Tool Box Locks: How Secure Are Your Tools, Really

Tool Box Locks: How Secure Are Your Tools, Really?


Some of us have a couple of cheap screwdrivers, a hammer, and a huge undifferentiated mass of screws and washers in a plastic tool box. Locks aren’t the first thing some of us think about. Others of us have (or are just beginning to build) a decent, moderately expensive collection of home or car tools, and are wondering if the lock on the garage door is really sufficient anymore. A few of us have a big percentage of their livelihood tied up in a professional grade set of tools, and would be devastated if they wandered off, both financially and emotionally.

Each type of reader will need something different from their tools, from their tool boxes, and from their tool box locks. We’ll try to provide a bit of advice for each kind of user, as well as blowing our own horn a little about the quality of the locking mechanisms on DECKED tool box products.

Combination padlock on a tool box



Does My Tool Box Even Need To Lock?

Not necessarily. Now, hear me out. That depends on 3 main factors. 1) How tempting a target your tools actually make, 2) How personally upset you would be if someone accessed your tools without your permission, and 3) the size of your tool box.

If your tools are very valuable to others, then the temptation to steal them will be higher. If you are working around other people or leaving your tools unattended for long periods, the opportunity to steal or “borrow” some of your tools will eventually arise. If they are cheap, home-grade screwdrivers and so on, few but the pettiest of thieves would bother.

You might not even want a lock, because you would have the extra step of unlocking the tool box when you wanted to use it. Putting a tool box lock on such items might even work against you. A potential thief might be tempted to smash or pry open a locked tool box in hopes of finding something worth locking up. If your tool box is more expensive than your tools, consider not locking it at all.

Now, unauthorized access doesn’t only mean thievery. Some people, such as myself, are very particular about how and where their tools are stored. We like to find them just as we left them, everything in its place. If you live or work with others (and who doesn’t?), you might want to either keep them out of your tool box entirely. Failing that, you might use tool box locks as a social signal. Everyone knows where the keys are for emergencies, but they can’t very well say they forgot they weren’t supposed to get into your tools if they had to go get the keys first.

At the very least, if they go to that much trouble, they might try to clean the tools and put them back properly to avoid your wrath.

Lastly, I mentioned the actual size of your tool box. Why? Because if your tool box is huge, unlocking it might be the only way to access the tools inside. No burglar is going to run off with a Snap-on combination box weighing a ton or more with tools. And if they do, they need to make a movie about them.

DECKED Drawer System Lock


However, if you have a hand-portable tool box, tool box locks don’t actually prevent theft. A thief could just pick it up and run off, opening it with power tools, a large rock, or by kicking it 10 or 20 times, depending on its construction and level of sophistication. A tool box lock on a tiny tool box only gets in your way.


Why Do Thieves Target Tools?

Simply put, the decision is usually economic. Expensive, professional tools have a very high resale value, and are difficult to identify. A thief who breaks into your garage or workshop is going to know this, and come prepared to make off with several hundred pounds of gear that they can pawn, or more likely today, sell online quickly.

Again, this varies with setting and tool quality. That Chinese screwdriver set you picked up at the grocery store – you know, the one that you’re half convinced is copper with a chrome surface? No one wants that. You wouldn’t even be sad if someone took them. But $2,000 worth of branded tools in a $500 tool box? Even if a thief only gets 20% of the actual value for them, it’s not bad for a night’s work.

Tool theft wartime poster




External tool Box Locks: What To Look For

Key Locks

Key locks are the traditional padlock solution, and the standard for locking everything from the backyard shed to a child’s diary. They are easy to use, and only someone with a copy of the key (or a hammer) can open the lock. As locks for tool box use, keyed locks are the traditional solution for their simplicity and reliability.

Look for a recognized brand name, a complicated-looking key and a lock that is only just small enough to fit the locking hasp on your tool box. If your tool box is weatherproof, water-resistant, or waterproof, tool box locks are a good idea too.


Combination Locks

Combination padlocks (like for school lockers) are another popular choice. Mechanically, they work about as well as keyed locks. The difference is that instead of losing the key, you can forget the combination.

Again, look for a good brand. Choose one with a 5-digit combination if you can, and keep a copy of that combination somewhere safe. Not inside the tool box, though.


Internal or Integrated Tool Box Locks: What To Look For

Cylinder Tool Box Locks

The current state-of-the-art tool box lock is the cylinder lock. This is the same locking technology used in your front door and your car, and it is a very mature technology. The basis of a cylinder lock is the series of spring-loaded pins or tumblers inside the lock body. When a key is inserted, it forces the pins up and down. Only the correct key will both fit in the lock and jostle all of the pins into the correct positions to allow the cylinder to turn, opening the lock.

Some manufacturers of tool box locks spend their design and development efforts mostly on the tumbler system, making it even harder to duplicate by chance or with a lockpick. Others make the key an unusual shape, making it more difficult to even get lock-picks into the mechanism. Really expensive locks use both.

