jump to example.com

While picking up the parts to fix my front door the other day I ran across this SmartKey system from Kwikset in the big-box lock isle. Here’s how it works, in case you’re (like me) lucky enough to avoid re-keys for the last half-a-decade or so: To re-key the lock, you simply insert the current key, turn it a 1/4 turn, insert the SmartKey tool, and rotate it back. Blam. The lock’s now matched to the new key.

It sounds convenient as hell. But I can’t help but wonder how secure the system is — and whether or not a maid or buddy with one of the SmartKey tools couldn’t easily jack your lock. Any locksmiths out there who could weigh in with some experienced info?

The website suggests (predictably, I guess) that security isn’t an issue because in order to re-key the lock you need both a working key AND a the SmartKey tool. If you lose all the keys, you have to take the lock back to an authorized locksmith who sticks the thing in a cradle that resets it to accept a new key.

Besides that, the SmartKey locks incorporate all the modern mods including anti-bumping tech. What say you?

(P.S. Also, a funny note: When I was buying my parts at the big-box, the helpful lady gave me a weird look when she noticed that my parts were from a Kwikset lock. “Those are cheaper stuff, mostly found on mobile homes,” she said. She did, however, show my second-class-citizen ass over to the rack where I found my part. Go figure.)

SmartKey Re-Key Technology [Kwikset]


49 Responses to Are Self-Re-Keying Locks Secure?

  1. Dave says:

    I usually keep a slew of old locks and parts on hand so that I can re-pin and old lock to match a key. Usually do this so I can have one key operate all my doors.

  2. Pepster says:

    When we replaced all the locks on our new home in 2008, the schmuck working that section of Lowe’s had no earthly idea what “Lock Bumping” is.

    I was a bit taken aback at his igorance within his own specialty, but it was enough to convice the wife that my fears were unfounded, and we should get the set SHE wanted….

    Used the savings to buy dog food, so I guess it works out.

  3. Chuck says:

    Well, that, and would someone really go through all the trouble to gain entry that way? A brick and the back window of your house, and they’re in all the same. Bumping, schmumping.

    For your Kwickset princess, a good swift kick, and a Schlage pops through a door frame just like a Kwikset…

  4. Nik says:

    If you want security, it’s going to take A LOT MORE than a $50 lock from Lowe’s or Wal-Mart. All those Mickey Mouse locks can be picked quickly and easily. Even if you get a substantially better lock, it’s still futile because the door can be kicked in so easily. So you’ll need a steel door frame (or steel reinforcing on the door frame), which hardly anyone has, and since it’s rare, it’s going to be expensive. And even then, as Chuck points out, there are still lots of other ways to get in your house. Unless you’re willing to spend many thousands of dollars, it’s futile.

  5. Bryan says:

    Someone attempted to break into our suburban house at 9am on a Monday morning. The burglar passed through an unlocked side gate and tried to kick in the garage door. It was a fiberglass door with a newer Schlage lock and held up to the attack. He also tore the screen of every window in the back of the house. They were all locked, so again he failed to get in. There was evidence that he was about to throw a concrete stepping stone through the back door, but before he did he heard the cops coming and bolted.

    The “good” news is my wife was home at the time and was able to call police. The bad news is it was a very traumatizing experience. The really good news is he’s doing 7 years for it.

    We now keep all our doors and windows locked, hoping any other criminal will go searching find an easier target. We also launched a Neighborhood Watch program. We still have the same Schlage locks.

    • Buck says:

      No one does 7 years for “attempting” to break in… heck he wouldn’t have done 7 years if he broke in and took all your stuff.

      • rive says:

        Most states consider burglary/attempted burglary a violent offense now. In Florida, Burlary of a residence will get you a 15 year sentence…first offense.

  6. Toolaremia says:

    “Locks only keep honest people out.” Anybody who thinks otherwise hasn’t thought about it (or seen that short-lived TV show “It Takes a Thief”). I can pick any Kwikset garbage deadbolt in under 10 seconds with a paperclip, and any Schlage in 60 seconds. I’ve practiced. 😉

    With that in mind, I’m not sure the extra convenience of easy rekeying is worth any extra money. Especially since Lowes and Home Depot will rekey any lock you buy from them for $5. Get a Schlage and call it a day. It will keep the honest and the unmotivated dishonest out. Nothing will keep the determined dishonset out.

  7. Toolaremia says:

    Let me correct myself: An armed and trained homeowner will keep the determined dishonest out, or at least will stop them in their tracks…

    Bryan, you and your wife should watch “Conceal & Carry School” on Spike TV at 10:30 AM July 31. It’s refreshing to hear people choose not to live in fear, instead of hoping the police arrive before the intruder gets into their house.

