Those were the days … or were they?

If you’ve broken your car keys or need them reprogrammed, who could blame you for thinking longingly of the days when cars didn’t need immobilisers and other electronic wizardry?

As a vehicle locksmith, I’m fascinated by the history of cars. So if you’re lamenting the loss of your car keys or complaining about having your transponder reprogrammed, spare a thought for the long suffering driver in the good old days.

Given the huge advances in technology, it’s hard to imagine that cars have only been around for a hundred years or so. Your parents or grandparents would probably have given their eye teeth for a car that started at the flick of a switch or turn of a key. If they were lucky enough to own a car, they were probably reliant on brute force and a cranking handle to start the darn thing.

Cranking handles weren’t just physically challenging, they were also dangerous, with sprained and broken wrists and thumbs being the most likely injury. When the engine started, the crank handle would kick back against the driver’s hand. An experienced motorist quickly found out that the handle had to be held correctly. If it was grasped with your thumb splayed on the opposite side of the handle to your fingers, you were asking for trouble!

Despite their risks, cranking handles remained in use for many years, and you might be surprised to hear they were still around in the 1980s or even 1990s as a back-up to the ignition system.

So what’s best – investing in a year’s gym membership to get in training to turn the crank handle (and pre-booking your seat in A&E) or a call to your local car locksmith? I know which I’d choose, but perhaps I’m biased!

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