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How to Rekey a Door Lock

Change your own locks by removing the lock cylinder and changing the pins.

schlage rekey kit how to replace a deadboltFamily Handyman
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.

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Rekeying kit

DIY rekeying kits, like a Schlage rekey kit let you re-key your locks without calling a pro.

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, with something like a Schlage rekey kit. Re-keying kits are available for most lock brands, like a Schlage or a Kwikset rekey kit, 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!) These rekey kits are available in home centers and on Amazon (Kwikset rekey kitSchlage rekey kit).

Each rekey 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

Photo 1: Remove the knob.

Insert the wire tool (included in the kit) into the knob hole and depress the knob clip. Pull the knob off the door.

Photo 2: Remove the cylinder

Push the cylinder out the back of the knob assembly to pop off the knob sleeve, and remove the cylinder.

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

Photo 3: Remove the retainer ring.

Push the retainer ring tool against the retainer ring to pop it off the cylinder.

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

Photo 4: Remove the cylinder plug from the cylinder

Insert the old key and turn it either to the left or right. Remove the plug by pushing the plug follower (supplied in the kit) through the cylinder. Make sure to keep constant pressure between the plug and follower so the pins and springs don’t pop out.

The most critical part of this how to rekey a lock 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

how to replace a deadbolt

Photo 5: Match the colored pins to the color code.

Dump out the old pins, insert the new key, and use tweezers or small needle-nose pliers to match the new colored pins to the color code on the special instruction sheet.

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.

Required Tools for this How to Rekey a Lock 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

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