Key Broken inside a Lock - Caused by the User or a Problem with the Lock Itself?

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Last week I received a call from an HOA in Downtown San Diego looking for a locksmith to extract a broken key. They described that a new staff member was entering the building's main electrical room but the key broke inside the lock cylinder. Now they needed someone to remove the broken key from inside the lock cylinder. Once I arrived, I was able to extract the broken key, but that's not really the point of this short story... After a broken key is extracted from a lock, the lock needs to be carefully examined for proper operation. Key's don't usually just break on their own. It is easy to immediately blame the person who broke the key and forget to question if there was an issue with the lock that contributed to this.

When I examined the lock for proper operation, I immediately noticed that the latch was not retracting smoothly with the key. Pressing the panic bar operated the latch well, but the key would only retract the latch about 85% of the travel. Trying to retract the last 15% took enormous force on the key. Obviously something was wrong with the lock or the installation. In this case, it turned out that the previous locksmith or original lock installer did not notice that the cylinder tailpiece was too long. When the panic bar was properly tightened, the tailpiece put a load on the lock mechanism  and created a large amount of resistance. After the tailpiece was shortened by about 1/4 inch, the lock started functioning properly and allowed proper tightening of the panic bar assembly to the door.  

The moral of the story is that when you are choosing a locksmith, make sure you choose a conscientious and technically competent one such as Lock-IQ. If I had just extracted the broken key and walked away from the job like many locksmiths would have done, this particular customer would have eventually had another broken key incident. It is imperative that a locksmith does a simple "root cause analysis" after performing a broken key extraction.

Lock-IQ Downtown Locksmith is now BBB Accredited

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We received our BBB Accreditation today! This is a major step for us as we establish ourselves as the most trusted locksmith company in San Diego. We are committed to customer service excellence and delivering competent locksmith services at fair prices in Downtown San Diego and surrounding areas (Point Loma, Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, Golden Hills, Cortez Hill, Mission Valley, Midway area etc).  

Locksmith "Malpractice"

On the right is a "CROSS-THREADED" mortise cylinder INSTALLED in a store front lock by a licensed SAN DIEGO locksmith COMPANY. It practically fell out of the lock BODY AFTER THE SET-SCREW WAS REMOVED.    

On the right is a "CROSS-THREADED" mortise cylinder INSTALLED in a store front lock by a licensed SAN DIEGO locksmith COMPANY. It practically fell out of the lock BODY AFTER THE SET-SCREW WAS REMOVED.    

Yesterday, I was asked to rekey a store front lock for a business after an employee "disappeared" with keys to their business. Rekeying after a person leaves your employment, whether it is under good or bad terms, is always a good idea. Rekeying has a  relatively low cost compared to the possible risks associated with unauthorized people having keys to your business.

Now, to the main point I want to make today:  If you look at the picture above showing the "key cylinder" (mortise cylinder), you'll see how badly the previous locksmith(s) had damaged the cylinder threads. When I proceeded to remove the cylinder, I only had to rotate the cylinder about 1/4 turn before it just fell out of the door (it should take multiple turns before a cylinder comes out). I was in complete disbelief that a licensed locksmith had damaged the threads so badly or chose to install a previously damaged cylinder without replacing it. Of course, it is possible that the previous locksmith company tried to sell a new cylinder to this business at an elevated cost and the customer declined. However, there is a difference between "up-selling" something the customer doesn't necessarily need and leaving the job "jerry-rigged" with a severe security risk. After I properly explained the issue, this customer wanted the cylinder replaced.  Even then, we didn't take an advantage of this customer and replaced the part at our cost which was minimal (the part cost less than the sales tax on this job). I simply don't understand how any conscientious locksmith could sleep at night after leaving a cylinder secured only by the set-screw (and not by threads that are really supposed to hold it in place). I am not going to name the previous locksmith company, but they are one of the oldest and well known locksmiths serving San Diego. The previous key even had their name "proudly" printed on it.  

PS. We also carry a cylinder "tap and die" set in our van and we could have fixed the threads rather than replaced the cylinder. However, in this case the threads were quite severely damaged and the cost of this particular cylinder was low, so a new cylinder made the most sense.

Are all the locksmiths the same? Third time's the charm!

I recently worked on a mortise cylinder lock that another locksmith had tried to get to function properly. Mortise cylinder locks are the higher end locks found on many heavy duty business doors. The first locksmith was only able to make the lock semi-functional, claiming that he didn't have the right parts to fix the lock. Rather than finding the right parts, he just walked away from the job. Subsequently, a second locksmith had made an immediate determination that a new lock was needed but they never followed through with a quote that they had promised via email. The lock in question secures an area where about 20 employees work and getting the lock fixed was a high priority item for the business owner.

As the third locksmith who was asked to take a look at this lock, I found two issues with the original locksmith's work that kept the lock from working normally. In addition, one of the previous locksmiths had tried to remove one of the handles using pliers and damaged the finish on this very nice handle set. My intention is not to honk my own horn, but to make the point that when you are looking for a locksmith, please keep in mind that not all locksmiths are equal. There are individuals that start their own locksmith businesses or get hired by a locksmith company but lack the essential ability to troubleshoot issues. Not every locksmith is a problem solver. Replacing a perfectly good lock with a new one gives a bad reputation to the entire locksmith trade. I strongly recommend doing your research before hiring a locksmith. Once you find a good one, make sure you keep their number programmed in your phone.  

Warning About Inferior Quality Deadbolt Locks

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We don't regularly single out specific manufacturers in a negative manner and we definitely don't take pleasure in writing negative things about any specific brand. However, I feel compelled to share my experience with a Defiant brand deadbolt (available at Home Depot).  A customer of ours got locked out of his house yesterday. Once I arrived at his house, he suggested that it might be easier to pick their patio door lock rather than the higher quality front door lock. His gut feeling was right! 

It took about 5 seconds to get the Defiant brand deadbolt lock opened...and I am not exaggerating. There are "bad people" out there with the same skillset as a typical locksmith. A lock like this would not even slow the "bad guy" down. This particular lock probably costs about $10 to $15 and it was installed on a house costing well North of $500,000. 

Needless to say, there are much higher quality locks out there. I strongly urge you to evaluate the locks on your home. Do not think that all locks are built the same. There are locks that are very difficult or impossible to pick. If you need help replacing any inferior quality locks, we would naturally be happy to help.