If you’ve lost the original key to your smart lock (our other guide on what to do), your only options are either to replace the lock itself, which can be expensive, or to rekey the tumbler. While rekeying may seem like a reasonably straightforward process for most of us, it will be a lot more complicated and time-consuming than installing the lock itself.
Rekeying a lock is a complicated process and should be left to a locksmith if possible. If your smart lock has a physical lock, chances are it can be rekeyed. How easy this will be depends heavily on the type of smart lock you own, and for each model, there is a different process.
When it comes down to it, a smart lock is not much different than a traditional one. Some brands offer a completely keyless experience, but most will still use the classic pin and tumbler setup you see on your everyday deadbolts and door locks. If trying to rekey one of these locks, proper training and experience can be beneficial. To explore what smart locks are and how to rekey them read on.
What is a Smart Lock?
Smart locks are another addition to the tremendous growing web of smart technology that adds convenience to our homes. These devices offer network connections through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and can add accessibility and connectivity to multiple devices and your lock. Smart locks come with great features like:
- Voice recognition – Unlock your door with the sound of your voice.
- Keycode entry – Easily set and use digit codes to unlock your door on a keypad.
- Bluetooth proximity – This feature unlocks your door when it senses specific Bluetooth devices like your phone.
- Remote unlocking – Use app functionality to unlock your door from your phone; this can be done remotely.
Because these locks are connected to the internet, they end up storing a lot of useful data that you can use to strengthen the security of your home. Not only can you enable notifications on your smartphone, but you can also track when people are coming into your house and even set access limitations to specific individuals.
Benefits of Using a Smart Lock
Smart locks significantly improve your lock’s functions and can be an excellent addition to any home security set up. They can even be linked up to other devices like the Ring Doorbell camera (from Amazon) and provide a video feed every time someone unlocks the door. It may seem like all these features set smart locks lightyears ahead of traditional locks, but most brands aim to provide a combination of conventional mechanisms along with modern technology.
This means you will likely see a classic pin and tumbler lock somewhere in the smart device’s workings. Like the August Smart Lock (on Amazon), some products work with your existing lock to provide smart features without any need for replacing the lock itself. Other lock brands, like the Schlage Smart Deadbolt which you can also find on Amazon, provide all the components needed to replace your old lock entirely.
These models still use a mechanical lock mechanism combined with smart features. There are smart locks that omit the traditional lock as a backup. The Yale Assure Lock (on Amazon) is an excellent example of a lock that only uses the digital keypad as the means for access. If the lock has pin and tumbler hardware, it will always include a key.
Unfortunately, with the many ways to access a smart lock, it is easy to lose track of the original key; if this is the case, you are probably asking yourself if the lock can be rekeyed like any other lock. While in most cases the answer is yes, depending on the type of smart lock you own this could be a very involved process that can require some specialty tools. If you can, consult a locksmith before attempting any work on your smart lock.
Which Smart Locks are the Easiest to Rekey?
To answer this question, we first need to break down the three main types of Smart Locks.
- Over an existing lock type – These will be the easiest to work with as they are essentially the same as a regular lock.
- Lock replacements w/mechanical backup – To work on this type of lock, you will need to disassemble the entire device to get to the lock’s components.
- Keyless types – These can’t be rekeyed; they have no key, to begin with.
When asking which type of smart lock is easiest to rekey, it becomes a question of relativity. Relative to a total replacement lock like a Schlage, an August over the knob smart lock will be much easier to work with as it is basically like any other traditional lock. But rekeying a lock compared to installing one is an entirely different situation.
Rekeying is not a simple process, and for a good reason. If it were an easy fix, then the lock’s security would be compromised as anyone could rekey your lock if they wanted to. This is why you will probably want to get a locksmith involved to take care of the process. This is especially the case if you no longer have a copy of the original key.
If you are using a built-in smart lock, like the Schlage or August Smart Lock (our guide) for example, then rekeying your lock will mean taking every part off of the door and breaking it down even further to get to the lock’s components. Doing this means you might be damaging some essential electronic components if you don’t have the proper training. These end up being extra steps in the long process of rekeying a lock.
