No one realizes how poorly they're treating their keys until the day they're standing in the cold waiting for a locksmith to extract part of a key that broke off inside the lock. Keys are typically made from strong materials designed to withstand years of regular use. However, there are four things people do to keys that cause them to wear out faster than expected and practically guarantee they'll eventually break.
Using the Key as a Door Pull
Possibly one of the most common things people do with keys is use them as door pulls. They stick the key in the lock, turn it, and then pull on it to close the house door or open a vehicle door. Considering a house door can weigh as much as 8 pounds per square foot and car doors are typically much heavier than that, using the key to close or open these doors puts immeasurable strain on the tiny metal, leading to an inevitable and cringe-worthy snap when the key finally gives up.
If you're in the habit of using your house or car keys as door pulls, start breaking yourself of it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may end up with a broken key and a jammed lock.
Using Brute Force to Make the Lock Engage
Locks are designed to engage easily. So when they don't, it seems a person's first instinct is to attempt to force the key to turn the lock. If the key doesn't break off right then, it's only a matter of time before it does if this type of thing happens repeatedly.
Instead of trying to use the key to strong-arm the lock into doing your bidding, take a moment to check why the lock won't turn. Most of the time, either the door is not aligned correctly or the person is simply using the wrong key. Sometimes, though, the lock itself is damaged or the springs inside the lock have weakened so much that the pins have started to sag and cause an internal misalignment. If the last scenario is the case, the lock should be repinned or replaced.
Using the Key as a Swiss Army Knife
Most everyone at some point has used a car or house key as a replacement for another tool. Sometimes it's just easier to use a house key to open a box than to go hunting for a box opener, or the keys are closer to you than the screwdriver. However, each time you do this, you're putting undue strain on the key and creating weak spots that make the key more vulnerable to breaking, especially if you're also engaging in any of the other behaviors on this list.
To preserve your keys, dump the habit of using them as alternative tools. Buy a multipurpose tool that's small enough to put on a keychain, and use that instead when the occasion calls for it.
Leaving the Key in the Lock
This is another common occurrence that can lead to broken keys immediately or over time. A person uses the key to lock a door, gets distracted, and leaves the key hanging in the lock. Other times, a person may purposefully leave the key in the lock with the intention of returning after a short period of time.
In either case, there is a risk that the key will suffer impacts from other objects while sitting in the lock. For instance, a person leaves his or her key in the car door. A wild shopping car appears and runs into the door, hitting the key. If the impact is hard enough, the key might just break off right then. If that or similar incidents happen frequently, the key will weaken and eventually fall apart.
Make a habit of taking your keys with you after you lock a door. Not only is this safer, but you'll minimize the risk of the key getting damaged by errant objects.
It's a good idea to regularly inspect your keys for nicks and bends. If you notice the key is bent or appears to be cracked, have a locksmith make a replacement copy right away. It's better to pay a few dollars for a new key now than a few hundred dollars getting your lock fixed later on.
For more information and tips, contact a local locksmith company like Arapahoe County Security Center Inc.
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