Thursday, July 14, 2016

Buying Chip Keys and Remotes Off the Internet

Originally published Saturday, January 30th, 2010.

I sometimes feel like a nay sayer with many of  the articles I write, however, I feel like I need to inform the general public of situations where they could be taken advantage of.

My topic for this article is remotes and “chip” keys.

First I want to clear up a few things on what a chip key is. They can and are called many different things by vehicle owners, manufacturers and dealers including some four letter words when priced by the consumer who just wants an extra key and didn’t even know their key contained a chip.  Some terms you may have heard are transponder, chip, immobilizer, smart key, computer key, security key, anti-theft, PATS, Sentry key and there are many others. Irregardless of what they are called they are a key with a transponder in them. Below is a key we stock that you can see right through the head of the key. It happens to be a Ford key. And to the right of that a close up of a transponder. Many people are unaware that their is a transponder in their key because it is house in plastic and not visible.

What is a transponder?  The word Transponder itself is a combination of two words; transmitter and responder. Occasionally abbreviated  TPDR, TR, XPNDR or XPDR. When you put your key into your ignition and turn the key. An antenna either on, around or near your ignition transmits a signal to your key. They key then needs to “respond” back with the appropriate signal to let the car know its ok to start.

What is the purpose of a transponder? Simply put, to make your vehicle harder to steal. Forcing the ignition will not allow the car to run like it would on many non transponder vehicles. There are other systems that deture this as well, but I’ll save that for another article.

Clear Ford Key Showing Transponder
Transponder From Inside a Key

Transponder keys are not to be confused with VATS (vehicle anti-theft system) keys. These have what is called a chip in the blade of the key, however, its not a chip its a resister pellet. Still a security feature, but a whole different type of system and much easier to bypass.


And now that we have the basics out of the way we can get to the main subject of this article.
Chip keys are expensive. And many people try to by them off the internet to save some money. Here are some things to think about when buying off the net:
Many times when having a chip key made for your vehicle the largest part of the cost is the programming. Or when you have lost your keys all together a key will need to be originated which would also consider into the price. I’ve had customers buy their keys off the internet and then have me cut and program them only to find out it would have been cheaper to just have me do the whole job.

Are the keys you are buying new? It is a fairly common to do what is called re-chipping or re-blading keys. This is to take the chip from a key like a miscut or used key,  which is usually the most expensive part and put it into a new shell or put a new blade on the key. Where this is all fine and dandy in some keys the chips are not reusable and will not be able to be programmed to your vehicle. One type of chip that comes to mind are the ones used in Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Jeep. These can be reused if the chip is “virginized” using special equipment, however, 9 out of 10 of these sellers don’t even have this equipment, as a matter of fact many locksmiths don’t.

 What is the return policy? Am I going to be able to contact the seller if I have a problem? Like anything else you get a bad one every once in a while. And this won’t be known until it comes time to program the key.

Is the seller knowledgeable enough to know which key your car needs? A few vehicles have more than one option on the same year for different chips and it cannot be told until comparing the keys. And what’s worse is the wrong chip can be put into what appears to be the right key.

Many people want some kind of guarantee on their key, however, most locksmiths won’t warranty a key not bought at their shop. And for good reason. Would you want to be responsible for someone elses mistake?
Feel free to contact us with any additional questions you might have.

Steve’s Lock Out sells and programs chip keys and remotes in the Parsons, Kansas area. Feel free to drop by for an estimate at 1806 Main.

This is Steve signing off.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Effects of a Stun Gun and Are They Really Legal?

Originally posted June 23rd, 2009.

What effects can I expect when using a stun gun on an assailant?

The most effective areas on the human body to target are between the neck and the hips. Where the neck and shoulder meets. Below the rib cage and The upper hip area. Not everyone reacts the same way. Some people may have some immunity to the shock, however most people will be strongly affected by the stun guns that output higher voltages.

Touching an assailant for less than one second will cause minor muscle contractions and have a repelling effect.Touching an assailant for one to two seconds will cause muscle spasms and a dazed mental state.Touching an assailant for three to five seconds will cause loss of balance and muscle control, total mental confusion, and disorientation leaving them dazed.All effects to the assailant are temporary; the stun gun can cause no permanent harm.Under no conditions can you ever suffer a charge back to your own body so you can feel safe using one even if the assailant is holding you.
Never leave your stun gun in the car or exposed to the elements for long periods of time. Extreme heat or cold will diminish the output of your batteries and may degrade the electronic components of your stun gun.If you have a rechargeable stun gun, do not keep it plugged in all the time, this will cause the battery to become weak and not keep it’s charge.  For battery operated stun guns, we recomment checking “your spark” often, and change the battery when the spark seems to be getting weak.

