Nine years ago, we installed a state-of-the-art, hardened-steel, deadbolt lock with fingerprint-sensor on the front door, in response to one of the editors locking herself out on a holiday weekend and having no way of getting in, because the other editor was in New York City (finding the situation très très amusant) and wouldn’t be returning until the following day. Yes, there is a great story there, but it will have to wait…
Anyway, after nine years, that super-secure biometric lock apparently suffered a catastrophic failure, and the lock would no longer engage. After taking it apart, it was clear that the maker had not used hardened steel in the ONE part which, while not directly attack-able from the outside, was something that got stressed with every open and every close.
Realizing that 1) the lock was probably fixable, and 2) it was unlikely that it would be fixed immediately, we went back to the tried and true method of locking the door: a manual deadbolt.
The Temporary “Fix”
What we bought was a $25 Schlage deadbolt from Home Depot which may or may not be as secure as the $450 fancy pants NextBolt biometric lock. The obvious downside, of course, is that we all now have one more key to carry around…and the possibility of once again locking ourselves out.
The installation was pretty much plug-n-play as all the holes were standard sizes. We won’t go through the process in detail, but it was as simple as:
- Insert the deadbolt from the edge of the door;
- Insert the front part of the lock through the deadbolt;
- Insert the rear part of the lock with the lock/unlock lever;
- Tighten the two long bolts that secure the back of the lock to the front of the lock.
Once we had the security issue addressed, we could now take the time to figure out what exactly had gone wrong with the NextBolt, how it could be fixed, and to fix it.
A fingerprint biometric hardened-steel deadbolt is only as strong as its weakest part, which in this instance was inside the deadbolt itself.
After taking the NextBolt off the door, it was easy to see that random little piece all by itself was actually part of the part that failed. Below is a close up: the squarish piece of metal on the the table used to be part of the long piece that turns the deadbolt that locks the door.
The section had snapped cleanly off, probably because 1) it was pre-scored for cutting and 2) it had suffered metal fatigue after 9 years of use. We were pretty confident that the part could be replaced if we could track it down.
For what it’s worth, the lock will fit a 1 3/8″ thick door instead of a more standard 1 3/4″ thick door. So it is not useless, even if we were not able to replace the piece.
After some Googling, we learned that the company had gone out of business in 2014, but the assembly looked to be standard. However, we did locate a company called GoKeyLess who bought out the NextBolt’s stock, and had the tailpiece available!
Installing the tailpiece was the reverse of its removal. Once installed, the new tailpiece still had to be cut to size (1 3/4″) to fit the door. A portable Dremel with a cutting blade made it simple, but we had to make sure not to make a flying projectile out of the tip.
(The safer way to cut the tailpiece to size would have been to cut until the excess was almost off, then break it off with pliers, we realize now.)
With the new tailpiece in place, the repair was complete and ready for reinstallation on the door.
We had previously detailed the installation process so we won’t repeat it here. As the batteries had been removed during the repair, all of the prints previously stored were lost. We had to reprogram the unit from scratch.
Mechanically, the NextBolt is probably as strong as any biometric lock out there, but in the years since this lock came onto the market, a lot of improvements have made the programming of this type of device much easier. Programming the NextBolt is a pain-in-the-@ss, to put it kindly. Still, once done, the lock worked perfectly.
Even after nine years, we still like the NextBolt enough to go through the trouble of fixing it and keeping it in service, even with all of the newer options out there.
While it might not be our first choice if were were to install a biometric/remote lock today, we are happy to have it back on our front door!
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