Frequently Asked Questions
One of the services that we offer is to educate our clientele about various issues that come up. We believe consumer education is very valuable, and in keeping our community informed, we can help prevent price shock or misunderstandings in the future. When the transponder key first appeared on the market and customers were coming in with only one key, we were met with shock and disbelief about the price to make a second key. At the time we did not have the proper machine, and we were unable to help our clients unless they had two keys. Otherwise, we had to refer them back to their dealer. Furthermore, they weren’t informed by the dealer about the full extent of the technology in their vehicle. We believe that customer education is a must in any profession and especially ours.
The majority of all keys can be duplicated using a key machine. It is highly recommended that you always have more than one key. Having a spare key can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
One question that always comes up is “how much is it going to cost me?” As a consumer, this is one of the first thoughts in our minds. Prices vary from service to service as well as region to region. We have found that there can be a ‘sticker shock’ in how much locksmith services cost. When thinking about locksmith services, the one thing people don’t realize is that this industry is full of trained professionals. If anyone could do the job, then there wouldn’t be a need for locksmiths. The industry has been around for thousands of years. When it comes to services, such as lockouts, some locksmiths charge a flat rate while others charge a rate plus time. Most of the time when you call a locksmith you need to be prepared for a service call charge for the locksmith to come out, plus the charges to do the work as well as cost of the parts.
As an example, it costs more to have a locksmith come out to your house to rekey the locks, than it does to bring the locks in to have them rekeyed. (Of course, if you don’t have anyone to stay in the house while you are bringing the locks in, then this isn’t an option.) Remember, we are a part of the security industry. Offering solutions to ensure the security of your family and home or business.
If there is a lock involved, then more often than not, a locksmith is the one to take the job to. Most of the time, the cost involved in having a locksmith do the job is going to be considerably less than taking it elsewhere. As an example, to duplicate a transponder key cost less through a locksmith than through the dealer or replacing an ignition switch costs less to have a locksmith do it than having the dealer do it. Furthermore, a locksmith can usually do the job faster than the dealer can. Dealers often use what is called a ‘flat book’ to base job services on, if the ‘flat book’ says a job should take three (3) hours to do, then the dealer will take those three hours to do the job, whether they need the time to do it or not.
A common misconception is that you can just call up a locksmith and give them your V.I.N. (vehicle identification number) and they can make a key for your vehicle. “Well, my friend works for a repo company and they can do it,” we sometimes hear. This may or may not be the case. For vehicles that are newer (and these are the ones that are generally being repossessed), then the VIN can be a helpful tool. The number a locksmith needs to make a key for your vehicle is called a “code” number. Car dealerships require proof of registration and ownership before they will give out this information. A dealership uses your VIN number to see what the code number is for that vehicle IF the vehicle is ten (10) years old or less. If the vehicle is older than that, then dealerships clear their database and for the newer vehicles. So while a VIN number may work for a dealer, it doesn’t do much good for a locksmith. The other side to this is that a VIN number doesn’t do any good if the locks on the vehicle have been changed. Dealers only keep the originaly code numbers, so if the locks on your vehicle have been rekeyed, then that number won’t work for your car. If you purchase a vehicle second hand there is a 50/50 chance that this could be the case.
Newer vehicles also use transponder technology, which means not just the code is needed for the key but the transponder code is needed as well.
Wrong. Master keys systems have to be set up. There are keys known as ‘construction’ keys that builders can and often times do use. A construction key is a key that allows whoever has it to get in and out of a building, however a construction key becomes invalid when the owner of the building uses a different key that works it. Once this key is inserted and turned, it moves a small ball bearing from the place it is into a pocket of the key cylinder thus invalidating the construction key. Unfortunately, there are times when instead of giving the ‘over-ride’ key to the client, they just give them a constructionkey.
On commercial buildings they don’t use this system, instead they use a ‘core’ system. This is where the key cylinder (or core) is actually removed and replaced by a different lock permanently upon the completion of the building. Most commercial buildings use a master key system as well.
Often times manufactured homes have display models that are master keyed, so it is a good idea if you purchase the display model to have your home rekeyed.
We have a lot of customers who go to a hardware store or a box store to have a duplicate key made, then they come to us to have it done right.
Remember that a locksmith is in the business of making keys. There are several differences when you purchase a key at a locksmith versus elsewhere. First, locksmith key machines are better. They are generally better quality and they are always kept calibrated. Most locksmith’s calibrate their machines at least once a month if not more, to ensure that the copy that the machine makes is as close to the key given to them as possible.
