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Durability of Locks and Keys

One factor that is important to some customers is the durability and strength of keys or the reliability of locks in harsh, dirty, remote, or infrequently used locations. As the issues are somewhat separate (a durable lock does not necessarily mean a strong key or vice versa) we discuss them separately. It is also important to note that all products we sell are very durable and will last for decades without issue. However, in some situations durability becomes the foremost concern over security or other features.


Durability of Locks

It is important to know that when we talk about durability we are not referring to locks just exposed to weather or used on a day to day basis. Most high security locks will operate very well even when used daily for a very long time. With durability and reliability we are primarily talking about situations in extremely harsh environments and when locks may not be used for very long periods of times. Generally locks that rely on springs (like pin tumbler locks) should be avoided when reliability in extreme conditions is a factor. While locks can typically be cleaned with proper tools or lubricants, springs can be a point of failure in harsh conditions. Avoiding complexity (and many parts) is generally a good idea when contaminants are a concern and when reliability is of importance. Some locks feature sealed or restricted keyways that make it hard for dirt to access the internals of the locks.

  • Abloy Protec(2) – The Abloy Protec(2) features a packed disk cylinder that leaves little space for dirt to enter into the main body of the lock. While dirt can enter into the keyway, due to the nature of the lock rotation, inserting and removing the key allows the lock to be self-cleaning. If the key does not work right away, after a few rotations it generally will. The Protec(2) is a fairly complex lock however, so is not the best lock (or even best Abloy lock) for extremely harsh conditions.
  • Abloy Sentry – A simpler version of the Protec(2). It has many of the same features as the Protec(2), but with fewer and larger internals it is more reliable than its more secure brother.
  • Stanton Concepts RKS Lock – The RKS is not a traditional key operated lock (see the product page for more details) but features a keyway that is nearly completely sealed off and can even be completely sealed using options like magnetic coupling. It is an extremely reliable and long lasting solution. However, due to the interface it is not for all situations.
  • ASSA Desmo – The ASSA Desmo, primarily found in cam lock and padlock form, is a very simple and reliable lock. While the keyway is open, it is fairly small and there are no easily exposed springs on the lock. The pins are forced to the proper height so the lock works reliably in most conditions on the first try. Given the open keyway, extreme dirt can pose a problem in some situations.
  • EVVA MCS – The EVVA MCS uses a primarily magnetic key allowing for most of the keyway to be completely separate from the internals of the lock. The rectangular keyway means dirt has little to catch on to, and what does stick can be easily removed with compressed air or similar. The lack of pin and spring chambers makes it quite reliable in harsh conditions and most EVVA products have an optional dust cover to prevent dirt and crime from entering.
  • Sargent & Greenleaf Environmental Padlock – The S&G Environmental line are padlocks specifically designed for harsh outdoor conditions. It is based on a rotating disk system (like the Abloy locks) but uses much wider disks with fewer total components for enhanced durability. It is also a self-cleaning lock (like the Abloy products), allowing for a key to get any dirt out through a few rotations. Unfortunately, the environmental line only includes padlocks.

Durability of Keys

Key durability is another issue that can be important in certain situations. Most high security keys use nickel silver or a similar material for enhanced durability, and will work for a very long time without issue. In some environments it is extremely crucial that a key cannot be broken or damaged due to heavy handed users, force requirements, or the restricted nature of the keys themselves. Some keys can run into strength problems near certain cuts on the keys causing weak points.

  • ASSA Desmo – Desmo keys are very thick and meant for durability. Cuts are very shallow and do not affect the strength of the key.
  • Abloy Sentry – Sentry keys are quite thick and very hard to damage. Cuts on the key do mildly affect overall strength, but the keys are designed to be quite strong.
  • Aboy Protec(2) – Protec(2) keys are fairly strong and generally hard to damage due to their shape. They are not as strong as the Abloy Sentry or several of our other durable recommendations, but are still fairly resistant to force. Deep cuts on the key do affect its overall strength, but not by a large margin.
  • EVVA MCS – MCS keys are somewhat thin but quite durable overall. The magnets are nearly impossible to reprogram and the rectangular shape resists wear quite well except directly against the long flat sides. Due to the lack of any cuts into the key the overall key integrity is not weaker at certain points on the key where cuts are.
  • Sargent & Greenleaf Environmental – While the keys themselves are small, they are fairly thick and quite durable. They are specifically designed to be simple and able to take quite a beating before actually affecting their functionality.