F.A.Q. / What it means to ‘re-key’ a lock

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.
Why re-key?
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.

© 2012, Shauna. All rights reserved.

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