What Does it Mean to “ReKey” a Lock?

What Does it Mean to “ReKey” a Lock?

There seems to be some confusion about exactly what it means to rekey a lock. In order to understand what rekeying means, we will need to take a look at exactly how a lock works.What Does it Mean to “ReKey” a Lock?

There are many different types of locks ranging from simple padlocks to combination locks, mechanical locks, tumbler locks and tubular locks. Your front door will usually have a mechanical lock, and modern interior doors, such as those used in bedrooms, closets, and bathrooms, will commonly be of the tubular variety. Both types of locks are intended to be opened with the proper key.

How Does a Tubular Lock Work?

There is actually much more to a mechanical lock than just the doorknobMechanicallocks have small hunks of metal commonly called tumblers, latches or levers, depending on the type of mechanical lock you’re dealing with. When the door is locked, these pieces of metal fit inside holes inside a bolt mechanism, which prevents the door from being opened. If you look at keys, they will be serrated in specific patterns. This is intended to raise the pieces of metal in specific configurations that will allow the bolt to slide. If the wrong key is inserted, the metal pieces will not move in the proper configuration, and the door will not open. Inserting the correct key, on the other hand, allows the bolt to slide, thereby allowing the door to be opened.

Tubular locks work in a very similar way, except for one minor difference: the lock can be configured with either a tumbler mechanism or a special button will be placed inside the lock for the proper key to press to allow the door to be opened.

So What Does That Have to Do with Rekeying a Lock?

When a locksmith rekeys a lock, they are actually reorganizing the pins inside the cylinder mechanism inside your lock so that the old key will not work. This involves a few steps:


  • Removing the exterior doorknob or lock face
  • Removing the lock cylinder, cylinder plug and retaining ring
  • Removing the old lock pins
  • Reconfiguring the lock cylinder with the new key
  • Inserting new lock pins
  • Reassembling the lock and doorknob

Rekeying a lock is often a cheaper alternative to simply replacing the entire lock because it saves the old hardware. However, it will render all previous keys obsolete. This can be a good thing though, especially if your key was stolen. A professional locksmith can rekey a lock within a few minutes. Also note that if a lock is too damaged to rekey, as might be the case in some burglaries, it will be necessary to replace the entire lock.

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