Ernie’s Lock Company, Inc. is a full-service locksmith serving customers in Maryland and the DC Metro area. Since 1960, we have been building a reputation for reliable service, transparent pricing and an exceptionally high quality of work. No job is too big or too small — call us whether you need a house key cut or a complete commercial access control system installed in your facility.
It’s Monday morning. You’ve made it through rush-hour traffic and are ready to get a jump on the week.
You step up to your company door, put the key in the lock and turn.
As you go to pull the key from the lock, you realize it won’t move.
You twist and pull again.
At this point, most people begin to panic. They start pulling at the key and shaking the lock. They call someone or search for the number of a locksmith who’s answering calls early in the morning.
There’s an easier way.
If this has happened to you, you might be able to resolve the problem yourself and get your work back on track.
Tips for Removing a Key Stuck in a Lock
The best thing you can do when your key gets stuck in a lock is to stay calm and assess the situation. After all, whether you fix it yourself or end up calling a professional, you need to understand what’s happened to your key before you can move forward. To determine the best course of action, ask yourself these questions:
Is my key broken or is it in one piece?
If my key is broken, did it break in such a way that all of the cuts are still in the lock or are some of them on the piece in my hand?
Do I have access to tools and other items I may need to remove the key?
Is there a co-worker or trusted neighbor nearby who can help me?
Will my business be secure if I need to leave the key in place while I go to the store to get the supplies I need?
This last one is particularly important, because, depending on how the key is stuck in the lock — whether it turned far enough that the door can be unlocked — it may not be safe to leave your business unattended. If all of the key’s cuts are inside of the lock, and someone could turn it with a screwdriver to open the door, then ask someone to stand guard while you run to the store.
When Your Key Is Stuck — But in One Piece
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can then turn your attention to the task at hand. If your key is intact, then the good news is that this scenario is relatively common. It’s also easily resolved. When a whole key gets stuck in the lock, it typically happens for one of these reasons:
Your key is new and has small, rough “burrs” that become caught in the locking mechanism.
Your key is old and warped, which allowed it to get caught inside of the lock.
Your lock itself is old or has pieces that have become loose over time.
Regardless of the culprit, the first thing you should do is stop and take a deep breath. If you start to panic and start to shake the key, you risk breaking it off in the lock. You could also do more damage to the lock itself. It will be easier to remove the key if it’s in one piece.
Once you’re calm, you need to try a few steps methodically.
1. Push the Keyhole Plug
First, try to push the keyhole plug, which is the small metal circle that surrounds the keyhole and, in this case, your key itself. If the plug is loose, it can sometimes cause the key to become stuck in the lock. To push the plug — and hopefully free your key — you’ll need to:
Make sure the key is pushed into the lock as far as it will go.
Turn the key back to the original spot it was in when you inserted it into the lock. This helps the pin tumblers to align correctly, which is essential to opening the lock and removing your key.
While still holding the key with one hand, use your other hand to push gently on the plug just next to the key itself.
As you push, gently turn the key and pull it out.
Many times, this is all you’ll need to remove a key that’s stuck.
2. Lubricate the Lock
When you have a new key, it sometimes still has little burrs that can get caught on the lock pins. When this happens, some extra lubrication can help free your key and prevent it from getting stuck again. A spray lubricant or a graphite powder is all you need. Many people keep this on hand, but if you don’t have a can nearby, it’s easily found at any hardware or big box store.
To apply lubricant or graphite powder to your lock:
If using a spray lubricant, attach the plastic tubing that came with the can to achieve a more precise spray.
Spray or squeeze a generous amount of lubricant or powder into the lock along both sides of the key.
Wait one minute to allow the lubricant or powder to take hold, then gently turn the key as you normally would and remove it.
Once the key is free from the lock, make sure to spray more lubricant or squeeze more powder into the keyhole to prevent future incidents. If you suspect that your new key was the culprit, take the key to a hardware store or key maker to be buffed and have those burrs removed so that they won’t cause problems down the road.
3. Push the Rim Cylinder
If a lubricant doesn’t help, you may have a loose rim cylinder — the round metal part surrounding the keyhole and plug — which is supposed to stay still when the key turns. When the rim cylinder is loose, it can sometimes turn with the key, preventing the lock from turning. You can easily correct this by stabilizing the rim.
Use one hand to push the rim cylinder in toward the door.
Use your other hand to turn your key and gently pull it from the lock.
If you do identify a loose rim cylinder as the culprit, you can attempt to repair it later or, if the lock is older, it may simply be time to replace the entire lock.
