Introduction: Vehicle Key Safe

I headed off to go my new to me van has a door lock button and wouldn't work well after being tucked inside my wetsuit!

Grab an old bike frame and make a super easy vehicle key safe...

Step 1: Bits + Pieces

Picture of Bits + Pieces

Just a few materials -

An old steel bike frame, large enough for the key to fit inside.

A long shackle combination lock

Vinyl adhesive paper for stencils

Spray paint - colour of choice [Montana 94 cans are my preferred for stencil spraying due to the low pressure spray]

Clear metal lacquer

Welding wire or rivets

Tools -

Angle grinder and cutting + grinding discs


Metal files


Drill - slightly larger than padlock shackle

Metal countersink

Welder or pop riveter

Step 2: Clean Up the End

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Cut the frame to make sure that the key can fit easily inside...

...and grind off the paint to the end

Step 3: Flatten

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Hammer the end flat, leaving the corners open so that any water that may get into the key safe will run out.

Step 4: Cut to Length

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Work out the length that you need, allowing for a key fob if you have one...

...rough cut to length

Step 5: Weld

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Weld the flattened end to stop the metal being prised apart.

Remember to leave the ends open for water to run out in use.

I was fortunate to borrow a friends welder though if you don't have the use of one pop rivets would work well.

Step 6: Clean Up

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Clean up all of the outside of the frame section if you have not done so already

Step 7: Final Cut to Length

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Make a nice end cut allowing for the key and the hole to be drilled for the padlock...

...clean the cut end with metal files until nice to the touch

Step 8: Drill a Hole

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Drill a hole slightly larger than the padlock shackle right through both sides of the open end.

Check before drilling that the key will not bypass the padlock shackle.

Countersink the holes a little to clean them up.

Step 9: Stencil + Paint

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Cut out some cool graphic stencils from some adhesive vinyl...

...stick on...

...and spray with your colour of choice

Step 10: Final Coat

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As the bare metal was left by the stencils I added a clear lacquer coat to the key safe, both inside + out...this will help prevent rusting.

Step 11: All Ready to Use

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Pop in the key...

...padlock to the underside of the vehicle...

...and go and enjoy the surf, canoe, run...

Step 12: Looking Good

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This is a super easy little project that looks cool, I really like the ground metal stencil against the spray paint, and allows me to go surfing in the knowledge that the van was safe.

I am entering this project into the Vanlife Competition. If you have enjoyed this project, I would really appreciate your vote. Many thanks.

This project is part of my YouTube channel where I try to make cool and interesting projects.

Please check out my channel if you want to see more of the projects, if not there will be more coming to Instructables soon.

Why not check out what I am up to with

And also catch me on Facebook + Twitter

and now on Instagram!


KennethM45 (author)2017-11-30


DiyWaterDog (author)2017-08-21

Unique! Got my vote!

ChrisCruzer made it! (author)2017-08-20

I made it! (with help from a friend) This is a super awesome idea. It'll be perfect for StandUp Paddleboarding, Longboarding, Camping or swimming at the beach. A friend of mine has a welder and we ended up getting 6 key safes out of one bike. We were sure to include the drain holes, but with the key safe being locked to the bottom of the car, there will most likely be no rain getting into it. I plan on keeping one in my glovebox at all times so I can use it at a moments notice. Thanks again Pricklysauce.

YesItsMeJimmy (author)2017-08-04

Does it fill with water when it rains? or when you wash the car? Is there a way to prevent that? Nice job either way


: D

nardly (author)2017-07-30

A lot of time and trouble when you can buy a Master Lock magnetic key holder for $3.52 from Amazon.

sharpstick (author)nardly2017-07-30

I see those lying in the road all the time. All it takes is one good pothole to knock them loose.

MarkP176 (author)sharpstick2017-08-03

If you're driving along with this in place, something has gone very wrong. It should only be locked onto the van when it's parked AND you can't reasonably take the key with you.

nardly (author)sharpstick2017-07-31

cheap ones and those installed on a dirty surface or a place that's not flat may fall off. The one I mentioned by Masterlock has a very strong magnet. I've been using these for years with great success.

bobrosco (author)nardly2017-07-31

and then some guy saw you putting it on your car, he walkes to it grabs it and drives off. And you insurance says well yeah no money for you mister, no keys no money.

nardly (author)bobrosco2017-07-31

No one will see me install it. I work in my garage.

bobrosco (author)nardly2017-07-31

and how exactly do you plan to put the key in there then? He made this for when he go's surfing or to a beach. You cant take those electrical keys with you in the water. So you plan on throwing that key away and then when you get back use the 1 from the magnet box? I dont really see how this is the same as the lockable box from this instructable.

nardly (author)bobrosco2017-07-31

I put a spare key in my holder. You're right, wouldn't be to safe to step out your car and place it on the car in full view of everyone.

lukeg22woo (author)2017-08-02

Great idea! I like some of the ideas about just using conduit too - easier to find for those of us that don't have extra bikes laying around. Any workarounds for someone without welding equipment? Do you think something like JB Weld could make a permanent bond?

