When people think of padlocks, they usually imagine a rectangular block with an upside-down ‘u’ on top and a keyhole on the front. Whilst this style of padlock is available to buy, there is more to it. Padlocks are available in various colours, sizes, shapes and some suited to one task over another. Plus, there are many ways to unlock a padlock these days. From the old fashioned key and PIN to padlocks with biometrics and Bluetooth.
How do you know which one is the right one for your security task? Here we’ll navigate through the main types of padlocks and what they are best suited for.
The utility sector such as gas, electricity, water and communications commonly use specialty padlocks. What makes these padlocks different is in the way it is keyed. They don’t use regular key systems. Instead, they are keyed specifically for use by the utility company. You will likely see these locking meter boxes, electrical cabinets. One example is the padlocks keyed for the 003 fire department key and only come in red. These include Lockwood 225 Padlock 003, and ABUS 72IB40 keyed to 003. The 003 padlocks are found on fire safety equipment such as fire extinguisher cabinets and hydrant locking wheels.
The Lock out tag out (LOTO) padlocks fall under this category as well. Used in industrial settings, LOTO padlocks feature a clear visual warning of ‘Danger’. Alongside safety processes and procedures, LOTO padlocks can help meet all required regulations. Without implementing proper lock out padlocks and safety processes, you risk the safety of your workers.
TSA (Transportation Security Administration) padlocks are suitable for all suitcases, bags and luggage. In particular, TSA approved padlocks are necessary when travelling by air. Countries like the USA, Canada, Japan, Israel, Finland, Austria and South Korea require travellers to use this lock. It allows airport security the ability to screen all passengers’ luggage before loading them into the plane. This screening can involve opening a passenger’s luggage for a closer inspection. Using a TSA-approved lock, airport security can safely unlock your luggage using the TSA master key. Without one, they can use bolt cutters to gain access to your luggage instead. Examples include the AirBolt travel lock and the ABUS TSA range, including a 37mm steel cable padlock.
These padlocks use various names, including ‘weatherproof outdoor’, ‘weather resistant’, ‘extreme weatherproof’ and ‘Mariner’. Weather-resistant padlocks are great for use in harsh outdoor environments, from the outback to the salty areas of the coast. These padlocks are heavy-duty, using corrosion-resistant internal components. Shackles and bodies use weather-resistant materials such as brass, laminated steel or aluminium stainless steel. Some padlocks come with a plastic or vinyl jacket to give that extra protection from the weather, dirt and moisture. A few such examples include the ABUS Extreme Padlock and the Master Lock Weather Resistant Padlock. These padlocks are best suited for boats, ships, industrial plants, containers and in locations close to the ocean.
Combination padlocks are a common sight on student lockers and at the gym. These locks come in two forms, the circular combination and the 3/4 digit spin dial. There is no key; instead, it uses a 3 to 4 digit code placed in sequential order to unlock the shackle. The combination padlocks are best suited to secure low-value or low theft risk items such as cupboards, tool boxes, lockers and bicycles (in conjunction with other bike locks). Popular brands that supply combination padlocks include ABUS and Master Lock.
The monoblock is a rectangular shaped padlock. These padlocks are aimed for use in commercial and industrial applications. It features a straight line shackle, making it ideal for resisting cutting attacks. Monoblocks are perfect for securing valuables or goods of greater value or are at a high risk of theft. You can secure roller shutters, gates, shipping containers and trucks.
As the name suggests, disc padlocks are in the shape of a disc. The closed shackle is slightly curved, making it great for resisting bolt cutter attacks. Due to the shackle length, it only provides the user with a small opening. So do your research to make sure it will fit your requirements. Disc padlocks are ideal for storage units, trucks and garage doors.
Closed Shackle padlocks
Closed Shackle padlocks are a great option if you want to minimise the exposure of the shackle. These types of padlocks are highly resistant to bolt cutters. Closed shackle padlocks are often found on shipping containers and in other industrial settings. Care is required when handling closed shackle padlocks. Once you unlock it, unlike most padlocks, the shackle will disconnect from the body completely. One example is the ABUS83CS/50 Closed Shackle Padlock. This padlock meets industry standards for durability and strength. It is compatible with most restricted keying systems, where the cylinder is removable for service or rekeying.
What to look for when buying a padlock
1. Know your padlock choices
Before deciding on what type of lock to look at, think about your security needs carefully. What are you trying to protect with a padlock? Is it a shed, gate, cabinet, trailer, bicycle or motorbike? What is the value of the item you are trying to protect? Does the locking device (chain, bolt, fence etc.) match the security and strength of the padlock or vice versa? Remember, for home security, in particular, the front door, deadbolts are the go-to options. So for the ultimate security for your home, check out this must read guide.
2. Choice of metals
It’s not always an obvious point to consider when shopping for a padlock. So consider the metals it's made from. This can make a massive difference to its durability and functionality. Most padlocks are of steel and brass. But, depending on your security needs, you may need to consider weather-resistant coatings such as chrome and zinc. Plastic and reinforced metals are ideal too. Next, consider whether the padlock will be indoors or outdoors. Will the padlock be in a corrosive environment, such as a boat trailer or near the beach?
Metals such as pressed steels, solid brass, solid steel alloys and laminated steel are the most common metals used in padlock bodies. It’s the body of the padlock that protects the internal lock mechanism when attacked. So you’ll want to ensure you’ve picked a sturdy lock body with the right metal type for the job. Look for hardened and stainless steel when it comes to getting a top-quality padlock. These are the hardest for thieves to break.
3. Padlock build quality and function
Quality is key when buying the best padlock for security. Opt for ones engineered to withstand brute force. High-quality models will have parts machined to highly accurate tolerances for better resistance too. To determine what level of quality the lock should be, consider the function of the lock. Will it be locking a shed, mailbox, roller door, cabinet, bicycle, trailer or shipping container?
4. Safe and secure shackles
The shackle is usually the first point of attack. Thieves will try to break the shackle with bolt cutters or a saw, so you want this to be as heavy-duty as possible. High-quality padlocks will also come with a locking mechanism, securing the shackle in two places with the body. Choose between closed, open or semi-enclosed shackles. You will also need to check that the diameter of the padlock will fit into what you are locking. Plus, you need to ensure that the padlock can get around any obstacles to shut.
5. Multiple key options
Choosing a padlock that offers the largest amount of key variations is ideal. It means that it is less likely for the key to be copied and thus used without permission. For extra security, opt for a restricted key system. Using a restricted key system will prevent those particular keys from being copied.
6. Level of security
Each lock has a level of security that determines what applications they are best suited for. Again, consider the function of the lock before deciding what level of security works best for you. Levels of security are categorised by ‘locking grades’. For example, grade 1 offers the highest level of safety. Residential lever locks are usually available in grades 2 and 3 and should be BHMA certified.
Final notes It's also worth noting to check with your insurance policy if you need to meet any policy requirements for securing certain items. Similarly, check for heavy-duty padlocks that meet Australian Standards AS4145.4 2002. Head to the marketplace of Secure Your World for a wide range of padlocks and suiting various application needs.