Losing your car keys is a nuisance, but leaving them behind in Europe is potentially worse. That was the experience for Lifehacker reader Mark, but the story turned out to have a happy ending, as he recounts:
I recently came back from Europe after a three-week holiday. When I got home, I realised that I hadn’t brought my car keys with me and instead had left them overseas with my girlfriend. As my girlfriend doesn’t return for another week, I considered my options (taxi/public transport everywhere/hire a car). Recalling a story that I read recently that keys just represent number codes and can be cloned from a photo (after reconstruction with a computer); I asked my girlfriend to email me a scan of the car key to see if I could get someone to cut it. I rang a few locksmiths, most of who confidently told me that what I was asking for was impossible and that I would need to replace the locks. One guy, however, said to bring the image and he would see. I took my laptop along and showed the guy the image. To my satisfaction, he was able to read all but one of the numbers from the key ridges/dips with confidence. He then asked the make and model of the car and was able to cross-reference the number he had generated off the image with a database of known keys ( I didn’t know such a thing existed). As one of the numbers was uncertain, he tried a few options and one of them came up as a match. He was then able to cut a key from the computer which worked first try. The cost? $29 dollars. A good life hack I think! Obviously, this applies to older model cars that have a simple key with no specialised electronics.
If you have found yourself in this scenario, and have the patience to find a co-operative locksmith, this could well get you out of trouble. Thanks Mark!