Common Mistakes in Key Duplication and How to Avoid Them

Last updated: October 6, 2023


Losing keys or needing an extra set is common, leading many to explore key duplication. However, not all key duplication processes are created equal. Dive into this guide as we unlock the “Common Mistakes in Key Duplication and How to Avoid Them” and ensure your next copy is just as dependable as the original.

Common Mistakes in Key Duplication

The process of key duplication may seem straightforward, but it’s a task that demands precision. When not done correctly, you can end up with a key that doesn’t work or wears out quickly. Here’s a closer look at the usual missteps and how to sidestep them.

  • Using worn-out original keys for duplication: Think of the original key as a template. The copy will carry over those imperfections if this template is worn out or damaged. When you use a worn-out key as your model, there’s a high chance the duplicate won’t fit the lock properly. To avoid this, always use a key that’s in good shape when making copies.

  • Choosing low-quality materials: Not all keys are created equal. Some are made from cheap metals that can bend or wear out faster. While it might be tempting to save a few bucks, going for low-quality material can lead to more expenses down the road. Ask about the key blank’s quality and opt for stronger, more durable materials.

  • Relying on inexperienced key cutters: Key duplication is a skill, and like all skills, it requires experience to perfect. An inexperienced key cutter might not get the cut just right, leading to a key that doesn’t work or one that damages your lock. Always choose a trusted and experienced professional or service for key duplication.

  • Not testing the duplicate immediately: This is a simple step but one that many overlook. Before leaving the store or kiosk, always test the duplicate key to make sure it works. This can save you the hassle of returning later or finding yourself locked out at an inconvenient time.

Professional Locksmith Services

In the complex world of keys and locks, sometimes the do-it-yourself approach isn’t the best path. Professionals, with their vast knowledge and precise tools, can make key duplication seem like a breeze while ensuring top-notch results.

Why Hire a Professional Locksmith?

  • Assured precision and accuracy: A professional locksmith is trained to produce duplicates with high precision. This means fewer chances of errors, ensuring that the copy works as smoothly as the original.

  • Expertise in various key types: From car keys to intricate security keys, locksmiths know about many key types. This versatility ensures that a locksmith can handle your key no matter how unique or complex it is.

  • Solution to complex key structures: Some keys come with complex structures or added security features that can be tough for standard duplication machines. A professional locksmith, however, will have the tools and expertise to recreate even the most intricate keys.

Advantages of Professional Services

  • Quick and efficient service: Speed is among the biggest benefits of hiring a professional locksmith. With their experience and tools, they can duplicate keys in a fraction of the time it might take someone to use a basic machine or do it by hand.

  • Guarantee on key functionality: Most professional locksmiths will offer a guarantee on the keys they duplicate. This means if there’s any issue with the key’s functionality, they’ll fix it for free or provide a replacement.

  • Assistance beyond just key duplication: Locksmiths are a treasure trove of knowledge when it comes to all things locks and keys. Apart from just making duplicates, they can offer valuable advice on enhancing security, repairing broken locks, or even recommending the best locks for your needs.

Automated Self-Service Kiosks

Technology has made its way into almost every facet of our daily lives, and the realm of key duplication is no exception. Automated self-service kiosks represent the intersection of convenience and technology in this industry, offering a fast solution for basic key copying needs.

How Do They Work?

  • User-friendly interfaces guiding through key duplication: Much like an ATM, these kiosks are designed with simplicity in mind. Even if you’ve never used one before, on-screen instructions will guide you step by step. You simply insert your key, follow the prompts, and the machine does the rest.

  • Advanced scanning technology for precision: Once the original key is inserted, the kiosk uses advanced scanning technology to capture every ridge, cut, and unique feature of the key. This ensures that the duplicate is as close to the original as possible.

  • Instant production of duplicate keys: One of the significant advantages of these kiosks is speed. Once the scanning is complete, the machine gets to work immediately, crafting a new key in mere minutes. Before you know it, you have a fresh duplicate in hand.

Pros and Cons to Consider


  • Convenient: Located in various high-traffic areas like shopping malls, grocery stores, or even some gas stations, finding a kiosk is typically easy.

  • Quick: If you’re in a rush, these machines are a godsend. No waiting in line or coming back later – get your duplicate then and there.

  • Available 24/7: Many of these kiosks are accessible around the clock, making it convenient for those unexpected moments when you realize you need a spare key.


  • Limited to simple key structures: While great for common keys, these machines may not handle more complex or specialized key structures, especially high-security keys or car keys with embedded chips.

  • Potential for user error: If you don’t insert the key correctly or choose the wrong type of key blank from the options, you might end up with a non-functional copy.

