Your car keys, locks and remotes

Today, let us look at Toyota  and Lexus keys. If you have any OTHER make, this technology still may apply to YOU!

I will examine what is called a “Remote Head Key”, or a “Remote Head Key Shell”. There are three elements we look at, though they may packaged in different ways; based on model and year:

Element 1  The Blade. The blade of a key is a precision instrument. Never use it as a screwdriver or can opener. This component is also a wear item. The blade has cuts that mate up to segments within the door and ignition lock to allow rotation when the correct key is in play.

Element 2: The chip. MANY cars since 1990, and MOST today, have RFID chip technology within the plastic head. Sometimes it is a glass or carbon wedge chip, molded or fixed in the plastic head, other times it is within the circuitry of the keyless entry module in the head of key, along with a replaceable battery. Many Toyota and Lexus models, particularly in the 1998-2002 range had a system that the dealer could only program spare keys if you had a working MASTER key. Locksmiths have had the means to reset this system, in the case of no master key present. This system was totally phased out of the last model by about 2006.

Element 3:  The Remote Head Key Shell. There is a large concern over separation of the blade from the plastic shell, as well as the cover separating that holds the remote capsule in the head on certain Toyota and Lexus keys. Locksmiths have long replaced broken shells, and transplanted the chips and remotes from the old shell into the new. There is one aspect car owners should be aware of; too much torque placed upon the head of the key, due to a lock issue, can cause expensive damage to the lock bolt housing on the steering column. This has been seen a number of times on Lexus vehicles. Worse than cost alone, some Lexus lock bolt housings are no longer produced at all. Particularly if you are using an “extra strong” remote/key shell, this is not meanign you should be using the device as a crowbar. I am sure it was not the intention of the makers nor sellers  to have people crank it extra hard to overcome a jammed lock. Any sign of a key not working smoothly, should be addressed before the issue becomes critical.

Element 4 ( The bonus element ) The REMOTE:

We notes that sometimes a remote will just stop working, especially after long term storage or after the vehicle has been serviced. City Lock can re-synch it, replace the battery etc.


Comments & Advise:

Toyota introduced two designs that use a key known as a ” TR43″ or “TR47”. Toyota launched the first variant in 1991. The lock design had specific, chronic issues. These issues were identified soon after product initial release, and we still service failing locks of this ilk. Toyota eventually offered a redesigned product, with a 5 year phase-in in which completed in 2007. The old design is called the 8 cut system, and the latter design is the 10 cut system.

The 8 cut system consisted of a lock design with up to 8 segment positions within each lock. Two of these positions contained split wafers. We believe this design was to thwart decoding of locks serupticiously; in an attempt to increase security. The problem with this design; the segments known as split wafers traveled in their respective slots erratically. The travel was not balanced. This caused the split segments to bind, and wear on both the key, the segment and the housing within its’ travel. Ultimately, clients would have an ignition that would not turn to start, or get stuck partially turned.

The 10 cut system abandoned the split wafers altogether, but added some features. This design used the same key stock as the old 8 cut system. There is no notable failure rate with this design. However; keys must be held tightly within tolerances. The slightest wear on keys will yield failure in one or more locks. It is advised that these keys be made by locksmiths well aware of the tight tolerances. Not all key machines, even CNC type ones, can produce a quality 10 Cut Toyota key.

When a driver has a problem with keys and locks, non-expert lock repairs and replacement are often misguided and unneeded. Conclusions pointing to the lock, without testing is a costly mistake. The failure is squarely a KEY problem just about every instance; so must be verified. This is totally unlike on the old 8 Cut, where the LOCKS were almost always in need of a servicing, along with replacement of worn keys.

We at City Lock can not emphasize enough; with any auto lock key, or remote; symptoms are not a diagnosis. Facts, and a logical sequence to repair in the most efficient, least wasteful manner must prevail. When we do lock rekey and repair, we keep the match-up of ignition and door, rather than throw additional keys that only fit a replaced lock. The extra care is what makes a car owner happy down the road.

In conclusion, have problems dealt with, early on. Do NOT throw away keys or remotes that are not working, or broken. Put all the bits and pieces in a bag, and bring it to City Lock and watch the magic.