Here's something to consider as the holiday shopping season approaches:
That General Motors-built vehicle you drive may not be as secure as you
Call it a rumor or an urban legend, but it turns out
that this one is true. Industry experts say you can take a key to a
1994-2004 GM vehicle and open nearly any other GM vehicle.
With millions of them on the road, we had no trouble
putting the "mystery of the key" to the test. Armed with two General
Motors keys from our station's own fleet, we hit the street to see if we
really could open any other such vehicle, with the owners' permission, of
It was a huge shock to the car owners we spoke with.
Within minutes we were able to open the doors to a Chevy van, a 1997 GMC
truck and a 1992 Chevy. But we were using the same key, one from the CBS
13 fleet, on every car.
"Kinda scary," said one Chevy owner.
Even though our experts say that it is 1994-2004 range,
we were able to open a 1991 Chevy with that same key. While some opened
easily, others took a little wiggling, and jiggling, but the key worked; I
opened them. Sixty percent of the GMs & Chevys we tried opened.
"Because you can wiggle the keys you're actually picking
the locks with the keys," says Rick Vanina of J&J Locksmiths here in
Vanina says a little wear and tear on the five tumblers
inside the lock loosen tolerances and make GMs easy targets and easy prey
Melany Gilavery returned to her car after a two hour
shopping spree to find that her son's iPod was missing.
"My daughter opened up the glove box and she goes 'well
mine's gone too'," says Melany.
Melany says she still has no idea how thieves got inside
Thieves also took the stereo system out of Bob O'Yamen's
200 Chevy S-10.
"I figured they went in through a window, but no windows
were broken," says Bob.
And Bob made another discovery. His truck's key opens
his buddy Clay Collet's Chevy Blazer, and vice-versa.
A Chevy corporate representative told us the key problem
"is not an issue that's bubbled up with them" but it's possible given that
there are a finite number of key combinations for any given model year. He
claims GM has "made improvements to the locks in model years 2007 and
newer, which more than doubles the number of key combinations." That gives
some relieve to owners of new GM vehicles, but for those with older
models, you're left with only a few options. The first is to get an alarm
with a little flashing light. Locksmiths say replacing the lock won't do,
because the problem is with the design. And don't leave valuables in the
car. If you have to, put them in the trunk.