Kwikset Smartkey Pros and Cons(Updated)

How to Identify SmartKey

The Kwikset Smartkey lock is very easy to identify. There will be a small pin hole next to the keyway. This hole is used as part of the rekey process.

Kwikset Smartkey Cylinder

Kwikset Smartkey

Pros

  • Self Rekeyable Lock
  • Highly Rated against Picking
  • Bump Resistant(Potentially Proof)

Smartkey is one of a few self rekeyable locks. This allows home users to manage there system and maintain key control without the use of a locksmith. If you lose a key, you can rekey the locks within seconds, and your old key will no longer work. The lock is much easier to rekey as long as you have an existing key.

Smartkey is also an extraordinary difficult lock to pick and potentially impossible to bump. In the field we have attempted to both pick and bump these locks. Although we have had limited success with picking, bumping has not worked to date. The Kwikset Smartkey is one of the only locks that we drill or force open in a lockout situation.

Cons

  • Unreliable
  • Easy to Force Open
  • Decode from the Outside
  • Cannot Be Master Keyed

The major issue is the unreliability of the Smartkey system. About once every two weeks we get a call saying that the key worked in the morning to lock the door, but the key is no longer turning the lock. This has become less of an issue as new generations of the lock have come out. Unreliability is the most significant issue we have run across.

Another issue is that they are significantly easier to force open than standard pin tumbler locks. Once a lock has been forced, the rekey function is broken. Typically the key will stop working as well; however, there are times where the operating key still works. Kwikset has also made this difficult in the latest generations.

Another flaw in the design is that Kwikset Smartkeys can be decoded from the outside of the door. This process is somewhat difficult to do; however, once you have the correct technique, it may only take 30 seconds before someone can determine the cuts to your key.

The SmartKey also lacks in the master key department. Although there is a version of the Smartkey that will allow a second key to work the lock, the Smartkey system is very limited to master keying. Typically the Smartkey works great for residential applications because master systems are rare for home users. In a commercial setting master systems are used often, and the Smartkey may not be your best options.

Help your locks Reliability

  • Ensure key is first generation

It is important when rekeying Kwikset Smartkeys that you use a fresh key - straight from a code cutter. As keys are used they will become greatly worn out. Duplicate keys from worn keys will often not work. When I provide my customers keys, I tell them to keep an unused key to make copies from. This ensures best operation with a duplicated key.

Tip: If you are purchasing new locks for your house, by packages with different key code on them. This will allow you to have fresh, factory cut keys at your figure tips for rekeying.

Is the Smartkey for me?

The Smartkey is fantastic for anyone who may want to rekey their locks often. The rekey process is quick and simple. Due to reliability issues, it is best if you have at least two doors leading into your house in case the lock fails. 

Rekey Process with Existing Key

The basic approach is to insert your key. Turn the key 90 degrees clockwise. Insert the rekey tool into the hole. This frees up the key so you can remove it. Insert new key and remove the rekey tool. The lock will now be set to the new key.

If you do not have a key, the system can be reset but it is more difficult. The first option is to buy a Kwikset cradle. Following the directions on the cradle will allow you to set a new key for the lock. In addition you can reset these by hand. There are videos demonstrating this online.

Rekeying Kwikset SmartKey Without Key

Rekeying a Kwikset Smartkey without a key has been our most popular request. The Smartkey has several parts to it, and many locksmiths do not touch them without an existing key. They are very much so rekeyable without a working key, and I will attempt to explain step by step how to rekeying a Smartkey without an existing key.

A few notes before getting started:

  1. The lever version of the lock oftentimes cannot be removed without first having the cylinder turned. (Very difficult without key)
  2. Your lock may not be exactly like this one, but the same principles apply across the board

Step 1:

  • Remove the lock from the door

In this example we will be using a Kwikset Kevo as the example Smartkey. Typically a screwdriver and allen wrench are the only tools required to take the lock off the door.

Kwikset Kevo

Step 2:

  • Remove Retainer Clip

This clip keeps the lock cylinder inside the housing. It can be removed with a flat head or small pokey type tool.

Show Backside with clip in place
Clip Removed

Step 3:

  • Remove Cylinder

At this point, you should have the cylinder out in your hand.

Step 4:

  • Remove Retainer Clip

Kwikset sells a remover tool for this; however, it can be accomplished with two flat head screw drivers.

Cylinder Retaining Clip
Retainer Clip

Step 5:

  • Remove Plug from Housing

This is the most difficult part of the process. If you try to push the plug from the housing, the wafers will be preventing it from coming out. We use a pick to hold the wafers up for removal; however, anything thin enough to enter the keyhole and reach back should work.

Use a finger to push the plug out (lightly) while lifting the wafers up. The plug should slowly start working its way out. This is difficult at first, but with some practice and patience the process becomes easier.

As the plug comes out hold the sidebar in place. BE CAREFUL, the plug is two separate pieces and likes to fall apart on removal. Parts include: Sidebar, two sidebar springs, spring keeping slider forward, and five wafers.

Show Wafers in Place
Cylinder Out

Wafers

Wafer Bitting Notches

Bitting Notches

  • These notches determine the working cuts (1 cut -6 cut)
Sidebar Notch

Sidebar Notch

If the key is holding the wafers in the correct position, the sidebar can fall in and the lock turned.

Wafer Slider Notch

Rekey Notch

This notch prevents rekeying unless the correct key is inserted and turned.

Lower Bar

If the wafers are not in the correct position. These posts prevent the lock from entering rekeying position.

Step 6:

  • Line Up Wafers

You need to line up the wafers so that when reassembling you can pull back the tab back. This part can take a few times to get it right. Once the tab is pulled back, the lock is in the rekey position.

Wafers Lined Up
Put together
In Rekey

Step 7:

  • Insert New Key and Let Tab Go

At this point, the lock is rekeyed. It is important that all of the parts get back into place. The sidebar will only go in one way, and should be able to be slightly pushed in with the new key in the plug. Put it all back together, test operation and you're done!

Rekeying Lock
Rekeyed