Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions that members of the Northwest Locksmith Association have been asked. If you have question that has been included please feel free to email us or write a comment below and we’ll get back to you as we can.

When you have a key duplicated, an attempt is made to produce a key exactly like the one you have. Duplication is not a perfect process and is only as good as the machinery that produces it. Duplicating machines are produced having different precision. Usually, the professional locksmith has the most precise equipment and the skill to maintain it in that condition. This means that given the training and the equipment of a professional locksmith, you are likely to receive the best duplicate possible. Occasionally, for whatever the reason, a duplicate doesn’t work. The trained locksmith is capable of determining why the key doesn’t work and may be able to manipulate his equipment to correct the error. Failing this, an original key can be made. This is explained on the section titled: What is an original key.

A locksmith is a trained professional. A locksmith can be competent in one or many phases of locksmithing from automobiles to prison locks. Safe work is performed by many locksmiths, but is actually a specialty that can be the exclusive work of a given locksmith. Locksmithing is an ever changing industry and the conscientious locksmith is always updating their knowledge. Anything that is operated by a key falls in the realm of the locksmith. Bona fide locksmiths are usually members of an association and are issued identification. The public should learn to require ID from those people who are hired to perform locksmith work for them. By requiring proof of identity, the public will help the industry regulate the competence of those who work in this public trust.


Any time you need service, maintenance, repair, or replacement of a locking device, you need the expertise of a qualified locksmith, hopefully a Northwest Locksmith Association member. While many professional locksmiths limit themselves to a specialty, most are well versed in many aspects of the industry. Whether car, boat, home, auto, business, or institution, your local Northwest Locksmith Association member is probably best suited to handle your lock problems. Since many repair facilities subcontract lock related work to locksmiths, you will probably incur less expense if you deal directly with your local professional.

Locksmiths work with locks and security devices every day. They know what devices are available and which best suit your security needs. A survey of your premises will allow the qualified locksmith (hopefully a Northwest Locksmith Association member) to see what must be replaced or supplemented to provide maximum personal and property protection. Locksmiths know what different brands of hardware are compatible. As a result, they may combine varying quality hardware to save money while providing adequate protection for given situations. Since locksmiths are security hardware specialists and earn their livelihood in this relatively small realm, they are the obvious people to consult when addressing problems of security.

It comes mostly as a shock and a surprise to find that in the state of Washington the locksmith industry is totally unregulated. In spite of its public trust, no restrictions are placed on the participation of an individual in the industry. One need not provide proof of skill, a bond, certification, registration, or licensing to participate in the industry. This is why the Northwest Locksmith Association is so important to the public. Because the association screens all persons applying for membership, the consumer is more assured of receiving honest, reputable service. Further, in the event of difficulty with a member locksmith the public has a place (other than the Better Business Bureau) to air a grievance. The association has been known to bring pressure to bear on nonmember locksmiths in times of dispute. The consumer should, therefore, demand the services of an accredited Northwest Locksmith Association member.

Since the locksmith industry is unregulated, there is no restriction as to who can grant the designation of “certified.” If the locksmith chooses to do so, they may just declare themselves “certified.” Correspondence schools, which generally offer a six month curriculum, grant certification to all their graduates. Formally, the designation of certified is proof of displayed skill by the bearer. The public can be assured of authenticity if the certification is granted by a locksmith association. The Northwest Locksmith Association (NWLA) requires that its certified members complete a rigorous day-long test of questions and hands-on testing before the designation is granted. The Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) has a Proficiency Registration Program (PRP) that grants official titles to successful candidates. These people are tested on 31 different facets of locksmithing and the candidate may successively earn a rating of CRL-Certified Registered Locksmith, then CPL- Certified Professional Locksmith, and finally, CML-Certified Master Locksmith. These are legal titles and only bona fide candidates may display these letters after their name. The public should demand that their locksmith be certified by a locksmith association. In the Northwest, the following are recognized by the industry: Northwest Locksmith Association (Puget Sound), British Columbia Locksmiths Association (Western Canada), Pacific Locksmith Association (Oregon), Columbia Basin Locksmith Association (Eastern Washington), and Associated Locksmiths of America (National).

