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Tuesday
Jul142009

Flipping the flip key

The flip key is slightly thicker than the original keyOriginal FFH key on left, flip key on right (click to enlarge)Artiway from Taiwan sells an Audi-style flip key on eBay for the Ford Fusion Hybrid that I ordered on July 2.  It arrived quickly via registered mail last Friday July 10.  Artiway (or "Welly" in his emails) was very prompt and helpful in all my communications with him.

It is a handsome key that is smaller than the original Ford key when closed, doesn't create holes in your pocket, and has a better (to my mind) button layout.  It weighs a bit more than the original key - 46 grams vs 26 grams.  It could easily be made 1/4 inch shorter and still have the same blade length as the original key.

The key came with easy-to-follow instructions for programming it to work with the car.  You must program the key to work as a remote for the doors and the emergency alarm.  You need your original FFH key to do this, which involves rapidly turning the key in the ignition between the second and third ignition positions.  The instructions say third and fourth position, which would be between "accessories on" and the position which starts the car, but that didn't work for me so I used the second and third positions.

You also have to program the "transponder".  The transponder programming mates the key with the car.  Without it, you can use the key to open the doors but it won't start the car.  Programming the transponder was also an easy process, involving both keys that came with the car.  This makes it harder for someone who steals one key to create a duplicate which could be used to steal the car.

On Saturday I set out to get the blade cut.  The owner at our local hardware store suggested a nearby lock company because he didn't want to take a chance on ruining the blade on a $50 key, and he didn't think that the key would fit properly in his machine. 

Ford key has wider ridge around center channel (click to enlarge)

The guy at the lock company had some bad news for me. If you look at the picture on the right, you can see that the ridges around the center channel are wider on the original key than on the flip key.  He said that his key cutting machine uses the ridge to align the keys and that this discrepancy would cause the cuts to be too deep on the flip key.  He was reluctant to risk ruining the blade on a $50 key. 

I emailed Welly and he assured me the key would work (the ridge size difference not with-standing) and that he could send me a new blade if necessary.

Encouraged, I visited another hardware store on Sunday.  Their machine was not able to hold the flip key properly.  I returned to the original hardware store; the owner was not there, and the two people I talked to didn't want anything to do with cutting the key.

Undaunted, I came up with a cunning plan.  On Monday, I returned to the lock company, and had the locksmith select a non-electronic key from their stock with the same blade dimensions as the flip key. He aligned the two keys using the center channel instead of the ridges so the cut would not be too deep.  For $4.50 he cut that key and I tried it in my car - it worked fine in the door and the ignition but with no transponder it would not start the car (it started the alarm instead).  That proved that the flip key would work when cut!  It also made the locksmith less nervous about ruining my $50 key.

The locksmith placed the original and flip keys in the machine and, carefully bending the body of the flip key upwards at the hinge between the blade and the body to avoid hitting the cutting machine with the body, cut one side of the flip key.  When he went to turn it over to cut the other side of the blade, of course he could not bend the body upwards, only downwards.  Uh-oh!  The flip key would not fit into the machine that way!

Now this part really did happen, I am not making it up: I suggested he flip both keys around 180 degrees so that he could still bend the flip key up, and cut with the keys facing in the reverse direction.  He looked at me in surprise and said, without the slightest trace of guile, "genius!".  In twenty years he had not considered doing this.  Shows how ingrained our thinking can get. 

His buddies in the store all crowded around to see this marvel.  After a few more adjustments, he was ready to cut.  "Which direction should I cut?", he asked his boss.  If he cut from the tip towards the key body, as he always did, he would be moving in the opposite direction from what he had done for twenty years.  "Cut in the same direction as you always cut", advised his boss.

I am now the happy owner of an Audi-style flip key for my FFH!