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I received a couple of emails this week asking about the process of getting replacement keys for toolboxes. I’ve had a little experience with this on my own, but to offer a real answer, I headed to Google, then called around a bit among our TM contacts. Short answer: You’re pretty damn screwed. Read on for the longer version.

So the first time I lost a key to a toolbox, I figured the process would be pretty much like replacing a lawnmower key: there are probably only three or four of ‘em, so you can either get one from the local shop, or worst case, you could call the manufacturer and order one.

That’s partially true. Contacting your local dealer and then the manufacturer directly via numbers you find on their website or products should be the first stop in your journey. Larger manufacturers generally stock replacement keys, though generally not at the truck/dealer level, which means you’ll probably have to special order them. They’re not cheap, either, ranging from a few bucks to around $50 or more. To identify your specific key, most manufacturers will request a number from the outside of the toolbox. Since these numbers vary — and there are usually more than one on the box — you’ll need to ask the manufacturer which one specifically you need, then get it and call back.

You should probably know, though, that it’s been our experience that most manufacturers place this low on their priority list. Toolbox locks are generally considered ineffective as theft deterrents, especially in shops full of dozens to thousands of tools which can disable said locks in seconds. So we get the feeling that most manufacturers think you really shouldn’t lock your toolbox anyway. Indeed, a lot of advice we’ve seen in online forums (and among Toolmongers in email) seems to suggest the same: disable the lock early on to avoid having to damage your toolbox to get at the tools inside.

And that brings us to the final answer. If your manufacturer doesn’t sell (or doesn’t stock) your key (or can’t get it to you in a timely fashion), you’re going to have to disable and remove the lock. If you’re serious about not doing any damage, give your local locksmith a call. You might have to call around a bit — especially if you’re in a larger city — to weed out the I-just-open-locked-cars-for-cash chaff from the seriously-knows-their-stuff wheat. You’ll definitely need the latter, who’re generally the guys who’ve done lots of oddball (but more common than you’d think) jobs like opening file cabinets, desks, and so on. Generally speaking, most toolbox locks are remarkably similar to office supply locks, so these guys can likely do the job quickly and painlessly — though probably not inexpensively.

Finally, you can remove the lock yourself. You can drill it, or if you’re in a super big hurry and don’t care about the box (like if there’s a client standing there ready to pay you more than a toolbox worth of cash for an immediate job), you can punch the lock through. Be creative. You’re a tool guy, right? (Or at least a tools-not-in-the-locked-box guy.)

Did I miss some ideas? Let me (and all the other Toolmongers who’ve made this mistake, too) know in comments.

 

51 Responses to So You Lost Your Toolbox Key: How Screwed Are You?

  1. Blaise Pascal says:

    Instead of having a locksmith disable the lock, see if they can just cut you a new key.

    Years ago, I was astonished to discover that a cheap file cabinet lock had the key cutting code stamped on it (and the 3-digit number on the lock in the picture above is probably the same thing). I was able to walk into the locksmith, tell them the model of file cabinet and the number on the lock, and walked out 10 minutes later and $10 poorer with a key that worked perfectly.

  2. Jason says:

    If it’s a single sided key, it’s generally very easy to pick with two paper clips.

  3. Sean O'Hara says:

    I just slipped a screwdriver in mine and popped it with a hammer. Felt so very stupid “locking” my tools up as the lid popped free with no damage with 2 seconds of effort.

  4. Steve McGrath says:

    Been there, done that. Fortunately, those toolbox locks are usually pretty cheap wafer-tumbler locks. Reading a quick tutorial on lockpicking will usually allow you to open one in a few seconds with a small screwdriver and bent paperclip. Once the lock is open, you should be able to remove it and take it to a locksmith to have a key made.

  5. Sean says:

    Not at all. I was the goto person for people who lost/forgot keys in our community college Heavy Equipment Repair program for the three years we were there. I even made a simple lock pick set out of hacksaw blades to rake the tumblers. Wafer locks are the easiest to pick, but the pin tumbler locks weren’t that much of a challenge either. The locks are there only to prevent casual walk-up theft. After all, in the real world, often it’s easier to just steal the whole box.

  6. JR says:

    I used to open these types of locks on file cabinets with the nail file on my little pocket swiss army knife. A small screwdriver inserted and fiddled with for a few seconds is all it usually takes to open these locks; and why you should probably just leave it open as suggested in the article.

