How to Choose a Deadbolt

If you’re shopping for a new deadbolt lock for your door, you may think all locks are created equally and just go for the one that matches your house. After all, curb appeal is important, right?

Well, so is home security, and there are differences from one lock to the next. Let’s break it down a bit so you can see how deadbolts work and how thieves defeat them. This will help you make a smart choice when it’s time to install a new lock.

How a Deadbolt Lock Works

When you turn the key in the cylinder, a connecting tailpiece engages the bolt mechanism. This causes the bolt to extend or retract. Twisting the thumb-turn on the interior side also causes the bolt to extend or retract.

Most deadbolts are relatively simple and contain the same parts (cylinder, cylinder guard, bolt assembly, thumb-turn, tailpiece, and mounting screws), but you can get high-security locks with special parts.

For example, the Abloy Disklock features adapter rings and a bolt assembly protector. The bolt assembly protector goes between the cylinder and bolt assembly and has a hood that covers the internal parts of the bolt assembly. This protects the lock in case a burglar tries to manipulate the bolt assembly with an ice pick or other lock-picking instrument.

This is why when you’re purchasing a deadbolt lock, you may want to pay a bit more for a “jimmy-proof” one.

How Deadbolts Are Vulnerable to Burglars

If you’re wondering how a burglar might pick or destroy your lock to break in, here are some of the methods you need to be aware of. Knowing how they might attack your deadbolt will help you make a better choice when you’re in the home improvement store looking to purchase door hardware.

Sawing — Bolts made from brass or other soft metals can be sawn off with a hacksaw blade. Choose a lock with a steel bolt or with a hardened steel insert.

Jimmying — This is when a thief inserts a pry bar between the door and the frame near the extended bolt. They wiggle it back and forth until the bolt is freed from the strike plate. Choose a longer bolt to make your lock harder to jimmy. Also ensure your deadbolt has at least a 1-inch throw (1 inch of the bolt extends past the edge of the door).

Wrenching — A wrench can be clamped onto a cylinder guard, allowing the cylinder to be twisted right off the door. To thwart this, choose deadbolts with tapered free-spinning cylinder guards, which make them hard to wrench.

Lock Picking — This is probably the least of your worries when choosing a door lock. Lock picking is a tricky skill to learn, and burglars can usually find easier ways to break into a home. Even professional locksmiths will spend 10 minutes or more opening your lock if you lose your keys, and most burglars don’t have that kind of time. However, in a large city or high-crime area, there may be professional lock pickers out there who pride themselves on their skills and will find their way to your door. To have your best shot at thwarting them, choose high-security cylinders for all your exterior door locks.

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