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The ignition key for my 2000 Camry has symmetric teeth, and it has always worked when inserted either way. A few months ago the ignition lock started sticking periodically, and I discovered that it sticks when inserted one way, but not the other.

Should I assume that key is worn on one side and replace it, or could there be a problem cropping up inside the lock? If it's a key problem, how would you even cut a new key from a worn one?

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3 Answers 3

Because your key works normally when inserted with a specific side up, I suspect the key will have some wear on one side. Can you closely examine both sides to see if there's any difference between the two sides?

Since most of the cars are heaving some sort of anti-theft system with a transponder in the key you cannot just replace your key with one from a random locksmith. Please consult your dealership about programming a new key for your car.

Also, remember to avoid large keychains attached to your car key. Heavy keychains tend to wear out the barrel of the lock fast and it might even result in bend keys, broken locks, etc. Naturally it's very expensive to repair or replace the lock on your steering column, so I always advise against heavy keychains.

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The teeth really do look identical on both sides. It's weird. -- I never thought about the effect of a heavy wad of keys on the mechanism. I better give this URL to wife, too :) –  Chris Noe Apr 12 '11 at 11:46
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I found the problem, and the solution.

@Alex warns against having too much on your keyring because of wear and tear on the cylinder. So I examined the cylinder, inserting/extracting the key, but that seemed to be in smooth working order. Then I looked at the key again, and I discovered that it had a bit of a twist in it. So I got out the pliers and untwisted it.

And the key works both ways again.

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A picture (even after the fix) would be helpful to future people with the same problem. Especially a label along the lines of "the twist was here." Also, you should accept your own answer: you solved it! –  Bob Cross Feb 7 '13 at 14:50
    
@ Chris Noe - If you straightened out a bent key you have weakened it and it may eventually break off in the lock. Then you will have to extract it AND get a replacement key. Save yourself the trouble and replace the key now instead. –  Pete Y. 22 hours ago
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11 years is pretty old for a key, if you've been using it since the car was new.

As keys wear, they cause additional wear on the ignition. It's a good idea to use a fresh key to extend the life of your ignition.

When I buy a car, I make copies of the keys and use the copies. The originals go somewhere safe.* When the copies start to wear, I make new copies off the original keys.

If the best key you have is already worn, you can get new originals. Go see a locksmith or a dealer.

(I've heard that burglars will look for car keys, so they can steal cars, too. So you might want to store your spare keys somewhere secure or non-obvious.)

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