JoeMackinac (author)2017-08-01

Not bad, but he kinda locked it in plain site. Why risk it when you can put it up higher or closer to the middle of the underside of the car.

mgr1001 (author)2017-07-30

Great Idea to solve a common problem. What if you don't have an old bicycle frame to scavenge? What else might you use?

Toga_Dan (author)mgr10012017-08-01

Electrical conduit. Cheap, readily available.

or go by the recycle yard see what piece o steel tube is lyin around.

69tr6r (author)mgr10012017-07-31

I would use a small piece of copper plumbing pipe. Very easy to flatten one end and you can solder it closed instead of welding.

bobrosco (author)69tr6r2017-07-31

copper is a bad idea, its so easy to cut with a simple saw, and you might even be able to just twist it off the lock.

DaviDBCoe (author)mgr10012017-07-31

Heck, just get a short length of PVC or galvanized pipe. Threaded @both ends. Plus 2 threaded cap-ends. Bury it (wit the keys) in the sand somewhere. Remember where you left the key (very important), dig it up & start your car.

JGDean (author)mgr10012017-07-30

Easiest and most common would be galvanized steel EMT conduit, available in 10 foot lengths at any hardware store, Lowe's or Home Depot. 1-1/4" size should fit most remotes, especially if flattened slightly to make the tubing oval.

If you weld or otherwise heat it up, be careful of fumes from zinc galvanizing - you may want to remove the galvanizing by soaking the piece you're working on in vinegar for a while first. Zinc fumes are hazardous!

Carolinaisland (author)2017-08-01

Nice job.

NikyN2 (author)2017-07-30

just a random note. on average, it takes less than 15 minutes to open a 3 digit padlock (assuming 1 attempt per second). a 4 digit one will take longer, but still... I would use a key one, then wear that key as a pendant or something.

if the padlock is thick enough (and made of steel, of course), someone with a bolt cutter will have a hard time breaking it... also, who the hell has a blot cutter just lying around?!

ggallen103 (author)NikyN22017-07-31

do a search for opening locks with a pepsi can - no combo needed!

NikyN2 (author)ggallen1032017-07-31

I've seen that already (I have an interest in lockpicking, have yet to try but I think it's a useful skill to have).

so I believe, with a GOOD padlock, the pepsi trick shouldn't work. first, it has two nicks (like this - random google image), so maneuvering TWO sheet shouldn't be easy at all. and second, the spring force would mess the thin aluminum sheet (again, if the lock is good)

the cheap ones on the other hand... who the hell uses a cheap lock to protect something even half important, anyway?

bobrosco (author)NikyN22017-07-31

1 tap with a hammer and lot of the key to open locks are open. We even did that to our own padlocks on a boat when we lost the key. We even managed to do it on the wood wall next to the channel and then try and hit the lock with a rock, just broke it open. Thats why a disc type lock is much better, you cant really get to the shackle to cut it and you cant hit them open either. And try to get it in a spot where its not easy to get too so they cant even try it.

Datawolf (author)2017-07-31

It's a good job but I agree with previous comments : it's definitely a bad idea. People who ask "who have access to a bold cutter" are naive.

If the moisture is a concern, I agree with the idea of double bag, and I would add a small dehumidifier inside (the same you find in packages to protect electronics).

bobrosco (author)Datawolf2017-07-31

the key lives inside someones pocket most of its life. That means on a hot day its inside a sweaty pocket too, and they survive. I dont think it would be a big problem as long as you leave holes in the bottom like he did. That way it will never get filled up with water.

ggallen103 (author)2017-07-28

I thought this was going with - also drill a hole through the exhaust pipe, slide it into the pipe, line up the holes, and padlock it through the pipe. Of course, you would have to be careful, that exhaust pipe can get kinda hot, and might destroy the FOB. Another option (although not has cool) is that have a non-chipped key made (about $10 or so). put it on a wrist band or necklace. use it to lock your keys in the vehicle.

