How Lost Motorcycle Keys Are Replaced When They Are Lost

Lyle Ellerbee

Losing the keys to your motorcycle is never ideal for any rider. Whether you ride a cruiser or a crotch rocket, a Harley Davidson, or a Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki or just about any other make of motorcycle, having the keys sure makes it more fun!

Motorcycle, ATV and Scooter keys are all pretty similar from a locksmith’s point of view. Usually, all the locks on a motorcycle use the same key, unless one has been replaced, most often, the gas cap. When motorcycle keys are lost, one of the big challenges for a locksmith is finding the correct keyblank. There seem to be almost as many keyblanks as models of motorcycles! It can be frustrating to a locksmith, as many of our reference materials contradict each other, or information on a particular make, model and year is simply missing altogether. I have even seen cases where the same make, model and year have completely different locking systems and keyblanks. Motorcycle manufacturers are not as disciplined as automobile manufacturers, and they often use last years locks until they run out of them. Also, since the locks on motorcycles are easy to get at, they are more often replaced than automotive locks.

This often causes a great deal of trouble for the locksmith who must assume all the locks work on the same key. However, motorcycles tend to have many locks and the locksmith often has his or her choice of which lock they think will be easier to work on. Helmet locks, fork locks, ignition locks, seat locks, gas cap locks, cargo locks and more can be had by the skilled locksmith. I usually go for the gas cap lock or the ignition lock. The gas cap, because it is easy to get to, the ignition lock because it is usually what people REALLY want a key for! Often, when I make a key for the gas cap, it works in all the locks and I am done. Sometimes, it doesn’t work in anything else, which suggests the gas cap was replaced. In that case, I go for the ignition!

Many techniques can be utilized to generate a new key for a motorcycle. Impressioning is a technique where you use a blank key, you wiggle it around in the lock, the tumblers or wafers makes tiny marks on the key, you file those marks and repeat until the key turns the lock. This technique is one of the higher skills in locksmithing and I use it on motorcycles quite often. You can also read the wafers, using a small otoscope (the kind the doctor looks in your ears with) you look down the key hole or keyway and from that you can estimate the shape or cuts of the key. Impressioning is often used to further fine tune the correct key. Sometimes there is a code stamped on the lock casing, in this case, I can use that code to get the information I need to cut a new key. At no point is a “mold” made of the lock, I get that question quite frequently! Most motorcycle locks are pretty simple, but very effective, while they are a challenge for most locksmiths, they are by no means our greatest challenge!

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