March 29, 2006
Dear Tom and Ray:
A few weeks ago on your radio show, you got a call from a woman who asked you guys to settle a two-part dispute with her husband. Her husband objected to her heavy key chain, and she was told that her husband was right: Heavy key chains can indeed cause damage to the key-shaft thingy. However, I distinctly remember that back in 2002, you had a similar call from a woman who was borrowing her father's car, and it was being lent to her only on the condition that she remove other keys from her key ring so that no extra weight hung off the ignition key. You told HER that the extra weight from other keys was so negligible that it would not cause any damage. So, which is it? This is a very important matter to me, because I always carry a lot of keys with me. When I tried to decrease the weight on my key chain, it resulted in the loss of a lot of very important keys. Please clear this up. Thanks, and keep up the great work.
RAY: Yeah. Well, we recently heard from that woman from 2002. She's currently estranged from her father. Her key chain broke his ignition switch, and now he's cut her out of the will!
TOM: Actually, the answer is that excessive weight CAN damage the ignition switch. We see it most often on Volkswagens, for some reason. But it happens on other cars, too.
RAY: But the key (no pun intended) is the definition of "excessive." I don't remember the call from 2002, but we probably asked her how many keys she was talking about. If you have seven or eight keys on your key ring, you're not going to do any damage. The ignition switch can handle that.
TOM: But if you carry around 20 keys, that's a fair amount of weight. That constant downward tug on the ignition switch can cause it to wear out prematurely.
RAY: So if you've got seven, eight or even 10 keys, it's probably not worth worrying about. But if you're a custodian in a junior high school, we recommend detachable key chains. They usually have two rings, one on each end, with a quick-detach clasp in between. When you get in the car, you detach the ring that has just your car keys, and leave the rest in your pocket or your purse. Now, isn't that a weight off, Michelle?