Pricklysauce (author)ggallen1032017-07-28

Not sure about bolting it up the exhaust pipe, most vehicles have plans es underneath that it can easily be bolted to. Sure you could buy a standard key that would work...not so fun to make.

ggallen103 (author)Pricklysauce2017-07-31

our one car has nothing to bolt to....ticks me off to no end when I need to tie the hatch down - I don't have anything under the car to tie or run through.

TinkerPaul (author)2017-07-31

I like this idea but I think the part that makes people squeamish is that its location kind of violates that old Black Friday shopping advice to not leave valuables in plain view. Personally, I've smacked my shins on enough trailer hitches that their presence already kind of stands out (but maybe that's just me). Most people probably wouldn't even notice it but I'd still feel better if it was hidden in a less conspicuous place since the presence of the combo lock indicates something of value. If nothing else, it does a good job of identifying the increasing challenge of protecting the sensitive electronic gadgets we're forced to carry around daily.

andymic (author)2017-07-30

From what I understood he tried taking his key but moisture got into the electronics and locked him out for a while, so resealable bags aren't really solving the problem further. Also, if you're absolutely sure that his method doesn't work I challenge you to go to a surfing beach and spend as long as it takes to check under each car and know exactly what to look for. If you can find what you need and still not collapse under heat exhaustion or get one person looking at you funny for scrambling under every car parked there, then you don't need to be around here. Instructables' comment section is meant to encourage constructive-criticism. Personally I've never been surfing so I've never had this exact problem but I have been to the beach. Luckily I've either had someone with me (an extra pair of eyes always comes in handy) or I could trust the strangers around me (again, more because of the local mentality here).

Using 2x resealable bags would be pretty certain of keeping out the moisture. As far as the whole "looking under cars in the heat... blah blah" beleive me that would not deter a determined car thief if he thought he was going to score, and seeing something hanging down underneath a car in an easily accessible spot that quite obviously isn't normally there, can be seen from several cars away no problem - that is a professional opinion.

While coments are normally for constructive criticism, I made my post with the obvious intent of pointing out some extremely serious flaws with this design - there are better ways and better designed "key safes" than this idea which can be used to temporarily store you car keys while you go surf if you resolutely intend to leave the key near the vehicle.

Get a fanny pack (bum bag), or some kind of small backpack thing and put your keys inside a sealable box - ANYTHING but make one of these. Seriously.

burzurk (author)2017-07-30

..but you are right:/

burzurk (author)2017-07-30

be nice..most people don't think/know the ways of the criminal.

loskop100. (author)2017-07-30

Good idea but I do it a little different because my key ring has lots of keys on it. I get a key cut with no electronics, hide my keys in the car, lock it with the new key and put that in the key safe hidden under the car. If someone finds it they can only get in the car, not drive it away and the new key stays in the safe for when I lock myself out. The key safe can also be a lot smaller.

Mark 42 (author)2017-07-30

Someone should make a surfboard with a small storage compartment.

CPUDOCTHE1. (author)2017-07-30

You might as well just zip tie the key to a hidden part of the vehicle. Those types of combination locks can be picked in about twice the time it takes to open them if you have the combination. I would think most people would be more likely to pick that lock than have the tools to cut a decent zip tie.

chuckstake (author)2017-07-30

nice may make for bro and sitr

Eric Brouwer (author)2017-07-29

Simple and very practical. I always have the same "key" problem when going fishing.

deluges (author)2017-07-28

That's really neat! You could add a magnet to attach it to the bottom of the car more securely.. Or lock the padlock onto a part of the car so someone doesn't run away with it (people are weird sometimes)

Pricklysauce (author)deluges2017-07-28

hi deluges, definitely attach it to the bottom of the vehicle, use a padlock with a long shackle and it will go through the bike tube box and around the tow ring of the vehicle

deluges (author)Pricklysauce2017-07-29

I see the picture now!

Pricklysauce (author)deluges2017-07-29

I have to thank you Deluges as your comment made me realise that the project image that I originally put up didn't show the key safe in image of it in action tells the story better. Thanks for the heads up.

kevinmaker2018 (author)2017-07-28

Cool, thanks forsharing

thanks Kevinmaker

smcmasters1 (author)2017-07-28

this is a great idea! I'm making 1 today! I love close to the beach and always have this problem. especially since I don't have a spare key!

Pricklysauce (author)smcmasters12017-07-28

cool, it works well for me and I am sure it will work well for you...happy making

About This Instructable




Bio: I make and create anything that comes to my mind from skateboard hooks to garden rooms. And I footle around with electronics and instruments at ... More »
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