I Lost My Car Keys & Have No Spare (What To Do?)

If you lose your car keys and do not have any spare keys, it can definitely cause panic for most people. Here's what you should do if it happens to you

Lost Car Keys

It’s not an uncommon practice to lose car keys. However, most of the time, you think the keys are gone, you find them in an unusual place. If you aren’t able to find them, you might panic at first, especially if you don’t have a spare handy. We will discuss what to do if you lost your car keys and don’t have a spare. 

Let’s look at the steps you should take and how different car key types will require a different action. 

What to Do if Car Keys are Lost

The first thing you should do if your car keys are lost is, of course, to double-check everywhere again.

If you have a modern car and your car keys are lost and have no spare, you have to contact the dealership to make new car keys and reprogram them to your car’s immobilizer system. You may have to tow the car to the dealership, depending on your car model.

Here is a list of a few steps you should take if you lose your car keys. Further down in the article, you will find what to do based on the car key type for your vehicle.

1. Search the Area

Lost Car Keys

As soon as you realize your car key is missing, you want to check around you. Stay calm and retrace your steps. Very often, the keys will be right in front of you and there will be no reason to move further.

If you do find the keys, move onto our final recommendation of getting a spare while the fright is clear in your mind. If you aren’t able to find the keys, it’s time to take the next step. 

2. Check Your Vehicle

Check Glove Box

After you’ve searched the house or wherever you are, it’s time to look in the car if your car is unlocked. Many people leave their keys in the vehicle unknowingly simply because of forgetfulness. Hopefully, you will find them inside the vehicle but not locked away, which will only lead to other issues.

If you find your keys in the car, it’s time to get a spare made. If not, you need to move on with getting new keys made. 

3. Gather Your Vehicle Information

Whether you choose to go to a locksmith or your local car dealership, you will need to have some information handy. Otherwise, they won’t be able to provide the key that works with your vehicle.

You will first need to identify what type of key you use (more on that in a minute). You will also need the vehicle identification number (VIN), which can be found on the dash and the driver’s side door jamb. Write down the year, make and model of your vehicle as well. 

4. Get a New Key

Now you have to decide whether to work with the car dealership or your local locksmith. Typically, with an older car, you would choose a locksmith instead of the dealership to save some money. 

However, newer car models might require the help of a dealership. With the latest technologies, it’s best to have your dealer prepare the key so you are sure it will work. Yes, this option is going to cost more, but it will save you from many headaches. 

5. Prepare a Spare Key

Once you have a new key for your car, it’s time to get a spare. It’s going to be easiest just to order two keys at the same time. 

With your spare key, you won’t have to face this level of panic again. The next time you lose your key, you will have another on-hand to get you by until a backup spare can be purchased. 

What to do based on car key type:

Car Keys Types

Not all keys are the same. You might find that you have one of these car key types. We will discuss what makes each one different and tell you how to handle getting a replacement.

1. Traditional Car Key

In older cars and some lower-cost newer vehicles, you will find a traditional metal key. This automotive key gets placed into the ignition and turned to crank the engine.

With a traditional key, you can contact any locksmith for a replacement. They will travel to your location and make a new key while you wait. The locksmith can save you a lot of money versus going to the dealership. 

2. Car Key Fob

Originally, fobs were considered an add-on to the key. They are capable of unlocking and locking it, but a traditional key is still needed to start the vehicle. 

If you lose the key fob only, you can still use your vehicle. Just unlock and lock the doors for now with the traditional key. Plus, the key fobs are easy to get at any auto parts store, dealership or online because the aftermarket options can be programmed very easily. 

3. Car Key Fob With Switchblade Key

If your car key fob contains a key attached to it and you lose the entire set, you will need to take a different action. The key fob contains your spring-loaded key inside of it, leaving you without a way to drive your vehicle.

Your best bet is to contact the dealership for a replacement fob. The dealership will cut the key and reprogram a new fob. 

4. Smart Key

The keyless ignition comes with a smart key that works in conjunction with the start button in your vehicle. With the use of a proximity sensor, your vehicle knows when the smart key is present and will turn on. 

Unfortunately, this is another key type that requires a tow to the dealership when lost. The new key must be paired to your car’s computer, making the process more complicated. Plus, these are some of the most costly to replace. 

5. Transponder Key

Once the 1990s hit, transponder keys became readily available. These ignition keys contain a plastic head with an integrated computer chip inside. The wireless connection between the car and key must be established before it can be used to start the vehicle. 

If you lose this key, you are going to face a larger battle. You will need to have the car towed to your local dealership and supply proof of ownership before they can make a new one. The cut key will need to pair up to your car’s computer to work properly, which could leave you without a ride for several days if the dealership is busy. 

Still have questions?

Ask any car question in our new community!

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.