  • Lack of human expertise: If there’s an issue or if you have questions about the process, there’s no locksmith to turn to for advice or adjustments.

Key Blanks and Copies at Hardware Stores and Retail Outlets

For many, a quick trip to the local hardware store or retail outlet is the go-to solution when a key needs duplicating. These establishments have long been associated with this service due to their accessibility and familiarity. However, is this commonly chosen option always the best choice for your key duplication needs?

What Are The Risks Involved?

  • Inconsistent quality of key blanks: Unlike specialized locksmith stores that often prioritize the quality of their key materials, hardware stores, and retail outlets might stock up on cheaper, low-quality key blanks to save costs. These inferior blanks can wear out faster, potentially leaving you with a non-functional key sooner than you’d like.

  • Potential misalignment during cutting: The machinery used in some retail settings might not be as precise or well-maintained as in dedicated locksmith establishments. This can lead to minor misalignments during the cutting process, which might render the key unusable.

  • Limited expertise in key variety: The personnel at general stores might not have the specialized knowledge that a locksmith does. This lack of expertise can be a drawback, especially if you have a less common or more intricate key type that requires duplication.

Tips For Making Quality Key Copies

  • Always provide a well-preserved original key: The clearer the cuts and ridges on your original key, the higher the likelihood of getting an accurate duplicate. A worn-out key might not provide the clarity needed for a precise copy.

  • Inquire about the quality of key blanks: Before copying your key, ask about the materials being used. Opt for high-quality blanks, even if it means paying a bit more. In the long run, a sturdy, durable key can save you both time and money.

  • Test duplicates before leaving the store: Before you leave, make sure to test the newly duplicated key. If it doesn’t work smoothly or has issues, it’s easier to address the problem on the spot rather than discover the fault later.

Peace of Mind Through Quality Service

The peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve entrusted your key duplication to a quality service provider is invaluable. After all, keys are more than just pieces of metal; they’re gatekeepers to our homes, offices, and vehicles.

Finding a High-Quality Service Provider

  • Research and reviews: In our digital age, online reviews can be a goldmine of information. Platforms like Yelp, Google Reviews, and the Better Business Bureau can offer insights into other customers’ experiences. By reading through reviews, you can get a sense of the provider’s reputation and reliability.

  • Ask for referrals: Word-of-mouth remains one of the most trustworthy methods of finding quality services. Ask friends, family, or colleagues if they’ve had any key duplication done recently and if they were satisfied with the service they received.

  • Look for certifications and associations: A certified locksmith or key duplication service usually undergoes specific training and adheres to industry standards. Associations, like the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA), can be a sign of credibility and professionalism.

Benefits of an External Service Provider

Comprehensive service offerings

Specialized key service providers often go beyond just simple key duplication. They might have a diverse range of services that cater to your varied security needs, including rekeying locks, providing security consultations, lock repair, or even advanced security installations. By going to an external service provider, you can tap into a broader spectrum of solutions, ensuring you have a one-stop solution for many, if not all, of your security needs.

Updated tools and technology

An external provider is more likely to have access to the latest tools and technological advancements in the field. This commitment to staying updated ensures that the key duplication process is both accurate and efficient, leading to fewer errors and better overall results. Plus, with the ever-evolving world of security, staying abreast of the latest tech can mean better protection for you.

Liability and service guarantees

External service providers, with their reputations on the line, will often provide customers with warranties or guarantees on their work. This means if a key doesn’t work or there’s another issue, you’re not left in the lurch. It’s an added layer of assurance, ensuring that if problems arise, the provider will address and rectify them at no extra charge.

Common Misconceptions About Key Duplication Services

  • “All key blanks are the same.” This is a common misconception that can lead to many issues. In reality, key blanks come in various quality levels and materials. A poor-quality blank can wear out quickly, leading to the key not working after a short period, while a high-quality one ensures durability and functionality.

  • “Automated kiosks are always accurate.” While automated kiosks offer convenience, they aren’t foolproof. Machines can malfunction, and if the original key provided isn’t in good condition, the duplicate might not be accurate. Plus, they usually cater to simpler keys and might not be able to handle more complex structures or high-security keys.

  • “One copy is enough.” Depending on your needs, having just one key copy might not suffice. It’s often recommended to have at least two duplicate keys. One can be used regularly, while the other can be stored safely as a backup. This ensures you always have access, even if one key gets lost or damaged.

Wrapping Up: The Key to Avoiding Duplication Blunders

When it comes to ensuring access to our spaces, taking a shortcut in key duplication can lead to long-term inconveniences. By understanding the common mistakes in key duplication and how to avoid them, you can guarantee that each duplicate key is a trusty companion to the original.

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