Key Decoders: What They Are And How They Work

A key decoder is used in the lock and key industry to determine the correct key for a particular lock. While traditional locksmiths can manually decode each lock and key, key decoders used by professional locksmiths like Keys On Wheels make this process much easier and more efficient. In this post, we’ll explore key decoders, how they work, and why they are essential for modern locks and key professionals.

What are Key Decoders

Key decoders are a type of tool used for rekeying locks and keys. The process involves decoding a lock so that a new key can be made to fit it. It is an effective way to gain access to a locked property without having to replace the entire lock.

Types Of Key Decoders

Pin Tumbler and Wafer Decoders

These are the most common types of key decoders used today. These decoders use a combination of pins, wafers, and other components to decode a key. The pins and wafers within the decoder are arranged in a specific order and must be correctly aligned in order for the decoder to activate. In most cases, this type of key decoder requires a spare key, and it also requires correct reading of the bitting for correct decoding.

Pin tumblers and wafer decoders are great for those who need quick and reliable access to their car locks, front door lock, desk drawers, and some types of padlocks.

Disk Detainer Decoders

This type of key decoder is a bit more sophisticated than Pin Tumblers and Wafer Decoders. They feature an internal disk that must be manipulated or rotated to decode a key. Disk Detainer Decoders can be used to decode a variety of different keys, including keys with large flat heads, keys with small flat heads, and keys with angled heads.

To decode a key using a disk detainer decoder, you’ll need some level of expertise as it requires more technicality than other key decoders.

Tubular Decoders

Tubular decoders are less common than the other types of decoders. These key decoders look like normal non-tubular keys with bitting or are similar to a sheet of plastic with bumps. The bumps and bitting make it easier to measure the depth of the cuts on the key. Decoding using a tubular decoder is somewhat less complicated; it involves taking the measurement of the biting against the bumps on the decoder. Repeat this until you take the reading for the entire key.

Tubular Decoders are usually used for locks with higher security than other decoders can provide, and they require a certain level of skill and knowledge to operate.

SmartKey Decoders

The SmartKey decoder is a camera-like device shaped like a key that can decode Kwikset SmartKey locks. To decode using this type of decoder, you’ll have to insert the key-shaped camera into the lock. When the camera gets into the lock, it’ll take a picture of the inner part of the lock and thereafter send the picture to your smartphone. With the picture, it’ll be easy to create the perfect chart of the depth and number of each pin. The measurement taken using the chart is the code required to rekey the lock.

Benefits of Using Key Decoders


Key decoders are designed to make the process of rekeying your locks faster and easier. When you use a key decoder, you can quickly identify the type of lock you have and the number of pins it contains. This helps you quickly rekey the lock without having to count pins or measure the lock yourself.


Key decoders are designed to provide accurate information about the lock you’re rekeying. These decoders generate the precise code required to create a new key or lock. In other words, key decoders ensure that you won’t be left guessing and that the rekeying process is done correctly.


Key decoders are designed to save time and effort. This means that you won’t have to spend hours counting pins or measuring the lock yourself. All the complex work has been done for you, leaving you with simple tasks, hence saving you time and effort.

Cost Effectiveness

Key decoders can be an affordable way to rekey your locks and keys. They are typically less expensive than changing the entire lock.

Key decoders are an essential tool for any locksmith or homeowner. They can help you quickly and easily rekey locks and gain access to locked properties. There are many different types of key decoders available, each with its own set of features and benefits. Understanding the different types of key decoders can help you choose the right one for your needs.

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