Most locksmith operations are small, usually one or two persons. Locksmiths work long hours, averaging ten hours a day, six days a week. Their off-time is as precious to them as to anyone who works for wages. Over the years, the public has come to expect, and sometimes demand, extraordinary service at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. As a result, fewer and fewer locksmiths are making themselves available after hours. The public should understand that when they request such services they are asking locksmiths to sacrifice personal rest periods. Consequently, the public should make extraordinary requests only when the situation truly warrants. Since any work done outside regular business hours is overtime, one must expect to pay premium compensation. The more discriminating and considerate the public is in its requests, the more available locksmiths will be to their emergencies. Locksmiths who offer after hours and 24-hour service note it in their advertising.

An original key is a key produced for a specific lock to a manufacturer’s specifications with very little tolerance. Original keys are those that come packaged with new locks and often bear the name of the manufacturer and/or a manufacturer’s code number. Original keys should not be used on a day to day basis. Because they are the most accurate keys for the lock they should be set aside for future use after duplicates have been made. Very few people observe this practice, but you will be at a definite advantage if you reserve these keys for duplication. Chances for good duplicates are greatly enhanced when produced from original keys. In the event that an original key is lost, a qualified locksmith, hopefully a Northwest Locksmith Association member, can produce a new key that meets the manufacturer’s specifications. Because of the need for special equipment and expertise, this procedure is slightly more expensive than simple duplication. The best practice is to set the originals aside in a safe place.


Badly crafted keys can damage locks. From simple annoyances like difficult insertion of the key in the lock to major damage of a locking device can occur in duplication. When keys are poorly made they can cause damage to the locks they fit. Car ignitions can be made to stick in the start position, causing damage to the starter. Internal parts can be bent causing the lock to jam in an intermediate position. Professional locksmiths can advise you if a key is too worn to reproduce and they may tell you why a duplicate is not working properly. Since your local professional locksmith is familiar with the internal workings of locks, they are best prepared to duplicate your keys.

Masterkeying actually compromises the security of a locking system. Masterkeying should be used only in systems that are very large or require selective access. Small apartment house owners (less than fifty units) should avoid masterkeying just for convenience. In such cases the operator should have copies of each unit key stored in a locked cabinet. Good management of a key box insures access to any of the units with relatively little inconvenience. Master key systems can be expensive and hard to maintain if the responsible party fails to keep accurate records of locations and changes. When a master key is lost, a complete rekey of the system must be done. It is more expensive to remaster a lock than to simply rekey. Master key systems are designed on a mathematical principle and are not just randomly created. In hotel and motel operations where maids and maintenance people need access, master key systems enable personnel to avoid large rings of keys. Consulting your local professional will help you determine if your situation warrants a master key system. If you decide to install a system your locksmith can design and implement one to especially suit your operation.

No contest! Only qualified locksmiths should have the authority to possess and use car opening devices. Taxi drivers, Tow Truck Drivers, and Police have very little, or no formal training in automotive locks or techniques in opening them. A qualified locksmith has several options when opening most vehicles. Because of their skill level and specialized tools, the opening of your vehicle will be safe and quicker than at the hands of amateurs. Additionally, because of their superior training and technique, they can guarantee no harm will come to your vehicle. Qualified locksmiths will also require that you prove your authority or ownership before releasing the car to you. This is obviously for your protection, but is not a safeguard that will necessarily be extended by others.

Locksmiths are specialists in that locks and locking devices are their exclusive field. In the past few years automotive technology has escalated substantially. From Audi to Yugo, automotive lock service and repair has become a major part of the modern locksmith’s expertise. No one is more qualified than a trained locksmith to service your automotive needs. The Northwest Locksmiths Association regularly offers classes on all types of automotive work. High security and electronics are becoming the norm in automotive systems and there is a trend toward specialization in the industry. If you take your car to a dealer for lock work, the likelihood is that it will be sent out to the local automotive locksmith. Consequently, you will probably save time and money by dealing with a certified locksmith directly. You should note also that your local professional is the best place to acquire guaranteed duplicates of all automotive keys.