  8. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    Every little bit to make it harder helps – any security measure can be overcome – it’s just whether or not the guy wants to break in badly enough, or if he’d just as soon go somewhere else. Lights with motion sensors, trimming bushes, simple alarms, tempered glass, keylocks on windows so you can’t open them even if you preak out a pane, same on doors, etc. all make it easier to go elsewhere.
    I also endorse the ability to defend yourself if it comes to that – with whatever tool makes sense (I think Ruger, Smith & Wesson, etc. make fine tools).

  9. tgood says:

    These are WAY more secure than a regular pin lock. I use them in my rentals for easy lock changes when a tenant moves out. I do have a concern about tenants changing their own keys but so far that hasn’t been a problem. One problem is, if you do lock yourself out, you’ll have to break in because a locksmith can’t pick it.

  10. zoomzoomjeff says:

    I purchased one and couldn’t be happier. I didn’t buy it because the lock is fool-proof.

    I was living in a condo with a detached garage. The garage door was steel and I took additional measures to keep out most thiefs. The walk in door was framed on the inside with angle iron that I screwed into the studs. To kick it in, you’d have to make a mess of noise and punch through the middle of a steel faced door. Again, doable, but it keeps out most thieves.

    The reason I got this lock was because once in a while my neighbor/friend needed to borrow tool(s) when I’d be gone on weekends. So I re-keyed it and gave him the “valet” key. When I got home, I retrieved the valet key, and switched it back to my lock combo.

    For that reason, it was perfect.

  11. Aleksejs says:

    For a normal residential house the main purpose of lock is to be tamper-evident enough for burglar not to be able to open it without any traces. So that your insurer can not claim that you did not lock your door at all. Anyway – for “general purpose buglar” 😉 you have to be less attractive target than your neighbours 🙂

    Also there are cheapo doors that can be cut using can-opener 😀

  12. Alex says:

    I installed these locks in my house. The one deadbolt somehow reset itself so the key doesn’t work anymore. I have to find someone with the resetting tool to fix it. Ughhhh

  13. RWard says:

    Get an ANSI grade 1 lock, and don’t worry if it’s Kwikset or Schlage or whatever. Get one with anti-bumping tech, and put metal plates to reinforce your jamb. Use 3″ screws. If you’re paranoid, do the whole jamb and put on hing reinforcement.

    Most break-ins are door kick-ins. Defend against those first.

    And yes, you can get a grade 1 kwikset with SmartKey. They’re actually pretty nice and a lot better than some of the lower grade stuff we came to expect from Kwikset. They’ve done a lot to improve their reputation among those in the trade, but clearly not among those who are not (such as Toolaremia).

    The home depot clerk is as behind the times as most home depot clerks, especially in the lock section. Try a local locksmith. See what they see working and not working. Get their input. You don’t have to hire them to install it, just talk to them and buy the lock from them.

  14. tgood says:

    Lowes and Home Depot have rekeying cradles and will reset it for free.

  15. Marco says:

    There is no such thing as “absolute security”. But there’s a happy medium between leaving your door open even to the casual scoundrel, and spending thousands of dollars into turning your home into a bunker. Good security is proportional to the value of stuff it must protect, and can’t anyway be achieved with just a lock.
    As a rule, burglars DON’T come in by the door if they can avoid it.
    So, any other access to the house must be protected as well.
    And lockpicking is definitely one of the last entering techniques one has to worry about. Acquiring lockpicking skills, even to a very simple degree, requires training, exercise and determination. Your average perp will much prefer a brick in the window, or the traditional crowbar.

  16. Alex says:

    Thanks tgood!

  17. Mac says:

    True, ‘totally secure’ is an illusion. An option better than any lock: Get a dog that barks. Intruder will move on to an easier target (read: home without a dog). My dog might lick you to death, but his bark sure makes it seem like he’s pissed!

  18. Mark says:

    The whole point of locks is to add to the annoyance factor of anyone trying to break in. The same with all of the steering wheel car locks and brake locks. Thieves usually want to be in and out fast, if something causes them to need more time and effort, it is hoped that they will move along to the next car. Or home for this matter.

  19. metis says:

    @tgood there are exploits for smartkey locks that will allow bypass some published by the locksport community for earlier generations of the lock.

    iirc there are masterkey versions of smartkey style locks available so that you could have access to rekey even if chnage keys were lost.

    as others have stated, the lock on your door is NOT the weak point in the system, or how a criminal is going to gain access. buy a quality lock with appropriate features that you will use, and install it in a door that’s properly mounted without an unsupported gap to the framing, glass to knock out and unlock from within etc etc.

