Lost Keys: Should I Change Locks?

When you lose your house keys, your first thought is probably replacing the locks. That makes sense since anyone with the keys could easily let themselves into your home.

But do you always need to replace locks if you lose keys? And is there a cheaper alternative to getting new locks?

What To Do If Your Lose Your Keys

If you lose your keys, replacing the locks is a last resort. There are a few other things you can do before you go shopping for replacement locks.

  • If you are locked out of your house, the priority is getting into your home. Get the spare keys, if you have them or call a locksmith to open the lock for you. There are plenty of emergency locksmiths in the UK; they respond to calls 24/7.
  • See if you can recover the lost keys. You may not need to change the locks after all. Retrace your steps or try to remember when you last had the keys.
  • If you don’t have spare keys and can’t get a locksmith, try to find an alternative entry into your home such as the backdoor or a window.

Should You Change Locks When You Lose Keys?

If, after a few hours or a day, you cannot find your keys, you need to decide whether to change locks or not.

Waiting any longer increases the risk of someone breaking into your home. For all you know, they are probably waiting for an opportunity to strike when you are away.

But replacing a lock is not cheap, especially if you have high quality locks. It’s even pricier if you lost keys to more than one lock.

Here’s what to consider when deciding whether to change locks or not.

Did You Lose The Keys or Were They Stolen?

When I leave home, I put my keys in my bag and they stay there all day. So unless I took out the keys sometime during the day, I’d assume someone stole them if they go missing from my bag.

If you also carry or keep your keys in the same place and they rarely get misplaced, then you are right to suspect theft when they go missing.

In that case, I recommend not even waiting before changing the locks. As soon as you realise your keys are missing, do a quick search around the area. If you can’t find them, call a locksmith immediately to change the locks.

In most cases though, we often just misplace our keys. You may have dropped them in the car, left them at your friend’s place or lost them somewhere in the office.

If you suspect you misplaced your keys, take more time to search for them. Chances are that you’ll find them.

If you can’t after a few hours, consider changing the locks since there’s still a risk of someone finding the keys and getting into your house.

Where Did You Lose The Keys?

The other thing to consider is where you lose the keys.

If you lost the keys around your neighbourhood, then you should probably change the locks as quickly as you can. If a burglar finds the keys, they’ll try them out on nearby houses.

If, on the other hand, you lose your keys at the airport or when you are on vacation, I wouldn’t worry too much about someone tracing them back to your home.

Just use the spare keys or get a locksmith to make a new key from the lock (Yes, that’s possible. It’s called key impressioning).

The exception is if you lose the keys along with any identifying documents like your passport or mail. Someone can trace your address and get into your home.

Do You Want Better Locks?

If you’ve been planning to upgrade your locks to more secure ones, there’s no better opportunity than now.

Whether you think you’ve misplaced your keys or they’ve been stolen, go ahead and change them anyway.

If you had a standard Euro lock, upgrade to the more secure Kitemark 3 lock. Locks with a Sold Secure Diamond grade certification also offer more security against different kinds of attacks.

You can also opt to replace the current lock with a smart lock that doesn’t require any keys.

What’s Your Budget?

Changing a lock or multiple locks can be expensive. In addition to buying new locks, you have to hire a locksmith.

So if you are on a budget, you might just opt to keep the same locks. But that also depends on the level of risk you are taking.

If you suspect the keys were stolen, then there’s a high chance of a burglary. In that case, it’s worth it to spend money on replacing the locks.

Tip: If you are on a tight budget, you don’t have to hire a locksmith to replace the locks. You can change the locks yourself. Here’s a video on replacing a Euro lock cylinder. 

Another tip is to rekey the lock instead of replacing it. More on that below.

Is It Better To Replace or Rekey Locks?

Changing locks is not the only option when you lose your keys and are concerned someone might break into your home.

There’s an easier and cheaper alternative called rekeying. This is when a locksmith keeps the same lock but changes what key opens it.

The locksmith will change the locking mechanism such that the old key won’t open the lock anymore. You’ll get new keys and you don’t have to worry about someone opening the lock with your old keys.

Since you are not buying a new lock, rekeying is much cheaper than changing locks. It also lets you keep your old lock, if you like it.

To save money, you can rekey the lock yourself instead of hiring a locksmith. All you need is a rekeying kit. It comes with everything you need including new keys.

Normally, you need the original key to rekey a lock. But if you don’t have a spare, a locksmith can remove the cylinder of the current lock and rekey it.

Other Situations When You Should Change or Rekey Locks

There are many other situations, other than lost keys, when it’s a smart idea to change or rekey your house locks.

  • If your locks are old and outdated. They are more vulnerable to being attacked since burglars know them well. Upgrade to new locks that offer more security. For instance, older Euro locks were susceptible to snapping, a problem that’s been fixed in new anti-snap locks.
  • When you buy a new house. You have no idea who else has the keys to the house. To be safe, replace or rekey the locks. If the locks are an older type, consider upgrading them.
  • After you experience a break-in. Burglars tend to strike the same houses again. So it’s not crazy to assume they made key copies the first time to make future access easier. I recommend replacing the locks with higher quality ones, especially if you discover they came in by picking the lock.
  • If it’s been years since you’ve changed locks, they’ve probably gotten worn out and maybe even a bit corroded. They can be broken more easily. Locksmiths recommend changing locks every seven years. By then, there will be newer and better locks that you can install.

How To Avoid Losing Your Keys

If you tend to lose your keys often, there are a few ways to prevent it and avoid the hassle of constantly replacing or rekeying your locks.

The best tip is to have a dedicated place where you keep or carry keys. At home, have a tray or hook right by the door where you place the keys immediately you get home. That way, you won’t ever have to worry about losing keys inside your own home.

When travelling, always carry your keys in the same place. It can be a dedicated compartment in your bag, your pocket or a key holder on your waist.

I also recommend buying a key finder/tracker and attaching it to your keys. If you misplace your keys, you are more likely to recover them.

Another option is to avoid carrying keys altogether. There are two ways to do this.

One, get a key lock box and mount it outside your home. Make sure it’s secure. When going somewhere, leave your keys inside the box.

Lock boxes open with a code, fingerprint or a smartphone app so you don’t need to carry keys with you.

The second option is to switch to smart locks that don’t need keys to open.

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