Don’t try to solve the wrong problem. That’s the moral of this story.

I keep most of my various car keys and condo garage fobs on separate lanyards. It makes it easier to grab a set when I am headed out the door.

Last week while re-organizing and decluttering, I put the keys to the Volvo 122 and the Jaguar S3 on the same lanyard, thinking I would never be driving both of them at once.

Thursday, I wanted to take the Jag out for a drive. I was running late and in a hurry.

I got into the Jag, put the key in the ignition and gave it a twist. Nothing. It turned a little then stopped. I jiggled the steering wheel a little, as sometimes the ignition steering lock will bind up. Still nothing.

I turned the key with a little more force and felt it move — in a bad way.

I pulled the key out and the narrow part had nearly broken off from the fat part. (One wag on Facebook offered that the act of breaking a key is called “Twist and Shout” – you turn the key then shout when you realize you have broken it).

“Breaking off the key in the ignition could be a very bad thing” I thought. The parking slot for the Jag is four floors down in the basement of my condo building. If I broke the key off in the ignition, the car would likely be stranded until the virus was over. I didn’t want that.

Then I recalled that the seller of the Jag said they were including a spare key with the paperwork – which was under the floor mat on the passenger side.

Sure enough, along with the title work and repair records was a little plastic bag with a key in it. I was saved.

Not quite. Upon examination, the seller had sent me a blank, not a key.

So now I had to find a locksmith to cut the blank using the “almost broken” original key as a guide. I took my Hyundai and set out.

All the little locksmith shops were closed. I decided to go to Home Depot. The line to get in was about an hour long.

Before I got out of the car, I looked at the keys again. The uncut blank looked nothing like the broken key.

Then I realized the broken key was from the Volvo; in my rush to get going I had mixed the keys up. Oddly, the Volvo key had slipped easily into the Jag ignition switch.

I had a spare Volvo key. I located the correct Jag key on my lanyard.

If I had stood for an hour to get to the locksmith, he would have told me that the blank I had was not the blank that went with the broken key. If he had even had a Volvo-compatible blank, I would have returned home to find my newly-cut Volvo keys didn’t work in the Jag ignition. I would have been back to exactly where I started from.

I posted a query to the Volvo Amazon FB group looking for Volvo 122 blanks. Within a few minutes David Geisinger from Boston had posted a link to an eBay listing. I ordered two blanks. For $24, including postage, they will be here in three days. As soon as locksmith shops are open, I will have new ones cut.

There were many ways this story could have ended badly. If I had broken the Volvo key off in the Jag ignition, the car would have been stranded.

If a towing service had even been able to get to my car, once it was delivered to a repair shop, they would have told me it was not a Jag key that was broken off in the ignition. I would have been back to square one.

If I had waited in line at Home Depot to get a key cut, the new key would have been for a Volvo, not a Jag — so after a few hours of frustration I would have ended up exactly where I was before. I would have eventually found out that I was chasing the wrong key, and that I had a perfectly working key on the lanyard around my neck the entire time.

But the key gods were smiling on me. The key didn’t break off, I discovered I had a broken Volvo key not a broken Jag key. I had spare keys for both the Volvo and the Jag.

The only moral to the story here is that when something unusual happens — like the key not turning in the ignition, don’t jump to conclusions. You may be jumping down a rabbit hole and trying to solve the wrong problem.

Take a deep breath, rethink your situation, and approach the problem again.

Today, I’m thankful for keys that didn’t break off, and having plenty of spares.


  1. rand wintermute

    Keith. The way to prevent this is to always have a spare key ON the Chassis, in a “ hide-a-key” magnetized box;
    Typically, under the rear trunk on the frame. These are available
    At any Ace Hardware store !

  2. As the past owner of a number of 122’s I always had spare keys. The big torque inducing head of the soft copper key along with the very narrow neck just beyond, is made for wrung necks.
    Thankfully you can usually fish the broken part out when you reach the twist and shout stage.

  3. I know the feeling, midnight on a sub-zero December night in my Volvo 1800 circa 1974 with spare key 40 miles away at the ski camp. Moral, always take off you ski gloves before turning the key so you can feel that you are breaking the key in half.

  4. In the word of the immortal Homer Simpson: “Doh!”