them how to cut the key.

There are a couple of things you need to know about cutting a car key from the VIN:

  • This provides the original key for the car, if your ignition has ever been replaced, this will not work.
  • If you car is older, this method cannot be used because the code needed will not be available.

Why Not Order Car Keys Online by VIN?

So if car keys can be cut by VIN number using an online service, why not just order the keys online and avoid paying a locksmith to come out or towing the car to the dealer to make the car keys?

Newer cars have transponder keys (often called chipped keys). This means that the car key must be programmed to the car in order for the car to recognize the key, get past the car’s security system, and start the car. That online key won’t start the car until it is programmed to the car by a local locksmith. So why not just start with and support your local locksmith?

See Our Video Types of Car Keys


What types of car keys are there? Why do cars need car key programming?

Meaning, most modern vehicles (nearly all after 2010 and many as early as the late 90s) will require that a locksmith come out to your location to add the key to the car’s computer system, because the keys contains electronics that must be programmed to the car in order for the engine to run.

One Type of Car Key Programmer

A locksmith can tell over the phone if you’re vehicle has a chip or not and whether you can go into the locksmith shop to pickup the car key or if they must come to you.

So when you you order a car key cut by code online there are two issues. First, if the ignition have ever been replace the key ordered on line won’t work, and second, the car won’t run until the key is programmed so you will have to have a local automotive locksmith near you come out and program the car key anyway.

Just start with your local auto locksmith. You’re going to need him to program the car key anyway, it keeps money in your state by hiring local, and you will be sure everything works the first time.

How Locksmiths Replace Lost Car Keys When We Can’t Make a Key by VIN

To be honest, just about any auto locksmith can cut a key by VIN and, if he has the programming equipment, program the key to the car.

This 1995 Car Is too Old to Have Keys Made by VIN Number

But there are cases when you cannot make a car key using the VIN number and this is when you will need an experience automotive locksmith.

  • When the car is too old to use the VIN key by code method.
  • When the ignition was replaced at some point in time so the key by VIN does not work.
  • Some model cars have “split” years. Where two types of keys are made during a given year. Locksmiths will sort that out for you.

When the car key by code method is not available locksmiths can still make keys when you’ve lost all of the car keys. There are several methods locksmiths can use to make the car key.

Making a car key from code


Sometimes the ignition or another lock on the car will have the code needed to make the car key. It’s the same code that the VIN number would pull up if the VIN number method worked. But the code is within the vehicle in an inconspicuous place. The locksmith will know where this code is and be able to cut a car key by code once retrieving it.

Make a Car Key by Using Another Lock on the Car

In the 2011 Dodge Charger, the Door and Trunk Locks Have 7 of the 8 Cuts Needed to Make the Car Key.

In some cases the door locks (or trunk or glove box locks) will have the same key cuts that the ignition does. In these cases a local auto locksmith can pull the lock, take it apart, and decode the cuts for the auto key. Call your local locksmith shop and they will tell you if this is the case. When it is, you can pull the lock and take it to the auto locksmith to make the car key, saving you the cost of getting a auto locksmith to your location.

  • When another lock’s wafers when they don’t match the ignition wafers (see photo)

    Often, the other locks on the vehicle don’t have the same wafers as the ignition key. They have a subset of the wafers and thus only a subset of the cuts can be found from the other lock. When this is the case, a key made from the ignition will open the door (the ignition always has all the wafers / cuts needed), but a key made from the door lock, won’t turn the ignition.

    Locksmiths can use a method called progression to find the cuts needed to turn the ignition.

    Say you have a car key with 8 cuts, the door lock may only use 6 of those to open the door. So there are two cuts for the ignition key that cannot be found.


    When this is the case, an auto locksmith can still make a key for the car even though all of the car keys are lost by progressing the unknown cuts. We cut for the two unknown cuts, we test the key, we cut again, test again….until we can determine the unknown cuts needed for the ignition key to work.

  • In the worst case scenario, the ignition can be drill out and replaced with a new one, but this is very rarely required.

When You Must Use a Dealer to Replace Car Keys

There are a few instances where you will need to go to a dealer after losing all of your car keys. There is a governing body called NASTF (National Automotive Service Task Force), and their purpose is to coordinate between car manufacturers, parts suppliers, and automotive technicians (including locksmiths) to allow computer protocol information to be used in the open marketplace. This is necessary as car keys now have to be programmed to the vehicles, and so the technicians making a key must have a computer link to a vehicle and guide it to ‘learn’ a new operating key (and typically delete any lost keys as well).

Types of Car keys
Which Car Key You Have Will Determine the Price of a Spare Key

But some foreign manufacturers do not participate in this agreement, notably German and Italian car manufacturers. This often means outside vendors like auto mechanics and locksmiths cannot originate a working key. For some of these vehicles (and only a few), locksmiths are able to ‘clone’ a key (i.e., copy the chip programming in an existing key to a second key), but it prohibits them from being able to originate a key when all copies have been lost.

So, for car brands like BMW, VW, and Audi, you nearly always have to go through a dealer to get the car keys made / originated. We’ve heard that some automotive shops and locksmiths have gotten pirated systems from overseas to accomplish this task outside the dealer, but … do you want to trust your car security to someone willing to buy an illegal device to work with it? Dealers may be expensive, but at least they are reputable.

Tips on Selecting an Auto Locksmith to Replace Your Lost Car Keys:

A certified locksmith is an expert that has undergone the right training in order to acquire a legal license as well as certification in their area. By entrusting a genuine locksmith with your replacement car key needs, you can be sure your car will have a key made by a professional that will offer secure and safe services. Many auto locksmiths also provide emergency services during extended hours, even 24 hours.

The best time to find a qualified auto locksmith is before you need one. By locating a good locksmith service and having the number saved in your phone now, you will have avoided the extra time to do so when you need them. Look for locksmiths who are:

  • Licensed to operate in your area and registered with any governing agencies
  • Highly rated in reviews that express positively on their company and employees
  • An A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • A member of The Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA)

When you’re satisfied that you’ve selected a professional, reputable locksmith who is in your area, save their phone number in your phone or wallet. You’ll be glad you have it if you need it. Add ACME Locksmith to your phone now. 480-380-2263.

Disclosure: As an eBay / Amazon / Alibaba Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.

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Smart Locks: Access Your Locks via Smart Phone. You’ll find some of our favorite smart locks that allow you to control home access and monitor entry in our Amazon Smart Lock Shop. Watch our Smart Lock Comparison Video on YouTube fore reviews of the most popular Smart Locks.

High Security Safes: When you want a safe that is designed to protect the valuable you put inside, you want a high security safe found on ACME Locksmith’s Safes for Sale website.

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