Be Aware of Too Many Car Keys

We all know that old saying about there being too much of a good thing, and though it is meant to describe really nice things like chocolate or watching movies and TV, it also works well with the idea of car keys.

Duplicate car keys
Duplicate car keys
    In fact, it works well with that idea in two unique ways:

  1. Having too many keys, including car, house, gym locker, and other keys can actually lead to problems with your vehicle;
  2. Having too many keys made from copies of copies, rather than originals, is another reason that many car keys fail or cease to work

Let’s look at both of these points in order to help you understand how having too many car keys is indeed too much of a good thing.

Your Ignition Cylinder and Too Many Keys

It is typical for each of us to possess several different keys that we use on a regular basis. For example, a key chain may contain house keys (front, back and other doors included), vehicle keys (typically you will have your key and perhaps that of another vehicle), padlock keys (for the gym, the storage site, and so on), and spare keys for different family members or friends.

Closeup of vehicle ignition
Closeup of vehicle ignition

Unfortunately, many of us also look at the keychain as a place for lots of cool and handy gadgets. The bottle opener, tiny pocket knife, handy LED flashlight, and the different charms we collect might also find themselves dangling along with the keys. And we won’t even mention that most cars also have key fobs that contain substantial weight and bulk.

In other words, your keychain has more than car keys and could even serve as a weight lifting resource during a workout. And it is here that you are going to run into trouble. Why? Because too many car keys and other items will cause a pulling force on the ignition of your car, and this can cause damage.

Think of it for a moment; if you are just holding your keys and you notice they feel a bit heavy, it is a sign of trouble. Now, picture that weight pulling down on the key as it sits in the car’s ignition, and even worse, imagine those same car keys bouncing and jangling around as you drive. All of this can begin to damage the tumblers inside of the ignition cylinder.

The cylinder features tumblers and locking mechanisms in the lock and the ignition. Any of them can be worn or damaged by heavy key chains. You can often get a warning sign that this is occurring if you find you have to wiggle a key to get it into the ignition or to get the ignition lock to open. Essentially, a “sticky” key in the ignition means that the weight has caused those tumblers to wear or shift and it is a matter of time before the key no longer works.

Of course, the weight may also end up damaging the key, and the pulling and bouncing of the heavier weight can weaken it. This can result in that same wiggling and sticking key issue, but it may even allow the key to snap off inside of the ignition itself.

What Belongs With the Car Keys?

Three duplicate car keys
Three duplicate car keys

If you are not quite sure you believe that too many car keys will damage the ignition or ruin the key, just listen to the experts at the myth debunking website known as Snopes. They say that too many keys will indeed cause a problem. “If you have seven or eight keys on your key ring, you’re not going to do any damage. The ignition switch can handle that. But if you carry around… a fair amount of weight. That constant downward tug on the ignition switch can cause it to wear out prematurely”.

So, up to eight regular keys (not eight keys with individual key fobs) may be fine, but start adding fobs, all of the assorted gadgets and a few extra keys, and “voila” you have the risk for trouble.

At best, you’ll need to make a repair or replace a key, but at worst you might have a key damaged to the point it snaps off in the door or the ignition. This is a very costly repair and one you definitely want to avoid. The best answer is to keep the one car key on its own and use a key ring for everything else.

The Other Issue With Too Many Car Keys

The other reason that too many car keys can be too much of a good thing relates to making reliable copies of your keys. To explain this best, we’ll look at a somewhat different example. For our example, we’ll look at the image files used by computers known as JPEG images.

Everyone has saved these when taking photos off a memory card or from their phone and putting it on the computer or a hard drive. However, did you know that if you copy that image, either by right clicking it, copying it and pasting it, OR by opening it and saving it as a different image, it loses some of its quality? Each copy of the original is less clear and less refined as that initial file.

The same can be said of car keys (or keys of any kind). Ask a professional locksmith and they will tell you that even the best of them may run into a situation in which they cut a key and have the customer return it because it doesn’t work. So, they cut it again, but the same result occurs.

Why? Because it is likely that the car keys are copies of copies and not the original. One of the smartest things you can do when you get a new car and its original key is to have your spare keys cut by an expert and using only the original to ensure that those spare keys work over the long term.