It is best to carry your stun gun with you and keep it at roughly room temperature to maximize its output, and for protection.

The use of stun guns for any purpose other than self-defense or law enforcement may constitute a crime under the law. The stun gun is not a firearm. Do not attempt to defend yourself against an armed attacker.





DENSION / CRAWFORD COUNTY, IA (*According to Sheriff Tom Hogan*)

For more information on Stun Gun laws and  restrictions visit this page at Mythril Security.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New Padlocks from WordLock®

This post was originally submitted July 1st, 2009. We are currently not selling these locks on our site, but do sell them at our storefront.

Use words not numbers

WordLock®, the people that use letters not numbers,  has done it again. Introducing 5 new combination locks. This time they have beefed up a bit with some heavier grade padlocks, but still using the easy to remember words and letters instead of numbers. I’ve noticed that there are some other brands and even some no-name manufacturers that have used the same idea, however, remember that WordLock® is the original.

Here is a run down of the new locks. As usual these are available from Steve’s Lock Out in Parsons and online at

The Sport Lock:

Sports WordLock

Solid Brass Body for any weather condition, 10,000 possible resettable word and letter combinations. Since all our locks are weatherproof they can stand up to the toughest environments. Rated 472 pounds pull strength, 3035 pounds cut strength. Flat, small and ideal for lockers of any kind

Brass Short Shackle Lock:

Short Shackle Brass


Maximum security against theft with a 1 inch hardened steel double-locking shackle and solid brass body, 10,000 possible resettable word and letter combinations. Since all our locks are weatherproof they can stand up to the toughest environments. Rated 1151 pounds pull strength, 7265 pounds cut strength. Perfect for on the job site, in the garage, on the farm, or at the storage facility.

Brass Long Shackle Lock:

Brass Long Shackle Lock 


Maximum security against theft with a 2 1/4 inch hardened steel double-locking shackle and solid brass body,10,000 possible resettable word and letter combinations. Rated 1477 pounds pull strength, 6969 pounds cut strength.Perfect for on the job site, in the garage, on the farm, or at the storage facility

Short Shackle Utility Lock:

Short Shackle Utility


Maximum security against theft with a 1 inch hardened steel double-locking shackle and Solid Zinc weather-coated body10,000 possible resettable word and letter combinations. Since all our locks are weatherproof they can stand up to the toughest environments. Rated 1260 pounds pull strength, 8435 pounds cut strengthPerfect for on the job site, in the garage or at the storage facility
Long Shackle Utility Lock:

Long Shackle Utility


Maximum security against theft with a 2 1/4 inch hardened steel double-locking shackle and Solid Zinc weather-coated body, 10,000 possible resettable word and letter combinations.Since all our locks are weatherproof they can stand up to the toughest environments. Rated 1477 pounds pull strength, 9117 pounds cut strength.Perfect for on the job site, in the garage or at the storage facility
Until next time this is Stephen signing out.

The “Features” on each lock in this post was taken directly from WordLock®

Monday, June 13, 2016

Keys for Antique Locks

Originally posted Monday, June 8th, 2009

Antique Drawer Lock and Key

 Many people do not realize it, however, Steve’s Lock Out makes keys for antique locks as well as new ones. To the left is a picture of one made today in the shop. This particular lock uses a flat steel key that is cut on a special machine.

Car keys, tractor keys, “chip” keys, motorcycle keys…..the list goes on and on. There are not to many keys that we cannot make. Key prices can vary to a little over a dollar to hundreds for some remote head car keys. This is for simply  duplicating or copying a key. For originating a key (make one when there is no key or pattern to go by) the cost is substantially higher. For instance the average non-transponder key would cost about $2.50 in our shop to copy. When you’ve lost all the keys and we have to go to the vehicle to make keys it would cost on average $75. This includes coming out to the vehicle within city limits and making a key. We go alot farther than Parsons to make keys, however, mileage charges apply.

Flat Steel Key

Above is a better picture of the key. There is a lot of talk of bumping going around on the internet, however, this is one type of lock that is immune to bumping. Locks such as this one use levers much like the ones in safety deposit box locks in banks only much smaller. This lock has 2 levers which while immune to bumping, can be picked  by someone with only a little practice and experience.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Too Many Keys

Originally published July 19th, 2009.

Too many keys? Ya, too many keys….hanging out of your cars ignition.

We’ve touched on reasons for auto ignition failures before and heres another bit of information to make your car that much more worry free.

