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Thread: Recourse when key cutters copy your key wrong

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Default Recourse when key cutters copy your key wrong

    We had to go away at short notice. Our normal cat-sitter was unavailable and the cattery was full. Our normal spare key had been left accidentally with a relative who had used it the last time we were away. So we got our front door key copied so that a friend could feed our cats when we were away.

    We got the key cut and gave it to our friend. Cue a panicked call the next day, saying the key didn't fit in the lock. Luckily my mother-in-law, who lives two hours away and has a spare key, was able to come and deal with it, at great inconvenience.

    In hindsight we should have checked to see that the key fitted, and this is what we will now always do in future when getting keys cut!

    Anyway, I took the key back to the key cutter and they flat out denied that it wouldn't fit. We have got about 5 different people to try it, all of whom confirmed that it doesn't work. I invited the key cutter to visit our house to look for himself, which he refused to do.

    It left us to conclude that this type of business is basically immune from having to rectify errors or compensate for poor or non-existent service, as the customer has no way of proving that there was a problem unless the business goes in person to the customer's place, which they will not do of course. We took the original key and the cut key to him and he said that the copy was good, but clearly it wasn't. What else are you supposed to do?

    I don't care about the small amount of money it cost to cut the key, but it's curious how a business like this is basically never liable for mistakes.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
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    Don't know where you went but when I have had the same problem they just cut a new key from the original one for me for no charge. So they did admit liability.

  3. #3
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    There are three things that can be wrong with a newly cut key - (a) the profile can be wrong, so that one or more tumblers in the barrel of the lock do not align precisely with the barrel diameter, thus not permitting the barrel to turn, (b) the blank can be chosen incorrectly, leaving it with splines that do not match the original and/or the blank being too thick, and (c) it can be a correct blank and the profile itself be correct, but the profile and the horizontal splines could be dimensionally wrong in their position to each other.. At what point did the new key refuse to fit the lock?

    Any decent key cutter would easily be able to see his mistake when the new key and the original were again compared.

    There is another problem which can depend on the age of the lock and/or the original key - and both relate to wear. This can cause the new key to refuse to turn although, in the cases I have encountered with new keys I have had cut, a light oiling of the key and a few 'forceful' turns have cured the problem. But the new key still had a slight resistance and needed firm pressure for quite some time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
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    Default

    Sometimes simply cleaning up the new key with a nail file is all that is needed

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
    There are three things that can be wrong with a newly cut key - (a) the profile can be wrong, so that one or more tumblers in the barrel of the lock do not align precisely with the barrel diameter, thus not permitting the barrel to turn, (b) the blank can be chosen incorrectly, leaving it with splines that do not match the original and/or the blank being too thick, and (c) it can be a correct blank and the profile itself be correct, but the profile and the horizontal splines could be dimensionally wrong in their position to each other.. At what point did the new key refuse to fit the lock?

    Any decent key cutter would easily be able to see his mistake when the new key and the original were again compared.
    Wow, thank you for the very detailed explanation.

    Apologies in turn for my layman's language, but the problem was the key would only half go into the lock, it just "got stuck" and refused to go any further in. So the problem arose before it even got to the turning phase.

    We could see that the shape of the copied key did not totally line up with the original. The key cutter wasn't interested and implied that we didn't know how to use our own front door. A 7-year-old could have seen that the two keys' profiles did not match. We should have checked this upon receipt of the cut key, of course, and it's a lesson for the future.

    We will just use a different key-cutting business next time!

  6. #6
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    Apr 2007
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    You got a raw deal, 98selitb. If you do have keys cut in future, go to one which has a concession in one of the big stores. Any confrontation like you've just experienced, and you could complain to the store's customer services - these people don't like aggravation on their doorstep.

  7. #7
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    Jan 2017
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    It is worth noting (though it does not seem relevant here) that cutting keys from keys introduces margins of error that can cause problems.
    When our front door was replaced some time ago, I had several keys cut, but kept the original key in a secure place. When other keys have need replacing, I always have them cut from the original key.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 23dft View Post
    I had several keys cut, but kept the original key in a secure place. When other keys have need replacing, I always have them cut from the original key.
    Sounds like a good idea

  9. #9
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    Certainly makes sense. If a new key is cut with a well used key as the template, then the new key will reproduce any wear. And then, if that key gets well used and it is used as the template for another new key, that key will drift still further from the original true dimensions.

  10. #10
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    Jan 2017
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
    Certainly makes sense. If a new key is cut with a well used key as the template, then the new key will reproduce any wear. And then, if that key gets well used and it is used as the template for another new key, that key will drift still further from the original true dimensions.
    Even better, many commercial key systems include a card with the code for the key, which a locksmith can then cut one from.

    I look after facilities at work, and have a list of key numbers, so if (say) a new key for cleaners cupboards is required, I can quote the code to a locksmith who can cut one in about two minutes.

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