What does an Auto Locksmith Do

3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know An Auto Locksmith Could Do

There is nothing worse than being locked out of someplace you need to be. Whether you left your keys in a locked car, or for some other reason can’t access your vehicle, auto locksmiths specialize in helping you break back into your own automotive.

Not only do auto locksmiths unlock locked cars, they can also create new keys, remove broken keys from locks, and can even replace both the locks on your car doors and entire ignition systems as well.

In an industry that has grown more and more complex over the years due to the technological advances in the making of cars and security systems, auto locksmiths hold something of a monopoly on all things car-key and car-security related. They have grown into high demand. Below we will discuss some of the nuances of what an auto locksmith can do, and some of the specialty services they offer.

What Does An Auto Locksmith do?

While residential locksmiths make keys and unlock doors in a home, and commercial locksmiths do the same for offices and industrial buildings, auto locksmiths specialize primarily in unlocking vehicles and replacing car keys.

An auto locksmith offers both in-shop services, for when you might want to duplicate a car key or fix a related issue (which would be much more expensive at a dealership), in addition to mobile services. Mobile services are where auto locksmiths’ primary specialties lie — where they offer help to those who are either stranded in a Walmart parking lot at midnight or locked out at a gas station in the middle of the desert.

3 Things An Auto Locksmith Can Do

The primary service that auto locksmiths offer is simply unlocking a vehicle. But they can also remove broken keys, duplicate or replace keys, and — in some situations — they can actually replace whole locks and ignition switches. Let’s start with the unlocking of cars.

Unlocking Cars

First things first: getting back into your vehicle. How does an auto locksmith unlock your vehicle without a key? There are several strategies that they utilize for breaking into vehicles, all of which vary on the type of car and what type of lock system the car has.

  • The most common strategy is “jimmying” the car lock open. This involves taking a slim jim — or thin piece of metal — and sliding it between the window and the weather stripping on a car door to access the lock.
  • If you’ve seen any movies, you have probably seen hangers used as well, but the more modern slim jim is a safer alternative with less chance of damaging the vehicle. Still, when the going gets tough, many things can be used as a slim jim if you need to. “Jimmying” a car open works best with older cars who still use real keys and don’t have state of the art alarm systems.
  • For newer cars with more advanced security systems, keys, as we know them, are no longer used. For unlocking a car that does not have a car lock but relies on “keyless remotes”, the auto locksmith reprograms the code (usually usings a VATS passcode detector or the like) so that you can gain access to your vehicle.

Removing Broken Keys

Car keys can snap off through natural wear or a sudden wrong turn. It’s not a very common occurrence, but it happens often enough for specialty services to be provided. Though it’s usually not your fault when a key breaks in the lock, it can be very difficult to remove and — this goes without saying — you can’t really start your vehicle if the key is broken.

When a key snaps in a door or the ignition, it usually snaps so that crevices of the skinny part of the key are exposed. Auto locksmiths utilize both key extraction kits and key extraction tools to attach to these crevices and remove the key.

A kit has a normal extraction tool but with some added perks. A key extraction tool is a small, thin piece of metal with two little hooks at the end that are used to connect with the key. Sometimes thin plier-like tools are used as well to grasp both sides of the key.

If the key is broken off in the ignition, it’s not recommended that you try it yourself. If something goes wrong with the extraction process, it can cost you a lot more and do a lot more damage than removing a broken key from a car door.

Duplicating Or Replacing Keys

There are two types of car keys that auto locksmiths work with. The first are car keys that are not attached to a fob or electrical piece. These are pretty straightforward to make and are not that different from getting a duplicate house key from a typical residential locksmith.

Where it gets a little more tricky is with car keys attached to a fob. Many of these keys are also transponder keys — meaning that they have a chip that is programmed uniquely to that car.

Without the ignition reading the code programmed in the chip, the car will not start. You can have an auto locksmith duplicate just the key part of the key fob; but, if it is a transponder key, you’re going to need a little more humph!

