The Problems that Lurk Beneath the Surface

Today I was rekeying a house. I pulled the lock cylinders apart in order to replace the brass pins, a process that guarantees the old key will no longer work but a new key will. I was surprised to find that all of the lock cylinders had either two or three pins inside. These lock cylinders should have had five pins per cylinder, the bare minimum level of security for a residential exterior door. This is negligent and in my opinion should be illegal. I’ve seen this many times in Seattle, too.

A lock cylinder missing pins and springs. The plug has been filed down.
This is a lock cylinder for a Schlage F series knob. They aren’t made with the tightest tolerances, any locksmith should be able to rekey one with five pins. The yellow circle shows the top pins. There are only two out of five present. The red circle shows the flat shiny part of the plug where somebody filed it down. Even this easy to rekey cylinder wasn’t sloppy enough for this clown, they had to file it down.

Leaving this house’s locks with two out of five pins makes it much easier to pick the locks but it also means that many other keys would work. A back of hand calculation is that around 1/80 keys would open these locks. That is the reason I think this should be illegal, it is leaving people wide open to possible theft or assault from the very person that was supposed to prevent that from happening in the first place!

This is akin to a mechanic deciding they don’t want to deal with resurfacing all four of your vehicle’s brake rotors but instead throwing two of them in the trash. Then the mechanic charges you for resurfacing all four of your rotors. Your vehicle is left in an unsafe state, you got overcharged, and you don’t even know it!

If you are reading this you probably weren’t going to get scammed by a half rate locksmith, but you may be curious if your friends or relatives were scammed and their houses left in this state. The way to determine how many pins are in your lock is to take a thin piece of flat steel, push it all the way into the lock, push it up to the top of the lock, and slowly pull it out. If you are doing this right, you should hear individual clicks. Those are the springs pushing the pins down really fast as your implement is pulled out of the way. If you heard five or six clicks, then great. Your lock is secure. If you didn’t, your lock may be missing parts. It could also be that your lock is full of graphite and other gunk and needs to be cleaned out with tri-flow or contact cleaner.

Or you can call me.

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Bjørn Madsen

I am the Seattle locksmith you've been looking for. High Quality work at a reasonable price delivered in a timely fashion.