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The lock mechanism broke in my exterior door knob. I am probably going to have to buy a new one. Can i buy a new door knob and program it to use my existing key so I don't have to get new keys?

  • It used to be that, if you owned a certain brand of knob, you could remove the lock cylinder from the old one and insert in the new one. But this is likely no longer possible, without special tools. – Hot Licks Jun 19 at 12:42
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    You've got lots of good answers (many saying nearly the same thing), Please come on back and pick one as "the" answer by clicking the check-mark next to it. That will prevent this from popping to the top of the stack every few months looking for an answer. How do you pick which one? Go with the one that helped you the most. – FreeMan Jun 21 at 15:26
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Most brands of locks can be re-keyed, but it usually requires specialized techniques and sometimes tools. Many retailers will do it in-house free or for a small fee. Otherwise, any locksmith* should be able to help you out.

Be aware that keys have brand-specific cross-sectional shapes, so be sure to buy a new lockset of the same brand (or compatible with) the old one.

* I'll concede that locksmiths may have a slightly higher than average rate of crookery among them, but it goes without saying that any company performing service on or involving your home should be vetted properly. Any implies any reputable locksmith.

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    I wouldn't call "any" locksmith... a web search for locksmiths will get you 10% crooks who will refer you out to thieves, 50% lead generators who will sell your name to a locksmith, 30% outbound-only locksmiths (all of whom will ONLY talk about coming to your premises for $200+), and 10% established bricks-n-mortar locksmiths where you can walk in with your lock-set and they'll do it for $30. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 19 at 16:06
  • Afaict the basic principle of re-keying a pin tumbler lock is pretty simple, remove the inner cylinder, dump out the key pins, install new key pins to match the new key and put it back together. But you need the right tools to remove the clips that hold the lock together and you need a "follower" to let you take the inner cylinder out without the driver pins flying everywhere. youtube.com/watch?v=j5_W1FF0c90 shows putting together a lock cylinder that has nothing inside (which is further apart than you would need to go if you are just re-keying) and it doesn't look all that hard – Peter Green Jun 20 at 8:40
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    If one has to re-key a lot of locks, it may be more cost effective to get a re-keying kit (like this one, specific to Schlage) and do it at the kitchen table. It doesn't require any special superhuman ability to do. – smitelli Jun 21 at 13:24
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Cheap option

At least one company makes self-rekeying door locks. They are a hunky vendor, and their stuff is all about features not longevity or quality, but it works for awhile.

Sensible option

Find a locksmith that has a walk-in retail store. Walk in, and tell them you want new lock sets to match this key. They will make you absolutely anything. And it will be a cut above; ranging from “acceptable” to “ indestructible” depending on how much you want to pay. Prices will be sane, but more than “grab a kwikset off the shelf at HD”.

Out of this world option

Call the same established locksmith (do not use web search, or you will get a lead generator or crook) . Have them come to your site with their truck.

Many locksmiths will only do business this way. They are the wrong ones for you, unless you want this.

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    Hunky? I'm not sure what that means. – isherwood Jun 19 at 12:34
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    @isherwood Buff, muscular, looks good on the outside; questionable intelligence, however. That's my take :) – FreeMan Jun 19 at 14:30
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    I think he meant hoeky. I've not had any issues with the Kwiksets myself, but YMMV – Machavity Jun 19 at 17:08
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If your current locks are Kwikset brand, you're in luck -- they make a line of products called SmartKey, which allows you to rekey them yourself at home.

https://www.kwikset.com/smartkey-security

If it's a different brand, then follow isherwood's advice.

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  • If the OPs key fits in the slot of a Kwikset, he's in luck too. – fred_dot_u Jun 18 at 21:51
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    Rekeying is a good idea with the Kwikset Smartkey system. When you go to the Orange and Blue stores, you can buy several sets, and the same key will work with them all; very convenient, but to make this possible, there are less than 10 key combinations sold. A decent burglar will have one of each.. – PeteCon Jun 19 at 22:46
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As it turns out, I was just in a similar situation recently. I went to my local hardware store, where I found the same brand of doorknob (Kwikset). They were able to re-key the new doorknob for me while I waited. They charged me $5 in addition to the price of the doorknob.

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  • I did this 2 years ago, as well. A major national chain big-box store was able to do it for me, as well. I did have to work on their timing, though, they only have one person who knows how to re-key locks, and when that person retires/quits, they won't do it anymore. Everyone is going to "smart rekey" which is smart for the manufacturers because it means you have to buy all new locks for your whole house if you want everything to be keyed the same. – FreeMan Jun 19 at 14:32
  • I did this 8 years ago. The one person was even able to re-key a really old lock (from the garage backdoor) that didn't even have the same number of pins. Not to be ageist but sooner or later that guy is going to retire. He also expressed the opinion that the "smart key" locks are junk, because at the same time I was trying to get a replacement cylinder for the brand new lock on the front door, which didn't work half the time (required much key jiggling). – stannius Jun 19 at 15:48
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    @stannius -- SmartKey had some serious teething pains re: physical attack vectors, but newer versions are probably no worse than anything else Kwikset makes (just not a whole lot better, either). – ThreePhaseEel Jun 19 at 23:14
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When I moved into a house that was previously owned by someone else, I wanted to have all the exterior locks re-keyed, have some upside-down cylinders turned right-side up, and make some doorknob locks match their deadbolt locks so I wouldn't need two keys for one door. I was looking at over three hundred dollars for a reputable locksmith to do all the work. (It's a country house with many doors.)

Instead, I purchased two re-keying kits online, one Kwikset and one Schlage for about $45 total. The kits included special tools that make the process easy. There are numerous instructional videos online that show how it's done.

Since that time, I've had to replace some worn out locks with new ones, and I simply re-key the new locks myself. Easy peasy, and no locksmith required.

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  • Yeah, one of the nice things about pinning up the lock yourself is you can throw a few nifty twists in to hinder common nondestructive attack vectors (mixing spring tension tends to make a lock harder to bump, and security pins such as spools, serrated pins, or such hinder both bumping and other low-skill attacks such as raking). You do have to be a bit careful though to avoid overlift attacks with comb picks, but that's not terribly hard in most cases – ThreePhaseEel Jun 19 at 23:16
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A lot of big box stores typically have one person trained in re-keying locks (and only one, as in if they're not there when you come, you're out of luck until they come back). If you ask them, they will typically re-key anything the big box sells. It's less prevalent in the era of the Kwikset DIY re-key, but they're still out there.

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Just make sure you save the old lock, re-keying a new lock to your existing key is much easier when they have the cylinder and pins to work with

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  • You'll have to expand on this, as I don't believe you at all. I've had quite a number of brand new lock sets (knob & dead bolt) rekeyed at the store by providing them with only the key. It took more time to find the 1 employee in the store who could do the rekeying than it did for said employee to perform the task. They pulled the cylinder out of the new lock, dropped the old pins out, put the new pins in, reinserted the cylinder, then tested the key. 5 minutes tops for both cylinders, combined. How much easier would it have been with the old cylinder? – FreeMan Jun 20 at 14:11
  • I'm glad it worked out for you. And I don't believe you at all, either. – davidaug Jun 21 at 15:19

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