Valet Key: What Is It and How Does It Work?

If you have ever owned a luxury vehicle or sports car, odds are you also received a valet key along with the main keys. However, many car owners are unfamiliar with what this valet key is. So, what is a valet key?

Valet keys can open the car door and start the ignition but cannot open the glove box and trunk. This prevents a valet from accessing the glove box or trunk. The valet key is like a spare key that comes with certain brands of vehicles – often higher-end models.

Carmakers like BMW and Audi provide valet keys for most of their cars. Many other car brands will provide a valet key with certain models, including Toyota, Honda, Subaru, and more.

Continue reading to learn more about valet keys, their importance, and how they work.

What Is a Valet Key?

valet key

Imagine driving to your local fancy restaurant or theater that offers valet parking services. As you step out of your car, you hand over the keys to the valet. However, instead of the master key, you hand over the valet key to the attendant. What is the difference between the two keys, you ask?

To put it simply, the valet key or valet key fob has limited functions compared to the master key. Usually, valet keys can open the car doors and start the car, which is essential for valet services. But it cannot open the glove box or the trunk. It means an unscrupulous valet attendant cannot steal anything from your car.

When you buy a car, you will get two sets of keys – one master and the other one is the valet. Usually, the black one is the master, and the grey one is the valet. Also, in most modern cars, the valet keys do not have electronic key fobs. If you are getting a car with a remote keyless entry, you will not receive a separate key. However, you will get something similar. We will discuss this more in detail later.

What are valet key fobs? Valet key fobs are the same as valet keys; they just use a remote key fob to open the doors. You cannot use valet key fobs to open the trunk or glove box.

How Does a Valet Key Work?

Valet keys have been around for decades. It was a way for the car owners to protect their expensive belongings whenever they would go to the theater or dine in fancy restaurants. It is useful in places that provide valet parking.

Folks back then would stow their expensive leather gloves in the glove box and fur coats in the trunk. To prevent valets from perusing or even stealing their property, car manufacturers would provide a valet key.

In the old days, before fancy transponders and onboard computers were a thing, a valet key works because they have a slightly different cut from the master key. It is usually the last cut. The ignition and the car door would still work with the valet key.

However, the glove box and the trunk would have locks with an extra wafer capable of catching the last cut on the master key. That way, they will not open using the valet key. It means you need to lock the glove box and trunk before handing over the key to the attendant.

How Do Modern Valet Keys Work?

Modern valet keys still retained the original functions of the old ones. They still allow the opening of the driver’s side door and start the engine. However, they can’t still open the glove box, center console, and trunk. These new keys do not have an electronic key fob, so they cannot remotely open the locks.

Some car brands also have a chip inside them that tells the car’s computer not to allow the vehicle to travel beyond a specific speed. Others come with a kill switch. It will turn off the engine when the car travels a certain distance if it is not using the master key.

In modern keyless entry systems, though, the valet key is the electronic fob itself. The master key is that one that you can pull out of the fob. Some cars have a valet function on their onboard computers that will automatically lock the compartments. This can prevent the remote from opening them.

Valet Key Benefits

valet key fobs

Not all cars come with a valet key, so is it essentially an unnecessary accessory? Well, not at all as it carries a couple of advantages, including:

1. Protects Your Valuables

It is called a valet key because you give it to valet attendants so they can park your car. Note that it also comes in handy in other instances. One example is when you need to leave your car at the mechanic for repairs.

It is also helpful if you plan to go out of town for a couple of days while your neighbor watches over your car. It will let them move your car when needed. However, they can’t snoop around your personal belongings.

2. Prevents the Valets from Going on Joyrides

Although I am not saying that all valets take their customer’s cars on joyrides, some do. You would want to protect your car from potential damages in such instances. The valet keys of some car brands come with a chip that controls the speed limiter. With that, your car will not go over a certain speed. Others also feature kill switches that immobilize the car when driven over a certain distance.

3. Works as an Emergency Spare Key

How many times have you locked your keys inside your car? Despite most cars having key fobs, accidentally locking your keys inside the car can still happen. When it does, you will be glad to have a valet car on you to open the door.

4. You Can Use It to Open the Hood If You Need a Jumpstart

If you are driving a car with a keyless remote entry, you may think that there is no way to get inside if its battery dies on you. The valet key will not only let you open the driver’s side door. It also allows you to gain access to the hood release. This way, you can access the battery of the car and have it jumpstarted or charged.

