How’d They Do That – 9 Locksmith Tips and Tricks
Lock Tip #1 – Door Not Closing Correctly – Locks Work Better with Lipstick
Is your door not closing? Do you find you have to pull the door harder for it to latch? Or maybe lift up on the door so it latches? The problem is a misaligned strike.
When a door is closed, the bolts on deadbolts and the latches on door knobs go into their respective strikes on the door frame. Ideally you want these to match up perfectly in both height and depth. When they don’t the door will not close properly. The photo illustrates an example where the bolt and the latch are misaligned in height.
How to fix a misaligned strike? Do not just cut the strike hole bigger all willynilly. You don’t want to take off any more metal than necessary because removing metal will hurt the strikes integrity.
Solution: Put lipstick on it. By putting lipstick on the end of the latch or bolt that is causing the issue you can mark the exact location that the bolt/latch is hitting the strike. Put lipstick on the end of the bolt/latch. Close the door, lock the deadbolt. Open the door. The lipstick will leave a clearly visible mark made from the deadbolt’s bolt on the strike and the door knobs latch on its strike. Now you know exactly where you need to remove metal from the strike so the door can easily close.
Lock Tip #2 – Sagging Door – Try This to Quickly Level It
Is your door no longer level? Does the bottom of the door drag on the threshold when it is being closed? Here’s how to fix a sagging door. This easy fix should take care of the problem when the dragging is done on the door knob side (not the hinge side). Simply take a 3″ screw and put it in the very top of the uppermost hinge.
By default these hinges are held in by 1/2″ screws. This is not enough to get past the pine framing of the door and the door can sag over time due to it’s weight pulling on the hinges. A 3″ screw into the top screw hole of the uppermost hinge will suck the door back into place as the screw will reach the 2X4 studs behind the trim and suck the door back into place.
While you’re at it. Put 3″ screws into all of the hinges and strikes to greatly and affordably improve your door’s security.
Installing Your Own Locks? Here’s How to Drill Clean Holes. Lock Tip #3.
Drilling a hole into wood presents all kinds of issues, especially if you’re drilling into particle board cabinets. The wood can chip around the hole you are drilling, or the wood can splinter out as the drill blade comes out the back side. Locksmith install cam locks, door locks, all kinds of locks into wood and if you’re like us, you want your finished product to be splinter and chip free. There are a few good techniques that will help you when drilling holes into wood.
- Put a piece of blue painters tape on the side of the hole you are drilling into. This will help prevent the drill from lifting fibers off at the entry point.
- You can prevent damage at the exit point using any of these techniques
- If at all possible, fasten a piece of wood to the exit side with a tight clamp. The wood, held tightly, will prevent splintering as the drill blade exits.
- If that is not possible try drilling the hole from both sides. There are a couple of things you can do here.
If you are using a standard bit, drill all the way through first with a bit that is much smaller than the hole you need. This will act as a pilot hole when you switch to the larger bit you really need. This drilling technique is useful because you won’t have to measure where to drill from the backside.
If you are using a spade bit or hole saw, they will drill the pilot hole for you. The have an extended tip and you simply stop drilling from the front as soon as the tip comes out the back, then switch sides.
If you are going to install your own door locks, check out the residential lock installation kit used by most of our locksmiths.
My Lock is Sticking – Don’t Put Graphite in It! Lock Tip #4
After time locks may get debris in them, dust, etc…and they become hard to turn or they begin to stick a little. So the customer tries to squirt some graphite into the lock. This seems to work for a while, but then all of a sudden the lock is worse than it was originally. Here’s why:
You put too much graphite into the lock. Instead of helping it, the graphic gums up or acts as even more debris, and the lock is harder than ever. So the customer squirts in more graphite! This just makes the problem worse. Eventually the customer gives up and either buys a new lock or has a locksmith out to fix the problem. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been out to customer sites and the locks were just packed full of graphite.
