How to Re-key a Door Lock

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

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Introduction

Instead of calling a locksmith, learn to re-key your entry and deadbolt locks like a pro, at a fraction of the cost.

Tools Required

  1. 4-in-1 screwdriver
  2. Needle-nose pliers
  3. Tweezers

Re-keying a Door

Have you ever lost your house keys and worried about a stranger getting 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, re-keying can get expensive.

You can re-key a lock like a pro at a fraction of the cost. Re-keying kits are available for most lock brands but they’re not interchangeable. You must buy a kit for each brand of lock in your home. (If you’re lucky, they’ll all be the same brand!)

Each kit will re-key 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. If you have a different brand, check your instruction sheet for minor variations.

Check out these essential home security tips:

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 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.

how to rekey a door remove old knobFamily Handyman

Step 2

Remove the Cylinder

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

rekey a door remove old knobFamily Handyman

Step 3

Remove the Retainer Ring

  • Use the special retainer ring tool supplied with the kit to force off the thin retainer ring.
  • Push the retainer ring tool against the retainer ring to pop it off the cylinder.
  • Set the ring aside so you can replace it later.

Remove the retainer ringFamily Handyman

Step 4

Remove the Cylinder Plug from the Cylinder

  • The most critical part of this operation is removing the cylinder plug from the cylinder.
  • The top of the cylinder contains pins and springs, which keep pressure on the keyed pins.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Pro tip: 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.

how to rekey a doorFamily Handyman

Step 5

Insert the Pins and Reassemble the Lock

  • 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.
  • Once the new pins are in, reverse the steps to reassemble the lock.

Insert the pins and reassemble the lockFamily Handyman