However, they are limited by the key you give them. If you give them a key that isn’t working, then duplications won’t help. Duplicating an already bad key makes another bad key. Most locksmith machines will make up to seven generations of key before the key is totally unusable. Other stores can only do three. Why is this? Its because these companies are not in the business of keys and locks. Generally you have to walk past a lot of other products to get to the key duplication area. Most of the employees hired to work these machines are rotated through, so they have very little experience or making and/or identifying a keyblank. (A common misconception is that you are looking at the head or top of the key to identify it.) You have to walk past all thes other products before getting to the keys and by the time you do, generally you will have added something else in your basket. If they make a bad key, then you have to return to the store and more than likely you will again walk out with something you didn’t go for. We have had customers go back two or three times for a good key before coming to us.
They have spent not only their energy with the frustration of having a key made that doesn’t work as well as their time to return and the money in gas it cost to get back to the store.
Locksmiths are invested in their equipment and every key blank they purchase comes out of pocket. A lot of hardware or big stores don’t have this issue. They are contracted by the key machine manufacturer and for every blank they mess up, they are exchanged one free one for that mistake. For every key a locksmith messes up, it comes out of their pocket. Locksmiths have a good incentive to make a good key, and they want their customers happy so they will come back. This is also the reason why getting a key made at a locksmith may cost a few cents more.
The answer to that is “yes” and “no”. Since we collect old locks and keys, we often get a lock that has no key. Therefore, we make a key by hand to work the lock. The key has some of the distinction of being an “old” key when it is actually new. We use modern materials shaped by hand to create keys when no blanks can be found.
As a matter of fact, in our virtual lock display there are a pair of handcuffs from the late 1700’s for which we made a key. We also made a key for an old wooden gate lock.
How much do we charge for this service? That depends on how long it takes, what kind of lock it is, etc. If you have a specific lock you need a key for, contact us with the information and we will do our best to help you out.
There are also some companies that still make ‘skeleton’ keys for older locks such as those on curio cabinets, roll top desk drawers, trunks, etc. This could be a potential solution to your problem as well.
Re-keying is when the cylinder of your lock is changed by replacing the pins so that your current key no longer works with it. Instead, a new key is used. It is like changing the combination on a safe.
The reason people should re-key their locks include; a tenant moves out, a key is lost or stolen, your purse is stolen, new construction you don’t know who on the construction team still has a key, you just purchased a new home or moved into a new home as you don’t know who still has a copy of the keys – Realtor and/or previous owners. One of the most popular reasons is to have all your locks using only one key. This makes it convenient for you to not carry a lot of keys around with you. This can only work, however, if all your locks are of a compatible brand in your house. (Kwikset, Schlage, Weiser, etc.) Sometimes when hardware is installed into your house you can purchase them to be “keyed alike”. This means that all the locks operate on the same key. However, if you decide to add a lock later on, you can either re-key that lock to be on the same key as the rest of your doors or use two different keys. (Remember this only works if the hardware is compatible.)
One of the other reasons people choose to re-key is to prevent theft from someone who had a key but no longer works/lives there. This is less expensive than replacing all the locks. It invalidates the previous keys from working. This also serves as a preventative measure to theft. If a person has a key and steals, then it is more difficult to ‘prove’ that they did it. After all, they had the key, that meant that they could come and go. If you change the locks, then it becomes a felony charge of breaking and entering – which holds a much stiffer penalty.
What can be re-keyed?
Not just deadbolts and doorknobs, but automobile door locks and ignition switches can be re-keyed. Sometimes replacement is a better option, depending on whether there is any damage present. However, an honest locksmith will evaluate the situation and let you be fully informed to make a decision that will best suit your needs and pocketbook.
Putting together a ‘project car’ or replacing a damaged lock from the junk yard? Have a current key and want it to fit that lock? Those are items that can be re-keyed as well. If you have a lock cylinder with a correlating key that fits, it can be re-keyed to your key or to a new key.
The exceptions to this rule are: The lock is too damaged to be repaired;
- Too old to have any replacement parts available; or
- The lock is so cheap that it isn’t worth the money to do it ; or
- the locksmith is too inexperienced to do the job.
A good locksmith will be up front with the problem and let you know what can or can’t be done.
A high security lock is different from a regular lock in that it can be harder to pick, it is not ‘bumpable’ and duplicate keys are not readily accessible. There are several different companies out there that offer these types of locks. The first and formost, who also leads the industry is Medeco. Medeco offers a non-pickable, non-bumpable security solution for both your residential and commercial needs. Using a keyway that is unique in the way it is cut, the majority of Medeco keys come cut directly from the factory and are not available for purchase via your everyday methods. In other words, you can’t just walk into a store and expect a key to be made. In order to get a second key cut, you must have a signature card proving that you own the system.
Bi-lock is another type of lock that uses a patented keyway, requires key registration, making the key blanks harder to get a hold of. It uses a unique dual keyway and the locks are pick proof and non-bumpable. Bi-lock also offers cylinders that fit into most any type of lock from door ways to file cabinets.
