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4 Things To Know About Key Codes

4 Things To Know About Key Codes

Key codes are one of the most crucial and time saving parts of locksmithing. They can save time in impressioning, disassembly of the lock, or even lock replacement. By knowing about key codes and the ways they can help locksmiths, technicians, and clients, all those involved can walk away from a job or store satisfied. We put together a list of 4 important things to know about key codes. These will help people learn more about key codes in general and how to use them.

1. Where Are Key Codes Found?

Knowing where to find key codes is perhaps the most crucial step. If one can’t find the key code, there is no way to move on to conversion or code cutting. Lock codes on vehicles are found in a variety of places. The most common are on the passenger door lock or glove box lock. It is also good to note that key codes were often stamped in the owners manual and/or on a key ring with the factory keys. A quick look through the glove box or center console can sometimes reveal a key code tag or owners manual with the code written inside. Vehicle VIN numbers can often be converted to key codes if the dealer or 3rd party company is willing to work with you. Establishing good, working relationships with these companies can be crucial. To find the codes stamped on the locks, the lock will most often need removed in order to view it properly. A flashlight and mirror can sometimes reveal a door lock code without removal on new, clean locks.

Motorcycles can have key codes in a variety of places, but the most common seems to be under the helmet lock. The lock will usually need to be removed to show the underside key code stamp.

Other locks such as cam locks, tool box locks, and similar will have the key code stamped directly on the face of the lock. Padlocks can lead some astray with numbers stamped on the bottom, but a careful eye can find a key code on the bottom of the lock near the face of the lock cylinder on some padlocks.

One of the most helpful ways to discover where key codes are for a particular vehicle or lock in general is by having proper key code software. These programs are extremely helpful in revealing where lock codes are typically found for a particular application. For example, when referencing a certain vehicle, the software will give a note that the key code is found on the ignition and passenger door lock.

2. What Do Key Codes Look Like?

Upon examining locks, the untrained eye will find many different numbers that may appear to be “key codes”. These can be frustrating for customers simply bringing a number into a shop without bringing the lock along. A few trips back and forth are quite a hassle.

Key codes come in a variety of number/letter variations and lengths. It is best tocheck first with available reference material before going on a hunt for a key code. Reference material like Ilco Kreate a Key, Genericode, and MegaCodes, or even free materials like  Ilco Key Blank Reference Guides will show what the code series is for a particular vehicle or motorcycle. By knowing, for example, that a 2000-2005 Buick Century key code series is S000A-S711K, finding a “code” that reads 7888AK will not lead to a trip to the locksmith shop with the “key code” or time taken trying to convert and cut an incorrect code. This can be especially helpful when the lock code can be in a variety of places such as classic vehicles or motorcycles.

3. Converting A Key Code

A key code does not reveal the actual bitting to a lock. This would be very insecure. Rather the key code has to be converted in order to show the bitting for the lock, and further, how the key ought to be cut. Key codes can be converted using two basic methods.

The first is by using key code software. As listed before, some of these software options are Ilco Kreate a Key, Genericode, and MegaCodes. By entering the key code into the software, the code can be converted into the actual bitting. All of these software applications have many other resources, but conversion is a very crucial part.

Web applications can also convert codes similar to computer based software. Locksmith Ledger offers Codes Express which is a pay-per-month service for access to their database of key codes.

Before mainstream computers and software, locksmiths converted lock codes using code books. These were large reference manuals showing lists of codes and their bitting. Some locksmiths and technicians prefer this method to computers and software.

4. Cutting Keys By Code

There are several options available when it comes to cutting keys by code. This varies from top quality, automatic code cutting machines all the way to simple space and depth keys. Depending on the quantity, quality, and need of an individual, the option used for code cutting can change.


This is a simple option where space and depth keys, keys cut to each depth and space of a given lock, are used as the “trace key” and a blank is inserted on the cutting side of a duplication machine. Cutting the correct depth and space for a given key code will produce a working key for the lock.

space and depth keys


Punch machines come in a variety of designs but work by stamping a blank key to a given bitting. Some punch machines can cut a different types of key, but many are for a single type of key blank. These machines don’t require power and are very accurate, offering years of reliable service.


Key code machines can come in fully automatic or manual types using computer software or a physical card. These often can cut nearly any key from a high security sidewinder to a KW1 using proper vise attachments.

There you have it! Four things to know about key codes. We hope you have learned a few things about the process of cutting keys by code and key codes themselves. For any other supplies, from key blanks to key machines, visit us!

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