Q - My neighborhood is very quiet and peaceful. We never have any burglaries or break-ins that I hear about. We leave our doors unlocked all the time. Do I really need to be concerned about the locks we have on our home?
A - Today more than ever with the national economy in serious trouble you need to protect yourself, your loved ones and your possessions you've worked hard to accumulate. The very first thing is get in the habit of locking your home when you are there or away. Even though you don't hear about burglaries or break-ins, don't think for one moment they aren't happening. It's not the job of the police to publicize their work. As for wether you need to be concerned about the locks on your home, the old saying goes don't close the gate after the cows get out. So yes you do need to be concerned about the locks on your home. This is especially true with the information available on the Internet on how to circumvent locks with bump keys. If you're in Texas, check with your local licensed Locksmith to see if he/she will evaluate your lock hardware and security. Many Locksmiths will perform this service at no cost.
Q - I read your article and saw the video on "bump keying". Is this something new?
A - No, this is not something new. Bump keys have been in existence for quite a few years but were generally not publicized until lately. The media and the Internet have moved them into the limelite. The crooks obviously enjoy easy pickings. Many police departments are not knowledgeable about bump keys or refuse to discuss them with homeowners for other reasons. Today fortunately you can purchase a bump resistant lock. The cost is slightly higher than a traditional lockset but the peace of mind is well worth the consideration.
Q - What quality of entry locksets do I need?
A - There are many locksets out there to choose from. Many of them are rated by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and carry a level of durability on the finish and functional cycles testing. This is not all the testing performed but just an example to give you the overall idea. After testing and certification is complete, the lock is given a class of use rating. Grade 1 - Commercial Applications (best)/ Grade 2 - Light Commercial and Residential Applications (better)/ Grade 3 - Residential Applications (Good). When shopping for a lockset, consider its use. An example to help you is many builders use Grade 3 locksets on new homes unless the home specifically requires otherwise. A Grade 3 lockset is a very cost effective means of security. Additional factors to consider are is the lock "bump resistant" or is the lock the level of security you require. The best advice is talk to your Locksmith and let his experience provide you a sound recommendation.
Q - Why does it seem that every time I go the the hardware store or home improvement center to have a key made they never work the first time and I have to go back to have the key recut?
A - There are many reasons this can happen. I'll try to cover as many as I can think of right now. The first reason that comes to mind is key generation. When you have an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) key that is brand new from the lock manufacturer it is known as a first generation key. A copy of this new key will probably work ok if the duplicating equipment is in generally good condition with good cutters and guides that are not worn from multiple uses. The copy becomes a second generation key. When the significant other wants a copy of the key and they use your second generation key as a pattern, they now have a third generation key and each time the key is copied, the reliability of the copy is reduced substantially to a point that the key will cease to work. You have to remember you are dealing with thousands of an inch here. Key duplication is much like copying photographs. The original is superb. The copy starts to show grain and some of the clarity disappears. As this progression continues, each new copy degrades to a point that the subject cannot be identified. Most lock manufactures code punch the OEM key to very close tolerances that cannot be duplicated on a standard key duplicator. Locksmiths are very aware of this problem and usually have equipment that will cut a key to OEM specifications. Speaking for myself, I have multiple key cutters and duplicators. I happen to use the HPC Blitz (sometimes described as the industry standard) code machine. The machine is equipped with numerous factory specification data cards that allow me to produce a key within factory specifications without using another key as a pattern. Granted, I will measure the bitting of the key a consumer brings me but I will not use the actual profile of their key. If I take my time and set up the code machine with the proper cutter, proper data card and the machine is in calibration, you can bet the key I produce will indeed work as well if not better than the original. I also use key punches. If I have many keys of the same type to produce, I'll use the key punch for speed. They are very accurate and quick to mass produce premium cut keys. Last but not least, yes I do have a key duplicator and have cut many keys with them but, being a locksmith and depending on this equipment for my livelihood, I try to limit its use to duplicating only premium second generation keys from a new clean factory OEM key.
The second thing that comes to mind is the equipment being used by the hardware or home improvement center. Ask yourself, how many different people use that machine in one day? Are they all properly trained on the equipment or was it a just stick the key to copy here and the blank there and let it rip? Who is maintaining the machine and calibrating it as needed? Unlike a locksmith that must rely on his equipment to produce his income, the folks at the hardware or home improvement store usually don't concern themselves with these details until their key return rate sky rockets and customers are upset. Locksmiths can't afford that kind of customer relationship.
All key blanks are not created equal. They may look alike or feel alike but when you use special measuring tools you will find there is a difference. Quality key blanks from a tried and trusted manufacturer plays a huge roll in assuring that your finished key will perform and give you years of good use. Usually by the time your keys wear out it's time to repair, re-key or replace the lock or internal parts.
As with key blanks, locks are not all created equal. Each manufacturer designs, manufactures and assembles their lock to their specifications. The tolerances in manufacturing of locks vary greatly by brand, quality control and grade of lock. Most manufacturers produce multiple grades of locksets. For obvious reasons as you go up in grade (i.e. grade 3, grade 2, grade 1) the quality of the lockset increases as does its application. Most residential locks are grade 3 with some of them made from pot metal. These are the lower end of quality but serve the homeowner well for basic security. Figure it this way, the lower the grade of lock, the lower the quality as a security device and the quicker the failure rate. This all ties back to the key duplication issues.