Miscellaneous

Are Too Many Keychains Bad for Your Engine?

We all have a special place in our hearts for our favorite keychains. Whether we got a cool souvenir from a museum as kids or picked up a nifty one at a fundraiser, these little trinkets hold special memories. That’s why it’s sad to think about them potentially hurting our vehicles.

Do keychains really damage your car’s ignition? If so, how many can be safely added to your ring? It’s time to set the record straight about how extra keychain weight affects your vehicle.

Fact or Fiction: Do Keychains Damage Your Ignition?

There are mixed feelings about whether or not heavy keychains will damage anything in your car. However, most mechanics and experts agree they’re not ideal for your ignition and reccommend limiting the amount of weight you keep on one ring.

Why is that a fair claim?

For starters, let’s look at General Motors (GM), a highly-reputable vehicle manufacturer based in Detroit. In 2014, the company had to recall more than 1.6 million vehicles with faulty ignition switches. The reason behind this recall, according to a report filed for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was each driver’s keyring was too heavy. GM isn’t the only manufacturer who has ran into this trouble over the years. Volkswagen and Toyota have also had to recall vehicles based on flawed ignition switches.

Following the GM scandal, NBC Channel 15 put heavy keychains to the test. Reporter Sarah Wagner spoke with the manager at Preferred Automotive in Indiana and used her own set of keys as an example. Wagner found that the more weight on the keychain, the more difficult it was to put the key in the ignition. Heavy keychains were also found to eventually wear out the tumblers in the ignition switch as the car travels over bumpy streets and hills, leading to costly repairs down the road.

Check out Sarah Wagner’s full report for NBC News!

Ask a Mechanic

We can’t take the recalls or news report at face value alone. It’s always good to get a second opinion, especially from a trusted source. Here’s what a trusted local mechanic had to say about heavy keyrings.

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Heavy keychains are damaging to ignition lock cylinders. They cause excessive wear and can cause premature failure.

– Brian B., ASE Certified Auto Technician in Aurora, IL

Brian has been in the game for over 15 years and knows his way around an engine. His shop, Brian’s Auto Service, is located in the heart of the second biggest city in Illinois. It’s safe to say, he’s a trusted authority on the topic.

His opinion is also shared by many other mechanics, including Carlos M. from United Auto Body. According to Carlos, another veteran with over 20 years of experience, too much weight is never the best choice, but the amount of danger is also dependent on the make of the vehicle, with Fords, Toyotas, and Cadillacs being especially at risk.

These opinions are shared by many other shops across the country who all warn against heavy keyrings and the effect they can have on your ignition switch. Ask your mechanic their thoughts on the subject and take the steps necessary to make your vehicle a little safer.

How Do You Know If Your Ignition Switch Has Gone Bad?

If you’re not a car expert, you probably have no clue how to tell if your ignition switch is faulty from too many keychains. This could be the case if you experience any of the following when starting your car:

  • Trouble Removing or Turning the Key: This is the biggest indicator that you have an ignition problem.
  • Engine Dies: If your car flatlines when trying to start, that might be a faulty ignition switch.
  • Car Won’t Start: Power might not travel from your switch to the motor. In that case, you’re stuck until the tow arrives.
  • Issues with Lights/Radio: You know it’s possibly the ignition switch if your lights won’t turn on or the radio cuts out when you’re in the middle of singing your favorite song.
  • Car Stalls: It’s scary, but your car can stall without any notice. This could be because of a bad ignition switch.

Of course, all of this can also mean something else is wrong with your vehicle. Communicate these concerns directly with a trusted mechanic and get a proper diagnosis. They’ll be able to tell you what actions to take next.

How Heavy Should Your Car Keys Be?

While a heavy keyring may not always result in a faulty ignition, it’s still a bad idea to overload it with too many trinkets. Not only is this annoying to carry around in your bag or pocket, but it’s also more likely to cause damage in the long run.

If you want to see how heavy is too heavy for a keychain – simply follow this basic rule of thumb agreed upon by many experts.

  • Safe: 1 – 4 keys & keychains; 1 pound or less
  • Okay: 5 – 8 keys & keychains; 2 – 2.5 pounds
  • Danger: Over 8 keys & keychains; over 2.5 pounds


Cruising in the Safe Lane
Quantity: 1 – 4 keys & keychains
Weight: 1 pound or less

Proceed with Caution
Quantity: 5 – 8 keys & keychains
Weight: 2 – 2.5 pound or less

Highway to the Danger Zone
Quantity: 5 – 8 keys & keychains
Weight: 2 – 2.5 pound or less

This guide makes it easy for you to have your cake and eat it too. You can still keep those keychains on your ring, just stick within the safety zone.

What Can You Do with Extra Keychains?

Are you keeping a few too many keychains on your ring? No worries! There are ways to reduce all that weight and still enjoy your favorite trinkets. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Keep in Storage
Decorate a shoebox and store your extra keychains inside. It’s like a time capsule where you can revisit your favorite memories!

Rotate
Once a month, switch up which keychain is on your ring. You’ll always have a new look as well as a built-in conversation starter.

Decorate Your Spare
Why should your main set of keys get all the love? Add a lightweight keychain or two to your spare set.

Add to a Bag
Many purses and bags come with rings, allowing you to hook on a few keychains. This creates a fun, unexpected fashion statement.

Create Wall Décor
When in doubt, you can always hang a few keychains on a bulletin board at home. It’s an accent piece that works great in your kitchen or bedroom.

No matter what you choose, there are great ways to showcase your favorite keychains. It just takes a little creativity and time to make it happen!

Watch this video for a full guide to using your keychains!

Drive Safely

Hit the road with all your boxes checked. Buckle your seatbelt, make sure your radio isn’t blaring, and ensure your keyring is as light as a feather. Nowadays, many cars are going keyless, which makes this problem almost obsolete. If you still use a car key, remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to adding too much weight.

The Bottom Line

It’s better in the long run not to overload your ring with too many keychains. This can potentially damage your car, plus it’s bulky and cumbersome to carry around. Take a minimalist approach and display only your coolest, lightest keychains with your car keys.