21 Secrets Your House Locksmith Won’t Tell You

How to outsmart burglars and what they're really thinking when you call at 2 a.m.

A lot of us do undercover work for the cops


We make keys for police officers and get them into places at 3 a.m. so they can set up surveillance equipment or put the bugs in place. That includes your own house locksmith. It's part of the thrill of doing what we do. Here are some other things police officers want you to know.

Contractors stink at installing deadbolts


I can't tell you how many times I go out to re-key one or let someone in, and I find problems. If it's not installed right, it won't protect you. Here's what you need to know before hiring a handyman.

The best lock is a deadbolt that’s properly installed


An experienced house locksmith knows deadbolts should have at least a one-inch “throw.” On the “strike side,” there should be a security plate with screws at least three inches long that go all the way into the door’s wood frame. Look out for these signs your house is vulnerable to burglars.

Use a double cylinder lock to avoid break-ins


If you have a window on or near your door, a thumb-turn deadbolt won’t do much good. Burglars could easily knock out the glass, stick a hand in, and turn. (Here are more secrets a burglar would never tell you.) Get a double cylinder lock that needs a key on the inside.

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Think twice before you buy a locked safe at a flea market, estate sale, or auction

iStock/Arpad Benedek

It's probably going to cost you $300 or more to open it, and chances are, all you're going to find is mouse poop.

When you buy a new house, always have your locks re-keyed


Otherwise, there's probably a master key out there that can easily open your home. Don't miss these other things every homeowner should know.

Keys stamped “Do not duplicate” are duplicated all the time


Ask a house locksmith about high-security locks with keys that can’t be replicated at the hardware store.

You're supposed to check ID before you open anything


But half the time when someone is locked out of their house or car, where do you think their ID is?

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These are the biggest mistakes people make with their safe:


Spinning the dial too fast, trying to open it before it's unlocked, and forcing it closed when there's obviously a problem. Don't miss these home care tips that can save you time, money, and stress.

It’s easy to defeat the cheapo locks from big-box stores


Most are mass-produced by reputable manufacturers but to very low standards. Look for at least a grade 2. Here are more things you should never buy at big-box stores.

I've seen my share of dead bodies


It's always a bad sign when the landlord calls to get into an apartment, and nobody's seen the tenant for 10 days.

Divorce lock-outs are a challenge


The soon-to-be-ex wife will call and say she’s locked out, so I get her in and change the locks. Then the husband calls with the same request. I refer him to a competitor house locksmith.

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Don't feel bad if you have to call me twice in a short span of time


I once had a guy lock himself out of his house three times in one day. But if you lock yourself out of your car, you may not even need to call. Just use this trick to unlock your car without keys.

If you’re locked out, please call just one of us


More than once, I arrived at a lock-out to find two competitors’ trucks already there. At that point, we all agreed to leave and abandon the inconsiderate victim.

Never tell me, "Don't worry. It's an easy lock."

iStock/Andrew Howe

Every time someone says that it takes an extra 10 minutes to get it open. It's the kiss of death.

If you call at 2 a.m., beware


If some guy calls me because he’s locked out of his car at a strip club, a service call that’s normally $55 is automatically $100. If he’s got money for strip clubs, he’s got money for me.

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Don’t believe a car dealer who says only he can duplicate keys

iStock/Tom England

In most cases, a locksmith who specializes in automotive work can make you a key—usually cheaper. You could also be falling for these ways you're wasting money on your car, too.

Try the door


I’ve gone to houses and found it open. (I’m still going to charge you for the service call.)

If your key won’t turn, try WD-40 or silicone spray


Sometimes the pins get jammed up, and 25 to 40 percent of the time, that solves the problem. Here are more brilliant uses for WD-40.

Have a housekeeper who needs a key?

iStock/Nathan Watkins

Ask me to key your door so that your master key works on both the deadbolt and the doorknob, but hers works just on the knob. On the day she comes, lock only the knob. By the way, this is what your housekeeper secretly wants you to know.

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Many locksmiths in the phone book or online are scam artists


Don't fall for these sneaky ways con artists try to win your trust. They’ll quote you a great price, but when they get there, they’ll say you have a special lock they can’t pick, so they have to drill it open. Then they charge you $125 for a replacement lock you can buy at Home Depot for $25. Find someone reputable at findalocksmith.com, the official website of the Associated Locksmiths of America.

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