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I have an old Schlage SecureKey installation. (Yes, I know about Schlage having lost the lawsuit almost a decade ago.) I haven't had any problems with the lock.

Recently, a weird thing happened. Leaving the house, and locking the door, the lock felt strange, like there was some resistance in it. Moments later, I turned around to re-enter to fetch a forgotten item, and, to my surprise, the key would not turn: I was locked out!

I experimented with the lock a little bit, and discovered that that it had got into a strange state, as if the combination had jumped one pin over. So that is to say, I was able to open the door by inserting the key only one position short: four pins, instead of all five. To my surprise, it turned! I tried all copies of the key, they all now worked like this.

Now I happen to have two reset keys for the lock: one for the current key (let's call that A) and one for another key shape (let's call it B).

I tried doing a "null reset" on the lock: A to A: put in the A reset key, rotated it to the programming position, pulled it out, put it back in, rotated back, withdrew. Firstly, I was surprised that the reset key worked, having been inserted all the way, like it is supposed to be even though the regular keys which have the A shape worked only in the partially inserted position. Anyway, A to A "null reset" that didn't accomplish anything, and may have made the problem worse. I seem to recall I was not able to turn an A key at all after that. Then I tried doing an A to B reset. I confirmed that the lock took the B keys just fine. From there, I programmed back to A. Now everything seems good! The A keys all work fine again.

Can someone explain ... what the heck? And should that lock be replaced?

Oh, and one more "key" piece of information: recently I filed down the teeth a little bit on the key that I use because I got annoyed with it being a hard to withdraw: not from that lock, but from another ordinary lock keyed for the same key. I didn't mess with the notches of the key, of course, just the teeth/ridges, so the key works fine. It seems like too much of a coincidence: this deprogramming incident happened within two days of introducing the filed-down key, after "years of trouble-free operation".

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    Years of trouble free service until you altered the key and then “suddenly” things changed. Is there something more that you expect us to be able to tell you? Should the lock be replaced? If the lock is not functioning properly and you cannot get it to function properly then yes it should be replaced or serviced by a locksmith.
    – Alaska Man
    Oct 15, 2020 at 2:59
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    @AlaskaMan Yes; can you explain the observed behavior? It happened once and is not reproducing; the lock is working fine. I have tried to get it to happen again, unsuccessfully.
    – Kaz
    Oct 15, 2020 at 3:11
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    I would recommend carrying two keys, or, even better, filing the modified key down totally flat and disposing of it, then using one of the other, non-modified keys. It doesn't at all sound coincidental that the two events are related. With luck, a locksmith with knowledge of these lock sets will happen by. Until then, or a Schlage employee reads this, I'd guess the chance of you getting an answer beyond wild speculation will be very small.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 15, 2020 at 13:24
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    You may try asking a local locksmith (if you can find one with a shop who is willing to answer questions), and if you do get an answer, by all means post a self-answer!
    – FreeMan
    Oct 15, 2020 at 15:00
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    @FreeMan I managed to find a procedure which "bricked" the lock. Using the regular key A, I was able to turn that key to the programming position, and remove it. I put in an unrelated key C, and returned that to the normal position and withdrew. After this move, neither key C nor A work. The reset key for A doesn't, either. I think, I will stay away from this type of lock in the future. These clever things are a "solution in search of a problem". Re-keying simple old pin-and-tumbler locks with re-keying sets is pretty easy, and infrequent enough that taking the lock apart isn't a big deal.
    – Kaz
    Oct 15, 2020 at 21:14

1 Answer 1

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I believe Kaz's statement in the comments is, in fact, the answer: under certain circumstances it is possible to unintentionally activate this lock's "set new combination" feature even with a normal key, and the results may be unpredictable. Be careful not to (try to) remove a key in the programming position except when actually using a real programming key to make that change.

I have no idea what kind of mess might occur if someone used lockpicks on one of these...

And consider replacing it with a normal lock; pin cylinders have held up remarkably well since their invention, and newer high-security cylinders are better. If you really need to change access permissions on a regular basis, look at electronic combination locks which have at least a grade two rating and preferably grade one; for a business, consider interchangable-core locks as a mechanical solution.

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