Heavy or or overstuffed key rings are probably the largest contributor to auto ignition failure. Imagine if you would taking 2 pieces of metal and rubbing them together for a couple of minutes. OK not much happens here. Now take those same pieces of metal and rub them together a couple of hours a day and do that every day for a couple of months. Notice anything now. Not that you are really going to do this, but imagine what would happen to them if you did. You would most likely see substantial wear on them. Much the same thing happens in your car’s ignition and key when you have a heavy key ring. Fixing the key isn’t too bad. Most locksmiths can cut you a key back to factory specifications and have you on your way in a reasonably short amount of time and at not too much expense.  If you  have a “chip” key the cost can go up substantially. However, when an ignition fails it can be a whole new ball game. Ignitions, even ones that don’t use chip keys can be quite expensive. Most brands of autos use the same ignition for cars with and without chip keys. The difference is the antenna near the ignition that picks up the signal from the key.

Locksmiths are not the only ones who fix ignitions. Some mechanics do as well. The difference is most mechanics will put in a randomly keyed ignition and you end up with 2 keys to what should be a one key car. A locksmith, well I can’t say all, but most will key the new ignition back to the original key so you still have a one key car.

I will admit that there are several autos out there that have ignitions in them that are prone to premature failure no matter how careful you are. And failure doesn’t necessarily mean that the ignition will not turn on. I’ve replaced many GM ignitions that failed due to a sensor in the lock. In this case the key will turn on, however, you get a “no crank” situation and a blinking “theft” indicator on the instrument cluster.

Some ways to keep from causing to much wear on your ignition are.

Have a separate key ring with just your ignition, door key and remote on.Use a quick disconnect or release type key ring so you can detach you ignition key from the rest of the ring when being used in you vehicle.

Quick Release Key Ring

We do not advise simply leaving your key in the ignition in your car. This is just inviting auto theft and many insurance companies will not cover a claim when an auto is stolen in this situation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Knock, Knock….My Take on Lock Bumping

Originally published July 8th, 2009.

I figured after the MSNBC story today on lock bumping I needed to put my views on the subject out there.

While lock bumping is a legitimate danger and very hard to detect, it has been blown way out of proportion by a now well known lawyer propelling the news media. By magnifying this danger other real and more likely dangers have been played down. Here are some types of attacks criminals use on your to gain access.

Brute Force:Kick-ins, crowbars, sledge hammers, bricks, pipe wrenches, etc. are the most common ways of gaining entry. Deterrents for these are simply better physical security such as good, properly installed deadbolts, high security door strikes, window break film, latch guards, etc. combined with good lighting and an alarm.

Using YOUR Key: Why would a good thief go through all the above work if all he has to do is use your key. Have you ever loaned out your house key to anyone? Have you ever handed them to anyone for any extended period of time such as when you have your auto serviced?  Left them set around at your place of work? If so entry to your home could cost as little as a $1.25 at any local key cutter. How can you prevent this? Don’t leave your keys set around. Only hand over what keys are necessary when giving them to someone. Have one of the locks on your door keyed different so when needing someone take care of something at your home you can simply lock the other lock to keep out any possible dangers. Have a restricted key way installed on your home by a locksmith: this keeps unauthorized duplicate keys from happening in the first place.

Walking Right In: Always lock your doors.

Covert Entry: Using locksmithing tools and methods to bypass your locks. Picking, pick guns, loiding, etc, and of course the subject of this article “BUMPING“. There are actually many responses from the lock industry to combat this overrated method of entry, however, the following is the best way to deter this.

Restricted keys: If you can’t get a key blank in the first place you can’t make a key to bump it. Steve’s Lock Out and many other lock shops can provide you with just such a key way.Bump Resistant Locks: Master lock has line called Bump Stop that is in my opinion one of the most bump resistant locks on the market. Also the deadbolts have a lock-out feature for when you are on the inside where no key, even the right one will let you gain access from the outside. Master provides a whole line of products to combat this from padlocks to doorknobs and deadbolts. Any locksmith can provide you with Bump Stop locks. If you come into Steve’s Lock Out we can tell you all about the locks, have product demos and even show you a video about lock bumping. We can also show you many other ways to protect your home and business.
 Some of the locks that were put out by the lock industry, even though making them nearly bump and pick-proof, ignored or “overlooked” the fact that the new designs are very weak to brute force attacks. Master Lock while not the strongest of locks is still a lock to be reckoned with and much stronger and resistant to brute force than many of the residential locks on the market.

I do not recommend using a lock with out any type of key what-so-ever on an application that has only one door for entry. All keyless locks on single door applications should have a key override in case of lock failure.

