In 2002 Honda introduced a newly designed high security lock system with that year’s CRV. This system is known in the locksmith world as an external four track high security lock and key system.
The keys for this system look very different than those in years past. Some people refer to this type of key as a “laser cut key”. That term is a bit of a misnomer because cutting these keys does not involve the use of a laser in any way. They are cut on either a computer controlled or manually controlled vertical milling machine, designed specifically for that purpose.
Each of the tumblers inside the lock has a small protrusion or finger that contacts the milled portion of the key and when the key is fully inserted in the lock, all the tumblers are lifted to the correct height so the lock can turn.
Problems begin to occur when the locks and/or keys become slightly worn. There are several factors that can cause wear and subsequent lock failure. As the tip of your key wears down and acquires small nicks or dings through use, that portion of the key begins to wear down or otherwise damage the small fingers on the tumblers mentioned earlier. That, along with dirt and trash that enters the lock, lack of lubrication, etc., can all contribute to premature lock failure.
At some point, when the key is inserted in the lock, one or more of the tumblers will not ride up and over the cut portion of the key, as it should, but instead those small fingers will get trapped on the side of the key. As you continue to push the key into the lock, the finger of the trapped tumbler will become bent over or mushroomed and will no longer be lifted to the correct height by the key. At that point it’s essentially like you have the wrong key inserted in the lock and it will not turn.
If you’re key no longer turns your lock, have a close look at the key. On the wide, flat sides of the key, starting at the tip and extending back toward the plastic head, see if there isn’t a polished streak or line in that area. That’s where the damaged tumbler(s) are getting trapped on the side. The lock will need repair or replacement at this point.
As a Raleigh mobile automotive locksmith, I am most often called to repair damaged ignition locks. That is usually the lock that gets the most use and fails first. The majority of these vehicles are equipped with remote keyless entry and the vehicle owner rarely uses the key in the door lock, resulting in less wear. If the vehicle is not remote keyless entry equipped, more often than not, the door lock will be the first to fail.
There are several ways to approach the repair of these locks. Unfortunately, most vehicle owners opt to have a repair shop or dealership perform the service. I say unfortunately because the shop usually orders a complete lock assembly with keys. Once the repair or replacement has been completed, the customer ends up with two different keys to operate the locks on their vehicle, a new key that works the new lock and the old keys that work all the other locks.
This leaves you with a couple of undesirable conditions. Not only do you now have to make a conscious effort to choose the correct key every time for the lock you wish to turn, but you are still using the old worn and damaged keys in your other locks. This will continue to wear and damage the other locks, resulting in failure there as well.
I’ve been called in on numerous occasions to repair one of these locks, only to have the customer explain that they just had this lock repaired by someone else a few months ago. Upon disassembly, I usually find that whoever did the ‘repair’ last time merely removed the offending tumblers and left the rest in the lock. The customer continues using the old, worn key in the lock containing the old, worn tumblers and it isn’t long before they’re right back in the same situation again.
Then there is my way. The right way to repair these locks. I repair as many as a half dozen or more of these locks per week. On average, I’m repairing three to four per week. I’ve been repairing these since shortly after their introduction.
Normally, complete lock replacement is not necessary. Unless the lock has been subjected to further damage by trying to force it to turn, etc. In most cases I can rebuild the existing lock, utilizing the original lock core and housing, as they remain undamaged and those portions of the lock receive negligible wear. But if upon closer inspection, once I have the parts disassembled and cleaned, those parts are questionable, I keep OEM replacements to insure the job is completed correctly.
I prefer to disassemble the lock, clean, and inspect the parts to be reused. I toss out the old tumblers and springs and code the lock back to the original key code using all OEM parts. I also cut two brand new keys to OEM specifications using a highly accurate computer controlled high security key cutting machine and program them to your vehicle.
By doing this, a single key still works the entire vehicle, just like it was from the factory. You don’t have two different keys to fumble with. The lock is essentially brand new inside and will give you about the same service life as it originally did, assuming comparable usage. And you have nice, freshly cut keys with crisp edges and no wear to continue damaging the locks.
I do insist on taking any old keys with me that I deem to be worn enough that they could cause problems, if you want the ninety day warranty that I offer on this repair. I do this because the worn and damaged keys are what initiate the problems leading to lock failure. I do not want these keys to be used in the locks in the future, so I take them with me.
Above are examples of new keys with no wear or damage. This is what your keys should look like.
Below are examples of worn and damaged keys that will cause premature lock failure. If your keys look similar to these, stop using them and replace them with new ones that are cut to OEM specifications, not duplicates of the worn key.
A few things you can do to prolong the lifespan of these locks are:
- Lubricate the locks with a light, clean lubricant such as Tri-Flow or something similar. It doesn’t take much. Just a quick squirt once or twice a year should be plenty.
- NEVER use any lube containing graphite in vehicle locks!
- Replace keys showing signs of wear or damage, especially at the tip.
- Rotate your keys to extend their lifespan and spread the wear amongst them.
- Make a conscious effort to insert your key straight into the lock each time rather than starting out with the key entering the lock at an angle.
I hope you have found this article to have been helpful and informative. Please feel free to call or email me with any questions you may have, or to schedule an appointment. My main service area is Raleigh but I also travel to many different towns and municipalities throughout Wake and surrounding counties.
Thank you for your interest!
Jay Barker, CAL