If your key is stuck, and not broken, but you don’t have lubricant handy, you can also try one of these hacks to get your key free:
Wrap a couple of ice cubes in a plastic baggie and hold them up to the key, as close to the lock hole as you can. In warm weather, this can cause the metal of the key to contract just enough that you can pull it gently from the lock. In colder weather, this may not work as well, so use your best judgment in determining whether this is worth a try.
Unfortunately, sometimes a key gets stuck in a lock because it breaks inside. Or, sometimes a stuck key can become broken in the process of trying to remove it from a lock. When this happens, people can often assume the worst and immediately call a locksmith. While it certainly can become necessary to call a professional, this does not need to be the first thing you do. In fact, there are many things you can do to attempt to remove your broken key on your own.
Try these steps first:
Spray or squeeze a small amount of lubricant or graphite powder into the lock hole.
If your key broke in such a way that some of the key’s cuts — the ridges that align with the locking mechanism — are on the part that is not inside of the lock, then the key was not able to engage with the lock. Using a pair of needlenose pliers, grab the visible end of the key in the lock and gently pull it out.
If the key broke in a way that all of the cuts are inside of the lock, then the lock may have been partially engaged before the key broke. Insert a small screwdriver into the lock and turn it back to its original position. Then use pliers to pull out the key. If this is the case, never leave the key and lock unattended. If you can insert a screwdriver into the lock, so can someone intent on breaking into your business. If you need to step away from the door to run to the store for lubricant or tools, ask a co-worker or trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your business.
If the pliers don’t do the trick, pop over to your local hardware store and purchase a broken key extractor kit. These kits are relatively inexpensive, and they come with a variety of tools to fit the size of your particular lock. Once you select the tool that’s the right size for your lock, slide it into the lock and pull out the broken part of the key.
If the screwdriver and pliers don’t work, there is one other option before turning to a professional. Insert the blade of a scroll saw or jigsaw into the keyhole. The blade should be facing down. As you push it in, you should feel the blade’s teeth grab onto one of the cuts on the key. When this happens, pull the blade of the saw out of the keyhole. The broken key should come with it.
Tips for Preventing a Key From Getting Stuck
Accidents happen, but it’s relatively simple to prevent your key from getting stuck in a lock. All it takes is a little bit of foresight to follow these steps:
Have a new key made when you notice any wear or bending in your old one. Keeping your key in good condition will prevent breaks.
Pay attention to the condition of your locks. If you notice any loose parts, tighten them.
Spray your locks with lubricant or de-icer every few months to keep the inside of the locks in working order and combat build up of moisture and dirt.
If you do have a key that gets stuck in your lock, use that incident as a prompt to perform some routine maintenance on your locks. Take stock of all the exterior locks around your business — not just the one that ate your key — to make sure that they are in good working order. Finally, make sure you have one or more spare keys you can use if your primary key becomes warped or broken.
When to Contact a Professional
When your key gets stuck in a lock, there are many things you can try to attempt to remove it yourself. Hopefully, the steps we’ve explained above are all you need to keep your keys and locks in good working order. But, if you don’t have access to certain tools or you don’t have any luck with these steps, then it may be time to call a professional. A professional locksmith can remove the key and, if needed, repair or replace your locks, keeping you and your business safe and sound.
If you do need to call a professional locksmith, it’s critical to call one you can trust. With more than 55 years of experience, Ernie’s Lock Company Inc. is proud to offer high-quality, affordable locksmith services to Prince George’s County, Riverdale Park, and surrounding areas, including the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore Metro areas. Our experienced technicians are skilled in commercial, residential and automotive lock systems of all kinds, and strive to provide our customers with fast service and peace of mind.
What makes Ernie’s unique is that we have a brick-and-mortar location, giving our clients a place to walk in to obtain accurate — and free — estimates if they prefer face-to-face interaction above a phone call. Whether you’re a business owner interested in installing electrical access or master key systems or a homeowner looking to install new locks on your windows and doors, Ernie’s is the one for the job.
But, what if there was a simple way to improve your home security and lower your risk of a burglary — without installing a security system?
Don’t get us wrong — a high-quality security system is an effective way to protect your home and valuables. But often times, when homeowners are thinking about safety and security, they overlook an equally important form of protection — their locks.
A good lock can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your home or even your business. But a good lock is only good if it’s being used correctly.
Types of Locks
To use a lock correctly, you must first understand that there are many different kinds out there. Different locks are designed for different purposes, which means certain locks are best for homes and other locks are better for businesses. There are also different levels of security offered from variations in each category.
By understanding how a lock is designed and what it should be used for, you can make wise choices that will better protect your home and business.
