What Is a Lock Rekey?One of the most common questions I get asked is, “Can you change my locks?”
And, yes; I can. But new hardware is expensive and isn’t usually not necessary.
More often what the customer wants and needs is what we in the locksmith industry call a rekey.
A lock rekey is the process of replacing the pins within a lock cylinder so that the existing lock no longer works with an old key. The lock will now open using a new, different key. Rekeying locks allows you to keep your existing hardware, while providing the necessary security to ensure no one else has the key to the property.
The cheapest way to “change” locks is to rekey the lock. This drastically reduces the cost of protecting your home or business from having access gained by previous owners or tenants.To understand how rekeying works, you need to have a little knowledge of how a lock cylinder is put together. Although every lock is a bit different, most common home and business locks have the same basic parts. There is the housing, which is what surrounds the plug. The plug makes a tight fit into the housing, and is held in place with some form of clip or cam that keeps it from being pulled out. Pictured here is a key-in-knob cylinder.
The lock housing and the plug both contain holes. These holes accommodate “bottom pins.” Those are the pins that come in contact with your key. When a working key is inserted into the lock, the top part of the bottom pins will be flush with the plug, as shown.
When the bottom pins are flush, the plug will spin along the sheer line, and that is how the correct key opens the door.
When the key is not in the keyhole, those bottom pins are pushed down into the plug cylinder. They are replaced by the top pins, and the top pins are pushed into the bottom pins by springs.
These pins block the sheer line and prevent the plug from spinning freely.
These 3 items (bottom pins, top pins, and springs) are secured either internally or with a spring cap, to keep everything held together.
When a key with cuts that match bottom pins in a cylinder is inserted, they create a shear line; a level surface at the edges of the plug that will allow the plug to turn freely.
In fact, using multiple stacks of pins, you can actually create a cylinder that has multiple shear lines. That is, more than one cut key will create a shear line.
This is called ‘master keying’ and is used in businesses extensively. One person might have a key to access many office doors, but another will only have a key to open his/her office door.
Check out our article “What is Master Keying?”
Can I Rekey My Own Locks
Taking your own locks into a lock shop is one of the most affordable ways to rekey your own locks. See our article, “How Much Does it Cost to Rekey Locks?” But if you’re the type that wants to figure it out and pay the absolute minimum, then rekeying your own locks may be for you.
You can rekey your own locks by removing the lock from the door, taking out the cylinder and then replacing the bottom pins. As a practical matter, it may not be worth it. A single mistake can make the springs and pins fly out, all over the place, and a locksmith (or replacing the lock) will certainly be needed to get it all back together.
If you are willing to take on the challenge, you can buy rekey kits on Amazon. If you are handy, it could be fun to try to rekey the lock yourself. If it works, great! If not, just take the locks into a local locksmith shop and they’ll get it back together for you.
There IS a lock manufacturer, Kwikset, that around 10 or 12 years ago designed locks for residential use that you to quickly and easily rekey your own locks. The product line is called SmartKey, and it’s a very different lock system that does not use pins and springs.You can identify a Kwikset SmartKey lock by the extra little hole found near the keyhole.
My company sells rekey kits for Kwikset SmartKey locks on our website at a very affordable price. It comes with everything you need, and you can specify how many keys you’d like to have with the kit.
Rekeying a Kwikset Smart Key DOES require the existing working key, so if you do not have this, you cannot rekey the lock. A locksmith would be able to, though, using a special tool needed to reset the lock with a working key. If you do have the working key, it’s a fairly simple process.
How to Rekey Kwikset Smart Key Locks
How to Rekey Kwikset Smart Key
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