What should you lubricate a lock with? A good silicon-based spray. I’m not a fan of WD-40 either as it tends to collect dust over time. Our favorite silicon spray lubricant is a product by Tri-Flow. It is the only lubricant our locksmiths carry on their vans and in out shop. Check Amazon for Tri-flow pricing.
Oopsie? Made a Mistake Drilling? Quick Cover Up to Hide Your Error. Lock Tip #5
OK. So you didn’t read our tips on drilling through a wood door before doing the drilling, and the wood as splintered. Worse yet, you’ve drilled the door incorrectly and your hole is off center. No worries. You can buy a scar plate that will cover up most errors.
The scar plate is larger than the necessary hole, can be ordered in the same finish as the lock, and is placed behind the lock. It acts to extend the finish of the lock around the hole and cover up any mistakes. It’s a lot less expensive than replacing a door! They are inexpensive and look descent enough. Get pricing on Amazon.
Get a Spare Mechanical Key for the Car – Save Hundreds – Lock Tip #6.
This could be the most important tip on this page. Getting a copy of a car key is always hundreds less than what you will pay if someone has to come out to your vehicle and make a car key. Mechanical key blanks are under $10. Originating a mechanical key blank when all keys have been lost can cost up to $200 (depending on vehicle).
Nowadays, most car keys have built in chips in the the plastic part of the key, this key must be programmed to the vehicle in order for the key to start the car. Originating a chip key or a laser-cut chip key when all keys have been lost cost $200-$400 (depending on vehicle). If you have a locksmith copy the car key and program it to the car before it is lost, it is most-often under a $100. You can order key blanks and remotes off of our website. Just take them to you local locksmith to have them cut and programmed.
But you don’t even need to spend money on the programming if you don’t want to. One of the most expensive parts when you have a lost car key is originating the key cuts (knowing how to cut the car key). You can make a mechanical copy of most car keys for just a few dollars at your local locksmith. Don’t pay to have the key programmed, just buy a magnetic key hold and stick it on your car someplace. You will never be locked out of your car, and if you lose your very last key, you will have the key cuts available so that your local locksmith can duplicate it. If someone were to ever discover the mechanical key, they would not be able to start your car.
Look here for a detailed list of automotive key & remote money saving tips.
Just Moved In? Don’t Replace Door Locks, Save Money & Rekey. Lock Tip #7: Rekeying vs Changing Locks
We are still getting calls from people that have just moved into a home asking us to replace all of their door hardware. We always ask, “Do you hate your existing locks or do you just want to have them work with a new key so that all old key copies no longer work?” The answer is always the latter. In the locksmith trade, we call that “rekeying.” And it can be done at your home or if you want to save even more money, you can bring your locks to a locksmith shop save yourself the cost of a service call.
Rekeying locks is the process of taking out the existing pins in the locks are replacing them with new pins. This changes the shear line of the lock cylinder and the old keys will no longer work. So unless you just hate your existing locks, have them rekeyed instead of replaced.
Kwikset Smartkey Lock? Rekey It Yourself. Lock Tip #8.
Kwikset Smartkey locks have a unique feature that allows you to rekey the lock to a new key on your own, with no special skills or locksmith needed. This makes changing your house key super easy and super affordable. We offer a Kwikset Smartkey Rekey Kit for just a few dollars that has everything in it you need to change your home’s Kwikset Smartkey locks.
Kwikset Smartkey locks can be identified by an extra little hole found just to the left of the keyhole. They are essentially bump proof and pick proof. If you’re interested in changing to Kwikset Smart key locks you can find their latest pricing at Amazon. They have some very attractive styles, electronic options and finishes.
Lock Tip #9 – Cheap Locks Are Made Cheap to be Sold Cheap – You Get What You Pay For
If you are replacing a home lock, whatever you do, stay away from the ultra-cheap discount stores! Yes, you can get a deadbolt for $5 at Walmart, but that deadbolt is full of plastic parts and won’t have any of the new anti-bump capabilities of the major brand name locks. You do NOT want to trust the safety of your property and your family to some of the most cheaply made locks on the market.
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