how do locks work

How Do Locks Work?

Chances are pretty high that you encounter a lock every day. Whether it is locking up the house for the day, checking the mail, or driving your vehicle, locks have become a part of our everyday life. Locks keep us and all our possessions safe from intruders and play a critical role in our daily lives. Because locks are so important to us, we should know how they work… right? Have you ever inserted your key into the lock, or punched in a combination, and wondered how it all works? Well, let’s take a look!

Types of Locks

For this article, we are going to be omitting digital locks and keep the focus on classic mechanical lock styles. There are 2 main types of locks you will likely encounter through the course of a day, these are the pin-and-tumbler lock and combination lock.

Pin-and-Tumbler Lock

The tried and true mechanical lock you are likely using for your home or car has been in circulation since 1848 with very minimal changes in design over time. The locks require a 2nd component, a key, that must be inserted inside to unlock the mechanism. 

How it works:

Inside the lock, you will find a row of spring-loaded pins inside a set of small cylinders. As you infer the key into the lock, the various pointed tips (called teeth) of the key push up on the spring-loaded pins. As it goes deeper into the lock, the teeth of the key align the pins with an internal track known as the shear line. With the right key, all these pins will align with the shear line, allowing the cylinder to rotate, and unlocking the lock. 

Combination Lock

A more modern lock design than the pin-and-tumbler design, this lock does not require a second component to unlock the mechanism. Think of the pin-and-tumbler lock as the crown bottle cap that requires a bottle opener to open, and the combination lock as the modern soda can. This lock can be unlocked by anyone who possesses the secret number combination to open. So, how do they work? 

How It Works:

These types of locks are most often used in common bike locks, school lockers and briefcases. These have a wheel pack, containing a series of wheels that all hold a series of numbers on each node. Each wheel in the wheel pack has a wheel fly – a small tab on each of its sides. When turning the combination dial, there is a piece called a spindle that extends and turns the drive cam. An attached pin makes contact with the wheel fly on the nearest wheel as the drive cam turns.

As you continue to turn your dial and punch in the right combination, the wheel fly on each subsequent wheel makes contact until all the wheels are spinning. Assuming you have punched in all the right digits by the time you reach the end, all the wheels will be perfectly lined up. These aligned wheels will now form a gap, allowing the lock to be released. 

If you are interested in learning more about locks, be sure to ask your Calgary ReKey Lockworks professional during your service.

Calgary Rekey Lockworks, Calgary’s trusted locksmith. Contact us at (403) 202-7656 or online.