It’s depressing, painful, and expensive to use car keys smarter than I am.


Introspection of retrospection should never be taken lightly. Generally, getting on with life is preferable to dwelling on what might have been.

On rare occasions, though, it is profitable to re-visit bad decisions, declare intent never to make them again, and share details of painful experiences. Perhaps I can help others avoid the pitfalls which open wide to me.

I was “chewed up and spit out,” and can just now smile about an avoidable ordeal which a month ago caused me to shed tears.


   It was car-buying time, a process faced no more than twice a decade.  A few details are givens.  My wife always wants a white vehicle that gets good gas mileage and has leather upholstery. I shoot for cars two to three years old with low mileage.

Eureka! I found a hybrid that commonly delivers 40 MPG. It met all our specs. I whistled a happy tune all the way home.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have at least given pause to the seller’s mention that the vehicle has just one “smart key.” Assured that I could get another one, I gave the matter little thought.


   First I had to learn what a “smart key” does. I found out that it joins horseshoes and hand grenades in “coming close” effectiveness. As long as it’s carried in pocket or purse, the car “knows” it’s nearby. Locked cars are magically unlocked, and the ignition requires no insertion of key.

What a “smarty-pants” it is. “Smart key” and auto are in a state of harmonious “gee-haw,” and the motor purrs at the push of a button.

All the while, the “smart key” lays low in pocket or purse.


   Even I, the incurable optimist, knew at least one more “smart key” would be needed, so I visited a locksmith to see what it would cost to get two duplicates “made.” He was patient with me—mostly explaining that much has changed – it’s no longer 1957.

That was the year I bought my first car. I was age 20; the 1949 Nash Ambassador was only a dozen years my junior. It had “plain” keys—three, as I remember. The car set me back $300, had a bloated appearance and almost no distinguishing features, save the fact that the front seat backs lowered to make a bed. I could have made my bed and lain in it, I guess, though I never did.

I digress. The locksmith, unable to help, suggested a visit to the dealership. There, I was stunned to learn that an additional “smart key” called for detailed programming on an expensive machine that had a $350 price tag–$50 more than my first car. If I wanted two, the cost would be $700, plus tax.


   Had my wife been along, she’d have noticed face-reddening and asked if I’d taken my heart medication.

“Get some ‘smart keys’ on the Internet,” another shopper whispered. “Take ‘em to a locksmith for programming and save a bundle.” So I did.

I should have listened to the first locksmith—the one who referred me to a dealer.


   The Internet has many sites trumpeting availability of “blanks” for “smart keys.” (No doubt some could provide “dumb keys,” too.)

The purchase was NOT seamless. The blanks ran $85 each, programming NOT included. I spent the equivalent of two full days, visited five locksmiths and drove more than 200 miles before finding a shop that would tackle the programming procedure.

Woe is me! The first blanks I ordered weren’t the right ones—my mistake—and only one of the second shipment worked.


   Thankfully, Jay Reed, a Colleyville locksmith some 30 miles from our home, took pity. His work ran into hours, tying up the “super-duper” machine which programs “smart keys.” The result, though, was TWO additional “smart keys.”

All told, though, the bill was well short of $700.This doesn’t include, of course, two wasted days spent on the project, emailing/telephoning the Internet supplier, or the 200+ miles driven all over the Metroplex. My wife, experienced at cutting to the chase, found silver linings. “You didn’t lose the ‘smart key’ before getting the extras, and as to the time thing—you’re retired.” I hear the latter a lot.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site:

4164SCSZFVL._Please click on the over to read more about Don Newbury’s book on Amazon.

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