Disappointing dead-bolt locks

June 6, 2011 8:51:32 PM PDT
Burglars break into more than half-million homes every year.

The most common tactic is kicking in the door. Consumer Reports just tested 19 dead-bolt locks and can tell you which ones will protect you and which ones won't!

In addition to conducting a kick-in test, technicians spent weeks sawing, picking, wrenching, and drilling to see how secure locks are.

Several locks come with features such as fingerprint access and keypad entry. But Consumer Reports found that many don't provide the protection they promise - even one that costs $250!

In fact, most of the locks tested could be defeated with a few hard kicks or by using a cordless drill in the right spot.

Only one lock passed all of Consumer Reports tests. It's the Medeco Maxum Deadbolt that costs $190. It's the only one that a drill couldn't get through. Testers also recommend the Falcon D241 for $55. It isn't drill resistant, but it did well in all of the other Consumer Reports tests.

Consumer Reports finds that a significant problem with most locks is that they come with a thin metal strike plate. It attaches to the doorframe with short screws that don't go into the home's framing.

If you already own a deadbolt, an easy way to strengthen it is to replace the strike plate with a more secure one. Consumer Reports recommends the Mag High Security Box Strike that goes for $10.

Door locks
Some locks could leave you vulnerable

Many of the dead-bolt locks we tested don't provide the level of protection you might expect. A few well-placed kicks or a standard cordless drill was all it took to defeat every lock except the Medeco Maxum 11WC60L, $190.

Those test results are especially unsettling because forcible entries, such as kick-ins, are the most common type of home break-ins. And 67 percent of respondents to our national survey count on dead-bolt locks to help keep their homes secure. But any dead-bolt lock is better than the common key-in-knob variety.

The only flaw we found in the Medeco lock was its brass finish, which tarnished. We tested the brushed-nickel finish of the same lock; it scored Excellent.

We spent weeks prying, hammering, picking, pummeling, and drilling locks, and few scored well. A handful proved far more susceptible than most.

Parts are often inadequate

All locks come with a strike plate that attaches to the door frame. But as we've reported in the past, far too many of those are flimsy. Except for the Assa M80, $95, the kick-in resistance of most locks improved dramatically when we replaced the strike plates with a Mag High Security Box Strike, $10. You can buy it, or its equivalent, at home centers and online. But we think a lock should be secure without your having to buy another part.

Drills easily open most locks

With all except the two locks classified as high-security, even an ordinary cordless drill could drill out the cylinders in 2 minutes or less. Our tests on the Assa and Medeco, which have hardened cylinders across the product line, ruined the locks but denied access - so you'd have to replace the lock but not your home's contents.

New technologies and old problems

The iTouchless Bio-Matic BM002U, $250, is the most expensive lock we tested. It opens by fingerprint, passcode, or key. But while it claims "maximum protection for yourself and your loved ones," it was among the easiest to defeat. We liked the convenience of the Baldwin Prestige 93800-001, $34; Kwikset 99800-087, $28; and keypad-operated Kwikset 99090-001, $100. All can be rekeyed for temporary access to guests and contractors and then rekeyed again, when access is no longer needed, without having to change the lock or call a locksmith. Yet all of those locks succumbed too easily to our prying/wrenching test.

LINKS: Consumer Reports