Yes. Replacement of lost keys and the duplication of existing keys are well within the realm of your local professional locksmith. In addition, many motorcycles have saddlebags and lockable compartments in fairings that sometimes require service. Many times there are code numbers stamped right on the locks that enable your locksmith to produce a key without removing the lock.

Logic would dictate that locks and security are the last place one should economize, yet this is all too often the case. Your personal safety and all your worldly wealth is safeguarded by the hardware you or your builder choose. Because cost is a primary concern of the building trade, quality security hardware is often sacrificed in new construction and in most cases it should be supplemented or replaced. Consultation with a qualified locksmith before construction can be beneficial and, since qualified locksmiths know proper installation methods, having a locksmith do the installation will insure maximum efficiency of the product. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for in security hardware, but due to competitive pressures, once trusted names in manufacturing are compromising quality in favor of price. This is just another reason why the advice of a qualified professional locksmith is so beneficial. They can provide you with the most cost effective security available.

Locksmiths work with locks and security devices every day. They are trained to note conditions that warrant different methods of protection. Interior storage may only require a knob lock, whereas an exterior door with a large window may require a deadbolt that locks with a key inside as well as outside. One should remember that locks are capable of locking people in as well as out and a double keyed lock may be impractical if it creates a dangerous block to exit. Some other barrier method may have to be devised. Sliding windows and patio doors present unique security problems. It depends on how such things are installed and operate as to how they are secured. A qualified professional locksmith can make suggestions as to how best secure all of your property. Even padlocks can be made to work on the same key as your house. Your locksmith can work with you to provide the most economic and cost effective system.


Many alarm companies would have you believe that physical barriers such as locksets and deadbolts are useless at the hands of a thug. Their commercials depict the incredible hulk crashing through a door as easily as the fabled wolf in the “Three Little Pigs.” Actually, quality hardware, installed properly, can withstand some pretty stiff abuse. A professional locksmith should be consulted when making a security plan so that each opening to be secured receives individual attention. Alarm systems do nothing to prevent “crash and run” thefts that usually are completed in only a few seconds. Good hardware, installed well can deter or prevent would be thieves. The best case scenario would be to have the protection of good hardware and a good warning system in an alarm. Again, consultation with a competent locksmith will determine what is best for you.

Since you are purchasing a safe for the purpose of protecting your valuables, it is fitting that you consult the most knowledgeable person you can find. Your professional locksmith is best qualified to make suggestions that meet your needs. Home centers, office supply stores, and hardware stores almost exclusively sell an inferior imported product that does little more than provide fire protection. Locksmiths have the products of many manufacturers at their disposal. Suggestions for fire, burglary, fire and burglary, or media (computer disk and magnetic tape records) protection can best be made by a professional locksmith. Safes are sold in many different styles: free standing, floor, wall, and many different quality grades. Your professional locksmith is capable of providing you with the best protection for your investment.

The answer is NO. Safes are manufactured for two purposes. They are made to safeguard against loss by fire and to prevent the theft of valuables. When a safe (whether it be fire, burglary or media) is involved in a fire, pressure that is produced inside the safe by extreme heat must somehow be vented to avoid explosion. This is most commonly accomplished around the edges of the door. It logically follows that if provision is made to vent gases, water may pass in the opposite direction when the internal pressure is relieved.

Safes are made to resist forcible entry (burglary), resist fire, and protect magnetically stored data (media). Until recently, one could not combine any of these aspects, but now many manufacturers are producing home fire safes with burglary ratings. Construction of a media safe essentially combines a safe within a safe. The cost of these safes generally approach double what a fire safe would cost. Depending on your needs, a qualified locksmith can probably save you expense by suggesting storage in a low security container that is designed specifically for storing media materials. There are so many safe ratings that the consumer should consult a professional safe technician when trying to determine what safe best suits their needs. Safes are generally a major investment and your local professional will be able to help you find what will best serve your needs.

The NWLA would like to thank Anytime Lock & Safe of Bremerton, WA (Kitsap County) with providing us with the above FAQs. Thank You.