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How to Rekey a Door Lock

Learn to rekey your entry and deadbolt locks like a pro, and at a fraction of the cost, using a rekeying kit. Instead of calling a locksmith when a key is lost, rekey the door lock yourself and save.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to Rekey a Door Lock

Learn to rekey your entry and deadbolt locks like a pro, and at a fraction of the cost, using a rekeying kit. Instead of calling a locksmith when a key is lost, rekey the door lock yourself and save.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Buy a rekeying kit

Have you ever lost your house keys and been worried that a stranger could get in? Unless you're the first occupant of the property, you never can be sure how many copies of your keys exist. Locksmiths typically charge a fee to re-key an individual lock, even when you bring it to their shop. Since most homes have multiple doors with multiple locks, rekeying can get expensive.

You can re-key a lock like a pro and at a fraction of the cost. Re-keying kits are available for most lock brands, but they're not interchangeable. You have to buy a kit for each brand of lock used in your home. (If you're lucky, they'll all be the same brand!) They're available in home centers and hardware stores and through online suppliers.

Each kit will rekey six locks, but you can order extra pins if you need to do more. The kit will work on entrance and deadbolt locks, and it comes with two keys and all the tools you'll need, except a screwdriver. But keep your current keys—you'll need them to remove the cylinder.

We used a Schlage brand lock for this story, so if you have a different brand, be sure to check the instruction sheet for minor variations.

Remove the knob

Insert the key in the lock and turn it until the door is unlocked. Remove the doorknob and lock cylinder housing as shown in Photos 1 and 2.

Remove the retainer ring

Use the special retainer ring tool supplied with the kit to force off the thin retainer ring (Photo 3). Set the ring aside so you can replace it later.

Remove the cylinder plug

The most critical part of this operation comes next. Photo 4 shows the cylinder plug being removed from the cylinder. The top of the cylinder contains pins and springs, which keep pressure on the keyed pins. You must keep the plug follower tight to the cylinder plug until it's completely removed so that the pins and springs don't pop out of the cylinder. If they do fall out, it's not the end of the world—just make sure you pick them all up and refer to the enclosed instruction sheet for reinserting them.

Insert the pins and reassemble the lock

Photo 5 shows how the new pins are inserted into the cylinder. Once the new pins are in, reverse the steps to reassemble the lock.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Needle-nose pliers

Tweezers, special tools are included with the re-keying kit

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

Re-keying kit for your brand of lock

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 8 of 8 comments
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May 29, 12:10 PM [GMT -5]

Holding the plug follower as shown in the photo is a SURE way to cause the top pins and springs to come out.

As a locksmith, I often get calls to correct people's mistakes like this.......

January 24, 5:36 PM [GMT -5]

Moved into an older home, entry door had no key. If the key is lost how do you remove the lock cylinder to set the new pins?

August 13, 12:26 PM [GMT -5]

Will a door knob function with the cylinder lock removed?

I have some old door knobs I would like to make use of. The keys are no where to be found. They would be put into use if the lock mechanism could be disabled, to prevent lockouts. I understand to rekey the door knob is an option, but what if I don't need a lock? I would be able to reuse the knobs for closet doors. Thanks.

October 07, 12:32 AM [GMT -5]

I found this website to get rekey sets.


June 06, 4:39 PM [GMT -5]

Great. I like to be able to do things myself. Lifetime student of learning. Also thanks for the website to get the kit. I will be rekeying about that many locks so it is just the right size!


May 17, 10:37 AM [GMT -5]

I'm not a person that usually blindly recommends products on the web, but it looks like this company sells kits for rekeying up to 6 locksets for $10.95: "CHANGE-A-LOCK" http://changealock.com/

May 13, 2:36 PM [GMT -5]

my hopes were dashed! i was so excited to be able to re-key my locks! alas, i was not able to find an inexpensive re-key kit for either schlage or defiant (looked online at home depot, lowes, one local locksmith). cheapest one was $90, i think it was a 'professional' set i.e. for many locks as opposed to one lock. the locksmith, however, will charge me $10 to rekey the lock if i bring it over so that's what i'm going to do. very reasonable. i assumed i'd pay that much for a kit.

i wish there was a 'thumbs-down' option.

any possibility of including sources and approximate prices for the supplies?

merci and mercy!

April 28, 3:30 PM [GMT -5]

This is getting added to my project binder!

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