Can I get my car key fixed ? It’s the most popular question, both from our local customers, and the hundreds of on-line inquiries we get every month. The answer is always the same…..it depends.
We see all levels of ‘broken car key’. Some people think that ‘broken’ is a faulty switch, whereas others bring us a bag of bits for us to fix! Here are the most common problems, and how they can be fixed. We hope you find your problem here.
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Can you see your broken car key?
Here are a few examples of broken car key problems we’ve been shown.
Citroen Peugeot Key
My flip-blade doesn’t flip anymore
You’re not alone. This is the most common reason for getting a car key fixed . If you’ve bought a 4-5 years old Fiat, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen, Volkswagen, Kia, or Hyundai, you’ll need the key fixing or replacing, for sure. By adding the fancy flick-out blade, they caused a real headache.
We all love the key blade folding away. When a key digs in our pocket, or tears the lining of our handbag or jacket it’s annoying. So a folding key answers that problem. But, how many times per day do you press that button so the blade flicks out? Ten times a day?
Vauxhall Astra Key
If you do press it ten times per day, then over five years, you press it 182,000 times! Now imagine you’re a heavier user, like a courier or Taxi driver, stop starting 100 times a day. Even as a busy parent, running about from school, to clubs to shops it soon adds up. Over five years, it’s possible the blade flips out a million times, so it’s no surprise that you need your car key fixed .
On-line help to get your car key fixed
The good thing about this problem is, you can normally get it fixed, at low cost. There’s a good range of repair cases, which look the same as the original key. They allow the electronics to be swapped over from the broken key into the new case. We’ve made a series of videos, such as the one below, that show just what to do.
Now some are easy to do, like the Vauxhall keys, whereas some are very difficult like the new VW and Hyundai keys. If you try and fix the more difficulty type yourself, you may damage the important, expensive, electronics. If this happens, your car won’t start anymore. We know this because we’ve broken our customers car keys getting them open, which was a bit embarrassing!
Broken Car Keys, Bad Buttons
There are two problems here. You may have a problem with the rubber material, on the outside of the key. Or it may be a problem with the delicate electronic switches, part the car key circuit board.
The outer case on the key has two jobs. It needs to be strong and rigid enough to protect the electronic circuit board and hold the key blade assembly. To do this the case is usually made of some type of plastic. However, the buttons that you press need to be soft enough to work easily.
Some keys, such as those from Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat have made the buttons out of soft rubber. This means that when new, they are easy to press. However, over time, the rubber stretches, with nails gouged into it, and becomes hard to press. After 4-5 years of regular use, or a shorter time if the car key is heavy use, the key is ruined. Unfortunately, this is about the time the car enters the second-hand market, meaning the first thing that needs to be done, is a new key.
Soft Rubber Buttons
Plastic Molded Buttons
The next design is where the buttons are molded as one piece, but they are hard plastic. Examples of this are the standard Ford remote, (easily the most reliable car key on the market) and the VW/Audi group who have also done a good job. Other examples are the Blue Transit remote and Laguna and Megane Cards. These type of outer buttons rarely fail.
Ford Remote Key with plastic molded buttons
Plastic Moving Buttons
The last method is freely moving plastic buttons. This involves a hard, plastic button, that fits within the key and can move up and down. This isn’t easy to do, because the buttons must be an expert fit in the case. They also need a plastic membrane to prevent water getting in, and they must spring up and down and not get stuck. Good examples of this are the Nissan Range as well as the newer Ford keys. Bad example are the Renault Flip keys.
Moving key buttons
Can you fix the the outside buttons on all of the keys?
So, when buttons fail, fall out, or get stuck, whether it can be fixed, depends on what type of button you have. The aftermarket cases range in quality from very good (you can hardly tell the difference from the original) to terrible (the buttons are rock hard or unusable). Many of the eBay cases are in this latter category, which is why you can buy a replacement Corsa C case for £0.99, but when you change it all over, the buttons are too hard to press down!
We’d advise finding a local key shop, showing the problem you have, and seeing if the case they have is any good for you. For instance, if you’re younger and have good strength in your fingers, then a repair case may be ok. However, if your strength is less due to arthritis of simply the fact you’re older, you may not be able to use what’s available. Sometimes you’ll be better off spending the money on a brand-new key. So see if you can try before you buy!
The Bigger Problem – Electronic switches
Underneath the plastic button is an electronic switch. They’re usually delicate, which is why they’re protected by the outside button. Now these switches range in size from big, chunky, and reliable (such as on the Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Master) to ridiculously tiny, and unfit for a long and lasting career!
I mean really, the Citroen, Peugeot and some of the Fiat switches are so small, you must wonder who come up with the idea? It’s possible the circuit boards were so crammed full of electronics, that the switches were scaled down in size to fit. Or it’s possible it was training day in the design department and they left it to the head of department (who clearly hadn’t chosen a switch for a while).
The knock-on from the difference is size is simply that switches don’t last very long. As they become faulty, it’s normal for you and me to press down harder to make it work. This in turn causes more damage to the key, which makes it even more damaged. It’s a slippery slope.
Can these switches be replaced?
Yes, if the switches are available as spares and are a reasonable size to solder. To put new switches on, the circuit board needs to be heated under a lamp. The the old switches are carefully removed, without moving the other components. Then the new switches need to be soldered in place. It can be quite tricky, but if you find the right company, you can get the car key fixed.
Some switches are too small to replace. We no longer fix the small Peugeot and Citroen switches, simply because they are so small, the repair isn’t very good. We’ve found that if we fix them, then the replacement switches often stop working and, so we must repeat the task. Therefore, we no longer offer this service on the newer Peugeot and Citroen flip Keys.
Before spending money, buying repair switches on eBay, we’d always recommend finding a local car key repair company and ask them whether they’ll solder the switches on for you.
Please don’t superglue the switches. It really messes everything up and means that a proper repair can’t be attempted.
So, this is the most important part of the key, but the least understood. Inside the key is a chip. Sometimes, in the older style of key, you can see a separate chip and it will look like the one below. Other chips are a similar size but made from glass.
On the newer keys, there’s a virtual chip, created by the components on the circuit board. Instead of a separate chip, the components work together to create a signal the car recognises. There are problems with this design.
Firstly, the electronics are delicate. However, they’ve been put into a car key that’s dropped, thrown, heated up and cooled down, repeatedly. It’s no wonder after a few years, that the chip signal starts to play up. When this signal plays up, the car will not start.
Is there a repair service with this problem to get the car key fixed ? This fault can be repaired, but it’s very specialised and some of the parts are not available. The most common keys that suffer from the chip problem are Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall, and Fiat. If the car starts to play up, make sure you get a spare key, as soon as possible. Eventually, the key signal will fail totally and you’ll either need a call-out, or recovering on the back of a pick-up truck.
Should I get my car key fixed or by new?
Good question. It’s all about what you get for your money. In some cases, spend £40 will prolong the key life by five years. Other times, it is a complete waste of money and would be better put towards a new key. Find a local expert near you and have a chat, it’s good to talk!
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We hope this has helped.
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