Oil Pressure

Posted in life on August 20th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

Jumped into the van for the last job of the day, fired it up and pulled away. Now you get used to all sorts of irritating dings and dongs in modern vehicles, so of course they don’t serve their purpose because there are so many of them and they are so uniform that you end up ignoring them. However, this ding persisted as I pulled away and glancing down there was a red STOP illuminated as well as the oil pressure warning light. Oh dear. That looked expensive.

However, a bit of research on t’ internet the next day revealed that it’s almost never the oil pump – phew – it’s often the sensor itself that’s faulty. (Another case of warnings of questionable value!) And if not the sensor, it could be a clogged filter. Well the oil filter sounded cheaper and more doable, so I clicked-for-collection, a replacement filter from a well-known motoring chain. Then I wondered about sourcing the sensor. I know my local garage man gets regular deliveries from an outfit called Europarts, so I had a look to see where they were located. Result! There’s a branch in a little industrial estate just down the road; and they have the part; and it’s no more expensive than the filter.

I collected the sensor first and then went to the orange shop’s branch to pick up the filter, which they’d just informed me they had ready. When I picked up the filter, I could see that they’d obtained it earlier that morning from Europarts! Now I know the better order in which to do things!

The final irony is that the two spanners I had to obtain for the rather large metric nut challenges were each more expensive that the filter and sensor combined. All my large spanners, mostly inherited from my Dad, are weird imperial and American sizes. Still, a couple of large metric spanners are bound to come in useful.

It turned out to be the oil filter. So now I have a sensor spare.

And come to think about it, I had the Berlingo serviced not so long ago, at a large Citroen dealer. One is forced to wonder what they actually do at these services.

Hardwood Doors

Posted in advice, life, locksmithing on July 24th, 2014 by The Locksmith   1 Comment

If you’re lucky enough to be getting a new hardwood door, have a go at asking the carpenter, as diplomatically as you like, to use pilot holes and to wax the screws – at least on the locks.

I’ve lost count of the number of times where I’ve gone to take a lock out of a nice door and found that at least one of the screws is actually only half a screw or even less, because no pilot hole was drilled and the screw head snapped off during fitting, Hardwood is … well, hard, you see.

And today brought forth a door where pilot holes may have been drilled but the screws had become very set in their ways and weren’t going to come out without threatening to snap at any second. A bit of wax from the end of a candle onto the thread would have prevented all that. (I’m told that carpenters who take a devil-may-care attitude to their eardrums have been known to use a little extemporized wax.)

Auto-bolting Doors

Posted in advice, locksmithing on July 16th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

There’s a variety of door that makes me nervous. It’s a multi-point locking system (such as you would find on most uPVC doors), but there’s a little dingus that fires a couple of the bolts as the door shuts. It seems to me to combine the worst aspects of deadlocks and latchlocks. If a gust of wind locks you out, the door is partially deadbolted, so it’s much more difficult to get back in again and yet the door isn’t fully secured.

If you have such a door, make sure you know if it can be held back (i.e. no bolts fire as the door closes) and how the hold-back is operated.

Personally, as far as wooden doors – as we typically find in Central London – are concerned, I’m coming around to the opinon that a combination of roller-bolt rim lock and mortice deadlock are best. There are almost no doors left where the rim lock is all there is; when you’re out you’ll almost certainly be relying on the deadlock. And when you’re all in, a manual shoot bolt is one of the best opions. And a roller bolt – properly fitted – let’s you hold the door shut as you pop to the mailbox or the bins yet lets you back in with a push.

All these fancy auto-dealocking rim locks are just expensive and troublesome, for no great gain. Of course, it you do have only a rim lock then a rim lock that can also be deadbolted becomes important.


Posted in life, locksmithing on June 24th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

What is a “callout charge”? As I see it, it’s a charge that some visiting engineers make prior to even starting to charge for labour or parts. I (and most other locksmiths) don’t do that. If, on the other hand, a “callout charge” is the minimum labour charge, then I do do that. (I go a bit further, though, and make no charge if, through no fault of the customer’s, the job can’t be done.)

Most customers – especially if they’ve ever called out a plumber or a boiler engineer or … – completely understand this kind of “callout”.

Occasionally however, there are complaints: “But I can assure you that it’s only a very simple lock! It will only take you five minutes.” Of course, there’s the petrol, the parking, the van and equipment depreciation and the travelling time. And what looks like a simple lock from the outside can be anything but. And for every job you do go to, there is some other job you are not going to.

Not The Best Day

Posted in life, locksmithing on June 22nd, 2014 by The Locksmith   1 Comment

Oh dear! Out of five calls, not one turned into a job. There was the booking that got cancelled when the landlord found a spare set of keys. There was the customer collecting quotes who didn’t call back. There was the stuck communal door with a queue of people forming, just as I’d served (a rather splendid) lunch. There was the customer who just gibbered … Oh dear!

