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The $10 part that will make your door lock safer

A lock is only as good as the hardware you use to install it

Published: April 07, 2014 02:00 PM

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A typical box strike

The promise of electronic door locks that you control from your smart phone is that they’ll make your home safer. But in Consumer Reports' door lock tests we discovered that many smart locks have the same dumb flaw as regular locks in that the hardware that attaches them to your door frame can make them vulnerable to break-ins. Fortunately, by spending $10 or less on an additional part, you can reinforce your lock and buy some peace of mind.

If a smart lock is installed without this part, called a box strike, it will be easier to crack than to hack. All an intruder has to do is aim a well-placed kick at the door to gain entry. This flaw in otherwise well-designed locks is central to our door-lock tests. For our kick-in test, we first assess how well a lock survives increasingly forceful impacts using the hardware it came with. If it doesn’t score excellent on that test, we install it with a box strike secured with four 2-inch screws. Of the 19 locks we tested, only six could resist repeated impacts with the hardware it came with. But once we secured them with a box strike and longer screws, every model was especially resistant to kick-in.

Medeco Maxum 11*603
Photo: Medeco

To evaluate the lock you have now, look at the strike plate on the door jamb. If the bolt of the lock passes through a rectangular opening in the strike plate, your lock is more vulnerable than you think. If the screws securing it are 1-inch or shorter, it’s even easier to force open the door. A box strike gives the lock a far stronger hold on the door, and the 2-inch screws anchor it to the door frame.

Of the electronic locks in our tests, only two locks from Schlage stood out as hard to kick in—the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt with Alarm BE469NX CAM 619, $200, and the Schlage BE365 V CAM 619, $130. But these, like most other locks we tested, were still vulnerable to drilling, another common way of gaining entry. For the most security all around, your best bet is still the Medeco Maxum 11*603, $190, which was best in our tests at resisting kicking, picking, and drilling.

If you’re in the market for a new lock, look at our door lock buying guide. And before heading out to shop check out our Ratings of deadbolt locks ranging from $12 to $400. And don’t forget to add a strike box for better security.

—Ed Perratore

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