Flat Cam Cylinder Lock and Key





A Detailed Look At A Few Tool Box Locks You Can Buy Today


Sears craftsman Replacement Tool Box Locks


Craftsman Tool Box Locks

Sears sells genuine Craftsman brand replacement tool box locks like the model 115398 pictured here. A kit like this comes with 2 locks and 2 matching keys, and either key will open both locks. This set was designed to fit any of the 40-inch or 52-inch heavy-duty combination boxes Craftsman has made recently. Of course, it might fit other brands as well.

This set features a tubular key. This is a tamper-proofing mechanism designed to make it all but impossible to manipulate the tumblers without a very specific tool or the key itself.



Weather Guard Paddle Handle lock Kit




WeatherGuard Tool Box Locks

WeatherGuard sells truck tool box replacement locks as well. This is a WeatherGuard 7801, which fits a variety of different WeatherGuard truck-mounted tool boxes, including many of their underbed tool boxes, jumbo underbed boxes, and hi-side tool boxes.

This is a cylinder lock integrated into a paddle handle. Locks often come like this for several reasons. The first is that it would be difficult to extract the lock from the steel handle in the first place, and the second is that the latch itself can fail. This kit replaces both at once, making the job much easier.



Kennedy tool box lock and keys



Kennedy Tool Box Locks

Of course, Kennedy Tool makes replacement lock kits for their tool storage solutions. As you’ll see with many of the better-quality tool box locks on offer today, this set uses a tubular key instead of the traditional blade-style key.

Kennedy’s tool box locks are almost all made in the USA, and are made of good quality steel. This makes them a good choice not only for Kennedy branded tool boxes but any other tool box with essentially the same lock profile.


Harbor Freight Icon lock and key



Harbor Freight Tool Box Locks

This Icon branded lock and key set, sold by Harbor Freight, is a simple and inexpensive tool box locking solution with a few ingenious tricks. It opts for the traditional blade-key, but with a twist that makes it very tamper-resistant.

As you can see, the key ridges are carved into the negative space on the inside of the blade. This makes them more difficult to manipulate from the outside. While this is one of the least expensive lock kits featured today, it is a fine choice for Harbor Freight and other compatible tool boxes.



Stratec lock and key for RKI tool box



RKI Tool Box Locks

This is perhaps the most traditional of the tool box locks we’re featuring today. This item, the RKILOCK B-S BX, is billed as a universal cylinder lock replacement for RKI tool boxes.

However, if you need truck tool box locks, you might be better served buying a paddle latch assembly as well, and replacing both. It could save you a great deal of time and effort.



Mac Tools Titan tool box



Delta Tool Box Locks

This is a simple, classic cylinder lock which is made to fit any Delta tool box with 3 paddle-handles or 2 T-handles. This is a good steel lock cylinder, with a brass mounting ring, and a pair of brass keys.

There aren’t any “special” anti-tampering features, this is a very traditional small cylinder lock. But remember, these traditional tool box locks are like sharks. They have very little need of changing. 99% of the people you meet wouldn’t know a lockpick from a toothpick. In other words, this should be plenty good enough.


Tool Box Locks On The DECKED Drawer System – Doubly Safe, Doubly Secure

The DECKED Drawer System is a pair of independently locking drawers that mount under a raised deck protector made of high impact poly resin and steel reinforcement. Not only can each drawer be used as a large mobile tool box, but they can also store and organize your smaller tool boxes and tool totes.

This has the added advantage of letting you leave all of your smaller tool boxes unlocked. Who needs tool box locks when the drawer you keep them in locks tight?

But why did I say, “doubly secure?”Well, the tool box locks on the drawers are not your only line of defense. The gate of your pick-up or the rear door of your SUV close over all access to the DECKED Drawer System. Unless a thief can get past that, they will never even get near the locks on the drawers.


DECKED drawer system in use on a worksite 




The DECKED Tool Box Locks – An Iron-Clad Solution, Literally

DECKED Tool Boxes mount behind the cab on pick-ups and work trucks. They are literally built to stand up to the weather, and anything else your work or play might throw at them. The high impact polymer case is reinforced with both steel and aluminum, and you’ll never find a sturdier truck box. But we’re here to talk about tool box locks.  


DECKED Tool Box containing DECKED D-Box


The locking mechanism on the DECKED Tool Box is a very well-made steel cylinder lock, but that’s just the beginning. We literally armored the lock and the area around it in steel. A thief might be able to get into the DECKED tool box with power tools, but they will never simply pry it open – something no aluminum truck box can say.


We’re glad you could take the time to learn about tool box locks with us, and to see the tool box security features DECKED has to offer. Just remember: if you are in the market for secure, weatherproof vehicle-mounted tool storage, DECKED is the answer!