How to Rekey a Lock Without the Original Key
When attempting to rekey a lock, make sure to set aside enough time to do the required research as specific locks may need different tools and techniques. Be aware that you will be working with some small parts, and it may take not only a keen eye but also some steady hands.
Make sure you have a proper workspace in mind where you have plenty of light, and if you can work on a white surface to keep track of all the pins better. Keep in mind that these instructions are meant to be an overview of the process so you know what you are getting into. For a more detailed account of how to rekey a lock, follow the link to this video.
Tools You Will Need
If you are rekeying a lock for the first time, you will need to source some specialty equipment. Thankfully, many manufacturers make brand-specific re-pinning kits that will include a lot of the hardware and tools required for rekeying. This list covers all bases, but it depends on the type of lock:
- Re-pinning set
- Screw Driver
- Key Blank
- New Cut Key
- Pinning Tray
- Core Shim
- Pickle Fork (Not essential)
- Key Gauge
As you can see, there are many specialty tools needed to rekey a lock, most of which your local locksmith will have on hand. Now that we have covered the types of tools and hardware you will need, we can explore what the process of rekeying a lock will look like.
Disassembling Your Lock
Here is where the different types of lock brands will vary on the method. If you own a lock like the August Smart Lock, this should be relatively easy, and most likely, you will need to use a screwdriver to get your lock off the door. From here, you will need to take off the housing and gain access to the lock itself.
For a more integrated system like the Schlage, this will probably be a much different process. Be prepared to meet some resistance taking the lock apart as these devices are not designed to be accessed so readily. If you can get access to the pin and tumbler without problems, you will need to get the lock open. Because you don’t have the original key, this can be difficult.
Shimming a Lock
To shim the lock, you will first need to gain access to the back of the lock. This can depend heavily on the type and brand of lock you are using. Some require you to find access to a small pin, while some have a c-clip, and some will even have a Torx screw to gain access.
To explore how to access the back of each lock type would require a lot of time and exceed the scope of this article. There’s a lot of information to know so you can see why a professional like a locksmith can help in these situations. If you can gain access to the backside of the lock, then you will need to shim open the lock:
- Place the lock shim in the back portion of the lock, ensuring that you are in line with the driver pins.
- Place the key blank into the key slot.
- While maintaining constant pressure on the shim, slowly take out the key blank to expose one pin at a time.
- If you push the shim with the right pressure, it should slip into the small amount of space between the driver pins and the key pins.
- This could take some time and require some patience, so move slowly to ensure you are getting every pin.
- Once you have moved the shim between all the pins, you should move the lock into the open position.
Alternatively, if you have access to the driver pins, you can take out the pins from the lock’s top side. This is not an option for most locks. Once you have the lock opened, you need to be careful not to let the loose tumbler fall out.
Rekeying a Lock
Once you have opened your lock, we can finally move onto the actual rekeying process.
- Using your plug follower push out the tumbler, being careful not to let any key pins fall out.
- Next, you will need to map out the pins from your new cut key using the key gauge—Mark down the number pins on a piece of paper for better organization.
- Once you have your key pins mapped out, take out the old pins from the tumbler.
- Place your cut key into the lock.
- Replace, using your repinning kit, the key pins in the exact order you have written down.
- If you have all the correct pins in, you should see that the key pins are sitting flush outside the lock.
- Place the tumbler back into the lock, pushing out the plug follower in the process.
- Do not attempt to pull out the key at this point as you could also take out the tumbler itself.
- Turn the key to make sure that it is working before re-fitting into the lock housing.
These instructions hide the true difficulty of this task. In reality, you will be working with very small parts, and for most, the process of rekeying is a skill that takes some time to master. If you can’t get a locksmith involved, make sure you are taking your time, staying organized, and consulting good instructions like the video from earlier.
While rekeying your lock is possible, it can be challenging, especially if you no longer have the original key. If you have an over the lock product like the August Smart Lock, this is more doable than if you had a full replacement lock like a Schlage or a Smart Key (our guide) . Either way, it won’t be an easy task, and if you can, you should get a professional to look at your lock before you start any rekeying process.
Just because you have made the mistake of losing the original key doesn’t mean you should make the mistake of breaking your expensive smart lock! Take time and assess your skill level and budget. This will help you make the right decisions for your project.