With key copying machines as a common convenience in most hardware stores, people can have as many copies of their house or office keys as they would like at the push of a button. It’s easy for most people to forget that car keys are not as easy to duplicate. It takes an automotive locksmith with several tools at their disposal to replace car keys or retrieve them from inside a locked vehicle. Here are the tools you’ll need to be a successful automotive locksmith and get customers’ car keys made or replaced.
The Right Tools for the Job
Not all clients need keys replaced – some might simply have left them on the seat of their locked car. In order to retrieve them without damaging the vehicle, you’ll need a specific set of hand tools to effectively open it up:
- Vise-Grips are essential for holding windows open or for keeping something shut. These powerful tools can be used for almost any convenience.
- Basic hand tools, such as screwdrivers and impression files, are essential for almost any hands-on job. You’ll never know what type of nook or cranny a client can get their keys stuck in.
- A steering wheel kit helps repair and revive the steering column of a car. Some makes and models need more than just the keys to trigger the start functions.
It’s All About the Machines
A key-making machine is needed for almost all makes and models of car keys, with the exception of newer keys that are operable only by computer chip. While not as simple as the key-making machines found at the local hardware store, some of these more advanced key making machines can replicate the complex and more rounded structures of older and common car keys.
For newer car models involving keys that are activated through a computer and require being programmed to the specific model in order to start, transponder machines are absolutely necessary to have these more advanced types of car keys made. Most top-brand machines, such as the Advanced Diagnostics’ T-Code or Codeseeker, can read and extract codes from all major car companies. All transponder-equipped models made by Toyota, Honda, Chrysler and more contain programmed key codes that can be extracted by licensed locksmiths. The beauty of the transponder machine is its progressive nature; locksmiths who acquire and use these machines are able to perform jobs that more traditional and less advanced locksmiths are forced to turn down. Not everyone can acquire the means of duplicating programmed transponder keys, so make sure to get your transponder machine and lead the locksmith world with cutting-edge style!
Know Your Clientele
With the above said, keep in mind what location you’re working in and what type of cars are being sold. You’ll want to scope out the nearby car dealerships in your area and stay up to date on which models contain the newest technology. Transponder coded keys are still fairly new in the industry, and some can still be tricky for a locksmith to make. Individual programming codes are required for each vehicle, and a unique thumbprint is placed on each separate automobile worked on. Getting inside a locked car is tricky enough; duplicating an individually-coded computer key is much more difficult!
Have an Open Schedule
People can get locked out of their cars at any place or time, especially in the most inconvenient situations. Automotive locksmiths are called in on a 24/7 basis to assist drivers with emergency situations and have car keys made at any time. It can be easy to get locked out, or to misplace the keys in a hurry. Make sure your schedule allows for emergency calls. Keep a calendar open for unplanned locksmith visits, and make yourself available at times when clients may need you most.
The physical tools you need should be carried with you at all times. While key duplicating is an important task, you’ll most often be assisting in unlocking and opening a vehicle in order to retrieve the keys from inside. Keep your key machines and transponder machines cleaned and repaired in order to best be prepared for any situation. Clients may need one, two or even three copies of transponder keys in a short amount of time.
It’s Also All About the Computers
In the age of technology, it’s easier to keep record of everything – but it’s also that much more essential. Having a reliable computer with software such as STRATTEC and Autotel can help locksmiths keep record of basic business necessities such as finances and billing records, can help locksmiths look up necessary information, assess vehicle histories, and much more.
As a locksmith, you’ll want to keep everything in writing. Customers may frequently have the same make or model as a past customer, and it would be easy to be able to quickly search up that vehicle’s information on your computer. Code software can help with a variety of progressive and important tasks such as:
- You can cross reference key blanks with other car keys you have made or duplicated, or find key blank information in a database. Coordinate with other locksmiths and find free software to help you build your knowledge base.
- Information on transponder systems can be accessed with several code software applications, and can help expand your transponder’s knowledge of manufacturers as well as find better success for the right key programming.
- You can perform a detailed search of any vehicle in case a specific record or VIN number is required.
- Key bitting information is accessed through many software platforms.
With these hardware and software tools, you’ll be able to reach out to the largest group of clientele possible. Using old methods of key copying can help create quick and efficient copies of old blanks for customers in a hurry. Your power tools can help you enter and unlock vehicles which may have someone’s keys stuck inside. Car key transponders and specified computer programs can help with code programming and will make you a progressive locksmith with the ability to perform fixes and duplicates for clients with high-end models. Keep track of your business and learn new tricks of the trade as you go.