How-To Guide: Replacing a Motorcycle Key

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Most of us have likely been in the unfortunate circumstance of losing a key for a motorcycle. Surprisingly, this is quite common.  So they are much easier to find, motorcycle key chains don’t usually have many add-ons.

So, you may have found yourself in this regrettable situation and may be wondering what you need to do if it’s completely hopeless that you will never find your key, at least in a timely manner.

What should you do if you lose your key to your motorcycle? There are many ways to get a replacement motorcycle key if you lose it.

This has happened many times for me and I have learned a lot.  I’ll explain and guide you through this step by step in details of what to do if you’re caught in a mess like this.

Accessing the Cylinder Code

I have purchased a lot of my project motorcycles with no key.  This is will be a big possibility if you’re buying an older motorcycle, especially one that hasn’t been running for a while. Don’t let this keep you from purchasing a motorcycle because it is really simple to get a new key and usually isn’t that expensive, it all just depends on the make, model, and year of your bike. It is possible to replace a key on older motorcycles, although it may be more costly.

The cylinder code can be used to quickly and inexpensively replace your motorcycle key. To do this, you’ll first need to locate your ignition cylinder. It is located between the speedometer/tachometer on your instrument cluster.

Most often, the cylinder code can be found on the shaft’s side.

A silver shaft is usually found around the ignition cylinder, where you place your key. Most often, the code is located on the shaft. This code can be anywhere from three to four digits (you might need to pull the shaft out to see it).

You can also write the number down and take a picture of it on your smartphone (in case it is not written correctly).  Sometimes you’ll need to clean it off a bit in order to see the numbers clearly. This code should be taken to a local locksmith. It’s a good idea to call in ahead of time to make sure your locksmith is able to make motorcycle keys. Many of them do, but they are not all.

Locksmiths often have tables and values that can be used to find the code and will be able cut the right key for you motorcycle.

Take in the Whole Ignition Cylinder

Although a lot of motorcycles have an identifying code on their ignition cylinder, you may be in a situation where you can’t find the code because it doesn’t have one or the code is unrecognizable.  No need to worry, you can still get a new key made, you’ll just have to do a little extra work for it.

The next step to getting a new motorcycle key is to take the entire ignition cylinder into an locksmith. Obviously, you’ll need to unhook your ignition cylinder to do this in order to take it in. Before you begin to take it apart, contact a locksmith first to ensure there are ones nearby that can make a replacement key using the ignition coil. While most people can do it, there are some who cannot.

There’s usually only one wiring harness clipped in and two bolts that hold the ignition cylinder in to place. You’ll need to take off those two bolts and unclip the wiring harness. You can label the wiring harness to help you remember its location. Then, place the two bolts into a baggie with a labeled label and store it somewhere safe.

From my experience, it is more expensive to have the ignition cylinder replaced than to have a locksmith code the cylinder.   These are also the things I was told directly by locksmiths who I visited.

By taking an impression of the lock inside the cylinder, a locksmith can make a key from an ignition cylinder.  The locksmith will insert a blank key into your lock and turn it. This will bind all the pins within the lock, marking the areas where the locksmith must make the cuts or files for your new key.

It is easy and painless. Once you receive your new key you will be able to reconnect your ignition cylinder.

Replacing the Ignition Cylinder All Together

If you can’t seem to find a code on the silver ignition shaft or can’t seem to find a locksmith that will be able to make a key from the ignition cylinder, Third, you can replace the entire ignition cylinder. This option is available because you can purchase a new ignition key to match your purchased part. Although it is a bit more tedious and takes a little longer, this is still an easy option.

First, you’ll need to remove your ignition cylinder from your motorcycle using the direction as stated above (removing the two bolts and unclip the wiring harness).  Next, you’ll need to get online and type in the year, make, and model and type in the part you need (ignition cylinder). I usually use Ebay which I’ve always had a lot of success with.

Make sure you read the description carefully and look at the photos of the part before buying. Some places claim that their ignition cylinders can be replaced at no additional charge. “universal” They can be used on all motorcycles.  Technically, yes they could be used on any motorcycle, but you’d have to rewire the whole ignition cylinder which is highly annoying and very time consuming.

Make sure you get an ignition cylinder that’s specific to your motorcycle. Most of these parts come with a replacement key. But make sure it is clearly stated in the description.

Once you get your new ignition cylinder, your new part should be able to clip right on to the new wiring harness and easily bolt into the motorcycle’s triple clamp.  Though you will have to wait a few days for the part to be mailed to you, it’s a pretty simple process. You have two choices if you’re short on time but need a key faster.