While I have not covered all points of the total security package (far from it) I hope I have given you some points to think about and urge you to examine all aspects of your security if you are truly worried about keeping you and yours safe.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Door Brace is So Simple but Important to Have and Use!

Originally published June 11th, 2009

Who would have ever thought that in a world where everybody has home surveillance systems, computers, talking GPS systems, microwave ovens, satellite television with 8,000 channels, and all of this other great technology, that something so simple, and non-electronic, and non-computerized, could be so important? I am talking about a nifty little clever invention called a Door Brace.

A Door Brace is Simple Effective Security

This is a product that is made out of metal, is extendable to the length that you need, is collapsible to easily be stored or to travel, and it can be put in place each night, under the door knob and down to the floor, to prevent the door from being pushed open, even if it is somehow unlocked. What could be better for the person who lives alone, the college student, or the person staying in a hotel room while traveling? The door brace is a great idea, and what is even a better idea is for YOU to have one for when you do travel, and they make great gifts for any friends or family members that may have a need for something that will increase their safety, whether at home or anywhere.

It is a reality that the world that we live in is becoming more dangerous and there is more crime happening every time we turn around or we turn on the news. Protect yourself and those that you care about with self defense and personal protection items, and if you don’t have a store in your area that sells such things, not to worry; these kinds of products can be purchased online at a variety of great websites and online stores that specialize in protecting folks and their homes, as well as their possessions.

The door brace is not only able to be wedged between the floor and the door knob or handle, but it can also be extended to the proper length, and inserted lengthwise into the track of a sliding glass door, making it impossible for someone to slide the door open, even if they somehow got the door unlocked from the outside. Sometimes folks have a sliding glass door with a broken or flimsy lock, and what keeps the door securely closed, is something of this nature in the track area.

So, whatever your needs are, and no matter how many doors in your home, a few of these door braces just might be a lifesaver some day. Order yours today or pick one up at Steve's Lock Out while you’re thinking about it.

Copyright 2009 Mythril Security. This work may be reproduced if this paragraph is left with the work with included link to Mythril

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Key Should Only Be Put In Locks or Your Pocket...

Originally published June 25th, 2009

…there are a few other places you can put keys too, however, there are several places that they should not be put as well.  This may sound a little gross, but one place they should not be put is in your ears. In my business I re-key, fix and replace many locks and have personally fixed and replaced several that failed due to……….ear wax. I’ll be the first to admit that the first time I came across this and realized what this was that clogged the lock up I felt rather nauseous. It still do, but like everything else you deal with from day to day you build up a tolerance for it.

Automobile ignition  locks are the only place that I come across this problem. Customers will sometimes ask “What was wrong with my lock?” Our reply is normally that we found a waxy substance in the lock prohibiting the movement of the tumblers and advise them not to put their keys anyplace but their pocket or in the lock. Even though I’ve really thought about it I’ve yet to give the reply, “The problem is you clean your ears with your keys.”

As funny as it sounds its really no laughing matter. Ignition lock fails can leave you stranded at the worst times and cost hundreds of dollars to fix. The best way to keep this from happening is to only use your keys for what they are intended for, operating a lock. Not cleaning your ears, scraping dirt, opening cans ect. If you realize that you have gotten something on your keys, stop, don’t put it in the lock. Use a clean cloth or paper towel and wipe the key off. If its sticky and won’t come off by wiping it use a mild cleaner on the blade of the key only. I do not recommend cleaning the electronic part of remote head or electronic keys with any kind of cleaning solution. Follow these simple rules and they can help you avoid some costly repairs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Buy Pre-Made Masterkey Systems Online

This document was originally published Friday, May 29th, 2009.
Master Keyed Locks

You can buy pre-made master key systems from Steve’s Lock Out  for apartment complexes, businesses, rentals and even private homes. You simply purchase the system, it’s shipped out to you within 2 weeks (allow more time for exceptionaly large systems), you or your maintenance crew installs the hardware and your good to go.  You have one key for access to all your doors and each tenant has their own key that will not access other doors. We can also do custom systems or multilevel systems and expand existing systems.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A New and Unique Padlock Introduced by Strattec

Originally published June 19th, 2009
A padlock set to your car key

I believe this has been a long time coming. A padlock that can be set to your vehicles key. Now granted if you have a 78 pinto that won’t be doable, however, with most modern American made autos it is. The number of vehicles this padlock can be keyed to is too extensive to list here. You can contact us if you are wondering about your auto.

