CHOOSING A LOCKSMITH

A lock fails, you are locked out or have lost your keys. You go into panic mode and search for help. Years ago a phonebook was used primarily to find a locksmith. Today almost everyone is using their smartphone to search for help. What used to be an actual search engine has turned into a jungle no different than walking through a seedy section of town after dark, carrying a wad of money in your hand. Scam Artists from foriegn countries, mostly Isreal, are posing as a local locksmith company.

They lure you in with a cheap price in the ad or all kinds of claims for discounts. In reality, they will only damage your locks and charge you an excessive amount. Many unsuspecting consumers have been charge thoushands of dollars for a service that should have only been close to one huundred dollars. Yes the ad said $15 lockout service, but that was only for the service call.

Reputable locksmiths will qoute you the total price after asking numerous questions. Ask for the total and the worst case scenario price and let them know that you are holding them to this.  These scammers send out undocumented Foriegn workers, who they know will appear as middle east terrorists. These workers are from isreal and most have come here after serving in the military. They will threaten you with bodily harm if you do not pay them. The number you called  has connected you to some far away place where the mastermind has call takers who sound just like you or me. Demand to talk to the locksmith who is coming out, before he comes and again go over the price. I am sure that there are legitimate locksmiths who have legaly immigrated here from the middle east and provide excellent service, but be very cautios when dealing with someone who sounds like something may no be proper.

I require my locksmiths to call the customer before they head out and they are required to qoute the price again. This protects both my company and the customer. Many customers have a hard time understanding why I will not send someone out unless they can call the customer and talk to them first.

The Scammers usually use generic names like Always in Service or All Hours. They also frequently use numerous city names with the word locksmith like Erie Locksmith. There are legitimate locksmiths who do name their business after the town they are in, so do not rule out one of these. If you see a whole list towns with locksmith after the city name on a search engine you have probably found a scammer.

If the locksmith shows up with a large prybar, drill or a pipewrench be cautious. Almost all locks can be opened without destroying the lock, unless the lock has failed. Some locks that have not been used for quite some time or ones full of dirt may also require drilling.

Most search engines have now turned into paid advertising sites. The ads are very expensive and cost $60 and up per click, making them unaffordable for legitimate locksmiths. If someone has to pay $60+ for everyone that clicks on their ad, they are going to have to charge you a very high price.

You can also look for a trademarked name like POPaLock or Dr Auto Lock, but you should not rule out not so well-known names. The safest bet is to use a phone book or a referral from someone you know.

Who to call when you lose your car keys or get locked out?

Numerous people lose their car keys, get locked out of their car or have an automotive lock fail every day. Choosing or knowing who to call can be an educational, costly and stressful situation. Starting in the mid eighties, vehicle locks and keys became more complex supposedly to prevent theft. Using a slim jim to open a locked car, which unlocked most cars prior to this time, now only caused costly damage and frustration. With each passing year auto engineers designed more secure locks, creating a need for new opening methods and service personnel with a high degree of expertise.

Many vehicles were damaged by unskilled individuals attempting to unlock vehicles. New tools and instructional manuals were introduced on a yearly basis, which only prompted the vehicle manufacturers to make more secure designs. Today, many foreign vehicles are virtually impossible to open without damaging the vehicle. This is not the case with all of them, but most German vehicles along with certain Honda and Toyota vehicles can only be opened without damage by the most skilled technicians.

At the same time, vehicle keys that were originally very simple designs much like your house key became more complex and had electronics added to them. Existing key cutting equipment became obsolete, requiring very costly CNC milling machines to cut the keys. Electronic programming tools, easily costing close to 10K are now required to enable the key to communicate with the vehicles computer in order for the vehicle to start.

When keys are lost or the vehicle is locked with the keys inside, options have become very limited. Some vehicles can be opened by using a long metal rod inserted between the door frame and car body, but extreme caution must be taken as thousands of dollars in damage could result. The two damage free solutions are calling a professional automotive locksmith or having the car towed to the new car dealer. When choosing a locksmith, you must choose one who specializes in vehicles and guarantees his work to be damage free. Towing the car to the dealer carries the risk of having the vehicle damaged from towing it. the vehicle can be cosmeticaly damaged as well as having the transmission or suspension damaged. Only the most professional towing services should be hired and they need to guarantee the service is damage free.

When deciding which way to solve the dilemma of having your keys locked inside or losing your keys, several factors must be considered. Most German vehicles must be taken to the dealer as the Germans apparently do not understand that people can easily lose keys. They have made key generation and programming almost impossible and excessively expensive if the equipment is available to program the keys. Some require removing the computer from the vehicle and disassembling it so that chips can be unsoldered and read.

Ford, G.M., Chrysler, Honda, Nissan and newer Toyota vehicles can easily have keys originated and programmed as long as the programming update is available for current model year vehicles. Many of the newer milled keys for vehicles cannot be made at the dealer level. the equipment to generate these keys is extremely expensive and few franchised dealers outside of extremely large ones in major metropolitan areas desire to spend 10k on a key machine. These dealers must order the keys from the factory or have someone like myself make one.

I encounter quite a few customers who call a dealer and ask what a key costs. They are quoted the price of the key blank and want to use that to compare prices. They are not considering the cost to tow the vehicle to dealer or costs for damage from towing it. They also do not realize that in addition to the cost of the key, they will be charged for obtaining the key code as well as programming the key.

When all costs are factored in, it is almost the same price or less to have a professional automotive locksmith come to the vehicle and originate and program the key. If you are in a very remote location, the cost of a locksmith traveling to your car will be higher. Calling them out at night, on weekends or holidays also costs more. Just because service is available 24 hours a day does not mean that the price is the same on a Tuesday morning as opposed to the 4th of July.

While taking your vehicle to a dealer may be the only option, be prepared for the process taking several days. You are not the only person needing service, and in the case of German vehicles and others, keys may have to be shipped from the factory. Speed of service may be a very good reason to call a professional automotive locksmith.

I use the term professional automotive locksmith frequently, because it really does matter. I have had countless customers call me after they first called someone else who spent days, yes days and sometimes weeks trying to make a key or replace a lock. If the price seems very cheap, it probably reflects the skill level and quality of service you are going to receive. Professional automotive locksmiths generally belong to NASTF, National Auto Service Task Force, and ALOA, Associated Locksmith of America. Look closely at how professional the locksmith appears, if he looks like someone who’s last occupation was in a jail or a circus beware.

There are some very professional towing operations available to tow your car or open it, but you must be careful to choose the right one. Towing services and locksmiths associated with AAA must pass criminal background checks and meet other professional requirements, so that can be a good reference even if you are not a member. Call AAA and ask them for a referral, and while talking to them, you might want to purchase a membership. They are the emergency auto club service that sets the bar for excellence. As with any service provider, expect delays during storms, as everyone else is also experiencing the same need for service that you are.

The best advice is to never travel with just one set of keys, and keep the spare set in your pocket, not in the car, and never in the trunk.