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.