Ask an Expert

Is there a question about locks, keys or safes that you’ve always wondered about?

Here’s some frequently asked questions, and some curious inquiries, where you might find your answer.  If not, just send an email through to socialmedia@jimrobertslocksmiths and we’ll find the answer for you!



“What is the difference between ‘changing the locks’ and ‘rekeying the locks’?”

If you’ve just bought a new house, or your flatmate hasn’t paid rent in months, stopping unwanted people from entering your home starts with your external doors.

“Rekeying the lock” means that just the pins/ wafers inside the barrel are changed to work with a different key. “Changing the locks” means that the whole lock assembly is replaced.

In most cases, rekeying is the cheaper option. The lock assembly should only be replaced if it is unsuitable for rekeying or damaged.


“What is the best lock I can put on my front door?”

Depending on your style of door, a key-operated deadbolt or deadlock is one of the most secure options.

A deadbolt or deadlock on your doors and windows is also a good idea for house insurance purposes and can be keyed alike for convenience if the locks are suitable.

One advantage to the deadlock or deadbolt is that, because it is key operated from both sides, once you’ve locked your front door and left, if someone gets in, they can’t merely march out the front door with your television or valuables.


 “What do the “bumps” on the side of a key do?”

There are many different types of keys these days so we’ll try to make our answer as simplistic as possible. Those bumps open and close the locks. It’s actually a fascinating technology that has developed over thousands of years.

Inside a lock, your key goes into a cylinder and pushes against pins held into position with springs. If the correct key is in the lock, the pins will be pushed into alignment and you can turn the key to open the lock.

You may be able to push an incorrect key into a cylinder. You’ll find that you won’t be able to turn it. The different sized pins inside need to match up to the unique “bumps” in order for the lock to turn.


 “How do I leave a spare key out safely and without making it easy for thieves to get in?”

We’ve all seen the fake rocks and sprinkler heads on the market and I’m sure you’re aware, no matter how careful you are, someone will see the key being taken or put back at some point. There is nothing stopping the wrong someone from taking the key and entering your home.

A key safe is one of the safest ways of controlling access to your home when you aren’t there. Fixed to an external wall, the small safe has a combination lock that allows access to the key/s placed inside.

These are brilliant devices for allowing emergency personnel access to elderly relatives in case of a fall or if unable to answer the door. They can also be handy for cleaners, tradesmen or real estate agents to enter without needing to give out endless keys to your home.

“Can you cut a car key without a key to cut it from?”

If you misplace your car keys, then you definitely need to call us for help.

Depending on the make and model of the car, there are ways to either make a replacement key for you or we’ll know how you need to go about getting one.

Firstly, we’ll need the VIN (vehicle identification number) for your car.

We’ll also need the make, model, and year of your vehicle.

From there, we can find out the unique key code for your car and make a new key to suit.

If you have a key with a transponder, then we’ll also need your car to visit our workshop so that we can program the new key and the car’s computers to talk to each other.

“How does a transponder car key work?”

Basically, your key has a chip containing a unique code. When the key is turned in the ignition, it sends a message to the car’s computer which then sends a code back to the key. When this matches the code in the key, the immobilizer on the engine releases the flow of fuel, and away you go.

If you lose your key, then you need to see an automotive locksmith (like us) that can source your car’s unique code and we should be able to cut and program it to suit – depending on the make and model of your car. If your keys are stolen, we are able to program the codes in both the car and the keys (again, depending on the make and model).

 “How can I tell the keys apart on my key ring?”

Actually, there are a few ways to solve this common problem:

1/ There are little rubber caps that can sit on the top of your existing key. You could use Blue for your house key, and Red for your Mum’s front door (for example).

2/ You can use character or fun keys, like one for your local NRL team. With these, you need to be careful as there are cheap and nasty key profiles around that may not work in your lock.

3/ There are also key blanks that are coloured – these come in many different shapes and colours and for different purposes – the filing cabinet, the front door, the security door etc.

4/ You can put your keys on the key ring in a set order – first the car key, next the front door, then the security screen key etc.

 “What do I do when my key won’t turn in the ignition?”

99% of the time, your key won’t turn in the lock because of the key itself. Over time, keys suffer wear and tear until the integrity of the blade is affected.

If this happens, bring your key into Jim Roberts Locksmiths for new key cut fresh from the code. We can source your car’s unique code from the driver’s side door, the dealership or, if needs be, we may be able to cut the new key from sight (being the experienced and knowledgeable locksmiths we are).

If it’s not the key causing the problem, then you may need to look at replacing the ignition and door barrels. Having one of our team look at your vehicle will definitely point you in the right direction.


 “What should I look for if I’m buying a safe?”

There are a few things that you will need to consider when buying a same. There are many makes and models out there at different prices so people do feel a bit overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

* The first thing you need to consider is what it is you need to store/ protect. A good thing to help your focus – if the house is on fire, what would you grab if you could. Maybe it’s paperwork like birth certificates, passports, legal paperwork etc or precious jewellery, your camera or laptop.

* What size safe do you need? Think of where you’d like to put the safe. If it’s to be placed in wardrobe or tucked under a desk, measure it up to see how much space you have. Next, think of the internal measurement needed for the safe. How tall or wide are some of the items you’d like to store?

* What would you like to protect your goods from? Not all safes are created equal – some might protect from theft, but not from fire (for example).

These are great places to start. Of course, the best people to speak to are our locksmiths here at Jim Roberts Locksmiths! They can advise you on the right safe for your needs and for your budget.

 “What should I do if my safe won’t open?”

If you can’t get into your safe:

* First, you need to write down the make and model of your safe (if you can find a label, tag etc).

* Next, you should take some pictures with your phone or camera,

* Finally, get some expert help – you can contact us on 4755 2846 and the friendly locksmith can tell you his best contact method to get those photos.

Does your safe have a mechanical or digital combination?

If you have a safe with a mechanical combination, we may be able to manipulate the combination for access. The locked safe can be delivered to our workshop or we can come to your premises to examine it, whichever is convenient for you.

A safe with a digital combination may have a key override. If you’ve lost your key, our technicians may be able to pick the lock to gain access to the safe. You may also have an issue with the battery or solenoid in the digital lock. Both are issues we can look at, either in our workshop on Pilkington Street, or our efficient mobile team can look at it on site.

There are many different brands and models of safes, so those details and photos are very handy for us to help you find an effective solution.




  • Workshop: 67 Pilkington Street, Garbutt, Townsville
  • Phone: 4755 2846
  • Fax: 4755 0577


  • Mon-Fri: 8:00am - 5pm


Jim Roberts Locksmiths