Last Updated on July 14, 2023
How to Rekey a Lock Yourself
Determine if Locks Can Use the Same Key
Say you’ve bought a home, but there are one or two locks in the home that work off of a different key than rest of the locks (or, you’ve simply don’t have a key for one or two of the locks).
This can happen when the previous home owner bought a replacement and installed it, usually to replace a broken lock.
Or you might find yourself doing the same thing. You buy replacement door locks, and now you want the new locks to work with the current house key.
When you want EVERY lock in the house to work from the same key, Rekeying the lock is the answer.
You can rekey locks to match existing keys when the locks have the same keyway. To test if they are teh same keyway, take the key you want to use, and see if it slides into the key hole of the new lock. If it slides in, the new door lock can be rekeyed to use the same key. If the key will not slide in, the cylinders (keyways) are different, and that lock cannot be made to work with that key.
Kwikset vs Schlage House Keys
The two most popular door lock manufacturers in American are Kwikset and Schlage.
Locks contain a cylinder plug that has grooved sides so that only a its brand of key can slide into the keyhole.
I’ve highlighted, in black, the low spots on the left side of a Kwikset and Schlage key. You can see that the low spot of the Kwikset do NOT match the low spots on the Schlage.
It is impossible to slide a Kwikset key into a Schlage lock and vice versa. These two locks cannot be rekeyed to match an existing key of the other.
Key-Compatible Lock Brands
Even though locks may be made from a different company, several lock brands use the same keyways, or similar-enough so that a key from one lock will work with the other brand.
To guarantee you can rekey a new lock to an old key, buy locks from the same manufacturer. But that’s not always possible or desired.
The table below shows brands that will typically work together. This is useful when you are replacing a lock with another and want to make sure that what you buy can be rekeyed to match your existing key.
Table: Lock Brands that May Use the Same Key
|Brands that Work With Kwikset Keys||Brands that Can Work With Schlage Keys|
|Baldwin (entry-level product)||Baldwin (high-end)|
*Yale can either way. So be careful.
Ways You Can Rekey a Lock
Kwikset makes door locks that can very easily be rekeyed by the homeowner.
The Kwikset SmartKey lock rekeying process is outlined in our online article and video. These locks can be rekeyed in just a few second.
We sell a Kwikset SmartKey rekey kit that gives you everything needed to rekey a Kwikset lock to an existing key if the locks are Kwikset Smartkey locks.
Buy a Home Rekey Kit.
If you want to take rekey the lock yourself, rekey kits are available. But you should know rekeying does take some practice and patience.
It may not be worth doing yourself if you only have one or two locks. If you make a mistake, pins and springs will fly everywhere, and a local locksmith will charge more to get it back together.
But if you’re rekeying multiple locks, there can be some saving.
Home rekey kits come with new pins. The new pins are provided specifically to match a key that comes with the kit. This makes it easier, as it ensures you use the right pins for smooth operation, but it also increases the work load because you may have to rekey all of your locks (instead of just the new ones) to this key.
Pro Tip: If you want to rekey a lock to match an existing key, keep the old lock, remove their pins using the method below and install those pins into the new lock.
Amazon has rekey kits available at good prices. They have both 1) kits designed to rekey a few locks to a specific key provided in the kit and 2) larger kits that will allow you to freely rekey your locks to any old key.
Take the Locks to a Locksmith Shop for Rekeying
If you’ve ordered the locks online, a locksmith will rekey them for you in their store.
To save money, always take them into a lock shop, don’t install them (so the locksmith doesn’t have to go to your location).
Though you will get charged to rekey locks you bring to them, rekeying in a lock shop is a very affordable solution.
Have the Store You Purchased From Rekey the Locks
When you buy from a locksmith or a hardware store, they will often rekey locks to match a different existing key at no cost.
Some big box stores do it too, but they may charge for the service. Any of our four Arizona Lock & Key Shops will rekey them for you at purchase for no additional cost.
How to Rekey a Lock
You’ve bought your rekey kit, and you’re ready to try to rekey the locks. Here’s how you do it. These instructions assume the lock is in your hands, and not installed. View our article on How to Replace Locks if you need to remove the locks.
1. Remove the lock cylinder
On deadbolts the lock cylinder is usually held in place with a screw and it will be very obvious how to remove it.
For knobs or levers, it’s not so obvious. For knobs and levers you will need to find the hole that allows you to remove the front of the knob/lever and expose the clip.
Your rekey kit normally includes a little wire tool, that you can poke into that hole and once poked the knob/handle can be slid off and the cylinder removed.
2: Remove the c-clip or nut
The key cylinder (sometimes referred to as the plug) is held to the housing with either a c-clip or a nut. Your rekey kit will have a c-clip removal tool to help remove and replace it. A nut will simple twist off.
3: Insert the follower tool
This is the most critical step. If not followed, your pins will fly everywhere. Game over. Head to your nearest locksmith.
Your lock is full of top pins and springs. Before you remove the plug from the housing, you need to be sure that the top pins and springs are held in place.
The follower tool does this. Place the follower at the back of your cylinder plug.
Insert the existing key and rotate it 45 degrees.
While keeping the follower tool firmly against the rear of the plug, pull the plug out of the housing. The follower fills the void left as the plug is removed and it holds in all of the top components in place.
4: Remove the existing pins
Dump out the pins in the cylinder plug on the table, and insert the new key you want the lock to work with.
5: Insert the new pins
Insert new pins as indicated by the kit’s instructions.
You will know this step is correct, when the pins form a smooth line along the top of the cylinder so it can freely rotate when the key is used.
6: Put the cylinder back in the housing
This is just the opposite as before. As you slide the cylinder back into the housing, you will be pushing the follower out. The cylinder will take the place of the follower so that the top pins are held in place.
7: Secure to the housing
Replace the c-clip or nut to hold everything in place.
8: Reinstall the cylinder into the lock
Put the cylinder back into the knob or deadbolt.
9: Test before installing the lock
Make sure that everything seems to be working with the key, before you install the lock. Better to know now, than have to take it apart again later.
Disclosure: As an eBay / Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.