Padlocks are not embedded into a door or piece of furniture. They can be attached or detached at will by using a shackle to keep a door closed or an object in place. These are often used to lock sheds, school lockers and even luggage. While padlocks are common, they are also considered to be a relatively weak lock because it is easy to break them if you have access to bolt cutters, a drill or a hammer. They are also easy to pick.
In general, there are three kinds of padlocks in use today:
1. Combination Padlocks
These padlocks are unlocked by entering a set series of numbers into the lock which means, in theory, it can only be unlocked by someone who knows the correct numerical sequence. The numerical sequence can also be reset to keep the code secure.
2. Key-Based Padlocks
Similar in appearance to combination padlocks, these locks are opened with a small key rather than a numerical sequence. While some people prefer not needing to remember a set of numbers to access their belongings, there is a risk of losing the key because they are typically quite small. While some key-based padlocks can be re-keyed, this isn’t true of all models, so if you misplace the key, you may end up having to break the lock to gain access to whatever the lock is protecting.
3. TSA-Approved Locks
Many travelers prefer to lock their bags with a padlock when they check them in before a flight. The problem is that sometimes TSA needs to open bags and suitcases to inspect the contents. Since this inspection often happens after bags have been checked, their owner is not nearby to open the lock. In the past, this has resulted in TSA needing to cut the lock to complete an inspection. To prevent this, TSA worked alongside several lock companies to create a special padlock designed to correspond to a special master key that is only held by TSA representatives.
A deadbolt is a mainstay in home security because it is harder to pick than a standard knob lock or padlock. Many are designed as cylinder locks which are identified by a cylinder that surrounds the lock itself and runs through the door. Cylinder locks are designed to correspond to one specific key. They cannot be opened without the key that is designed to fit into the sequence of the pins held inside of the lock.
Deadbolts can either be installed on the surface of the door — think of a bolt that slides from the top of the door itself into a casing secured into the door jam — or it can be installed inside of the door for greater security. The internal deadbolt is more common because it is more secure. It also has more variations.
1. Single Cylinder Locks
Today’s most common deadbolt, a single cylinder lock is mounted inside the door. It has a twist knob to lock it from the inside and then has an exterior cylinder that requires either a key or a code to unlock.
2. Double Cylinder Locks
Similar to the single cylinder lock, a double cylinder lock is mounted in the door itself. The difference is that, rather than having a twist knob on the inside, a key is needed to lock or unlock the door from both the inside and outside. In some ways, this is safer because it prevents a burglar from breaking a piece of glass in your door or a nearby window to reach in and unlock the deadbolt from the inside. However, some argue that this type of lock can be somewhat of a fire hazard because it of the extra time it takes to find the key and get out of the house in event of a fire.
3. Lockable Thumbturn Style
This style combines the best of both the single and double cylinder lock. The exterior side of the lock can only be unlocked by a key. The inside includes a thumbturn knob that also has a keyhole. When you’re home, you can leave the thumbturn unlocked and the door will operate the same way a single cylinder would — locking only when you throw the twist knob. The thumbturn can only be locked and unlocked with a key, adding an additional layer of protection when you’re away from home.
4. Jimmy Proof Deadbolt
Also known as a “Vertical Deadbolt,” this lock is commonly used on double doors and apartment entry doors, Jimmy Proof deadbolts employ two interlocking vertical bolts. When the lock is engaged, those bolts go into a strike plate. The benefit of a Jimmy Proof deadbolt is that it’s easy to install and difficult for potential burglars to open because it can’t be disengaged by prying apart the doorframe. Some models even have a way to lock the lock itself so that you can’t use a key to gain entry from the outside. This prevents a burglar from picking the lock while you’re at home.
5. Mortise Locks
Mortise locks are often thrown into a category of locks called Rim Cylinders, although the two are slightly different. The reason they are often classified together is that these two locks perform very similar functions, acting as both a doorknob and a deadbolt. The downside to Mortise Locks is that they are installed by cutting a pocket into the door, which can weaken the integrity of the structure, although some say that the strength of the lock makes up for the weaker door. They are generally found in older doors and used because they fit into the aesthetics of older homes.
Locks in Handles
Locks in handles can be found on all sorts of doors — both internal and external — but their strengths and weakness can make one better than another depending on where you use them.
1. Knob Locks
Knob locks are the locks you see on doorknobs all over your home. On one side is a small knob that turns to lock the door from the inside. What’s on the other side can vary, but typically it will house a small key cylinder. When used on an exterior door, these should always be used in tandem with a deadbolt of some kind because knob locks are easy to break or pick, and they do not provide a significant defense against a burglar.
