How to Re-Key Locks: A Step-by-Step Guide to Enhancing Security

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Are you concerned about the security of your property? One of the most effective ways to enhance your security is by re-keying your locks. Re-keying allows you to change the key that operates your existing locks without replacing the entire lock mechanism. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of re-keying locks, providing you with the necessary knowledge and step-by-step instructions to ensure a successful re-keying experience.

What is Re-keying?

Re-keying is the process of altering the internal components of a lock cylinder so that a different key can operate it. This provides an added layer of security, especially in situations where you may have lost a key, moved into a new space, or experienced a security breach. By re-keying your locks, you can ensure that only authorized individuals have access to your property, giving you peace of mind.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Re-key a Lock

Gathering the Necessary Tools and Materials

Before diving into the re-keying process, it’s important to gather all the tools and materials you’ll need. These typically include a re-keying kit, a screwdriver, a plug follower, a pinning tray, and a new set of keys. Having these items readily available will make the process smoother and more efficient.

Removing the Lock Cylinder

To begin re-keying the lock, you’ll need to remove the lock cylinder from the door. This is usually done by unscrewing the retaining screw and pulling the cylinder out. Once removed, you can proceed with disassembling the lock cylinder to access the pins.

Disassembling and Re-pinning the Cylinder

With the lock cylinder disassembled, you’ll find a series of pins that correspond to the cuts on the key. By rearranging these pins to match a new key, you can re-key the lock. The re-keying kit will provide you with new pins and springs that are compatible with your lock. Carefully follow the instructions included in the kit to ensure accurate re-pinning.

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Testing and Reassembly

Once you have re-pinned the cylinder, it’s crucial to test the new key to ensure proper functionality. Insert the key and verify that it smoothly turns the cylinder without any resistance or sticking. If everything works smoothly, you can proceed with reassembling the lock cylinder and reinstalling it into the door.

Duplication of New Keys

After successfully re-keying the lock, it’s essential to duplicate the new keys. This will provide you with multiple copies for convenience and as backups. Ensure that the duplicates are made accurately to prevent any issues with unlocking the re-keyed lock.

Common Challenges and Troubleshooting

Re-keying locks can sometimes pose challenges, but with the right approach, these obstacles can be overcome. Here are some common issues you may encounter and troubleshooting tips to help you navigate through them:

Pins Not Aligning Properly

If the pins in the lock cylinder are not aligning correctly, the key may not turn smoothly or may get stuck. In this case, double-check the pin sizes and ensure they are compatible with your lock. Additionally, make sure the pins are inserted at the correct depth as instructed in the re-keying kit.

Difficulty Inserting or Removing the Cylinder

If you encounter difficulty inserting or removing the lock cylinder from the door, ensure that the retaining screw is completely loosened. Sometimes, the cylinder can get stuck due to dirt or debris inside the lock mechanism. Clean the cylinder and the surrounding area thoroughly before attempting to remove or insert it again.

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Key Still Not Turning after Re-keying

If the key still doesn’t turn smoothly after re-keying, it’s possible that the pins are not aligned correctly. Disassemble the cylinder again and carefully examine the pins. Ensure they are flush with the shear line, allowing the key to operate the lock smoothly. Make any necessary adjustments and reassemble the lock cylinder.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I re-key the locks myself, or should I hire a professional?
A: Re-keying locks can be done as a DIY project if you have the necessary tools and feel comfortable with the process. However, if you’re unsure or want to ensure optimal results, it’s recommended to hire a professional locksmith.

Q: How often should I re-key my locks?
A: It’s generally advisable to re-key your locks whenever there is a change in occupancy or if you suspect unauthorized access. This includes moving into a new space, losing a key, or experiencing a security breach.

Q: Is re-keying locks as effective as replacing them?
A: Re-keying locks can be just as effective as replacing them, especially if the existing locks are in good condition. It provides a cost-effective solution while still enhancing security.


Re-keying locks is a valuable skill that empowers you to take control of your security. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can confidently re-key your locks and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your property is secure. Whether you choose to tackle the process yourself or seek professional assistance, re-keying is an effective way to enhance your security without breaking the bank. Take charge of your security today and ensure that only authorized individuals have access to your property.

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