Locksmith Ethics, how cheap can actually cost more.

First, I want to start by saying that Locksmithing in Ontario as an industry is pretty much entirely unregulated, other areas of Canada and the US do regulate it, but Ontario does not currently. Anyone can put up a website saying hire me to be a locksmith and no one is allowed to make sure they have any ability to actually work on locks of any kind whatsoever beforehand. This can lead to a number of issues, for one it can lead to inexperienced and untrained technicians in the field that don’t know what they are doing which can have significant consequences if their work leaves a door improperly secured, especially at night for businesses with valueble goods inside, for example. Another issue, and in my opinion the more significant one, are Locksmiths that use false advertising to essentially blackmail and gouge the customer into paying exorbitant fees. They will advertise unbeatable rates and incredible response times like $15 and 15 minutes. These businesses often stick to more simple jobs like lockouts and rekeys. For example, on a lockout they will come to “pick” your lock but then when they arrive will claim its a high security lock that cannot be picked even when it is not because they believe the customer wont know that. Then they will proceed to drill it off the door and once your lock is destroyed they will tell you a new one is $150 and at that point your options are few so you are forced to pay it. So, how can you avoid such an unpleasent experience? There is no one way to completely make yourself safe from unethical behaviour, but its always a good idea to do your research, check if they are qualified in any way, though its unregulated there are credentials you can have. For example, there is an association called “the association of Ontario locksmiths” for which you must prove yourself to be a locksmith in order to join, as well as there are manufacturers that offer courses on their products and certify the completion of said courses. You can also look to reviews online about a given company for information. All of these contribute to a better locksmith experience for the customer, with less hassel and hidden costs. One other piece of general wisdom is you get what you pay for a lot of times, if you see a $15 locksmith 9 times out of 10 you will pay a great deal more before all is said and done, because locksmithing does take experience and expertise and often it takes time, and with those rates you aren’t going to make any money unless unmentioned charges appear. As someone who runs a competing business to these fraudulent companies I can say I know they’re out there, I have seen them, I have lost many customers to their appealing rates.  I have even had them try to recruit me, but legitimacy, fairness and customer experience are the most important things to my business. I will also say im not the only legitimate locksmith around, there are plenty, but if you want hiring a locksmith to be a good experience its worth it to do your research beforehand or it can cost you later.

High Security Locks – Who Needs Them

There are three grades of locks in terms of the quality of the parts used to make a lock. They are grades 1, 2 and 3. Grade 1 locks are the highest quality (strongest) and are therefore harder to break or destroy. This means they have metal parts, not plastic and a grade 1 might be steel and have other features to stop drill bits and other forms of attack, where a grade 2 might be brass, and its security might be less. Grade 1 locks are designed to be tamper proof, both from the inside and the outside. A grade 3 lock might have exposed screws on the inside of the lock making it easier to tamper with if you have access to the building. A Grade 1 lock, would require a special tool and possibly a key in order to remove the lock from either side. Some locks will advertise themselves as Grade 1 but they haven’t been certified as such. The certifying body for lock grades is Ansi/bhma.

Big box stores typically sell Grade 2 or 3 locks. Most certified Grade 1 locks are only available from locksmiths or locksmith supply companies or manufacturers. Grades are only one factor in determining the security of a lock. Grades speak to the resistance to attack and force. The other aspect of security is the locking mechanism itself. A higher quality mechanism would be more resistant to pick attempts and bypass attempts. For example, a standard lock bought at a big box retailer would have one locking point, meaning there is one mechanism that if manipulated correctly will open the lock (eg. A basic key with one set of cuts goes into a cylinder with one set of pins and if they match close enough (right height) the key will open the lock). Often, if the cut of the key is close you can giggle it and open the lock.

Medeco M3 is a high security locking mechanism that has three locking points and it has far tighter tolerances for what is accurate enough to open the lock. Normal key pins are round, Medico key pins are angled so that within the lock cylinder they have to be oriented the right way and the matching key has two dimensional cuts. So, with a Medeco key, in order to open it, you have to manipulate the height of the pins while simultaneously manipulating the rotation of the same pins at the same time, all while manipulating the side bar depth. To top it all off, you must get it exactly right on, or it won’t open. They are also made of harder materials such as titanium and are specifically designed to be drill resistant. Finally, you can’t go to your local hardware store and get a copy of a Medeco key. They have strict key control. Each Medeco system has one owner, which can be Medco itself, a locksmith company or supply distributor or the end user company. Only the owner of the Medeco system can make additional copies of that key. Each key system has a unique keyway and only the owner is authorized to acquire additional keys and the factory will not sell them to anyone else.  High security locks are also tested against the standard UL-437.