  7. Jerry says:

    Almost all these locks are wafer tumbler types. If you can’t pick it, just drill it out – either way, if you really want a key for your box, most shops will charge you about 12 bucks to make the key or go to HD and buy a cabinet lock for about 6 dollars.

  8. Simon says:

    Just 10 secs with a drill bit and you are in. Done this many times on filing cabinets and drawers which use similar locks to cheap tool chests.

    Drill hole – jam in flat screwdriver and turn – keep trying larger bits until it turns. (Too small of a bit will snap off when it grabs)

  9. Sprague says:

    This is for gum ball machines, but it may work here:

    http://www.gumballmachinesdirect.com/lockreplacement.html

  10. Joe says:

    It’s good to lock them to keep young kids from getting hurt messin’ with your tools.

  11. kyle says:

    If you have a snap on box that can be turned over it is easy to open. Turn it upside down and pull out the drawers.

    You will have to reorganize your tools, but you will have an open box. We do this quite often at my high school, every auto collision student has a small snap on roll cab, key frequently turn up missing.

    I can not confirm if this technique will work on other brands.

    After the box has been opened a whole new lock should be a viable fix.

    On the subject of tools box locks avoid snap on flank drive locks. They are advertised as heavy duty but WILL NOT stand up to the heavy duty service that they are advertised to.

    The cheep lock found on tool boxes can also be defeated be a slide hammer like you see cops using on car locks-this works too.
    If you put a screw in the lock cylinder a slide hammer can pull it out.
    Drills and air chisels can be used with minimal damage to the box.

  12. Tony says:

    I was once reading an IBM computer manual, and was amused by the instructions for what to do when you lost the ‘keyboard lock’ (remember those?) key.

    1. Insert another key in the lock.
    2. Twist key with pliers until lock snaps.
    3. Order new lock, part #xxxxxxxx

  13. The “code” for the key is stamped right on the face of the lock. Any good locksmith should be able to cut the key.

    I knew a guy who lost the key to his motorcycle. There’s a guy on eBay who will cut you a new key and send it to you. You just tell him “It’s a Yamaha, and the code is 1234″ and done. New key in the mail.

    As it really is this easy, there’s not much point in damaging the lock to get it open. And if it were me, I would just pick it, as has been suggested. I made some tools for this from the stainless steel that reinforces wiper blade refills.

    • pool says:

      if he does that for a customer in california, he’d be violating penal code 466 and 467 that says he has to record and verify the identity of the requester against the registered owner. to do otherwise is a crime. i’m sure some other states have at least some such laws on the books

    • pool says:

      i hope this ‘tool’ doesn’t do it either in or for a customer in california as he would have to write down the identification number of the person requesting the key to the vehicle AND verify the ownership per the california penal code 466

  14. Melvin says:

    While tool box locks are pretty useless for security they are handy for making sure the box stays close in transit, even if said transit is just from one side of the shop to the other. I’ve been tempted a few times to just crazy glue my keys into the lock so I could use this latching feature without having to root around for my keys every time.

  15. Jonathan Smith says:

    I keep my toolboxes locked to keep my young children and family members who need to borrow tools out of my tool boxes. I changed all of the lockes to one lock and keep a spare stuck to a magnet on the back of one of them. I have also picked locks for family members who have locked them selves out after purchasing a pick set featured on this blog about 18 months ago

  16. Mike Lee says:

    Just break the lock and go to sears for a replacement.

  17. Joe says:

    Does anybody have any ideas to secure one of these type of tool boxes ? I realize that they are just made out of sheetmetal, but still. For example-you have some guys coming over to fix something in the cellar (where you keep your tools). Or someone breaks into the house. Just something to slow them down or with the case of repairmen , they won’t rip apart the box or anything as obvious. For slowing down a thief – putting a chain or cable around the cart’s handle. Or placing it in such a way that it would be barricaded in the corner of the room. Any ideas ?

  18. Sean O'Hara says:

    @Nick, heh, yep. He should’ve called me. I’d have told him what happened to mine. Which is still in use and doing fine… without a lock.

  19. fred says:

    @Joe

    On jobsites where we’ll be set up for a long stretch – we sometimes secure our Knaack boxes by bolting them to the floor – or chaining several together. Of course its not much use doing this if some other crew has left a cutting torch in easy reach

  20. Joe says:

    Thanks Fred.

