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Does Use of a Valet Key Damage the Lock Cylinder in Toyota Camry 2001?

I periodically have trouble getting my Toyota Camry 2001 started. It starts with a “locked” steering wheel. I was told to jiggle the steering wheel while turning the ignition. This has worked each time so far, although after variable periods of delay, considerable effort, and the development of callouses on my fingers from turning the key. I used my VIN to get a new key made at the Toyota dealership. The person making my key said my old key was a valet key. I asked, “What’s that?” He said it would only open driver side door and turn ignition. I have been using it to open my trunk since I bought the car 4 years ago. It was the only key the dealer gave me. I’d never heard the term valet key before. He claimed that continued use of the valet key damages the lock cylinder. I’ve attached photos of the valet key and the new key. Can you tell by looking at the keys which is the valet key? Can anyone confirm the employee’s claims about damage to the lock cylinder?

Links to video and pictures available at

Valet keys will not damage the lock cylinder… Its a secure key that should not unlock the glove box/trunk. Basiclly if you give it to a valet he can not rummage thrugh your stuff and rip you off that is the point at least.

I agree, the ‘valet key’ shouldn’t cause any damage. And if it opens the trunk it’s not a ‘valet key’. Your ignition lock is worn out, either just from use or the prior owner dangling a big heavy keychain from it.

I’m in agreement here. The valet key should not open the trunk or glove compartment. Your ignition lock is worn out or damaged. I would replace it before you can no longer unlock the cylinder.

Your lock cylinder may not need replacement (but after 10+ years of usage it’s quite possible). You said your problem starts with a “locked” steering wheel. Are you parking your car and turning off the engine when the wheels are turned left or right as oppossed to straight ahead? If you are, then you are causing strain against the ignition lock tumbler. To alleviate this, simply turn the steering wheel in the same direction that the front wheels are turned, and maintain pressure/force while you turn the key in the ignition. And I agree with the others about the valet key. Chances are that someone used the valet key blank to make a master key years ago.

My Toyota master mechanic friend wrote to me: It looks like your Camry originally came with a master key with a plastic handle, a master key with a metal handle, and a valet key with a metal handle. The key in the picture you sent me looks like a master key with a metal handle. I’ve never heard that repeated use of a valet key will damage a lock cylinder. I hesitate to say it isn’t 100 percent true but it seems unlikely to me. But it looks like you were using a master key anyway.

At my local Toyota dealership, based on my car’s VIN, a new key was made. I paid $6.50 and haven’t had a problem since.