  20. johnsonj says:

    I have a handful of rentals and these cannot be beat! The Big Boxes may only charge $5-7 to rekey, but by the time you add in the driving & etc the extra $ is worth it. Esp when you need to lock out some dead beat’s ass for spending their $ on beer and cigs vs paying rent. As for the cradle, you can buy it on Amazon for < $30.

  21. Mark Snead, CPL says:

    Add up the value of all you are trying to protect. Then justify $30 to “secure” your house. It need not be expensive ( remember what you’re locking up!) to get good locks and reinforced frames. The object is to make them go elsewhere. You will not keep out a thief who wants in badly enough. The “change yourself” locks have been around for a long time, I saw my first about 1975. This is a fad that will pass. People don’t have a need for this! So invest a couple hundred dollars per opening and sleep at night!

  22. Mr.Miz says:

    Who ever said you put locks on your door solely so that you can prove to your insurance company that you took measures to prevent a loss/claim hit the nail on the head. Protect yourself and loved ones. Let your insurance take care of the rest.

    So the answer to the question is no. They are not secure. However they are very VERY useful on Rental properties and all Landlords should consider this and important tool to save them money.

  23. Harvey says:

    Step one: Google.com
    Step two: ‘pick smartlock’

    Are self-rekeying locks secure? Usually not as secure as single bitting locks. Depending on the rekeying mechanism, the owner may foul it up using a very old worn key, or using a key with the wrong spacings.

    The particular one, the Kwikset SmartKey lock, offers better than average picking resistance, and complete Bumping resistance, but can be brute-forced very easily. Quite a few American lockies I know simply force these during home-lockouts and replace them.

  24. Rijker says:

    Kwikset’s SmartKey lock is not secure at all as I discuss on a blog I write for: http://www.crushsyndrome.com/2010/07/defeating-the-smartkey-lock-in-seconds/

    I think anyone that owns a Kwikset SmartKey lock or is considering owning one should read it and then confirm for yourself.

  25. Fabian says:

    If you surf over to lock picking forums you will see the smart key has still not been reliably and consistently picked. For the money, this is a good lock. There are few lame videos on youtube, but these are one-trick-ponies, and their picking techniques are not consistently successful.

    Also, for those how need to force reset the Cylinder:


  26. Fabian says:



    from OpenDNS:

    “”www.crushsyndrome.com isn’t loading right now.”””

  27. JohnQSecurity says:

    This lock was featured as being vulnerable at DEFCON in Las Vegas, Nevada this year. This lock is far from secure. It has nothing to do with bumping either. There’s more than one way to defeat a lock, and the way they did it was ridiculously easy. 10 seconds tops with nothing but a piece of small metal inserted into the cylinder, a screw driver, and a vice grip.

    Researchers Tobias, Fiddler, and Bluzman gave a talk with a demonstration of how to defeat this lock. It’s easier than you think. But that’s not the point. This lock shouldn’t be your only mechanism to deter would-be intruders–you should have other things in place to stop them.

  28. waynep says:

    preventing bumping.. cheep… find a Oring supplier.. they will have silicone Orings with a section diameter of 0.104″ cut a section out of the oring.. probably 3/8 long.. this requires a few tools to do… but replace the rear spring with this section of Oring… it may have to be trimmed.. but the idea is it will be impossible to lift the bottom pin to the shear line except with the proper key… no pick or bumping key will be able to get it that high….

    using different tension springs from different lock manufacturers can also help… not all of the spring.. just a few.. so the tuning is off.. it will then be impossible or almost impossible to bump the lock….

    the magazine staff can contact me if they would like me to take some photos and create an article for this anti bumping fix…

  29. Odd Rune says:

    Videos and articles from DEFCON about this lock and how insecure it is:

  30. Fabian says:

    uh ohh.. looky like Mr kwikset-picker got his website suspended…


    wasn’t me if you are wondering..

  31. Rijker says:

    Website wasn’t suspended – server crashed. Article can be found here:


    Posted it a day or so before Defcon broke it. Still, this attack has been known for years.

  32. Killbox says:

    When these first came out i just had to know how they worked, so i plunked down the cash and got a deadbolt, and promptly tried it out and then took it apart,

    Its essentially a wafer sidebar lock, with ratcheting wafers there is some risk in people with a key playing with a poking tool, and zeroing out the lock by taking the key our and using something to reset the lock, or partially pulling the key out while setting it. but proper use should do just fine.