Provide Your Dealership with Your VIN

If you’ve exhausted all your other options, the last option you can try is calling your dealership. This last option is the best because it will be the most costly. Any work done at the dealership will always be more costly.  This might be the best option if you have a motorcycle that is newer or has difficulty accessing the ignition key.

In order to do this, you’ll need to find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to your motorcycle.  It is located on the steering neck of most motorcycles.

Once you have the VIN, you’ll also need to obtain your proof of ownership of the motorcycle.  This could include your title, motorcycle registration, or possibly your receipt, bill, or bill of sale.

Once you have this, you can bring the paperwork and your VIN to the dealer. Call the dealership beforehand to make sure they’re able to do this.  Ask the dealership for any additional paperwork, as some dealers may require proof of ownership.

Dealers won’t give you a key for a stolen bike if you don’t have proof of ownership.

When you bring your motorcycle to your dealer, they will either cut a new key for you or replace the ignition key that came with it.

If you have to take your motorcycle in to a dealership, you’ll obviously not be able to start it to drive it there. Click here to view my recommended methods to tow a motorcycle.

How to Avoid Losing Your Key

I think everyone can agree that losing your keys for any vehicle is very annoying.  Because they are so simple, keys for motorcycles can easily get lost. There are a few preventative measures you can take to make sure you don’t lose your keys.

The first idea to think about is placing your motorcycle keys in a designated area when you’re not using them. This can be a basket, hook, shelf, or anything that you find suitable and know the keys won’t get disturbed or moved. This will allow you to be consistent in your search for keys. It will also help you train other members of the household to respect it.

A second way to prevent lost keys is organizing your home. More can be created by clutter and unorganized items “hiding places” You need to have your keys with you. If you keep organized, it’ll be easy to spot misplaced items, such as your motorcycle keys.

If you must place your keys in a random place for whatever reason, it’s a good idea to make a mental note and say out loud “the motorcycle keys are in my nightstand.” This will make your subconscious remember where your keys are last.

A second preventative measure is to attach a large and obnoxious keychain along with your motorcycle keys. It might be annoying having that hang off your key while you’re riding, but it’s a great way I have found to never misplace my keys because of the bulkiness.

It’s not as bad as you think. You can always find what you want with bigger key attachments. On my motorcycle keychain, I attached a large embroidered sign with the following words: “Remove Before Takeoff” I love it!

A Bluetooth tracker is the last thing I can recommend to prevent your bike key from being lost. Many companies have small attachments that attach to key chains and act as trackers. You’ll need to download the specific company’s app on your phone.  In the case you lose your keys, you’ll be able to look at the app and see the exact location of your keys.

Where to Store Your Keys So They Won’t Get Lost

Yesterday I spoke with a friend who was a police officer and reported an increase in the theft of vehicles in the area. He stated that the main problem is people leaving their keys in their vehicles, giving burglars an easy way to steal it. You should never leave your motorcycle key in the ignition even if it’s locked away in your garage. That’ll leave you with a lost motorcycle as well.

Multiple keys are a great way of avoiding getting lost or locked out of your bike. I recommend that you have at least three copies to your motorcycle key.

The first key should always be your primary key, or the one you use most often. This key should always be stored in the designated spot in your house, whether it be a bowl, hook or other. This should always be your go to when it’s available; using any of your three copies whenever you want ends up in disorganization and will leave you frustrated.

You should label the second key and keep it in a safe or in another drawer that isn’t used often.  This is your second key in case you lose the first. In the event that you lose your first one, make sure you get a copy of one of the others so you have a complete set.

You should keep the third key in a small magnetic hide a key box and place it somewhere on your motorcycle frame. It is important to keep it hidden from prying eyes and in a secure location, as motorcycles have less cargo security than cars.

This should be your last resort code. I say that because if you’re ever stranded somewhere far away from home and have lost your initial key, this key will be available. You don’t want to ever lose this key because of those emergency purposes.

Similar Questions

Which part of the bike is the VIN associated??  The frame of your motorcycle is identified by the VIN (Vehicle Identification number).  It’s important to know that if you switch out frames on your motorcycle, that means you will need to have a new title associated with that VIN.

How do I unfreeze a frozen ignition on my motorcycle? A homemade solution made from water and rubbing alcohol can be used to fix a frozen ignition switch on a motorcycle. You can also use a hair dryer to de-icer the switch or carefully lighten it with a lighter. You can read my other article for more information about the frozen ignition of a motorcycle.

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