Letter Re: Surviving Custer

Hugh,
I always keep a hide-a-key attached to my car for situations just like your reader at the Custer Monument. It has saved my bacon more than once when far from home. If you have an older car, it is relatively simple to get spare keys made and tucked away in a magnetic hide-a-key box under the vehicle. However, with today’s anti-theft keys, there are some challenges you must overcome. First, if you live where the temperature drops below freezing, the battery in the electronic key fob can become frozen and not operate. When this happens just tuck it under your clothing to thaw out; mine takes about 20 minutes. Also, the new keys are darn expensive. Usually you can get an affordable copy of just the metal portion of the key. Then if it gets lost or wet under your car you are not out $150-$240 for a replacement. My newest car has a so-called “smart” key that works by proximity alone. However, I found that if I wrap my spare smart key in aluminum foil I can leave it safely in the car and still use the other smart key to lock the doors. Both of my smart keys come with a small metal “emergency” key, which is what I hide under the car. One warning though, the alarm will sound if you open the car with the metal key. Just be prepared to quickly find your spare electronic key to silence the alarm. These emergency metal keys are actually made for when your car battery is dead. Also, don’t put a magnetic hide-a-key box on your muffler. I can speak from experience that if the hide-a-key box is plastic, it will melt! Duh! Some people are comfortable with just relying on a cell phone to call their vehicle’s 24/7 emergency service to remotely unlock their car for them. This is a great service if it works. However, it is completely dependent on your car being within a cell phone service area, which Custer has clearly shown is not available everywhere. Finally, I label all my car and house keys with my first name and work/cell number so I at least have a chance of getting them back if lost. Obviously, don’t put your home number or address on your keys. – SG in Virginia

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