    As for construction, qwikset does have a few grades, but i suspect internally they will all fail to brute force on the keyway, but they did install a hardened bearing to stop people form drilling the sidebar.

    conventional raking does not work, picking is said to be possible but ive had no luck, and indeed bumping is not just difficult, it flat out does not work with this type of lock.

    keep in mind all quickset knobs can have the outside endo of the knob pulled out neatly, with as standard kwickset if you dont care about the clips you can pull from the keyway might muck up the wafers on a smartkey, but then again if you are a crook you dont care.

    As for the deadbolt, for field use i have worked out a way to remove the locks in the field, the housing can rgen be repaired and the locks reset and re-installed.

    these locks shine in a environment where swift rekeying is useful, apartments, rental units, and situations like having a house sitter that you don’t want to have to worry about them making a copy of the key.

  33. Brian says:

    I’ve had two calls in the last 2 months that involved these locks failing. Both were Schlage Smart Keys. The first was a lever set and I was able to use the under the door lever tool to open the door. I couldn’t repair the lock. The customer was going to take it back to the home center where he bought the lock a month earlier. The keys were not duplicates but they failed anyway.

    2nd one was a dead bolt. The client spent a half hour trying to open the lock. They had not used it for 3 months because they were having problems with it. Someone forgot that they weren’t suppose to use it and inadvertently locked it.

    When I got there I turned the key once, and it opened the door. The client was surprised because she had just spent a half an hour messing with it. She asked me what I did and I told her that it was just lucky. I removed the smart cylinder and replaced it with a regular cylinder and told her to start using her dead bolt again.

  34. mark says:

    these “self keying” locks may be bump proof but there is another method of manipulating these locks that takes far less time. as a locksmith, i would never recommend these.

  35. Charles Smith says:

    Do you know anything about the new kwikset smartkey padlock.
    If so how can the cylinder be removed to reykey with the smartkey cradle if the lock has jammed by someone rekeying
    and locked it up.

  36. mercurial says:

    Normally the cylinder is removed by pulling out the retaining strip which is located under the shackle. In your case, this isn’t useful, as you cannot open the lock.

    There is another simple way to remove the cylinder, which might make you reconsider whether you use this padlock to protect anything you care about – this YouTube video demonstrates it : http://youtu.be/Assi85v0vrs

    This does not damage the lock.

    In my opinion, a lock with a vulnerability like this should be subject to factory recall. What a joke!


  37. Ed says:

    Your ony secure as your most vulnerable point (got windows) if you do there’s no point spending over $100 on a lock (kinda like a screen door on a submarine!
    In fact Fort knowing your front door may be just looking to get broken into. Just go with a decent lock, if they want to break in they will.

  38. Ed says:

    Sorry that should say Fort Knoxing, not knowing,,,dam auto correct

  39. I think this is not secure, it will be opened easily, thank you for your post,I learned many things.

  40. Alex says:

    I’d like to add that lock rekey is usually used in cases when there no need in changing the whole mechanism exists. If you need rekey a lock, the proper specialists are always ready for listening to him or her as well as match all necessary door fittings. This company works with doors of any kinds, whether they were made of metal or wood. Surely any situation can be imagined. For example, an unnecessary thing stuck in your protection device. If this is possible, just some part of personal door mechanism can be changed in Vaughan (Ontario).

    Also, to be more precise costs depend on work volume. So, Locksmith Vaughan professional team always ready to help. Without any doubts I recommend them.

  41. Dexy says:

    Hi there!
    Burglary is likely to happen to anyone, especially in a big city. Not all the attempts are successful in this case, but in most cases burglary repair is still needed. Now we are talking about emergency door repair which presupposes lock repair, changing locks or keys, consulting on what lock it is better to choose and how to maintain it in a good condition. So, you able to calling emergency locksmith Vaughan (Ontario).

  42. Lasly says:

    Unfortunately, sometimes such situations happen in our lives when we urgently need to make unpleasant things. Changing locks because of unwanted tenants is one of these situations. So, locksmith Vaughan conducts such services when eviction is necessary and unavoidable. If your tenants do not pay a rent or if they behave in improper way, changing locks is a method you have a full right to resort to. So, you able to calling Vaughan locksmith for your individual help.

  43. Johnnythepick says:

    SmartKey locks are the worst design on the market today. They aee easily defeated with a key blank, hammer, flatblade screw driver and ViseGrips. There are many videos that show you how to get these open in about 5 seconds with what I’ve mentioned above. Don’t waste your money on this garbage. Buy a better brand that uses a conventional pin-tumbler lock cylinder. Schlage and Gatehouse are two brands that come to mind. They are better built than Weiser or Kwikset SmartKey brands. I work as a locksmith. Have for 18 years and these are failure prone due to sub-standard design. We get many calls every year for people that are locked out of their home because the lock fell apart internally. Some last 3 months some 3 years but eventually they all fail.

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