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Understanding Key Decoders: What Are They & How Do They Work

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an antique lock on a grey doorThere are thousands of key combinations out there, and that’s what makes them work. No two keys should be alike, and manufacturers use randomized combinations to make them unique. So how do locksmiths in Winnipeg or really everywhere deal with key-related problems? Professionals like Lockmish Locksmith Services and others have one tool in their kit to deal with it – Key decoders. But what are they, and how do they work? Let’s take a look!


What Are Key Decoders?

Keys are unique because they are designed with specific codes to designate their cuts. Each key is given a number to indicate the depth of the key cut. Manufacturers can add different numbers of cuts; typically, there are three to eight cuts on each blade. Every cut will have a different depth, and manufacturers will ensure that each key and depth are randomized, creating unique keys.

So let’s say you want to know the code because you want to make copies of your key for a lock, and the reference you have is broken. Or you got locked out because your key broke, and you’ve called a 24-hour locksmith to fix it. Locksmiths won’t line up the broken key fragments on a key cutter to duplicate it. Rekeying a lock is much simpler when professionals don’t have to guess the combinations on a key. A key decoder is essential in a locksmith’s kit to figure out the key code.

 old rusty keys that need key replacement service


How Do They Work?

To decode a code, a locksmith will stick the broken key into the holes on a key decoder to see which cut sections the key fits into. The key decoder tells the specific depth that the locksmith need, and they’ll write the numbers in sequence. However, there are different types of decoders. Some need the original key to work, while others only require the lock.

Types of Key Decoders

There are four types of decoders that locksmiths use:

1. Pin Tumbler and Wafer Decoders

The pin tumbler lock is used for the most common lock on the market – the pin tumbler lock. These locks are mostly used on front doors and padlocks. When people hear the word lock and create an image in their mind, it’s mostly this lock. It’s the most widely used lock in the world and, as such, has its particular key decoder. Wafer locks are similar but use wafers instead of pins. They’re on cars, cheaper padlocks, and desk drawers. Decoders for both lock work the same. They require the key to be present to decode it, and a locksmith will also need to know which brand of lock you’re dealing with. They are for making duplicate keys.

a key inserted into a pin tumbler lock


2. Disk Detainer Decoders

The second type is a disk detainer decoder that has rotatable disks. The disks will move as the key is inserted inside. They have a key mechanism despite having dialable combination locks. They have various bells and whistles and are more complicated to use. They can be used to decode a key or pick the lock too. You’ll need to know the brand of the lock with this decoder, like the last one. To make it work, you’ll need to insert the decoder into the keyhole and then push it onto it to stimulate the key turns. You’ll need to find a wiggle room location for each dial and note down the sequence.

3. Tubular Decoders

There is a rare lock known as a “tubular lock,”  essentially the pin tumbler lock with the pins in a circular shape. Its key looks like a tube inserted into an on/off symbol. A tubular lock requires its decoder. The tubular decoder looks like a sheet of plastic with bumps on it. It also looks like a non-tubular key with bitting that can measure the depth of the key cuts.

4. SmartKey Decoders

SmartKey decoders are created specifically for the brand Kwikset SmartKey locks. There have been claims that they are vulnerable to screwdrivers or wires, but the accurate way to bypass this lock is with a SmartKey decoder. Please note that smart locks are devices that can operate from another device and are something else entirely. This decoder is only meant for one brand. This decoder has a key-shaped camera. A locksmith will put the buffer on the key, insert it into the lock, and take a picture of it from inside. The buffer ensures the camera stays under each pin to send an accurate image. The image is then compared with a chart to find each pin's depth.


Residential & Commercial Locksmiths in Winnipeg

Key decoders are now available to purchase online, and you can always buy them and keep them in your kit for your lock needs. Yet some won’t work the same unless the expert uses them. You’ll also have to invest time to learn how to use them properly. Trust the professionals instead. If you want a copy of your key made or need to get through the lock, contact the professional locksmith in Winnipeg, Lockmish Locksmith Services. They are residential, commercial, and auto locksmith services and offer services like rekeying locks, car key programming, electric strike, and key duplication in Winnipeg, to name a few. They also have an online store where you can buy lock products.

Get in touch with the 24-hour locksmith in Winnipeg for their many services!



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