So who needs high security locks?

Simply put, industrial or big businesses. Residences typically have windows, so if someone wanted in, the easiest way is to break a window rather than going through the lock. Another important point is that the Medeco M3 has some of the largest master key systems in the world, meaning you can have master keys that can work on a number of other master key systems. Many city buildings, hospitals, large apartment buildings, and the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai are master keyed by Medeco. These locks are quite expensive and designed for large applications.

While they may not be for every application, should you need a high security lock, you can’t go wrong with Medeco. I have done my factory training in M3 and X4 Medeco locking systems and can recommend them.

Weiser Smart Keys Not So Smart

The Weiser Smart Key system is a popular residential door lock sold at big box retailers. It looks like a great idea because it can be rekeyed by the end user. However, what they don’t tell you is that in order to rekey it, you need to have a different key to change it to, which doesn’t come with the original lock. You can buy a separate rekey kit with the tool and extra keys required to do this yourself.

You could instead buy one lock for each door and then each lock would come with a different key, so you could make the two locks work off of one set of the keys and keep the other set for future rekeying.

My biggest problem with these locks is that the core is plastic (the part that spins when you put your key in) and so are the pins themselves which means they are very prone to malfunctioning, seizing and breaking. Also, because the core comes as a sealed unit, they cannot be repaired. These locks are also significantly easier to open with force or be drill off the door if a burglar were to want to break into your house.

As a locksmith, I see these locks on a regular basis because I have to replace them for homeowners. Therefore, I recommend that you use a higher quality metal cored lock.

If you are having trouble with your Weiser Smart Key lock, I’d be happy to help you replace them so that all your locks work off of one key.

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Locked Out of Your Car?

While some cars have a keypad entry so that you will never be locked out of your car (unless you forget your code), most still require a key or fob to get inside. It’s a frustrating experience when you lock that key inside the vehicle by accident.

Like many locksmiths, I can open most vehicles with the tools that I have. The only ones I don’t work on are cars with frameless windows, meaning when you open the door, if the car door has no frame across the top of the window, then it is frameless and due to the potential to break the window, I don’t do car door unlocks on those vehicles.

Too Many Keys?

Did you know that you can get all the locks in your house or business working off of one key, often without replacing the whole lock? Every lock with a key has a cylinder and often that cylinder can be replaced without having to replace the handles, trim or grip set. This process is called rekeying. Even if you have different brands of locks on your different doors, it may be possible to rekey them with a different cylinder but keep the same shell so the door doesn’t look any different. This essentially makes all the cylinders in your doors the same brand without affecting the other pieces.

How can you tell what brands your locks are and if they could be rekeyed to the same key. Sometimes the lock brand is laser engraved on latch, door jamb (side of the door where the lock and door frame meet). There are white label locks where you won’t be able to determine the brand. The best way therefore is to look at the shape of the key. Original (not copies) keys from a lock will often say the brand on them, but if you have a copy of the key it will often have no brand name. If the shape of the ‘bow’ of the key (the part that you hold) is the same for your different locks, there is a good chance your locks could be rekeyed to use just one key.

We can change the pins inside the cylinder, making a different key work that lock. This is a common task when people move into a new home and want to ensure that no old keys out there could be used to open the doors.

If carrying any keys is too many for you, you may want to consider switching to an electronic lock, one that uses a code, for example, instead of a physical key. Code locked doors can be programmed to have the same number and many can have several different working combinations that can open the door. This can be valuable if you need to temporarily give someone access to your home or business (eg. pet sitter). After you return, you can easily disable that code, preventing that code from working in the future.

Many people don’t like the hassle of carrying multiple keys or the idea that existing keys to their locks may be out there, so getting your lock rekeyed or replacing it with an electronic lock can solve both of these problems.

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