DEAR MIKE: I recently moved into a new house and would like to get the locks changed, as I don't know how many people have keys to my home. Anyway, rather than pay a locksmith, I saw a do-it-yourself kit that I would like to try. Are these kits any good? -- Roy J.
DEAR ROY: The kits are great because you can save some greenbacks and you only need a screwdriver.
These kits are made for most brands of locks, so you have to buy the one that corresponds to your brand. You can re-key as many as six locks with one package and you can re-key both doorknobs and deadbolts. The method to re-key may vary slightly by manufacturer, but it is largely the same.
Doorknobs are a little trickier because there are more parts. And pay attention when you take these locks apart because there are lots of small parts that are held in place under tension, so they can jump when you release them. Your ultimate goal is to get to the cylinder, and it's a long journey to get to it.
Start with the doorknob and make sure it is unlocked. There will be two screws on the interior side of the door that you need to remove. The doorknob will then pull apart.
You will be dealing with the exterior side of the doorknob (the side with the keyhole). Rotate the spindle using the tool provided in the kit so that the tongue aligns with the slot in the back of the handle. Hold onto the handle and pry the spindle from the handle assembly.
The lock cylinder is inside a housing that needs to be removed from the doorknob. Take the fat end of the included tool and stick it inside where the spindle was and push the cylinder housing out of the knob.
Stick the key into the lock cylinder and pry off the retaining clip that holds the cylinder in the housing.
The kit also provides a plastic plug that you will use to push out the cylinder. Turn the key one-quarter turn (this will keep both sets of pins in place while you remove the cylinder) and push the plastic plug into the rear of the cylinder housing to free the cylinder. Keep the plug in the housing until you reinstall the cylinder.
Turn the key back to center and the pins should fall out. Pull the key out and replace it with a key from the kit. The kit comes with different sizes of pins that correspond to the key in the kit (different colors are used for different sizes of pins). Insert the pins pointing down into the cylinder so that they end up being flush with the cylinder wall.
Now it's a matter of reassembling the lock. Turn the new key one-quarter turn and push the cylinder back into the housing. This will force the plug back out and you can push the retaining clip back on.
Reinstall the cylinder housing into the doorknob by pushing it in place with the knob's screw posts in the horizontal position. Then just slide the spindle back into place. Finally, put both sides of the doorknob back on the door and screw it back together.
Re-keying a deadbolt is the same deal as the locking doorknob, but it seems much easier and faster. You still have to remove a retaining ring, pull out the spindle, push out the cylinder with the plastic plug, drop in the new pins and stick it all back together again.
The thing you want to avoid when re-keying is dislodging the springs and pins in the housing. This is why you keep the plastic plug inside the housing as you re-key the cylinder. If the springs and housing pins pop out, you will need to pry off the pin housing cover and account for the springs and housing pins (there should be five of each). Insert the plastic plug into the housing, and drop a pin into each hole. Then drop a spring into each hole and crimp the cover back on with pliers.
This might seem very daunting, but after you do the first lock, the next one will be a breeze.