There are actually 4 different padlocks. One for Ford, Lincoln and Mercurity. One for Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth. And 2 for Chevy, Pontiac and GMC. The reason for 2 for the GM padlock is that they are the only ones to introduce a new standard key blade in the last 5 years. Other vehicles that they also cover are Saturn, Hummer, International, Sterling and some Mazda, Isuzu and Mitsubishi.

I’ve ordered one of each to keep in stock at my shop. My overall opinion of this lock so far is good. It is a hefty lock although the shackle is long it is not to thick. You can use this just about anywhere else you would use a normal padlock.

Here are some pluses that Strattec boasts of the lock:

Strattec is boasting this lock to be very corrosion resistant and has a hardened shackle. It uses a shutter much like a auto lock to keep out contaminents.

The lock also uses a side-bar type lock which will make the lock very pick resistant and bumping is not even an option.

And they are standing behind this products. They are offering a limited lifetime warrenty on the product. According to the warrenty they will replace, repair or refund the orginal price of the lock for the original owner. These rights do not transfer to anyone that the original owners sells or gives the lock to.

Bravo Strattec.

However, there is one drawback I see to the padlock. Once it is set to a vehicle key that is it. It cannot be recoded to another key. Other than this one thing I think this lock is great.

And again these locks are available at Steve’s Lock Out.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

You Want Me To Do What?

This was probably my most popular post. This was originally posted on June 13th, 2009,

When I said we make keys to all kinds of things at Steve’s Lock Out  I mean ALL KINDS and this job we took on proves it. I would consider this job probably the most unusual I’ve ever done.

JR Brown Mausoleum
I was approached by a local organization that had been given the responsibility of being care takers of a Mausoleum at Oakwood Cemetery. Over the years the key had managed to disappear and it was time to do some maintenance and cleaning and without the key they had no way of entering.

Just an interesting note, atleast to me, my great-grandfather was caretaker of this cemetery.

I considered this a unique challenge and jumped at the chance although not sure exactly how to tackle this job. I had not worked with a lock of this type and age before. I managed to find another locksmith in another part of the US that had opened one similar to this and had a little infomation on the construction of the lock.

Bronze Mausoleum Doors
To replace these doors now would cost in excess of $6,000 so I made careful planning as to how I was going to do the opening. I tried picking the lock for some time to no avail. Between the shear size of the bolt and picking deterrents built into the lock it was futile. This lock is similar to the lever lock we wrote about making the key to on the 8th of June only this one was much larger and had “teeth” on the levers that meshed together so when one lever was picked it was nearly impossible to move the next one to the proper position. It made it obvious that we were going to have to drill an access hole to be able to pick this lock.

A closer picture of the keyhole
The date on the mausoleum and what we could see here are the only clues that we had about this lock. From what information that was gathered we took our measurements, checked them again and then began to drill.

Access hole drilled
Although it is hard to tell from the picture we came in within 1/32 of an inch of where we needed to be. This was close enough for what we needed to do.

Door Opened
After we got the hole drilled it took about 10 minutes to get the lock picked. Here is a picture of the door opened looking at the edge of the lock.

A big lock
As you can see this is a rather large lock. Being solid brass I estimate it weighed about 7 pounds.

The Lock Removed
Here the lock is removed and the screws are placed back in the door as to not loose them.

Temporarily secure
We needed to temporarily secure the doors while we made the key. I had this cable lock in my service vehicle. It worked out pretty well.

Key for the mausoleum
We did not have an appropriate key blank to use in this situation. We made this key from some flat stock with a washer welded to the end for a head and then proceeded to put the cuts on the key.

Hole plugged
Here we have plugged the hole with an appropriately sized piece of metal rod and sanded the sureface. It stands out now, however, with weathering will soon blend in.

Door and key are finished
Here we have a picture of the finished job with the key inserted into the lock.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Just to introduce myself, my name is Stephen Passwater. I am a locksmith/security tech in Parsons, Kansas. I have been locksmithing as Steve's Lock Out for over 17 years. I also am a big fan of many aspects of history which will be reflected here.
I have documented some of my more interesting jobs and some day to day things, however, due to circumstances beyond my control my blog was eliminated. I was able to retrieve many posts curtesy of the Wayback Machine.
I will be reposting many of those articles and adding new ones here from time to time.
I also run a fun place called Cosmic Castle. The photo below is me and some of my crew at Cosmic Castle on Steampunk Saturday. I'm on the right. My wife Anna is sitting in front of me. My youngest son Joshua is to my right. My oldest son Andrew is on the left. And a good friend of mine, Mike May, in black between my sons.

Steampunk Saturday at Cosmic Castle