Another option are Lori L10 Vertex cylinders. As with the above, the cylinders often times can fit into pre-existing hardware. This system is only assigned to each individual company. Like the previous company’s it uses a signature card system in order to issue more keys.
We also offer MX cylinders, as with the above company’s, this uses a registration system in order to get additional keys made. It is licensed to each individual company who has been licensed to sell the system. All these options make bumping highly unlikely if not impossible, as they keys are not readily available to the public.
Most keys have code numbers that identify them to the locksmith. The code can also be identified by the locksmith by the cuts on a key. If you lose your key and have written down your code number, then you can call a locksmith and have him/her make the key for you. This is less expensive than having the locksmith come out and open the lock for you, although there are times when that just can’t be helped. When you get a new lock, write down all the numbers on the new keys for future reference.
I’ve lost my key, now what?
Unless you have written down a code number, you need to call a Locksmith. If you force a door, whether it is a home, office or car, you can end up doing damage that will end up costing you more than if you had called a locksmith in. If you have full coverage insurance with road side service on your vehicle, then you are covered. Even if you call a locksmith and end up paying out of pocket, take or mail the invoice to your insurance company and they generally will write you a re-imbursement check (as long as you have road side service on your policy).If you own a newer vehicle, you can call the dealer where you bought the car and request the code number from them. Make sure you give them the name of the locksmith you will be using, as they will call the locksmith and give them the code number. This will save you the expense of having to have a locksmith make a trip to your vehicle or house and make a key.If you have lost the key to either of your house, office or vehicle you should think about getting them re-keyed. If stolen from you car or purse, your insurance company – in most cases – will pay for your car to be re-keyed. They find it cheaper than replacing your vehicle.
What about Padlocks?
Depending on the brand and how much you paid for your padlock will determine whether or not you want a new key made to it. Sometimes the cost of having a key cut to code is more expensive than replacing the lock. On the other hand, depending on the grade/quality of the lock, it might be a greater investment to have the key cut to code. Some brands of padlocks can even be re-keyed! Remember that if you didn’t write down that number that came with the key originally, you might be out of luck. Another thing to consider is, if you don’t have the code number, but still have the key – take it to a locksmith and have the key deciphered (depending on who you take it too, will depend on how much they will charge you or if they will charge you for this service) then put the number in a safe place.
The best and easiest way to explain master-keying is to think of a hotel. The owner has one key that fits everything – all the rooms, store-rooms, offices, etc. The office manager has a key that fits only the offices. The maids have a key that only fit the rooms. Then the guest have a key that fits only the room in which they are staying.
If one of the guests leaves and takes their key, then a locksmith can come and invalidate that key and re-key the room to a new key. This will not, however, affect the other keys – unless the locksmith is poorly trained. Or if one of the house-keeping personnel leaves, the doors can be re-keyed to replace that key which will not affect the rest of the keys.
Although, this may seem like a redundant question.. a lockout is when you walk out of your house, business, and/or car and lock the doors… then realize you have forgotten the keys! Why call a locksmith? I left my window cracked, I’ll use a hanger! Sometimes it works… and sometimes it doesn’t. If you have invested in your automobile, you don’t want to damage your interior or if you have tinted windows the replacement cost is a lot less money when you call a locksmith.A locksmith can efficiently and effectively get you back into your home, business or automobile without breaking too much of a sweat. (Depending on the weather.) That is what they are TRAINED to do! PLUS, if you have road side assistance or a insurance policy with a tow package.. you are COVERED! Your insurance will reimburse you. (We use Allstate)
If you are like most people, you have a big investment in your automobile.In years gone by, almost anyone could open a locked car using only one tool. It only took a second or two. Today, however, auto makers have significantly tightened up the security of almost every car on the road. This means that a trained professional must have dozens of tools and techniques available in order to open your car with no damage.Today’s locksmith owns hundreds of dollars worth of tools and books on car opening. That is why he or she must charge a fair price to open your car. When you call a locksmith, a trained professional responds to your call. He or she arrives in a service vehicle stacked with thousands of dollars worth of tools and machinery, ready for any emergency.Repairing the damage caused by an unprofessional car opening far outweighs the cost a proper opening would have cost in the first place.In many towns, the police no longer will respond to lockouts unless it is a dire emergency. The police departments of today are concerned with the financial responsibility that has come from accidentally damaging citizens’ vehicles.
- When you call a tow truck driver, or allow any other unskilled person to attempt to unlock your car, you risk unnecessary damage to your vehicle. So next time you’re locked out, please call a trained locksmith for quick professional service. Police Departments in most towns do not open cars after experience shows them that they may damage many new vehicles.
- Locksmiths are trained professionals who use finesse, not force.
- A botched car opening job can easily cause $150.00 worth of damage to your door panel.
- Locksmiths are trained to use dozens of tools so they are ready to open your vehicle properly.
(This question and answer brought to you by The National Locksmith Magazine.)