Padlocks have been around for thousands of years, originally used my travelling merchants to secure their wares as they went from place to place, they have developed and become more and more advanced over the years and are still one of the best ways to secure property and possessions.
What are Padlocks?
A padlock is a lock made up of three parts: the body, the shackle, and the locking mechanism. The body protects the mechanism from being tampered with, the shackle is the U-shaped part of the padlock that secures around the item you want to secure and into the body; usually secured by a key or code and the locking mechanism is made up of the spring, keyway design and the locking pin.
What are the different types of Padlocks?
The type of padlock you need will depend on what you will be using it for. There are 4 main padlock types, open shackle, closed shackle, long shackle, and straight shackle.
This is the most common type of padlock and the one you probably think of when you think of padlocks; it can be used for moderate to high security purposes. It provides straight forward security and easy access through the use of a key or combination – making it a popular choice for many people securing their home and valuables.
You need to be mindful however, as the longer the shackle the more vulnerable it will be for cutting or snapping.
Closed shackle padlocks are ones where the amount of exposed shackle is minimal to make the padlock more secure. Used mainly for high security purposes due to the design, there is the issue that there is not an abundance of space available to secure something large, which makes these an uncommon selection for many people domestically.
Similar in design to the open shackle but with a significantly longer shackle, these are best used when you have multiple items to secure. However, like with the Open Shackle padlock, the longer the shackle the more at risk it will be for thieves to tamper with and possibly force open.
The simplest in design, a straight shackle is designed in a U shape with holes at the end where a bar passes through to secure the loop. This type of padlock is used for securing containers, gates, or bike chains and often for commercial use multiple can be bought to be used with the same key, which is beneficial for those with lots of good to protect or a business.
Which Type of Padlock is Most Secure?
This is not a straightforward answer, as the right padlock for you depends on what you need it for. There are some different security features that padlocks can change how secure a padlock lock is. We will go through the different aspect of some padlocks to help you decide which one you might want to buy.
Laminated Steel Padlocks
This type of padlock is made up of a stack of steel plates attached together to make the padlock body. The steel shape is extremely strong, so it’s perfect for protecting the locking system against attacks like hammering or drilling. They come in all shapes and sizes, so be sure to bought to secure pretty much anything.
These padlocks, unsurprisingly, are fitted with a combination lock rather than a keyed lock. These are best used when you have multiple people needing to open the lock as anyone that knows the code can have access. Plus its more secure for people to know the code, rather than having multiple keys.
Combination locks usually have 3- or 4-digit combination and can be reset at any time, this is especially good for a business who has a turnover of staff. You can change the code easily if a member of staff leaves.
Discus padlocks are known as the most secure, as the shackle is almost completed shrouded, meaning it’s harder for a thief to break open with bolt cutters. They often have high corrosion resistance and anti-pick features that make them suitable for outdoor use.
However, like we mentioned before, due to the covered shackle they can’t secure large or multiple items, so be sure what you need to secure will fit in the discus padlock before you buy it.
These are perfect for securing items or doors that are exposed to the elements. Weather-proof padlocks are made with thermo-plastic sheathed brass, hardened steel or sometimes aluminium. These do tend to be more expensive than non-weather-proof locks, but you get what you pay for and having to by multiple padlocks that degrade, might be more expensive than paying out for a weather-proof padlock. Depending on where your padlock is going and what type of weather it will be exposed to, you can find various levels of protection with weather-proof padlocks.
Padlocks make from brass are the most popular type of padlock by far, this is because they wont shatter when hit with a hammer. This means they provide high security whilst also being affordable. As they are so common, they come in almost every shape and size, meaning you will be able to find one that fits your needs. The brass also makes them resistant to degrading and general wear and tear. They are suitable for securing entrance ways as well as small gadgets.
Confusingly, Shackleless padlocks, do in fact, have shackles but they are just completely covered and protected by a solid body. They normally have a heavy-duty clasp and are made with high strength and high durability metals, to offer the maximum security.
Keyed Alike Padlocks
These are classed as a group of padlocks (two or more) that have the same key. Keyed alike padlocks are easier than having to keep track of multiple keys, especially if you have a business with several members of staff. Everyone having a key that opens all the padlocks, will ultimately save you time and money, however, if you lose track of who has a key your security could be at risk.
What Type of Padlock do I Need?
The type of padlock you need will depend on what you are using it for; outside or inside, entryway or possession, high security, or low security, these are all considerations when choosing a padlock. We will go through what you might need to consider when choosing your padlock.
What Size of Padlock Do I Need?
Padlocks are usually measured by their body and generally start at 50mm and go to 80mm.
The size you need completely depends on what you are securing. The most important this to look for is the thickness of the shackle, you need to make sure that whatever you are putting the shackle through (eyelet or bike chain etc) will fit. You also need to check that the horizontal and vertical clearance are greater than the thickness of anything you want to thread through.
What Are You Securing?
Essentially what is the thing you are securing worth. If you are securing an entry to a shed that’s housing an expensive item, or padlocking a bike worth thousands of pounds, then it’s best investing in a high security lock, such as a closed shackle or shackless. However, if you are just securing some chairs somewhere, like at a beach hut or in a garden, then you’re best sticking with a basic budget padlock such as a brass or open shackle.
Is it Internal or External?
It’s standard practice that most padlocks come with some form of water resistance, so can be used outside. However, they are likely to rust or corrode over time due to the hardened steel brass coating.
If you know that your lock is going to come into contact with water often, then you may want to consider getting a specific waterproof one. Water isn’t the only thing you need to contend with, outside factors such as dirt, mud or grit can cause your padlock to become difficult to use. If your padlock is likely to encounter these substances regularly then you may need to consider getting a covered padlock.
Do You Need Keyed or Coded Padlock?
This depends on how many people will be locking and unlocking the padlock. Padlocks that are keyed alike have one generic key that works on a group, this would be ideal for commercial spaces where you want easy access to everything.
Combination padlocks, however, are good for situations where you have multiple users and don’t want to worry about keys going missing. The plus is that you can change the combination at any time, if a staff member leaves, for example.
All these factors will contribute to what padlock that you need to buy. Take time to access what you need your padlock for and do some research before going out and buying the first one you see.
Why are Padlocks Called Padlocks?
The term padlock comes from the late fifteenth century, the origin of the word ‘pad’ is unknown, however the work ‘lock’ comes from the Old English ‘Loc’ which originates from the German term ‘loch’ meaning hole.
Are Padlocks Expensive?
This will depend on what type of padlock you buy but a standard padlock should only set you back a few pounds. However, a high security padlock can start from around £25.
Which is Better, a Keyed Padlock or Combination Padlock?
This also depends on what you are using if for. If there are going to be many people using the padlock then a coded lock might be the better option, as if a key gets lost that’s bad for security. However, a keyed lock could be considered more secure, as its possible to guess a code.
Is it Hard to Break a Padlock?
A basic padlock with an exposed shackle can be broken with bolt cutters relatively easily. However you can invest in some high security options which are manufactured to withstand this kind of attack.