  21. Seth Joseph Weine says:

    For situations where you’re going to be at a site for a while, and can put your box in one spot:
    Put a few holes in the bottom of your box, and lagbolt the box to the floor. The bolt heads are inaccessible if you’re box is locked.
    Obviously this won’t stop a determined thief who’d be willing to break into a box—but it does keep the box from walking off by those trying for a quick n’ quiet swipe.

  22. brh says:

    Try similar-sized keys before anything that will damage it. I’m always surprised at how many of my keys will open other things. Key to a buddy’s house opens the service closet in my apartment. Key to a fire-safe opens my USPS box. And so on.

  23. techguy says:

    if you want an alternative to a keyed lock they make a 3 digit combination lock for cabinet style locks call the combi-cam. they are fairly cheap and some models have the key and combo lock. its another option for the cheapo keyed lock.

    http://www.combi-cam.com/

  24. mickeyrat says:

    Locks are for honest people

  25. Bob says:

    I’m a locksmith. This is what we do. If you go to Sears looking for a replacement lock you will be disappointed and wasting your time. Here’s a tip – have a spare key made in advance so you don’t find yourself in these kind of stupid situations.

  26. bob watts says:

    You gotta be pretty darn stupid to lose your keys…..

    • Marvin McConoughey says:

      Reference, “You gotta be pretty darn stupid to lose your keys…..” Well, no, some very intelligent people have lost keys. In my case, I’ve not lost the keys. They were kept in the tool chest top tray since I never lock the tool chest. But when the top came down, as has before without incident, the lock actuated. Now I have a locked Sears tool chest, two keys locked inside, and no way to access the inside. Dumb? No, just bad luck.

  27. IceStationZebra says:

    I changed all my Sears locks over to a Kennedy 7-pin tubular tumbler, which is a much better lock.

    The no-cam part is Kennedy p/n 80401.

    Hint: If it is a tight fit you may have to very slightly file the side of the hole in your box.

    ISZ

  28. Chris says:

    You’re not screwed at all. The 8000 series locks and keys, which have been one of the most popular variety with toolbox manufacturers for years now, are widely available on eBay.

  29. Chris says:

    I’ll be more specific: I have dozens of 80##, 81##, and 82## toolbox keys, as found most of the major name brand toolboxes, that I cut to order and sell on eBay. Cheaper than a locksmith or rekey set, less gut wrenching than intentionally damaging your cabinet. I sell HUNDREDS every month. I won’t spam this discussion with a link, but if you search for me on ebay, you’ll find me.

    • pool says:

      only thing about this is you really don’t have a way to verify ownership/possession of “lock” be it on a toolbox or other item. by ‘blindly’ accepting money from someone like that, you could be an accessory to/after the fact of theft, were the circumstances to come out and be investigated… just sayin..

      this is why most locksmiths will not cut a key by code to some ‘joe’ walking in off the street. it could be for a padlock to a neighbors garage, a fellow workers desk or file cabinet or tool box — without having either the lock/cylinder in hand or visiting the site of the lock – usually involves a trip charge/service call and minimal labor charge.. just sayin

  30. Tim Kreps says:

    OR you can call 800-377-7414, they cost about $4.00 a piece from sears parts. and they can expedite ship.

  31. Ed Duggan says:

    I called Sears, they put me in touch with WI Service Parts, no hassle received the 3 keys need for $3 each plus $3 S&H, Total of $12. Great Service.
    1-800-833-4405 Have lock number handy.

    • pool says:

      only thing about this is you really don’t have a way to verify ownership/possession of “lock” be it on a toolbox or other item. by ‘blindly’ accepting money from someone like that, you could be an accessory to/after the fact of theft, were the circumstances to come out and be investigated… just sayin..

      this is why most locksmiths will not cut a key by code to some ‘joe’ walking in off the street. it could be for a padlock to a neighbors garage, a fellow workers desk or file cabinet or tool box — without having either the lock/cylinder in hand or visiting the site of the lock – usually involves a trip charge/service call and minimal labor charge.. just sayin

      • El Jefe says:

        @ Pool Thanks for spending a bunch of time making sure everyone is aware of penal codes regarding locks, picking locks and what “other locksmiths” do or don’t do.

        My point? Nobody cares. If my tools are locked in a box that I need to open, it’s getting opened and then I’m getting me a new lock.

