Ever see a key or a lock with a number stamped on it like FS332, FA5212, or 61543? Those
are called key codes. They tell those who know how exactly how to cut a key to fit the lock,
without ever having to see the lock or an original key themselves.
Types of codes:
Direct digit codes. Each digit corresponds to each cut on the key. The value of each digit tell
how deep to make the cut. Some old American and some foreign keys are direct digit. These
codes have the same number of digits as there are cuts in the blade of the key.
Interpreted codes. For these mathematical tricks are used (for example you must subtract 124
from the code), then you end up with the direct digit code above. On these you've got to know
the method of interpreting the code for that key. Mostly people just look it up in a reference
Code Book. The code provided is just an index that points to an entry in the book. The entry
lists the numbers for the cuts that need to be made, as in the direct digit code. There are
hundreds of different key codes in use just for automobiles.
Interpreting the code
Once you've interpreted the code, there's still the matter of how you use it. This requires a
guide to the depth and spacing of the cuts to be made in the blade of the key. There are key
cutters that you just set for your key type and cut to the numbers, but there are so many types
of keys available, even for cars, that it's not practical (and may not be possible) to have a
setup for every key made. Then you need to use a depth and space guide. This gives the
depth of the cut to be made for each depth number, and the spacing between cuts. Each code
has a depth & space guide, although many codes share the same guide.
Finding the code.
Finding the code can be a chore. If you have original keys, sometimes it's printed on the keys. If you have aftermarket keys made by Ilco, Dominion, Taylor, Silca, or any other aftermarket manufacturer, the numbers on the key are the manufacturers part number for the blank and have nothing to do with the code. Sometimes the code is stamped on the lock, but most often these are part numbers for the lock itself.
Sometimes it's not on the vehicle at all. Sometimes it's in the owner's manual or on other
documents that would have been provided to the original owner. Keep in mind that keys often
have other numbers besides codes on them, locks have part numbers on them that have
nothing to do with the code, and just because someone wrote a number down in the manual
doesn't mean it's the key code. Check with us before ordering a key cut to a code! Fully half
the people who don't enter something not even resembling the key code.
For some vehicles the code can be gotten from a dealer or the manufacturer. For instance, for
many classic British cars (except Jaguar), the British Motor Heritage Trust can research your
vehicle and issue a build certificate that will usually have the key codes on it. Mercedes Benz
owners can try the Mercedes Benz Classic Center.
If you fill out our key request form, we can suggest places to look based on your
manufacturer, year and model type.
We can not determine key codes or cut keys based on the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
Although there are services that will supply that infomation to locksmiths, we don't use them.
They usually require that the owner of the vehicle give verbal permission to divulge the code,
and don't cover cars earlier than 1990. This makes them useless to us, since we only cover
cars made before 1990.