Auto locksmiths provide a wide range of services for their customers, but what are the most common services they provide? As a specialized branch of the locksmithing industry, automotive locksmiths naturally work with all sorts of cars, vans, pickup trucks and SUVs and, more specifically, their key and lock systems. That ought to narrow it down quite a bit, but there are some services that are much more commonly requested than others.
Below are some of the most common services provided by automotive locksmiths in the US:
Common services provided by automotive locksmiths
All sorts of things can go wrong with your vehicle’s lock and key systems, but there are patterns and trends in terms of which types of problems pop up the most frequently among vehicle owners in the US.
While automotive locksmiths are often able to perform a wide variety of tasks, the most common services they provide include:
Emergency car unlock service
By a fairly wide margin, the most frequent reason why drivers call an automotive locksmith is for emergency vehicle lockout assistance. If you’ve ever been locked out of your car, either from forgetting the keys as you shut a locked door or if you’ve lost or misplaced your keys, calling an automotive locksmith is often the best and fastest way to resolve the problem. In just about all circumstances except for life-threatening emergencies (e.g. imminent threat of violent crime or if your kids are locked inside of the car) calling an automotive locksmith for vehicle lockouts will get you back on the road quickly.
In a survey conducted by AAA in 2014, it was found that nearly one in every three Americans had experienced a vehicle lockout at some point or another in their lives. Estimates for car lockout rates are spotty at best, but they estimated that around four million Americans lock their keys inside of their vehicles every year.
You might think of emergency vehicle lockouts as more of a ‘reactive’ service than a proactive service, much like home or business lockouts. For this reason, many (but not all) automotive locksmiths in the US operate 24/7 and can provide same-day locksmithing services as it’s an essential and common service.
Car key duplication & key replacement
Another common service provided by automotive locksmiths – similar and even overlapping with the first (lockouts) mentioned previously – is key duplication. Losing or misplacing car keys can be frustrating, especially if you haven’t got a spare key on hand. Furthermore, there are many possible security risks if you’ve misplaced or lost your keys someplace where they could be stolen.
Fortunately, qualified automotive locksmiths are capable of cutting and programming all manner of replacement car keys, duplicate car keys, key fobs, and physical keys for older cars or for the trunk or glove compartment, for example. This includes programming transponder keys with the vehicle’s immobilizer as well as programming high-security keys for more modern vehicles.
Keep in mind that some automotive locksmiths only provide key duplication and replacement for the most common domestic automobiles, since the process of duplicating car keys is very different from laser-cutting a house key, for example. Indeed, the modern automotive locksmith requires a heck of a lot of technological equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to cut and duplicate keys for most makes and models.
Ignition repair & ignition replacement
If your car simply won’t start when you turn the key in the ignition, there are many things that may be causing the malfunction. This could include problems with the engine’s immobilizer, the transponder chip in your key, or problems with the physical key itself. Resolving the problem is a lot more complicated than ordering a new key – even if the problem is just the physical part of the key, it will likely still need to be programmed to work with the vehicle’s immobilizer.
Automotive locksmiths provide all sorts of ignition repair services, including repairing the pin and tumbler mechanisms in the ignition cylinder itself, dismounting the steering column to replace the ignition lock, cutting new ignition keys and much more.
Although remote entry and ignitionless vehicle startups have become popular in the past decade, ignition cylinder repair and replacement still remain fairly commonly-requested services for older vehicles and for some newer models as well.
Transponder key programming
Transponder keys have revolutionized vehicle safety and still today transponder keys and vehicle immobilizers are the predominant anti-theft and security feature on all vehicles in the US. Basically, if your car was manufactured in the mid-90s to today, chances are pretty high that it uses some sort of transponder key and immobilizer system.
The way it works, simply and briefly, is that transponder keys communicate with your vehicle’s computer and when the key is turned in the ignition, a unique ID from the key is sent to the computer. If the ID matches the unique key recognized by the computer, the immobilizer is disengaged and the vehicle is permitted to start. Automotive locksmiths can perform all sorts of car key programming if your transponder key is no longer working as intended.
Initially introduced by GM for the 1985 Corvette, the Vehicle Anti-Theft System (VATS) saw great success at reducing car theft in the US and was gradually adopted as the standard by the 1990s and early 2000s. Ford and others implemented their own systems, e.g. Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS), while GM continually evolved VATS with newer anti-theft systems such as MATS and PASSLOCK. Whatever the name may technically be, automotive locksmiths in the US still commonly refer to all transponder key systems simply as VATS.
Car door lock repair & replacement
So far, most of the common services provided by automotive locksmiths have to do with keys, and for good reason. Vehicle locks don’t usually go anywhere; keys, on the other hand, can easily be lost, stolen, or misplaced. Nevertheless, car door lock repair is often required for vehicles with faulty or damaged locks.
Lock repair and replacement is often recommended or required if the locks have sustained damage from a burglary or if they’ve worn out, or if you need to upgrade your locks. Adding locks to work vehicles like vans, for example, can be practical and affordable. Also, many people live out of their vans and may want to upgrade their ‘home’ security system with additional deadbolts, storage compartment locks, or other security measures.
Other services provided by auto locksmiths
The five services listed above probably make up the vast majority of reasons why vehicle owners call automotive locksmiths in the US, and for most locksmiths it’s their bread and butter, so to speak.
There are some other specialized services that some automotive locksmiths may provide, some of which may be valuable and set one locksmith apart from the pack. For example, with the rampant theft of catalytic converters in the US and vehicle theft, full car theft recovery services are growing in demand.
Furthermore, many van owners that live and/or work from their vehicle can now find automotive locksmiths that specialize in security locks for vans, van conversions, and van storage solutions. There are some locksmiths that specialise in RVs, campervans, and all other sorts of vehicles. A fast-growing trend in the industry is to specialize in automotive locksmithing services for high-end luxury European vehicles such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz simply because the lock systems used on newer models are so specialized and providing service for these vehicles is in high demand.
Is it worth hiring an auto locksmith?
Most people call an automotive locksmith because they need to and not because they necessarily want to. Nowadays, it’s either very challenging or outright impossible to break into your own vehicle (without damaging it, of course) if you’ve misplaced your car keys on the seat, for example, so you’ll need to call a professional automotive locksmith near you to get the problem resolved.
Deciding to call an auto locksmith rather than breaking open your car door yourself is already a sensible thing to do, but it’s natural that you may have reservations about dealing with an emergency locksmith. Unfortunately, a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch, and there are many unqualified “locksmith” scammers out there that use the bait-and-switch scam tactic to swindle you of your hard-earned money.
When you need quick and affordable automotive locksmithing services from genuine, trustworthy and dependable automotive locksmith near you, choose Auto Locksmiths. Our network of automotive locksmiths operate all across the United States, and every member partner has been vetted and approved on the basis of quality and reputation, so no cowboys and no scammers.