        But thanks for making sure we are all legit and such…

      • Jimmy says:

        Deltastorage does this them selves for their lock boxes online or by phone, $12.95 including shipping. They also have no way to verify ownership but they feel very confident to ship these keys out because these locks are not theft proof locks only safety and theft deturant locks.

  32. Edward Minier says:

    I didn’t lose the key to my large bottome rooler box but just moved into new house and somewhere along the way, the linkage attached to the lock disengaged as the key turns fine but doesn;t appear to be attached to anything. Does anyone have a solution? Help.

    Thank you

    ED

  33. FeralVermonter says:

    Oh, come on, fellas, really!

    Where are the lockpick set reviews?

    I’d also like to suggest learning to pick the lock (if you have time, at least). It’s loads of fun, easy to find diagrams and directions online, at least for easy locks.

    Back in my auction days I was the guy who cracked old desk drawers, and even, on a few occasions, some old office safes. No locksmithing experience, but with research, creativity, and TOOLS I got each one open without damaging a thing. Fun project–if you have the time.

  34. Rob Smith says:

    The best solution to the issue is to use Ebay and buy from a seller named 8000Keys. I bought replacement keys for the keys that I lost and they were perfect. Much better than the original. About $5 a key shipped, it’s a great deal and no need to go through the headache above. The real answer is that you are not screwed. It’s a cheap and easy fix to what seems like a big issue. Chuck, check out this guy yourself and you won’t have to write blogs like this.

  35. i have not lost my key and box is definately unlocked but last time i put items in it,i went to open it and latches wont disengage! is there something else i can do? it is a dee zee brand pick up toolbox.1 lid, 1 lock, 2 handles,diamond stamp,sits across box inserting in front 2 box holes.i truly cant remember what linkage even looks like.dont know if something wedged against it. dont really want to drill out hinge rivets if i dont have to. please help!

  36. Ron says:

    Well I pick locks all the time so maybe this is easier for me but I found even before I could pick house locks and car locks that these locks are very easy and quick to pick with a jiggler pick or rocker pick. (Gas cap picks) which are pretty readily available. So if you’ve lost your key you can open them pretty easily with one of those. Now considering how easy they are to get into I’d say don’t even bother to lock them. If you have one at work and you worry about them other guys you work with borrowing tools without asking then swap the lock out with a tubular key lock and make sure you have extra keys stashed at home. Now as someone who can pick locks those tubular locks are pretty easy too. Not as easy as a regular tool box lock hit I’d say 95% of the population doesn’t know how to do it. And no I’m not a thief. Well not an illegal one anyway. Repo business and a locksmith. Trust me thieves don’t pick locks. There are faster ways past a lock and they could care less if they damage your stuff.

  37. mike says:

    That was hands down the least helpful article I’ve read in my entire life. The comments were way more helpful. If you’re going to write an article like this do more research than a quick Google search.

  38. Tim says:

    I have a Craftsman tool box and a couple of the drawers will not open. The horizontal lock bar is not connected to the lock but still turns and locks with a pliers. Two of the drawers will still not open when I turn it. Any suggestions how I can get them to open? The lock is shot.

    • Bobby Womble says:

      I would think that if you can open some or most of the drawers it would be easy to remove the drawers that will open and figure out what the problem is with the two that won’t move. Usually there is a slim flexible metal thingamajig that allows the drawers to come all the way out.

  39. Bobby Womble says:

    I only lock my toolbox to move it so the drawers don’t slide open in the back of my truck… unfortunately after moving it… I couldn’t find the key. Oh well, I’m going to try picking it since they don’t have much of a reputation for being difficult but I’ve never picked a lock before, wish me luck…

  40. Chuck Caho says:

    Just thought I would update your readers if possible, that I have a website specializing in Truck Toolbox and tool box keys. It is http://www.lostakey.net If you have a code on the face of the lock, check for that number on the site first. It may be available but not listed, so just use the contact us, to see if it can be made. Hope that helps, Chuck

  41. Debra says:

    I would like to say “Thank You Guys” who posted in the comments, and the original author of the article that helped me find this page.

    My son has a toolbox on his truck that is open, but he wants it locked to keep his brother-in-law from borrowing without asking. The keys are lost.

    Thank you again for helping me to figure this out. He works all the time, and doesn’t have time to take care of it right now.

    I’m hoping to get the key code from the locks and have the keys made for him. If not, maybe he can remove the locks and I can take them to the locksmith. Otherwise, I will have to buy new lock sets.

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