Most people have been in a situation where they considered changing their locks. It happens when you move into a new place, lose your keys, or fire a babysitter or an angry employee (and you should have considered it in that case if you didn’t).
Of those people, the majority don’t realize one simple fact: it’s much cheaper to rekey a lock instead of changing it.
There are quite a few locksmiths that take advantage of their customers’ ignorance. They recommend the more expensive option right off the bat instead of letting the customers know they have options, to begin with.
What does rekeying a lock mean?
Rekeying a lock is not as self-explanatory as changing one. It means changing a lock’s working key to a different one without replacing the lock itself. In simpler terms, you still have your old lock, but you can’t unlock it with your old key (and neither can anyone else).
Locksmiths rekey a lock by taking it apart and replacing the key pins. Every pin matches with a specific key. In essence, you set a new key when you replace those pins with new ones. That key then operates the lock. As complicated as it might seem, a professional can do it quickly if they have the right tools at their disposal.
How to rekey a lock
The locksmith needs the current key that matches the lock in order to rekey it. If they don’t have it, picking the lock open is the only way to rekey it. This costs extra money, but it’s no trouble for an experienced locksmith. Still, you might end up paying more than it would cost you to replace the whole lock.
Rekeying a lock has no bearing on lock security at all. The number of pins inside the lock does, on the other hand. The lock will remain as secure as it was before if five old pins are replaced with five new ones.
It’s best to upgrade to higher-security locks if security is the most crucial aspect for you. You don’t need to wonder whether your locks can be rekeyed: all locks come with this option preset. However, there are different ways to rekey different locks and the tools needed aren’t always the same. Medeco and other high-security locks can only be rekeyed with a unique set of tools and key pins.
When should you rekey your lock?
You should rekey your lock if you want to stop using an old key or to have more than one lock for the corresponding key. Let’s say you have a few locks in your house, and each one comes with a different key. This can be a hassle. You might wish to have all of your locks rekeyed to match the same key. To achieve this, the locks need the same keyhole types, or they all need to be the same brand. An indicator that the keyholes are different and won’t match is if your key fits into one lock but not into the others.
You’d want to rekey your locks in two common scenarios. One is when you just don’t want the old key to work anymore. For example:
When should you change your lock?
You would want to change your lock in three different scenarios. The first is security-related. You want more secure locks or electronic ones. The second is if you want your locks to be a different design or color. You might have moved into a new place, and the locks are rusty, old, and ugly. You want them to be new and pretty.
Finally, you’d want to change your locks if they are all different brands, but you would like to be able to open all of them with the same key. If they are the same brand or have the same keyway type, they don’t need to be changed, just rekeyed.
If you don’t have the key for your locks and you have several installed already, it’s most reasonable to compare the price of changing the locks to the price of rekeying them without a key, which would require extra work. Then, choose the more cost-effective option. Change locks only if rekeying them and picking them would be more expensive.
The locksmith must provide at least several locks with a key to them after changing your locks. Many hardware stores offer to match your locks for free upon purchase.
DIY is not recommended
Changing a standard residential lock is relatively simple. If you’re a little handy, you can figure it out yourself. On the other hand, it requires specific tools, practice, and learning to rekey a lock. The tools are not cheap. Ten new rudimentary locks cost much less than a professional pinning kit, which locksmiths use to rekey most locks.
Also, remember that if you try to change the lock yourself and are unable to, you won’t cause any damage. Conversely, you’ll destroy the lock if you fail at rekeying it.