A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

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.

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Police cars with sirens lit during the uprising through the streets of the city

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.

2 / 21
house exterior door with the inside internal parts of the lock visible of a professional locksmith installing or repairing a new deadbolt lock

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.

3 / 21
Deadbolt lock on mahogany front door.
W. Scott McGill/Shutterstock

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. Locksmiths know what locks are safe to install and if you need more tips read this article on signs your house is vulnerable to burglars.

4 / 21
Lockwood Paradigm Double Cylinder Deadbolt on a white door in a new home build

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. Get a double cylinder lock that needs a key on the inside. Here are more secrets a burglar would never tell you.

5 / 21
Early 1900s dial combination lock close up. Black dail and gold plate.

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

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.

6 / 21
Open door of a family home. Close-up of the lock with your keys on an armored door. Security.
Alex Ruhl/Shutterstock

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.

7 / 21
A single key on rustic wooden keyboard with do not duplicate written on it.
Pritha Photography/Shutterstock

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. Learn some more secrets home security installers wish you knew.

8 / 21
Authority Driver's Licence
Billion Photos/Shutterstock

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?

9 / 21
Safe lock code on safety box bank Protection
VTT Studio/Shutterstock

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.

10 / 21
Locks and keys
Julia von Siebenthal/Shutterstock

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.

11 / 21
Door that opens into the unknown or maybe hell?

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 ten days.

12 / 21
Husband and wife are signing divorce settlement,focus on keys

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.

13 / 21
Bad news. Worried young businessman in suit and tie talking on the mobile phone while standing outdoors with office building in the background

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.

14 / 21
Car keys. Auto dealership concept.

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. Or, 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.

15 / 21
handyman repair the door lock in the room, Man fixing lock with screwdriver, Close-up of repairing door, professional locksmith installing or repairing a new deadbolt lock on a house
Alena TS/Shutterstock

Never tell me, “Don’t worry. It’s an easy lock.”

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

16 / 21
Double exposure of businessman uses the smart phone on the city street, and motion blur background

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. Here are the sneaky ways con artists try to win your trust.

17 / 21
open car door with key

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

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.

18 / 21
a woman's right hand turning a doorknob to close or open it palm turned away from camera, privacy trust safety security concept, horizontal shot, white copy text space, closeup side view
Ana Anderson/Shutterstock

Try the door

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

19 / 21
Woman's hand puts the key in the keyhole of wooden door. Home security concept
Arturs Budkevics/Shutterstock

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.

20 / 21
A female hand opens the red door key. Closeup of female housekeeper's hands holding key and opening door of hotel room
Aleksey Korchemkin/Shutterstock

Have a housekeeper who needs a key?

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.

21 / 21
A directory - a well-known yellow guide
Tom Payne/Shutterstock

Many locksmiths in the phone book or online are scam artists

Don’t fall for offers that sound too good to be true. 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. Next, check out some more home security tips that can help protect you from burglary.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest