How Does Cam Lock Work? [Explained]

Most homeowners prefer a cam lock over the padlock to secure their cabinets, safes, and lockers. One of the main reasons why this is more useful is because of its concealed design, which is relatively simple and safe.

So, if you are really interested to use a cam lock, you should know it works.

The basic cam lock mechanism depends on the cam and groove coupling. The rotational movement of the cam screw from 90° to 180° determines whether it’s locked or unlocked.

One thing is that if you haven’t operated it yourself, it will obviously sound tricky. But don’t worry! I will guide you its some core features, how it works right away, and more!

Before going to explain how does a cam lock work? You probably know what is it.

What Is Cam Lock?

A Cam lock is basically an L-shaped lock made up of a tongue-like bar and cam nut. It follows the same mechanism as a regular lock. The simple working process is that you have to insert the key into the nut and then it creates a rotational force to unlock it.

I usually find cam locks in different furnishings such as – closures, lockers, and cabinets.

What Are The Basic Types Of Cam Lock?

You will get 2 types of Cam Lock on the market.

(i) Flat Type Cam Lock

Flat Type Cam Lock consists of tongue-like cam & screws. It features a flat opening to insert the key. Also, it comes with regular flat-shaped keys.

Flat type cam lock

(iI) Tubular Cam Lock

The basic parts of tubular cam locks are – two connected and one hollow cylinder. This hollow cylinder will act as a key to unlock it. Its opening is circular so you can unlock it by inserting the rounded key.

Besides, some homeowners prefer combo cam lock couplings with modern dials. So, you don’t need to carry the key all the time.

Tubular cam lock
Source: LK Tubular Cam Lock

How Does Cam Lock Work?

Homeowners generally install cam locks on the enclosure’s front. Let’s check the differences between tubular and flat cam locks.

 Flat Cam LockTubular Cam Lock
ComponentTongue-like cam fastener and screw.Two tubular and one hollow cylinder.
Shape of keyholeFlatCircular
Shape of keysFlatRounded
How does the cam lock work?Turn the cam screw clockwise/anticlockwise for locking & unlocking.Dive the hollow cylinder deep inside the keyhole to unlock it.
SecurityThe standard cam lock is not so efficient to resist lock picking.The tubular lock features a pin tumbler system to resist lock picking.
Cost EffectivenessAffordableComparatively expensive.

In the case of flat locks, there is a designated spot on the board to drill the screws. Its second panel has pre-drilled holes to easily adhere to the screw head.

After adhering to the panel, there will be a claw to attach the cam fastener. Now Insert the key into the keyhole, and rotate it.

Turning it clockwise or counter-clockwise from 90° to 180° will alter the orientation. Clockwise rotation tightens the lock where counter clock movement unhinges it.

Both flat and tubular cam locks function in the same manner. Actually, tubular locks function just like bike locks. Simply insert the key (hollow cylinder) into the deep inside of the hole to separate the two tubular cylinders.

After that it will push the pins to a significant depth, then it automatically alters the orientation and will unlock it.

Click here to learn more about Cam lock fittings.

How To Choose The Best Cam Lock?

Cam locks are generally available in most hardware stores in the locality.

1. Material

The quality of a cam lock will largely depend on its materials. Most users prefer to choose stainless steel/ zinc alloy over other metals.

2. Cam Lock Nut

Cam lock nut for secure joint

If you need a cam nut to connect hard materials like – wood, metal, or plastic, go for tee nuts. In this case, nut bowel connectors are best for repairing wooden furniture.

As zip bolts can bear high tension, they are best for staircase handrails.

3. Multiple locks With the same Keys

Do you need to purchase numerous cam locks? I bet it’s really a hassle to handle multiple keys at the same time. Just get a similar key to unlock all cam locks simultaneously.

If you don’t prefer keyed locks, choose thumb-turn cam locks for optimum security. Yes, they are prone to damage/theft. However, users love them for their ease of usage.

Is a cam lock strong enough?

The cam lock strength will vary as per the fitting materials. Stainless steel cam locks are pretty durable & expensive. It can easily undergo up to 500°F temperature and 100 PSI to 250 PSI pressure.

In contrast, affordable ½” to 12″ aluminum fittings can easily withstand 50psi to 250 psi. Moreover, brass fittings are especially well known for their damage & corrosion resistance.

What size cam lock do you need?

The width of your cam lock will vary as per the measurement of the two flat spots. For instance, a ⅝” two flat spots are only compatible with the ⅞” long cylinder lock.

At the end of the explanation, the cam locking system is wholesomely dependent on the combination of cam bar and screw. So be very aware as your level of handling & efficiency can design or destroy the whole project.

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Palash is an entrepreneur in the tech industry and the author of the Smart Home Protector. As a tech entrepreneur & reviewer of a home safety gadget store, his job helps customers remain on top of what's coming next in our rapidly changing world.

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