4 Ways to Make a Copy of a Key

by Team eLocal
Man at key cutter shop looking at blanks comparing them

When you purchase a home or vehicle, you may not receive as many keys as you need. You might want an extra key to keep around just in case you lose yours somewhere, or you might need one to give to a teenage child who’s now able to drive your car or enter your home on their own.

The good thing is that most keys can be copied, so you can have as many on hand as you need.

How to Copy a Key

Hardware stores usually have a locksmith or key kiosk you can use. Just make sure that the key blank that you choose is the same thickness as the key you’re copying. If you choose one that’s too thick, it won’t fit inside the lock, and one that’s too thin could break.

1. Use a Kiosk

Using a key kiosk is simple. There are tons of colorful key designs available, so you can go with something flashy and original if you’d like, or you could just select a traditional brass or mirror finish. You place your original key into the kiosk, and it scans the key before cutting a new one for you. While this method is great for normal house keys, it doesn’t work for most modern car keys or skeleton keys.

2. Go to the Dealership

In most cases, it’s easiest to visit your car dealership to get a copy — but this is also the most expensive option. Car key fobs need to be programmed so that your vehicle recognizes them. The physical key is laser-cut. Some locksmiths have the technology needed to duplicate car keys, which can save you money, so it doesn’t hurt to check with your local locksmith before paying the dealer.

3. Call a Locksmith

If you bring your key to a locksmith, they will use a machine that files a new key blank to match the exact shape of the original key. Some locksmiths are so skilled that you can give them a picture of the original key, and they can recreate it by sight. Using a locksmith typically isn’t expensive if you’re just asking for something as simple as a key copy.

4. Make a Clay Mold and Cast the Key

There are DIY options, too, though they aren’t the simple solution you might be looking for. You could use a piece of clay to make an imprint of your key. After you’ve made the imprint, you can heat up zinc metal until it’s melted and pour it into the mold. Once it cools, you have the key. The problem with this method is that you can hurt yourself badly due to the high heat of the molten metal. Plus, slight imperfections in the mold can lead to a key that doesn’t work properly. It’s much easier to simply take the key to a locksmith and have it professionally copied.

What Are My Options If I Lost the Key?

Your options for copying a key are limited if you’ve lost the original key. If you have a photo of the key, you may be able to find a locksmith or kiosk that can recreate a key from the image.

If that’s not an option, you could attempt to pick the lock to gain entry into your home — but this isn’t a skill you can pick up without some practice. The internet has plenty of videos and tutorials you can refer to when attempting to pick a lock, but remember that it’s illegal to tamper with a lock you don’t own. Attempting to open a lock without a key could damage the lock. It’s easiest to contact a locksmith and have the lock replaced.

Can You Copy a Key That Says ‘Do Not Duplicate’?

You may wonder why some keys say “restricted” or “do not duplicate” on them. It’s actually not illegal to copy keys that say “do not duplicate,” but some locksmiths won’t touch them. In that case, you can easily use a key kiosk to copy them or find a locksmith that won’t mind doing the task.

Restricted keys are different, because there’s a patent on the key design. Copying a restricted key can violate patent law. The fine for copying restricted keys is up to $10,000. This is common with car keys, where the only way to get a copy is through a licensed dealer.

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