2. Lever Handle Locks
Lever handle locks are similar to knob locks because they have a small knob on one side and then a key cylinder on the other. They are often used on interior doors in commercial buildings because they are easy to turn, and they comply with the regulations outlined in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Also like knob locks, lever handle locks are a poor line of defense against intruders. If used on any exterior doors or in locations with sensitive information, they should always be used in tandem with a deadbolt lock.
Euro Profile Cylinders
Widely used across Europe and other places around the world, these locks have found their place in the United States on sliding glass doors or on interior doors that divide two rooms. These locks are generally considered to be a poor line of defense against potential intruders because they are particularly prone to lock snapping, especially if the lock is not the proper length for the door system it is meant to protect.
1. Single Euro Profile Cylinder
The Single Euro Profile Cylinder activates the locking mechanism by using a key on the interior side of the door to engage the lock. It cannot be unlocked from the outside.
2. Double Euro Profile Cylinder
The Double Euro Profile Cylinder can be locked or unlocked on either side by a key.
The thumbturn uses a thumbturn on one side and has a keyed lock on the other.
A furniture lock is exactly what it sounds like — a lock used on a piece of furniture. Typically, these are found in desk drawers or filing cabinets.
These locks should never be relied on to provide total security all of the time. The quality and durability of these locks vary, so if you are attempting to store valuable items or highly sensitive information, these locks should be used in conjunction with other more effective locks on the windows and doors of the room where your furniture resides. Two kinds of furniture locks are typically used:
1. Push Button Style
When this type of lock is secured, there is a rod that comes out of the back of it that anchors it into place. When you use a key to unlock it, the front part will pop out, bringing the rod back into the mechanism so that you can open whatever drawer or cabinet was held shut with the lock.
2. Bolt Style
With a bolt style lock, a flat metal piece comes out from the lock to anchor it in the locked position. When the key is inserted and turned into the lock, the flat piece retracts to open the drawer.
New Lock Technology
These days, technology is involved in every area of our lives, and, now, it’s even at our doorstep. Thanks to new technology, your home or business can have locks that are controlled by more than just your keys.
1. Smart Locks
Smart locks are tied into your home’s wifi network. You can log into your system from anywhere to push a button or issue a command for your doors to lock or unlock. The great thing about smart Locks is that if you are out and realize you forgot to lock your door, you can simply push a button on your phone and correct the problem. Some smart locks also come with camera features that allow you to see who is on your doorstep before you unlock the door.
2. Electric Locks
An electric door lock is similar to the electric locks on cars. Inside of the locking mechanism is an actuator that connects the cylinder of the doorknob to a small motor inside of the door or frame. When a numerical code is entered, the actuator communicates with the motor and the door is unlocked. Electric locks can be a good option for someone who loses their keys a lot or doesn’t like to carry keys around. The downside to an electric lock is that it doesn’t work if the power fails. However, most models have a traditional key option included in them so that you can bypass the keypad if needed.
Types of Keys
Just as there are many different kinds of locks, there are also several different kinds of keys designed to make your locks — as well as your home or business — safer.
1. Dimple Keys
Dimple keys have two sets of dimple-shaped cones on the body of the key that are designed to correspond with sets of pins inside the lock. These keys are nice because they are the same on each side, which means the key doesn’t have to be oriented in a specific way for the lock to be opened.
2. Double-Sided and Four-Sided Keys
The terms “Double-Sided” and “Four-Sided” refer to the number of teeth in the key. Keys with four sets of teeth are more durable than their double-sided counterparts, and the extra sets of teeth also make their corresponding locks more difficult to pick.
3. Tubular Key
This tube-shaped key is often used for locks on bikes or vending machines. The tube-shaped key corresponds to a tubular pin inside of the lock. When inserted into the matching tube, the lock is opened.
4. Skeleton Key
“Skeleton Key” is a term used to refer to types of keys that can open any lock in a particular category.
About Ernie’s Lock and Key Services
Finding the right lock for your home or business is one of the best things you can do to protect the people and assets that are important to you. Let Ernie’s Lock and Key Services help you select and install the right locks for you. With more than 50 years in the locksmith business, our staff provides prompt, professional service in Riverdale Park, Prince George’s County and the surrounding areas. Contact us today for a free estimate.
If you’re a business owner, a landlord or a commercial property manager, you might be interested in learning more about master key door lock systems and how they operate. A property with multiple doors, duties and employees can be difficult to balance when it comes to granting access while maintaining security.
Here’s everything you need to know about master key installation and how it can improve your business:
What Is a Master Key System?
A master key system is a lock system that allows different types of keys to unlock the same doors to enhance security. Each door on a property may have its own individual key that cannot open anything but its specific lock, but a master key has the capability to unlock every door.
