The Sooner the better!
When you first notice that your lock or your key is not working correctly, that is the time to contact a locksmith. One of the biggest things we run into is having a customer call us AFTER the lock has failed.
You may notice that the lock isn’t “acting” quite right; its may be something as simple as not turning quite right. However, so many people just let this go. “I will take care of it later.” While we are all guilty of ‘putting off until tomorrow what we should do today” somethings are better taken care of today. Locks are one of those things. When you notice that the latch isn’t catching all the time, this is the time to contact your locksmith. It might be something as simple as WD-40 or you might need a new latch. However, by waiting, instead of buying a $17 part, you may find yourself with a $90 fix or more.
As an example, once the latch fails, you then call a locksmith, you are now paying for a service call, labor and the part. When you could have fixed it before the failure and saved yourself some money. As much as we love to help our customers, we do try to let them know that prevention is a financially better solution than failure. Once your lock fails, then the real work begins, of course there are always those customers who think that a locksmith will just show up and they shouldn’t have to pay for the service. (If you think you can do it yourself, then do it. We train to learn how best to handle these type of things, which is why we are bonded and licensed. We have to pay for our overhead.) Remember a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and unless you know what you are doing, you could make the situation worse.
A lot of times, a quick squirt of WD-40 into the key hole of a lock will fix the problem. (Do not use this with safes or automobile ignition switches.) Graphite in our area (the Pacific Northwest) can be a bad thing. It will freeze in the winter and collect dirt in the summer. Whereas WD-40 will clean out the lock and evaporate. (There are other things on the market that are equivalent to WD-40, we highly advise AGAINST graphite here.) We have seen more frozen locks from individuals filling up their locks with the stuff, and then bringing them in to get them re-keyed or fixed and we end up with extremely dirty hands by the time we finish the first lock from the “if a little works a lot must work so much better” line of thinking.
If you notice wear on your keys, it may be time to get a new key. Keys that are worn down not only stop working properly but they can damage the lock. Toyota’s keys are notorious for getting worn down and when you continually use them, they often will break in the lock or damage the lock. For $3.00 you can simply replace the key which is less expensive than replacing an ignition cylinder.
Last, but not least, have at least one duplicate key that you don’t use and put up for when you need to get a copy of your key. If you have a key that is simply used for making duplicates, you will always have a good key from which to make a copy. Duplicate keys are often as good as the original (when made by a locksmith) as we calibrate our machines on a regular basis whereas hardware/chain stores don’t. If you don’t calibrate the machine, then it will automatically make bad copies. A locksmith machine can make up to 6 or 7 generations of your key before it won’t work; a hardware/chain store can only do up to 3 before they are producing a bad generational key.
Working spare keys are a good thing!