The Higgins family is offering a $500 reward for safe return of their key so they don't have to sell the van for parts. (CTV News)

A story that began with a viral post on our Facebook page on June 6 has finally reached a happy conclusion.

John Higgins, of Surrey, BC, lost his van’s only car key while tying his son’s shoes along Wharf St. The seemingly innocuous event became a highly stressful situation when it turned out that copies of his key were practically impossible to procure.

“It was a wonderful family vacation and then in one second it turned into a nightmare,” Maria Higgins told CTV News on June 7.

The Toyota Estima was imported from Japan. It’s key contained a one-of-a-kind security chip. Without that chip, the car wouldn’t start.

Helpful Hacker

But after two months, $5000, and with the help of a computer hacker, the family has their car back again.

The couple initially left the van parked in Victoria. But after discovering how difficult it would be to find a replacement key, they had it towed to a mechanic’s lot. There, the onboard computers were accessed.

“It was like disassembling the space shuttle — there was miles of wires. It’s more computer than car,” Higgins told the Times Colonist.

A computer hacker was given the onboard immobilizer computer. The hacker reprogramed the key codes, giving the family access to their car once again.

The cost of labour amounted to $3,000, with another $760 in towing costs and $770 for key programming.

The Burnaby company that imported the car from Japan, Velocity Motors, paid half the bill.

Cautionary Tale

Higgins told the Times Colonist that one set of the new keys will be kept in a bank vault.

If the old keys ever do appear and are returned, Higgins said he’ll frame them for use as a cautionary tale.

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