How Does It Work?
Basic pin tumbler locks — the most common kind of lock — operates with key and driver pins within a cylinder. When you insert a key into the key plug, it lifts the pins to a specified height, called the shear line, and allows the lock to open. Master key locks have two shear lines: one for the change keys or sub-master keys, which open only individual doors, and one for master keys, which open them all.
Although the master key is usually the highest-ranking in the system, sometimes businesses might use grand-master or great-grand-master keys, which have the ability open multiple master key systems.
Benefits of Using a Master Key System
Master key systems offer multiple benefits for convenience, control and security. They make restricted access possible, meaning you can give employees keys to only specific doors while you have access to them all. Master keys also eliminate the need to carry heavy key rings and designate which key opens what door — you’ll have one key to do it all.
Reinforce the safety, security and ease of managing your business or property by investing in a master key system.
Install a Master Key System With Ernie’s
If you’re ready to make your master key move, trust Ernie’s Lock and Key to deliver the service and system you’re looking for. Providing top-notch locksmith and key services to Maryland and the Metro D.C. area since 1960, we’ll keep your business secure. Contact us today.
Inserting your car key into the side door lock and turning it in the ignition used to be the standard for every vehicle, but more and more cars today rely on keyless remote technology for ease in opening and starting your car.
If you’re not quite sold on the idea of operating a car with the start of a button, you might want to know more about keyless systems and how they work. Here are the basics and benefits of remote keyless entry for your car:
What Are Keyless Remotes and How Do They Work?
Keyless remotes are in-hand systems that depend on the remote key you carry and its connection to a receiver installed in the car. The singular coding in your remote’s chip matches that of the chip in the car, and it allows you to send signals to perform functions like locking and unlocking the vehicle, starting the ignition, opening the trunk and enabling or disabling the car alarm. Your remote will work within the range of a specific distance.
What Are the Advantages of Keyless Remotes?
The option of keyless remote entry provides numerous benefits, starting with significant ease and convenience. You’ll never have to wake up on a cold morning and run into the chill to get your car warmed up before your commute — just press a button and your car will prepare for your arrival on its own. And when you’ve got your hands full with kids and groceries, getting everything into the car is much easier with a quick click to unlock everything and open the trunk.
Keyless entry provides better security, as well. No one can pick your car’s lock — because it doesn’t have one. If you forget to lock up, just press one button to secure your car from across the parking lot without backtracking. And don’t fret about fumbling with and dropping a metal key in a dark parking lot. One click and you’re in your car as quickly as possible.
In addition to their functional advantages, remote keyless entry is plain trendy. You’ll feel chic, breezy and modern with your cool car and its click-capable functions at the press of a button.
Ernie’s Can Help With Any Key
Just like residential and commercial door lock and key services, Ernie’s Lock and Key can provide all the assistance you need for electronic key systems. Contact us today for more info.
So you think it’s time. Your sons or daughters are old enough to attend school, go out into the neighborhood on their own or be dropped home from a friend’s house when you’re out, and you think it’s probably wise to give them house keys to make sure they can always get in.
The problem with giving keys to kids, however, is that they can easily misplace them, which is a security threat to your home and a problem when your child gets locked out. Here’s how to help your kids keep track of their house keys:
Organize keys so they’re easy to locate. Think about buying your child a lanyard or a special keychain to help him or her have a personalized and easy way to remember and grab house keys. Kids can also attach keychains to their backpacks with a clip or tie. It’s easy to lose one little key, but losing a backpack or lanyard will be much more noticeable, so kids will keep better track of their keys this way.
Use a key rack at home to help keep all keys in one place. Designate a special spot in your house where everyone can put their keys down when they come home and pick them up again when they go out. If Mom, Dad and the kids all hang their keys on one rack or place them in a specific drawer, the whole family will always know where the keys are when you need them.
Have spare keys and keep them hidden. In the event that your kids (or you!) do misplace their keys, you should always keep spare keys as backup. Make duplicates and hide your keys in places only your family knows about.
Have a plan if your child gets locked out of the house. Even with the best organization, sometimes mistakes happen and your kids can get locked out. Make sure you’re prepared for this situation by having an emergency number to call, a neighbor they can go to or a spare key hidden in a secure location, like inside a keypad-entry garage. For security, never hide a key in a visible or easily accessible place outside, like under a mat or potted plant.
Choose Ernie’s for Your Duplicate Keys
If you’re confident your kids can handle having their own house keys, trust Ernie’s Lock and Key for your key cutting and duplication needs. We’ve been dedicated to the safety and peace-of-mind of residents in the Maryland and Metro D.C. areas since 1960. Contact us today.