Maybe you can satisfy my curiosity on a matter that...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

Maybe you can satisfy my curiosity on a matter that I have occasionally pondered over the last quarter-century. It concerns GM's practice of providing one key that operates the ignition only, and a second key that operates the doors, glove compartment, and trunk. Try as I might, I cannot understand the logic of this practice. I could understand providing one key for the door and ignition, and another for the glove compartment and trunk. Then, when you entrust your car to a valet, you can give him access to the door and ignition, without giving him access to your personal belongings. With the GM arrangement, if you don't want to give the guy access to your trunk, you can't let him lock your car either. Why?

TOM: Good question, Steve. They've always done it this way. Originally, they were trying to solve a reliability problem. Evidently, a long time ago, it was very hard to get GM cars started. So once the owner got it started, he didn't want to shut it off for fear it wouldn't start again. So in their wisdom, GM provided two keys. One, he could leave in the ignition to keep the car running, and another to lock the door so the car would still be there when he got back!

RAY: Actually, I don't know why they started doing it this way. And I guess they keep doing it because they're stubborn...or they're determined to use up those sixty million key blanks they have sitting in a warehouse outside Kalamazoo.

TOM: Most manufacturers have switched to a system in which one key works everything....the doors, the ignition, the glove box, and the trunk. Then, there's often another "valet key" that works on only the door and the ignition, so a parking attendant can park the car and lock the door. Pretty simple, huh?

RAY: Will GM switch over to this vastly improved system or will they stubbornly keep doing it the way they've always done it? You'll have to stay tuned to "As The Wrench Turns" to find out. GM claims to be reinventing itself these days, and says many reinventions will be apparent in its newly designed cars. It would be encouraging if the reinvention staff gets at least as far as the keys.

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