Key Bumping: What is it?

Key bumping: what is it?

Key bumping: what is it?

Key Bumping: What is it? 

As far back as the 1970s, key bumping, also known as lock bumping, has been a popular technique for unlocking doors. Whether for legal purposes or simply because somebody locked their keys in the car, lock bumping can be used for good. In fact, key bumping was not recognized as a real security threat until the early 2000s. As you may have surmised, thieves and crooks have caught on to the trend, and with the crime spike in Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills, you can never be too cautious.

How does it work?

It’s relatively easy. All you really need to do is Google “lock bumping” and you’ll get thousands of hits within seconds. Sites from YouTube to WikiHow all have lock bumping tutorials, allowing anyone who’s itching to steal your stuff an easy way to enter your home or place of business.

Like most people, you probably bought your locks at your local hardware store. And like most people, you probably focused on one thing: aesthetics. We’re not saying that having a beautiful doorknob is a bad thing; we’re just saying that your focus should be on how secure your lock can keep you and your assets. Just because your key fits in your lock and not your neighbor’s lock doesn’t automatically mean that you’re safe.

In a typical lock, there is a set of lower pins that make contact with the key upon insertion.

This diagram shows how a typical lock works.

This diagram shows how a typical lock works.

They are cut at varying peaks and valleys to match the key. There is also a set of top pins that contact the top of the lower pins. A set of springs is present to push the whole pin stack downwards. When you use the correct key, the lower pins are lifted to the correct height, creating an even line where the top pins and lower pins can separate, allowing for the key to turn. If just one pin is lifted too high or too low, the key will not turn.

Enter the Bump Key

Though it sounds like a good idea (and oftentimes is used for good), the bump key makes it very easy for thieves to enter a residence or place of business without being detected. The bump key is inserted into the lock and “bumped” by a heavy object, such as the end of a screwdriver. This violent “bump” causes the pins to jump, allowing for the key to turn and open the lock.

But…my lock is protected, right?

Not necessarily. The pin lock design is found in knobs and levers, padlocks, deadbolts, post office (PO) boxes, and some cars. If the lock is a pin design and someone has a matching bump key, they can likely open your door within seconds.

Check out this YouTube video to see how quickly it can be done:

Some key facts to remember about key bumping:

  • Over 90% of American doors use the pin-type locks described above, meaning that over 90% of American homes and businesses are vulnerable to lock bumping.
  • Lock bumping is easy enough for a 10-year-old to master.
  • A bump key can be made in less than five minutes.
  • If and when a bump key is used to break into your house, it leaves NO SIGN of a forced entry, making it difficult to get your insurance company to pay for your losses.
  • Anyone can learn how to key bump from the Internet.

What about lock picks?

Picking locks has been around since locks were invented. Lock picks are very difficult to obtain, however, which makes key bumping a whole lot easier. The bump key is a threat because using it takes very little skill and practice. One can learn how to bump a lock simply by watching a YouTube tutorial. Furthermore, a bump key can be crafted from an existing key, cut or not. For example, in as little as five minutes, you can file down any old Kwikset key to make a bump key and use it for any and all Kwikset locks.

Bump Keys Work

In our experience, locks that are less than ten years old are at a greater risk of being bumped. Older locks can be opened with a bump key, but they need to be lubricated first (this takes mere seconds and doesn’t serve as much of a deterrent to a determined criminal). You might have heard that spraying WD-40 into the lock will prevent bumping, but this is just not true; it actually helps in the lock-bumping process by lubricating the pins.

Your deadbolt isn't safe, either!

Your deadbolt isn’t safe, either!

But I have a deadbolt! 

Guess what? It doesn’t matter! Deadbolts are actually easier to open than knobs and levers. Generally speaking, deadbolts are machined to tighter tolerances (the pins and springs are tighter), making the bumping process more effective because less energy is wasted when a lock is bumped open.



Okay…so now what?

You don’t have to fully comprehend everything we’ve talked about. What you do need to do is educate yourself and make sure your lock is bump proof. If you’re not sure, call Community Lock and Safe today and we can help you secure your lock—and home. Also, invest in a high security lock. $150 is not a lot to spend to make sure that your home or office is secure.

We recommend two types of high security locks:

Mul-T-Lock: As far as high security locks go, this is a really popular choice. Though it is a great lock, there is one flaw with it: it still uses the pin design, which makes it susceptible to bumping. However, the Mul-T-Lock bump key is very hard to obtain. It has to be cut by a locksmith, who, aside from giving you some serious side eye for even requesting a bump key, could also lose his or her license for cutting a bump key.

Schlage Primus: This is probably the best solution to the lock-bumping problem because it uses a special key that lifts a set of “finger pins” to the correct height and angle.

If you are concerned about the safety of your home or office, please contact us today. We are happy to come out and assess your locks to ensure that they are bump proof.


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