How to rekey a lock 101
How to Rekey a Lock
You'll usually want to rekey the locks to your house or car because of a break-in, theft or act of vandalism. You may also wish to rekey your locks if you lose your keys, if you feel that too many others have copies of your keys or if you want the convenience of being able to lock and unlock your house's front and back doors with the same key. You can go to a locksmith to rekey your locks or you can do it yourself. Move on to Step 1 below to learn how to rekey a lock on either your house or your car.
Rekeying a House Lock
Get a rekeying kit.Also called pinning kits, rekeying kits are available at most hardware stores and home centers, as well as online.
- Kits are available for most lock brands and come equipped to do multiple locks, but frequently work for only locks of the same brand.
- Some kits include only lock pins, while others include special tools (cylinder follower, ring remover, plug follower) to remove the lock cylinder so you can replace the lock pins.
- You can order extra pins if you have more locks to re-key than the kit has pins for. If you have any old locks that are too corroded to keep, take the pins out and keep them before you throw the lock away.
Remove the exterior doorknob or lock face.Door knobs are held in place with a clip accessed by inserting a wire into a tiny hole. Your rekeying kit may include a wire tool for this purpose, or you can unbend a paper clip and insert it.
Take out the lock cylinder.Using a cylinder follower (a small brass tube), push the cylinder through the assembly to remove the sleeve covering it and then remove the cylinder.
Remove the cylinder retainer ring.Use a wrench-like ring remover to remove the retaining ring from the lock cylinder. Put the retainer ring somewhere you'll find it later when reassembling the lock.
Take out the cylinder plug.Insert the key for the current lock into the cylinder and turn it to separate the upper and lower lock pins. Push the plug follower through the cylinder, using constant pressure to remove the plug.
- Keeping constant pressure will keep the upper lock pins and their retaining springs in place when you remove the cylinder plug. If you should let the springs fall out, you can still pick them up and reinsert them but you will need tweezers to put the springs and pins back in.
Take out the old lower lock pins.The lower lock pins are roughly bullet-shaped, with the pointed ends touching the key, and of varying lengths.
Insert the new lock key in the cylinder.This will push the springs out of the way and serve as a partial guide for the new lock pins.
Insert the new pins in the lock.The new pins should be color-coded or coded numerically to match a chart showing which pin goes where in the lock. You'll need either a tweezers or small needle-nosed pliers to grip the pins and insert them. The new pins should align with the key when it is inserted in the lock.
- If the pins are not coded, you'll have to use trial and error, inserting and withdrawing the key to make sure it fits the lock with the new pins installed.
Reassemble the lock.Replace the cylinder plug and retaining ring, then replace the cylinder in the doorknob or lock face and reattach it to the door. Test the re-keyed lock to make sure it locks and unlocks with the new key.
Rekeying a Car Lock
Remove the lock from the car.The exact method depends on the vehicle and whether the lock is a door, trunk, or ignition lock. You may need special equipment to remove the lock.
Remove the inner lock tumbler.Take off the end cam and inner spring, then insert a key into the lock tumbler to push the pins away from the cylinder walls. You should then be able to push the tumbler out from the back.
- The key does not have to be the one that is normally used with the lock.
Replace the pins.Replacement tumbler pins come in sets. Each pin has a different length and may be labeled with a number. Insert the new pins in place of the old pins, making sure the new pins extend no further than the top of the tumbler.
- If you're rekeying more than one car lock, be sure to arrange the new pins in the same order in each lock so you can use the same key with all of them.
Insert the tumbler into the lock and test it.Although replacements, the new pins may be too worn to work. The lock should turn smoothly with the key that will be used to lock and unlock it.
Replace the lock in the car.You may want to test the key one more time to make sure it works.
QuestionIf your drop the top pins and need to replace them, are they all the same size?Glenn LetteerCommunity AnswerWhen rekeying a pin tumbler lock, yes, generally the top pins are all the same size. If a locksmith had rekyed the lock previously, at times they will match shorter top pins to longer bottom pins. This is especially true if the lock is part of an established master key system. If it is, you MUST use various sized top pins in order to account for extra space taken up by master pins in each cylinder hole. It is worth mentioning that even though on a non master keyed lock the top pins are generally the same size, the correct size is important. It is better to go a bit too short than too long.Thanks!
QuestionCan it still be done if I don't have a re-keying kit?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe re-keying kit comes with new bottom pins of varying size to match a new key. Without a re-keying kit, your only option would be to rearrange the existing pins. You would then have to file down a new key.Thanks!
QuestionIn the introduction you mention you may want to re-key if you lost your keys. How do you remove the cylinder plug without the key?Top AnswererIf the door is open, the screws are usually accessible. So unscrew the lock and dismantle it to replace the cylinder. If the door is locked, you'll need to get it open first, best done by a locksmith. If you have the skill, you can pick the lock open as well. Once open, unscrew the lock.Thanks!
QuestionCan I still do this if I don't have the original key?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you just have to figure out which pins go where. Sometimes you might need to file down a pin or two to make it work. The key (no pun intended) is to have all the pins flush when you insert your key in the hole.Thanks!
Can you rekey a lock without the progianl key? What if your key was lost or stolen and that is why you wish to rekey it?
I have a rekey lock but the key won't work. They did it in the store when I put the lock up. What should I do?
How do I repin a Master padlock?
How do I replace a lost key for an existing lock?
How do I remove The pins from a Larson storm door lock?
- To prevent losing springs and upper pins if they fall out accidentally, work over a high-contrast surface or over a bowl or dish that will catch the lock components if they fall out.
- You may want to lightly lubricate the lock when you replace the pins because it will reduce friction, reduce oxidation and cause the lock to last longer.
- Re-keying the locks to have a master key is not good for security because different keys will open the same door. Instead re-key all the locks for one unit to have the same key and keep 1 different key for each unit.
Video:  How To Easily Rekey Your Door Lock with a Rekeying Kit
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