Don’t Poke

Posted in advice, locksmithing on May 30th, 2014 by The Locksmith   1 Comment

There may be one or two cases in a thousand where a paperclip or some eyebrow tweezers suceed in getting a snapped-off latch key out of the cylinder. Mostly, however, paperclips and tweezers just drive the snapped-off fragment deeper and deeper into the cylinder. So when you do eventually call the locksmith, instead of extracting the broken key with – yes – a key extractor – they end up having to drill and destroy the lock.

So please don’t poke at a snapped off keys prior to calling us.

And if someone says, “Look, how about a blob of superglue on a cocktail stick?”, restrain them, physically if necessary.

Wobbly Woodwork

Posted in advice, locksmithing on May 22nd, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

We had another lockout yesterday where the snib had been set before the door was then slammed shut.

The ‘snib’ is one name for the little dingus on many nightlatch locks that allows you to lock the bolt in – good – or out – only good if you’re inside and the door has been shut. (On high-end nightlatches like the Yale #1 (or #2) or the ERA BS nightlatch, the little button only works to hold the bolt open and allow you to pop out without the door locking behind you; it doesn’t work to lock the bolt shut.)

With a sound door and door frame, if you incorrectly used the snib to lock the bolt out whilst the door was open and then tried to shut the door, then the door would simply fail to close all the way, the bolt bouncing off the frame’s keep. If, however, you have a small bolt, as on the short versions of many Yale locks for example, and if the carpentry or wood surrounding the frame’s keep are poor, then the bolt might be able to be slammed into the keep thus locking you out if you’re on your way out.

So, a) use the snib intentionally and properly; and b) get your woodwork unwobblified.

New Property, Builders And New Locks

Posted in advice, locksmithing on May 13th, 2014 by The Locksmith   1 Comment

A few customers won’t be moving into their new premises immediately. They will be having building works done first.

Now, roughly one in ten lock changes are requested because there’s been a falling out with a builder, and the occupier is nervous about the builder having a key.

So if you’re thinking that because you’ve completed on a new property you need new keys, but in fact you won’t be moving anything in except builders for a few weeks, think about what you really need.

If you’ve an expensive system, like a standard euro cylinder that was anti-snap or had a side bar or a restricted-copying key or some other fancy feature, then it might be worth putting a cheap new lock to tide you over until the works are completed, whereupon it will then be worth it, and safe, to upgrade to the more expensive system. With us, although there’s a one hour minimum labour charge, you keep any unused time if we’re called back within four weeks in the local area.

Some systems don’t have alternatives that are significantly cheaper – the trusty Ingersoll (well, they used to be trusty) for example. Then you just have to assess what level of risk there is that, for example, incompetent estate agents continue to show people around your new property; or a previous occupant passes a key copy to their squatter mates. The estate agent problem isn’t as trivial as it might seen: we get several calls a year where the estate agent fails to pass over a deadlock key, and yet, having shown someone around, deadlocks the door thus preventing you getting back in again.

Moved In And Locked Out

Posted in advice, locksmithing on May 4th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

The commonest time to suffer getting locked out with the keys inside is just after you’ve moved in to a new place. Everything’s in a different place, the locks are different and you’re probably pretty stressed. So it’s just what you don’t need when the door slams behind you and you realize you don’t have the new keys.

There isn’t much in the way of startling advice I can give you to prevent this; other than keeping your keys about your person for the first couple of weeks at least.

The point of the post however, is getting to know your neighbours. You probably won’t know them well enough to trust them with spare keys initially. However, if your friendly locksmith is nattering to you about ID prior to getting you in; and if two neighbours from other flats in the same block come wandering by and say that they don’t know you from Adam, then it only adds to the difficulties.

NHS Versus Me – A Draw

Posted in life on April 27th, 2014 by The Locksmith   Comment

I found myself seething again yesterday. Two things had put my cancer of three years ago back in mind: one of them was the diagnosis of melanoma with subsequent removal of half an ear from someone I know. What had me seething again, even after success and a few years’ passing, was the time my diagnosis took – seven months – April to November. The main problem, it seemed to me, and the really worrying thing is that this must occur all the time, is that the primary care system doesn’t want it to be cancer and makes it one of the the last thing they consider. But, of course, even though the probability is small, the consequences of missing it and the benefits of catching it early are enormous. So it should be one of the first things they consider.

However, the second thing that brought it all back was the result of a bowel cancer screening as being all clear. The UK NHS run a postal screening program (!) for people in my age band. Which is great. So, in me versus the NHS – it’s a draw.

This is one of the cancers where early detection makes a big difference to outcome; so it’s astonishing that the uptake isn’t all that impressive. So, if you get that little kit and envelope – use it. And if you’re aged 60 to 69 in England and haven’t received a kit in the post, you can call the helpline – currently 0800 707 60 60. You can also use this number to request a kit if you’re older than the screening band. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have slightly different age bands.)

(According to the New Zealand authorities, ‘Bowel screening programmes are either running or are being piloted in Australia, the United Kingdom, most countries in the European Union, Korea, Japan, Israel and parts of Canada’.) So good on all of them.