Can a Locksmith Open a Deadbolt?
Deadbolts are one of the most secure types of door locks. With no external keyhole and a tough locking mechanism, these locks are designed to prevent intruders from gaining entry by picking the lock or using bump keys. But if you lose your key or get locked out, can a locksmith get past a deadbolt?
How Deadbolt Locks Work
Deadbolts, sometimes called dead latches, are recognizable by their flat rectangular shape and lack of a turning cylinder on the outside of the door.
- The locking mechanism is entirely internal and uses a cylinder, turn knob, cam, and bolt.
- When locked, the bolt extends into the door frame, preventing the door from opening.
- Deadbolts can only be operated with a key from the outside. On the inside, a thumbturn disengages the bolt so the door can open.
This system makes deadbolts incredibly resistant to lock picking tools, bump keys, and drilling out the lock. But for a skilled locksmith, a deadbolt isn’t necessarily impossible to open without the original key.
Non-Destructive Deadbolt Opening Methods
Locksmiths have several non-destructive methods to bypass deadbolts without causing damage:
- Highly skilled locksmiths can occasionally pick difficult deadbolt locks through a painstaking process of probing the internal pins and cylinders.
- Success rate is low and picking can take 30 minutes or longer. It depends on the deadbolt’s security features.
- Specialized tools called bump keys can sometimes open basic deadbolt locks by “bumping” the internal pins into place.
- Bumping typically doesn’t work on high-security deadbolts with special pins.
- The locksmith makes a working key by filing down a blank key based on the lock’s internal pin patterns.
- Only possible if the locksmith can access the keyway. Not practical for most house deadbolts.
- There’s a small chance a locksmith has a master key that can open the deadbolt without needing the original key.
- Primarily relevant for older locks or condos/apartments with master key systems.
For most modern, high-security deadbolts installed in homes, these non-destructive methods have a very low chance of success.
When Destructive Methods Are Required
If non-destructive methods can’t bypass the deadbolt, force may be required. This damages the lock permanently, meaning it will need replacement. Common destructive methods include:
- Drilling through the lock’s cylinder plug to access the locking mechanism
- Using specialized decoding tools to pull the cylinder and decode the pins
- Removing the lock entirely by unscrewing mounting bolts
Locksmiths will typically only use destructive methods as a last resort, and with the customer’s approval due to the damage it causes.
Finding Reputable Locksmiths
While most locksmiths have the technical skills to open deadbolts, extreme caution is required:
- Verify locksmith license and credentials in your state.
- Get an estimate beforehand and clarify if non-destructive methods will be attempted first.
- Never allow a locksmith to drill locks or modify doors without consent.
- Consider using a locksmith affiliated with a professional association like ALOA.
With the right skills and your approval, a licensed locksmith can bypass deadbolts. But the process requires care to ensure doors aren’t compromised. Do your research to find trustworthy professionals able to open deadbolts non-destructively whenever possible.
Key Takeaways: Can a Locksmith Open a Deadbolt?
- High-security deadbolts are very resistant, but not impossible for locksmiths to open.
- Non-destructive methods like lock picking are unlikely to work on most modern deadbolts.
- If needed, locksmiths can drill out deadbolts destructively, but this damages the lock.
- Get references and approve any destructive methods to ensure locksmiths are reputable.
- Licensed professionals may have specialized tools and skills to open deadbolts without the key.