Key replacement can be expensive. Merc can be much cheaper than others.
In the printed version in yesterday's newspaper there was a table showing
prices by brand. A Merc C from 03 was bottom of the list at GBP 120.00
Also, a very complicated and expensive Volvo key seems to do only a bit more
that the Merc key does, re closing windows.
Lost the keys? It'll cost you
By Emma Smith of The Sunday Times
The novelist whose car keys were stolen thought he had got off
lightly - until the garage sent him the bill
Rankin was relieved his cars had not been stolen,
but it might have cost him less if they had (KATIE LEE)
When Ian Rankin returned to his Edinburgh home to find it broken
into and the car keys missing, he was relieved to discover his two cars
still in the drive, the thieves' getaway blocked by the remote-controlled
The bestselling detective novelist presumed that replacing the
keys would require no more than a trip to a locksmith and a few pounds. But
what should have been merely a minor inconvenience escalated into a
frustrating 10-day wait and a bill for more than £600.
Rankin, who owns a two-year-old Volvo XC90 and a four-year-old
VW Beetle, discovered that losing car keys is an expensive business. "I was
shocked," said Rankin last week. "The cost of replacing them wasn't covered
by the car or home contents insurance so it almost makes you wish they'd
stolen the cars instead - it would probably have cost less money."
Advances in technology and security systems mean replacement
keys can now cost several hundred pounds. In calls to franchised dealers
last week, we found prices for replacement keys ranging from £71 for an
X-reg Aston Martin DB7 to £900-£1,000 for a 1999 Alfa Romeo 146, with
waiting times of anything up to 10 days during which the owner may be unable
to use the car.
Whereas a key used to be simply a piece of cut metal, modern car
keys come in many forms and with an expanding number of functions beyond
opening the door and starting the engine. Today's keys can do everything
from enabling and disabling a car's security systems to activating the
driver's preferred seat position or climate control settings. Some new
Mercedes keys give off an infrared signal that can open windows or a roof
and close them when the driver leaves the car.
In the case of Volvo's personal car communicator key (a £500
option on the new S80), the key is a telemetric device that relays
information about the car, including whether the alarm has been activated in
your absence and even if there is an intruder in the car (detected by a
"You used to be able to go to the locksmith's and get another
key cut for no more than a few pounds," said Tim Shallcross, technical
expert for the AA Motoring Trust. "Now keys do everything under the sun and
the least important bit of the key is probably the metal bit."
Most modern keys use a battery-powered transmitter to work the
central locking so doors can be opened from several yards away.
They also contain a transponder (a contraction of the words
"transmitter" and "responder") - a microchip inside the key or fob that
reacts to a signal given by a transmitter in one of the car's electronic
control units (ECUs). The unit is usually just behind the dashboard or in
the steering wheel column or is built into the main engine management
system. Corresponding codes are stored on the responder (the bit in the key)
and in the ECU, and provided they match the immobiliser is deactivated,
allowing the car to start.
Replacing a key almost invariably means at least reprogramming
the ECU. The ECU on Rankin's Beetle had to be given a code to match the new
key sent from Germany, resulting in a bill for more than £500.
In some cases losing the master keys (there are usually two)
means replacing the ECU or even the engine management system at a cost of
anything from £500 to more than £1,000. This applies to some Alfa Romeos and
Fiats and some Toyota and Lexus models.
Peter Byrne, 62, of Co Wicklow, Ireland, found this out when he
lost the keys to his 2003 Toyota Avensis and was quoted ?1,200-?1,400
(£818-£955) for a replacement set. "I was told the whole electronic
management system would need replacing as well as the keys," said Byrne. "I
just can't believe how expensive a key can be. You used to be able to get a
new one cut at the locksmith's for under a tenner."
If you lose one master key and want to have a spare one cut
using information on the remaining master key, you can try going to a
locksmith. But it is becoming difficult for locksmiths to make duplicates.
John Thackeray, owner of Trade In Post, a mail-order car key
cutting business in Shropshire, said locksmiths often can't access the
transponder codes for new car keys. "It used to be possible to put one key
into a reader to get the code and then simply duplicate it but now
manufacturers are making keys with rolling codes."
This means that codes are selected in a sequence and although a reader may
be able to detect the last code that was used it will not be able to predict
the next one without the right diagnostic equipment. "Car manufacturers say
it's about security but it's also another way to make money," said
Some new car keys do not even resemble keys in the traditional sense. Many
Renaults come with a keyless card entry system. The card containing the
transponder can be kept in the driver's pocket or handbag and the car is
started by the push of a button on the central console. We were quoted £140
by a franchised dealer to replace such a key on a Renault Laguna 2001
Manufacturers argue that keeping codes secret protects owners, as only those
who present the proper ownership documents are able to get a new key cut.
But inaccessible key codes can also cause problems for breakdown companies,
which are unable to restart cars if keys are lost and have no alternative
but to tow them to the nearest dealer.
"Lockout - a lost or broken key or a faulty immobiliser - is now the third
biggest reason for calling out the AA," said Bert Morris, director of the AA
Motoring Trust. "Increasingly these problems are hard to fix at the
roadside. One way to remedy this would be to allow bona-fide rescue
organisations like the AA and RAC to have access to the data they need to
effect an immediate repair."
There is also doubt about whether stolen car keys are covered by motor
insurance policies. A spokesman for the Financial Ombudsman Service, an
independent body that handles disputes between consumers and
finance/insurance companies, said: "In general we would expect the motor
insurer to meet the cost of changing the locks unless there were exclusions
laid down in the policy wording. We will determine what is 'fair and
reasonable' in the individual circumstances of the case."
CarLand, a used-car supermarket based in Surrey, has spotted the gap in the
market. It offers an insurance policy against loss of keys, including a
payout of up to £1,000.
"Insurance can protect drivers against that awful sinking feeling when they
realise their keys are lost and it's going to cost them next year's holiday
to replace them," a spokesman said.
For direct contact replace nospam with schmetterling