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How They Work: Universal Cam Locks and how to make them Key Retaining

Going over the multipurpose cam lock kit by showing you all the parts and pieces that are included with it, then go over how you can make these cam locks either key retaining or non-key retaining and how you can take an existing cam lock in the field and make it a key retaining cam lock.

cam lock

These multipurpose cam lock kits come in various sizes, including 7/16, 5/8, 7/8, and 1 1/8. Note that there are a few more sizes, but the ones listed are the most popular.

When you tear it all down, you can see there's just a lot of stuff that goes everywhere. Let me guide you on assembling it, and as you do, I will explain each piece.

 cam lock kit

Start by taking the cylinder and put it in. There's a little beauty ring on the outside of the cam lock, but you can put another one if you need an extra. This is what it will look like.

 Cam lock cylinder

Next is to take this piece and to put it on. This piece is going to fill the gap in the door.


Push it inside, then wedge it in so when you put the nut on, it's going to make it nice flush and tight up against the door.

 replacing a cam lock

But if you can't use this type of application, and you need to use a clip, you can purchase those separately. There is a little notch on each side that you would use to clip down on. Check the link to that clip so you can see it.

 cam lock locksmith tips

Now figure out which cam you want to install or use. The pack contains two different cam sizes: a quarter turn and a half turn, or I guess 180 degrees.

 cam locks

In this example, I used the quarter-turn one. You'll notice that there's this little tiny metal piece sticking, that's for these little cams to run up against. Once you installed it, you can turn and stop depending on where you want your key to stop using the right cam piece.

 how to replace a cam lock

Once you have that figured out, please take one of the tailpieces and attach it. It comes with these two tailpieces right here, and both can be modified if needed. It's not uncommon to put one of these into your vise and bend or grind on it a little bit. That's no problem.

 locksmith tips - cam locks

Once you have that figured out, put the cam on the back and then take this tiny screw and go ahead and put it together.

And that is how you assemble a cam lock.

 cam lock

We can now turn a cam lock into a key retaining or non-key retaining using these little parts and pieces.

 cam lock repair

If you put a cam lock in the lock position, you can take the key out; you can turn it, and you can't get the key out. That's called key retaining. This is popular in the setting of a towel dispenser.  Meaning when it's locked, you put the key in, open it, pop it down, and the key will not fall out. You put it back up; you turn it, you can pull the key out. 

My example was in the non-key retaining setup, so I'll take it apart and make it into key retaining.

Once you disassembled it, put one of these plastic pieces into one of these four slots, the spot where you want to go the turn, and not get that key out. So when you were to pull the key out, it's just going to come out, and these wafers are going to pop up, and it gives you the space to pop the wafers up.

 cam locks

At that point, that's how you know it's key retaining, and you're just going to make sure that when you put the cans and the pieces on the back, it's aligned perfectly.

 cam lock

That's how you take a cam lock from non-key retaining to key retaining. The last part I want to share here is if you're on the job, and there's a cam lock, a non-key retaining, that you want to make a key retaining one, and you don't have any of these little extra plastic pieces laying around, let me show you what you can do or use to make one of these. You can use a part of a drinking plastic bottle or improvise one then make a cut that could match on the spot for the little plastic.

 cam lock guide

So if you have something similar to this, you can make these little plastic pieces if you need to make a non-key retaining cam lock key retaining. I hope this helped. Thanks, and we'll see you next time!


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