/ Help! Car key cutting in Chamonix

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Oo - on 15 Sep 2017
Due to drive home first thing tomorrow (Saturday) and after a fab trip of nothing going wrong I have snapped my one and only car key in half. I have both bits and am locked out of my old Astra so plan A is to find someone to cut me a new key tomorrow (using old bits as template). I know they won't be able to do the immobiliser bit, I'm hoping to just hold old key next to new key when turning in the ignition.

So, does anyone know where I can get this done? Does Chamonix have a Le Timpsons? I'm staying in Les Houches if that makes things easier / harder.

Plan B is a window smash to get in, then superglue the key back together and pray it works in the ignition. I don't want to risk losing the key in a door lock. The car isn't worth very much, so high chance of scrappage on return to UK. Would just like to get home with car full of kit before the faff of that.

Any and all help appreciated,

Rigid Raider - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Oo:

Just push the broken-off bit into the lock and use the stub to turn the lock. Simples.
Oo - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Rigid Raider:

That's basically my plan B, only I was going to put a dab of super glue on the key first. A friend warned that if pushed in too far the stub wouldn't turn. I'll need to smash a window to get in first too.
Rick Graham on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Oo:

In the UK you can get a new key ordered off the GM database, just need proof of ownership.

May be the same in France at an Opel dealer, not sure how quick this would be.

If you go down the window breaking route, you could break the steering lock and hot wire the ignition but most cars nowadays need the chip in the key near the lock before it starts, I think, a proper mechanic would know.

Again, a guess, but pushing all the keys bits into the ignition might release all the lock tumblers and allow the key to turn. HTH
jon on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Oo:
The cobblers 'la Cordonnerie du Mont Blanc' on Ave l'Aiguille du Midi cut keys.
Edit: I assume they do car keys as well as regular keys...
Post edited at 21:54
timlongs - on 15 Sep 2017
gethin_allen on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Oo:
I'd try soldering it.
If you have been camping you'll likely already have a gas cooker so that can be used as torch, you'll need some solder and flux. If you can find a plumber or a DIYer you'd have the kit.
I'd take the fob apart to keep the chip safe while you do the soldering so you don't cook it.
mike123 - on 16 Sep 2017
In reply to Oo:
They may or may not be telling you how to suck eggs but have you got rescue cover ? AA RAC or something else ? You might even have some form of cover with your standard car insurance . Give them a ring , they czn only say no. Well worth exploring all avenues before breaking in and hot wiring etc . You might be covered to get the car related back to the UK even though you say it's not worth much, it would get you and your gear home .
You're better off getting it sorted so you confident that you will get home while still in Cham , you really don't want to be in the middle of knowwhere at 3am with a car that won't work. You may end up with a really big bill .
Post edited at 09:01
Dodec Ahedron - on 16 Sep 2017
In reply to Oo:

I had a plain key cut just at a walk in locksmiths (UK) so that I could leave the transponder key in the car while surfing and still get into the car with the cheap non transponder copy.
The non-transponder key worked the door mechanism, but not the immobiliser, but as you say, the lock may only require proximity to the broken key to get round that problem.

In the ignition, I'd be a bit worried that the non-transponder key might work while the real key is in proximity, but cut the engine if it lost its connection to the RFID chip, so I'd test that out before I drove anywhere.

I have no experience with fixing broken keys, the soldering idea sounds good, there are 2 good diy shops in Chamonix that I know of.

They will sell solder and an iron, or one of those small lighters with a hot pointy flame.

Maybe chemical metal type glue might also work?
Oo - on 16 Sep 2017
In reply to Oo:

We have a happy ending! A large thank you to everyone on UKC, especially jon and timlongs for the cobbler.

I do have recovery (I view it as mandatory for the series of £500 bangers I've had) so first thought was to phone them while the partner tried some string shenanigans she'd seen on YouTube - they all failed. Recovery sounded optimistic at first, but then, I was told over the phone, that no French recovery agent would come out to break into my car as it wasn't worth it. They would only recover to a garage and then order new keys. I was a bit surprised at this as I clearly explained that I was willing to have irreparable damage to my car in order to get home: so either a breakdown in comms or 8pm on Friday had struck and the drivers weren't fussed about earning a small fee. Weirdly, the breakdown people were more than happy to pay for a hire car, new train booking etc to get me home. So, the ultimate backup plan was to work out how to scrap a car in France or see if I could somehow give it away to someone willing to deal with it (a bargain if you have the time, she's a great runner!) That sounded like a potential admin blackhole.

Anyway, got up, superglued key back together to see how that looked and give it plenty of drying time. Then caught the bus to Chamonix and found the cobbler open - result! He took my key and largely ignored my broken French about how delicate the thing was. He then went off rummaging on a scavenger hut clambering around the back for a blank and returned: with no blank, and only the stubby bit of my surgically botched key reconstruction.

My face dropped in horror; his had a slight look of surprise. Cue hunt number 2 for the crucial pointy end of the key. After much rummaging around the floor and in boxes (it was essentially a search for a needle in a needle shop) it turned up in his apron pocket. He found this funnier than I did. Anyway, no proper Vauxhall/Opel blank but a Renault one that would have to do. Key cut and back on the bus. He kindly accepted the contents of my wallet which was slightly short of the required €15.

The hotel owner had left me an ominous present of a hammer, gloves, plastic sheet and tape which was very generous - his wife had looked on my Chamonix venture as a fool's errand. I think he was also insentivised to get my car out of his car park. Straight to the car and the super French key turned in the door, locks pop, shouts of joy. No need to smash a window, good beginning. I'm feeling warmer towards the slightly forgetful cobbler already.

Key turned in the ignition, car starts (much to my surprise) lasts a few seconds then dies. Ok, I now have an idea how immobilisers work, I'm prepared for this. Old key fob held next to new key, turn again, car starts and ticks over happily for 10 seconds, old key fob removed and safely stashed. Car continued purring for a minute so I reckon immobilisers are only active around the ignition moment. We pull away and happily set off for Calais; singing the praises of the cobbler as we go!

A couple of starts and stops at petrol stations along the way and all is still well. There is life in the old banger yet and my faith in old cars being easier to deal with is restored.

Thanks again for all the help and suggestions, in reply to some of them:

I thought about soldering, but with rudimentary kit wondered about a higher chance of putting more metal in and buggering the lock. It sounded like it should work without the superglue even, so that was plan B.

I'd also double checked with the recovery people that I could still take them up on their hire car option if my breaking and entering failed - which they said yes to. I was quite impressed as it's just the service bundled with a Nationwide FlexPlus account. They were very accommodating.

As for ordering new keys, I'd tried this in the UK as when I bought it it only came with one. I am apparently missing a piece of paper that means it will be expensive and long to get keys through Vauxhall. I'm going to re-explore this when I get back.

And finally, the moral of the story?

UKC may have solved your problem; but you shouldn't use your car key to open beer in the first place.


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