Valet Key FAQs

Is Having a Valet Key Dangerous?

There is one issue that most cars with valet keys have. This is not the fault of the car or key, but the car owner.

Most brand-new cars have the valet keys taped onto the owner’s manual that, of course, are always placed inside the glove box. The problem here is that most car owners do not remove the valet keys from the manual. Further heightening the problem is the fact that most thieves know about it.

A car thief would break the window then grab the valet key inside the glove box. When that happens, the thief can drive away with your car. It does not matter if your car has an immobilizer installed. The car thief only needs to drive it a couple of miles anyway to a chop shop. With that, listen to the dealership agent when they tell you to take out the valet key. Keep it with you all the time, too.

Also, the valet keys give the owner a false sense of security. Just because the valet keys cannot open the glove box, center console, and trunk, that does not mean that the thieves cannot just pry them open using a crowbar. There are even instances when even just a screwdriver will work. Thieves would rarely use a lockpick to open locked compartments gently because it takes too long.

What Should You Do When You Only Have the Valet Keys?

what is a valet key

There are instances when you are left with no other option except using the valet keys because the master key is missing. A lot of people who bought secondhand cars were only handed over a valet key by the dealership. This is in itself a bit suspicious.

Nevertheless, in some cars, aside from not having access to the remote locking and alarms, the valet keys will let you drive the car normally.

Steps to Follow If You Want to Get a Master Key

What if you want to get a master key? Is it possible? Yes, it is, and here are the steps you can follow:

  1. Visit the dealership that sells your car’s brand;
  2. You can then request a copy of the master key. All you need to do is present a copy of the car’s registration, deed of sale, and a couple of IDs;
  3. Pay a nominal fee for the copy; and
  4. Once you submitted all requirements, wait for a couple of business days, maybe even a week or so. This should be enough time for the manufacturer to send over a copy of your key.

When the dealership calls to inform you that your master key has arrived, bring the car with you to the dealership. Even though the copy has the same cuts on it, the key fob may still not work. The dealership will need to flash the ECU of your car. They will then reprogram it so that it will work with the new key fob.

Again, what is a valet key? What are valet key fobs? The valet key is like a spare key that comes with higher-end model vehicles. Carmakers like Audi and BMW provide valet keys for most of their cars. Valet keys can open the car door and start the ignition but cannot open the trunk and glove box. This prevents a valet from accessing the trunk and glove box.

Is the Key Inside the Fob of a Remote Keyless Entry a Valet Key?

Many car owners think that the key inside their keyless entry key fob is the valet key. However, it is not as that is the emergency spare key. The only thing that it is for is to get in the car in case the battery in the key fob dies on you. In most keyless entry cars, there are no ignition locks. With that, the key will not even start the car, defeating the purpose of being a “valet” lock.

Then where is the valet key in keyless entry vehicles? It is the key fob itself. If you need to have your car parked by a valet attendant, remove the key fob’s physical key. You keep the key then hand the remote over to the attendant. This way, you can access the glove box and lock the trunk. You can also keep it from opening using the remote. After that, you can open the driver’s side door.

Take note that the key will not start the car. Seeing as there will be no ignition lock, it will just let you access the inside of the car. However, don’t worry as you can still start your car.

Can You Still Start the Car When the Battery in the Valet Key Fob Dies?

While we are still talking about keyless entry remotes, can you still start the car when the battery on the remote dies? Yes, you still can.

Car manufacturers considered all possibilities when designing their vehicles. This means that they did not hinge all the car’s functions on a battery-operated remote key fob. There is a physical key inside the fob that you can use to open the driver’s side door. You can do so without triggering the alarm. You do not need to break the window to get inside your car.

The only thing that you can’t do when the remote’s battery is dead is open the doors remotely. You need to place the fob on the pad inside the car. The sensor will still pick up the chip inside the fob, allowing you to start the vehicle.

Conclusion – Valet Keys

The valet key is similar to a spare key. You can see it coming in certain brands and models of vehicles, usually the higher-end ones. Carmakers like BMW, Audi, and other European brands usually provide valet keys. Some American brands provide them as well.

The valet keys can only provide access to the driver’s side door lock and the ignition. They can’t open the glove box, center console, and trunk. In other words, you have an assurance that all your valuables will be safe.

Now that you learned a bit more about the valet key of your car then you might be excited to figure out what it can do. By learning about it and its main uses, you can put this key to great use.

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