A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph Goodman
The term “cylinder lock” casts a large net. Although there are many different types of cylinder locks, in this article, there will be a focus on a particular type. By talking about a popular cylinder type, we will be able to talk in more exact terms. Often a broad focus gives too general of information. What makes a lock a Euro Profile unique? What makes them so popular? Where can we find them, and how do they work? Looking at a popular profile, we will also be able to speak to the very alarming weaknesses. Beyond picking, there are bypasses, drilling techniques, and a specialized method for getting into these locks. We will talk about it all. If you have any questions or ideas feel free to share them with the community by leaving a comment below.
Cylinder locks have several standardized profiles, a popular one of which, is the Euro profile. The name should give you a pretty clear indication of where they are popular. Specifically, these locks are widely used throughout the United Kingdom. The locks are mainly used on residential doors. Because of the standardization of the lock a widely publicized weakness lead to an increase in home burglary in the UK. Because of their security issues Euro cylinders are not commonly used for businesses. This weakness exists because of the cross-sectional nature of the Euro profile. Other cross-sectional profiles include the Swiss and British oval profile. Regional cylinder profiles that are not cross-sectional include:
They do not offer any particular capabilities that uniquely qualify them for a special use. But the cylinder lock does have an advantage. It can be removed, quite easily, without changing the bolt work. But again, this ease does not make it a choice lock for a specific task. What it does do, is protects its usage. If you live in a house with a certain profile of cylinder, the door is built to accommodate that type of lock already. That is the largest reason for its continued popularity.
Euro cylinders are self-contained devices. They are very easy to remove and install. The most important part of the process is in the preparation. The shape of the replacement Euro cylinder is inconsequential because all Euro cylinders have the same dimensions. The preparation required is a measurement of your current lock. To gather the correct measurements record the length from the center screw to each end of the cylinder. Do not measure the entire length of the lock. The length will be different on either side of the cam.
Using the overall measurement of the lock may result in an unbalanced installation. Try to have the cylinder sized so that the lock face is flush against the door. This may require you to seek a lock with different measurements than your current lock. You will also need to decide what style fits your needs. Consider getting an anti-snap lock that is keyed on both sides. Standard Euro cylinders are too susceptible to forced entry, and thumbturns make the lock vulnerable to bypass attacks.
Unfasten the screw that you have identified as the lock’s center screw. If you have a faceplate over the door handle and lock, these screws should be loosened. There are potentially two different types of faceplates on the lock. The faceplate that should be loosened is the one that goes over the door handle and/or the face of the lock, and not the faceplate that is parallel to the strike plate. Once the appropriate screws are removed, and loosened, insert the working key into one end of the cylinder. Now you will have to turn the key slightly to either side as you gently pull the lock toward you. What you are attempting to do is line up the cam so that the cylinder will slide out of the door. Most often this will be the most time consuming, and frustrating part. With a little bit of trial and error, you will begin to feel the lock move toward you, and it will slide out freely.
Installing a Euro cylinder is no more tricky that extracting one. The replacement process is just the removal process in reverse. Place the new lock into the hole in the door. You may have to turn the key inside the lock just as you did to remove the old cylinder. Once the face of the lock is correctly positioned on both sides of the door it can be secured. Use a new fixing screw and fasten it tightly. Keep a record of this lock’s dimensions for future maintenance. Before closing the door try out the lock. Lift the handle and turn the key. Lock and unlock the cylinder a few times. Once the lock is seen to be in working order it is safe to close the door.
Make sure that you do not put a thumbturn on your Euro cylinder, because it allows the lock to be bypassed. Readers may remember this problem from the piece about locks that provide the illusion of security. A thumb turn was able to undermine a Mul-T-Lock MT5 core. The core can be ignored with most thumbturn cylinders. As long as the keyway allows access to the handle, it can be rotated. There are specific tools that are sold on the open market that can do just that.
We have eluded to lock snapping several times in this article. It is quite a simple trick. Access the protruding end of a Euro cylinder and grip it with a tool. Shake the lock until it snaps in half. Remove the lock. Access the boltwork and open the door. The weak point in Euro Cylinders is the metal right beneath the fixing hole. That gap leaves a very thin piece of metal on either side of the hole. The piece that connects both sides of the cylinder is perforated by the fixing hole. Other than that, there is only the cam that is resting in the gap between each side. Not much holds these locks together, and if the metal is weak, the lock will fail. Exerting severe pressure on the cylinder will break the lock in half. Once the lock is broken, the door can be opened very easily.
The best way to prevent snapping is by buying anti-snap locks or by having the cylinder flush against the door. If it is at all protruding the lock can be snapped. Having the lock face flush against the faceplate is not enough. You can see in certain crime scene photos where the faceplate over the cylinder has been pried so that a portion of the cylinder is exposed. Once that section is exposed, it can be leveraged. That leverage can be as simple as a hearty shake from side to side. The hole for the fixing screw will snap. That is the reason for the term “lock snapping”. With anti-snap cylinders the lock will snap in a way that does not compromise the lock’s security.
Be careful of a locksmith drilling these types of locks. If you drill too far into the lock you will break the actuator. Once the actuator is broken, the lock will not work, even with the key. Once the actuator is broken the lock will need to be removed. This will be quite difficult if the lock is anti-snap. If the lock cannot be snapped, and the actuator has broken, the price of getting into the house compounds with the price of installing a new door. Make sure that whoever is drilling the lock is keeping a count of how many pins they are hitting.
The Euro profile is not the best type of lock. There are quite a few natural weaknesses. Almost everyone that has one is at risk of burglary and theft. British authorities have stated on record that they would like to see these profiles all be replaced. They are just too weak of a design. You may even want to own some of these locks purely for the collector or locksport mentality, but you should not have one on your home. Ironically they can be very difficult to pick, but as we have seen time and time again, criminals do not pick locks. Anti-snap precautions do provide some protection, but they do not prevent your home from being a target. There is not any great advantage that you are receiving by using these type of locks. An unpickable lock core does not solve the issue of their fragility. None of this information should be used to commit a crime. This article exists to educate the non-criminal majority of the public. Use the information to keep yourself, and the things you love, safe.