Can A Locksmith Program A Car Key?

Skilled locksmiths and a growing number of auto locksmiths now have the ability to reprogram a transponder key — or make an entirely new programmed key — so that you can get into your vehicle (or have an extra key!).

Car dealerships do as well, but getting a duplicate transponder key from a dealership can seriously run up the price. Auto locksmiths are typically much more reasonable with their prices for making a transponder key.

A growing number of transponder keys and keyless ignition fobs actually do not allow you to lock your car while the key is in the vehicle. But, regardless of this making life a little easier, it’s still good to get a duplicate for safekeeping — who knows what could happen to that one, very special car key?

Can A Locksmith Fix A Car Ignition?

Auto locksmiths can absolutely fix and replace car ignitions. Usually, if there is a problem with the ignition, it’s the cylinder that you put the key into. Other times, with more complex issues, the locksmith is capable of doing an entire ignition replacement — wiring and all.

It is vital to note the auto locksmith may not be able to do this when he arrives at your car if you’re stuck in a parking lot. Car ignitions are quite specific to brand and model, so he may have to order parts and have it completed at a later date. But, he should have enough expertise to get your car running to get home.

Can a Locksmith Fix Locks On Car Doors?

Locksmiths are also extremely capable of replacing normal car door or trunk locks as well. Sometimes locks just wear down and, if security issues or problems arise, having the option to get a fresh replacement on a car door can be very helpful.

How Much Are Auto Locksmith Services?

As is the case with most everything, the prices of auto locksmith services can vary significantly based on location, time, and difficulty. Below is a list of the average range of prices from auto locksmiths around the nation, taken from HomeAdvisor.

  • Basic hourly rate is $50 to $100. If you are contacting an auto locksmith after hours, the rates will be bumped up to between $75 to $125 an hour.
  • To unlock a car is between $50 to $100. The price will most likely be determined by the difficulty of the lock (key or keyless, etc.).
  • The average for a complete lock change is $75 and hour, which can sometimes cost up in the $200 range if its a complex lock or other obstacles are in place. As usual, getting this done at a dealership will likely cost you a lot more.
  • Getting a vehicle rekeyed — such as when a car owner has different keys to unlock and start the car — can run between $50 to $300. This is quite the range, but the price tends to be on the lower half; so averaging to between $50 and $150 is likely a safe bet.
  • Making new keys costs between $10 to $150. As you might imagine, as the rekeying moves up to more complex methods requiring chip programming, the price will go up. But if it’s just a normal key, the price should stay on the lower end.
  • For getting a new ignition switch, the price will usually be between $125 and $275, including the parts and the installation.

Should You Become an Auto Locksmith?

Is auto locksmithing hard to learn? Whether you are interested in becoming one yourself, or just want to save some money the next time you or a friend are in a pickle, auto locksmithing is not that difficult to learn, provided you have access to the right resources.

There are numerous online resources and paid training that you can utilize to learn auto locksmithing. With the more advanced services like reprogramming a keyless car, this will obviously entail more specialized training that will take more time to become competent in than basic key duplication.

You will also need the right tools: such as the key extraction kit and the like, as

hangers and pliers do not always do the trick these days. If you want to become an official auto locksmith, locksmithing companies will provide all the necessary training and tools so you can start to fix cars and lock problems quickly and effectively.

How can Mach1 Services Help if you’re locked out?

If you are in need of the best roadside assistance and are looking for a quality operator, Mach1 offers easy, quick contact with an auto locksmith to get you the help that you need. Mach1 can be contacted either through their phone number or, more easily, through their app. Their app uses proximity searches to provide locksmiths and mechanics who are in the closest possible location to assist you.

All of the contractors and employees of Mach1 are “vetted using a seven-point candidate check” and are trained in the most current safety protocols. You can rest easy calling a stranger to come to help you in the middle of the night.

An estimated price — which varies by region but is in the average market price range — will be presented to you once you fill in the details in the app, and then help will be shortly on the way.