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I want to replace an old deadbolt and handle on my front door, and most of the replacement sets at big-box home improvement stores are the easy-rekey kind. Kwikset's SmartKey seems better executed than Schlage's SecureKey, because you can rekeyable it yourself without having to cut a special key. An employee at Lowe's said Schlage is discontinuing this feature altogether, so I think it's best to avoid those.

My concern is that I've seen lots of discussion online about these Kwikset locks being unreliable. Some people say they are easily picked, and some say the locks spontaneously rekey themselves and leave people locked out.

Is it worth buying one of these locks, or am I better off with a "standard" lock? I don't especially care about being able to rekey the lock myself, I just want a good quality lock that I can install myself.

  • Personally, the only reason I'd want to rekey a lock is if I have lots of doors and want them to all use the same key. Otherwise, for changing the key (e.g. lost key or changing renters) my preferred solution is to have multiple spare locksets and just swap them out. This works best if your a landlord with multiple properties and move the locks around to unknown locations. – BMitch Oct 30 '11 at 13:25
  • An expose at Def Con in 2013 (+2 years from date of OP) listed several defeats for these. Since then, the designs have improved. Anecdotally, I have several installed and never had them rekey themselves. I did use an original key to set the gates: duplicate keys have enough burrs on them to make rekeying dodgy. – bishop Dec 20 '19 at 5:07
  • This is an old question with old answers, many recommending that one stay away from these "easy-rekey" locks. Unfortunately, they're about all that's available anymore, and it's getting harder to find someone who can cut a replacement key for a "non-easy" lock. :( – FreeMan Dec 20 '19 at 15:14
  • @FreeMan and the OP: go to a local locksmith shop, not a big-box store. Any locksmith worth their salt will have something at least quasicommercial (SFIC or equivalent) available, never mind carrying an actual enhanced-security line (Schlage Primus, Medeco, Mul-T-Lock, Abloy) of products, which while not cheap, can get you a very good quality lock in a standard mortise form factor. (Note that most enhanced-security locks have keys that can't be cut by a cheap hardware-store/kiosk key duplicator, BTW.) – ThreePhaseEel Dec 21 '19 at 0:05
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I think you answered your own question... "I don't especially care about being able to rekey the lock myself". If you don't want this feature, don't pay for it. Pick up a good sturdy lock from a trusted manufacturer, that has the features you want.

If you want to use the same key for all the doors in your house, you may be better off buying new locks for all the doors. Most hardware stores carry sets of locks; where you'll get 2 knobs and 2 dead bolts that all use the same key, so you can set up 2 doors to use the same key. You may be able to get sets for more than 2 doors, but they might prove more difficult to find.

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    Thanks for the response on that. Really what I'm wondering is whether other people have used these easy-rekey locks and had good results, because I'm having a hard time finding good quality locks that don't offer this feature. – Charlie Nov 1 '11 at 20:15
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    At the big box stores, there was almost no selection beyond these types. – Kris K. Nov 18 '11 at 21:56
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I finally went to the local locksmith shop and talked with them about this. They do sell the Kwikset SmartKey locks, but the person I talked to said he did not recommend buying them.

He did say that they work reasonably well as long as you use a factory-cut key when rekeying them, where "factory cut" (I may have the term wrong) means a key cut according to a code rather than duplicating an existing key. However, even with that caveat he advised staying away from these locks.

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    I would definitely be sceptical about a locksmith's opinion on these keys, since they do take away a job that a locksmith has traditionally performed. – gregmac Nov 18 '11 at 20:50
  • Indeed, that's a good point. I would have felt much more skeptical had I not already been reading lots of complaints online about them. Also, they rekeyed the locks I ultimately bought at no charge, so I'm inclined to take their input at face value. – Charlie Nov 20 '11 at 0:55
  • @gregmac: Each notch in a key is supposed to each be at one of about seven or nine standard depths, but most locks will open with any key where cut depths are within about +/- 3/4 of a level of being correct. If one attempts to configure a lock with a duplicated key whose notches are a ways off from standard depths, the mechanism will likely "snap" to the nearest standard depth, but that may not match the depth to which the original key was cut, and may not work with the original key or other duplicates whose notches aren't "off" in the same fashion. – supercat Jun 19 at 22:58
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The biggest problem with the Kwikset Smartkey locks is that the mechanism inside the cylinder is not the old tried and true pin tumbler but uses a new design and is much more delicate than a pin tumbler lock therefore more susceptible to dirt & wear and tear. We do not recommend them and typically do not carry them.

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