Monday, September 29, 2008

Car key

A car key or an automobile key is a key used to open and/or start an automobile, often identified with the logo of the car company at the head. Modern key designs are usually symmetrical, and some use grooves on both sides, rather than a cut edge, to actuate the lock. It has multiple uses for the automobile with which it was sold. A car key can open the doors, as well as start the ignition, open the glove compartment and also open the trunk (boot) of the car. Some cars come with an additional key known as a valet key that starts the ignition and opens the drivers side door but prevents the valet from gaining access to valuables that are located in the trunk or the glove box. Some valet keys, particularly those to high-performance vehicles, go so far as to restrict the engine's power output to prevent joyriding.[1] Recently, features such as coded immobilizers have been implemented in newer vehicles. More sophisticated systems make ignition dependent on electronic devices, rather than the mechanical keyswitch. Ignition switches/locks are combined with security locking of the steering column (in many modern vehicles) or the gear lever (Saab Automobile). In the latter, the switch is between the seats, preventing damage to the driver's knee in the event of a collision.

Keyless entry systems, which utilize a remote control in place of a car key, are becoming a standard feature on many new cars. Some of them are handsfree.

Switchblade key from a 2005 Land Rover LR3.
Switchblade key from a 2005 Land Rover LR3.
Some keys are high-tech in order to prevent the theft of a car. Mercedes-Benz uses a key that, rather than have a cut metal piece to start the car, uses an encoded infrared beam that communicates with the car's computer. If the codes match, the car can be started. These keys can be expensive to replace, if lost, and can cost up to US$400. Some car manufacturers like Land Rover and Volkswagen use a 'switchblade' key where the key is spring-loaded out of the fob when a button is pressed. This eliminates the need for a separate key fob. This type of key has also been known to be confiscated by airport security officials.


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