Broken Key Stuck In Your Lock?
Have you ever experienced that gut-wrenching feeling when you stick your key in your door, give it a twist, and SNAP, it breaks in half?
Unfortunately, this happens from time to time and often when you least expect it, but you shouldn’t panic. There are 9 easy ways to remove the broken key from the lock using various tools and common household items without ever having to call a locksmith. However, Mr. Rekey is always available to help you with any problems you may have with your locks or keys.
The method that will work best for you depends on the type of lock you’re dealing with, how far into the lock your key is wedged, what you have on hand, and how much time you have to devote to your key-extracting endeavor.
One thing that will simplify your job significantly, regardless of which approach you decide to take, is spray lubricant (like WD-40). Whatever brand you might already have should do the trick, though graphite or some other form of dry lubricant will be less likely to gum up the lock. Just apply it directly around the portion of the key that is stuck in the lock to help it slide out more easily.
Another helpful tool to have is a pair of needle nose pliers. If you are able to work the key far enough out of the lock to get a good hold on it, you can grab the end and pull it the rest of the way out with the pliers. If there is already a remnant of the key sticking out when it breaks, you may be able to remove it with the pliers and forgo the time and energy of using one of the following methods.
STOP! Before You Try to Remove the Key
Before you unintentionally cause yourself additional trouble, there are a few things you need to know before attempting to remove a broken key from a lock.
Many people’s initial reaction is to try and use the remaining half of the key in conjunction with the broken half to try and open the lock even after the key breaks. DO NOT DO THIS. The further you push the broken piece into the lock, the more difficult it will be to remove, and some methods may not work at all if the key is lodged too deeply within the lock.
While you will not need the remaining half of the key to open the door, you do want to hang on to it. Once you extract the other half, you can take the two pieces to a locksmith or local hardware store to have a new key made.
Finally, remember that every scenario is slightly different, and this is not an exact science. You can use similar methods with different tools based on what is available to you, and you may have to use trial and error to figure out what will work best in your specific situation.
9 Methods for Removing a Broken Key Stuck in a Lock
- Key Extractor Tool
- Tapping the Lock
- Mini Saw Blade
- Probe & Pull Method
- Pushing the Key
- Two Ways to Use Scissors
- Using Tweezers
- Super Glue Trick
- Last Resort: Drilling
1. Professional Broken Key Extractor Tool
Keys break more often than you might think, and there is actually a specific tool made for extracting broken keys from locks. Most people probably don’t have one of these laying around, though now is the time to use it if you do, but they can be purchased for just a few dollars online or at select hardware stores (call ahead to save yourself the trip in case they do not carry the tool).
To use the extractor, slide it into the keyway along the part of the key that engages the lock, also called the bitting. Once the extractor is in place, twist it slightly and pull. The goal is to use the small hook at the end of the tool to catch the teeth of the key. You might have to try a few times before it comes free, but with a little persistence, you should have your key out in no time.
2. Tapping the Lock
In some situations, you may not need any extra tools at all. If your key breaks inside of a padlock or a lock with a removable cylinder, you can often slide the key out with nothing but your own strength and a little help from gravity. However, the addition of lubricant will still help expedite the process.
All you need to do is firmly hold your lock and tap it forcefully against the edge of a hard surface, being sure not to cover the keyhole. With a little effort, the key should slide out of the lock, at least enough to allow you to grab the end with your pliers or fingers and pull it the rest of the way out.
3. Key Removal With a Small Jigsaw or Mini Hacksaw Blade
Don’t have time to hunt down a professional broken key extractor? Not to worry - you can craft your own.
Hardware stores may not carry many locksmithing tools, but they are sure to have a wide selection of different hacksaw or jigsaw blades that will work just as well to help remove your broken key. Since they tend to come in packages containing multiple blades, you might want to check your garage or toolbox to see if you already have a few handy.
The method for using the saw blade is almost identical to that of the key extractor tool, but you will first have to break off the end of the blade in order to remove the thick portion containing the pin on one end, allowing it to fit into the lock. Also remember that if the serrations on the blade are at an angle, you want to make sure they are pointed back toward you when you insert it into the keyhole. This will allow them to grab the teeth of the key in the same way the hook on the end of the extractor tool would as you pull it out to remove the key.
4. Probe & Pull Approach: It Takes 2 Household Objects...
This method of freeing your broken key from the door in which it is stuck leaves room for a little variation and is a good option if you do not have access to any specific tools or the time to run to your local hardware store. If you have a purse or bookbag with you, chances are you have just the tools you need.
This approach is all about technique. Find two objects small enough to slide into the keyway along either side of the key (the two sides that engage with the warding of the lock, not the smooth side or the side with the bitting). You can use two pieces of stiff wire, bobby pins, safety pins, or whatever you can find, though the objects should not be something of great value to you because they may be slightly bent in the process.
Once you have both items in place, put pressure on the key by turning your wrists inward and then pull toward you. The key will probably not come free on the first try, but it should slide further out with each repeated attempt. When the key is sticking far enough out, you should be able to pull it the rest of the way using pliers or your fingers.
5. Push Your Key Out From Behind the Lock
If you happen to break your key off into a lock that has a removable cylinder, you are in luck. Rather than attempting to pull the key out, you can simply give it a push from the other side.
For this approach, you will still need something with which to push the key (something as simple as a bobby pin or paperclip should do the trick). All you need to do is remove the cylinder and insert the object in the backside of the lock. Push against the broken piece of your key, jiggling the tool slightly if necessary, and it should slide right out the front of the lock.
6. Scissor Blade Hack
Scissors are not the most ideal way to extract your broken key, but they will get the job done if they are the only tool you have on hand. If you have more than one pair to choose from, a pair of scissors with thinner, smaller blades will work more efficiently.
You can use your scissors in one of two ways. One method is to open them up and hold them near the screw, using just one blade and sliding it along the side of the key (just as you would the saw blade or key extractor tool). You then apply pressure toward the key and pull slowly outward. This will likely take time and repetition but should begin to edge the key increasingly further out of the lock until you can grab hold of it.
The other technique you can try works best if the key is already slightly protruding or very near the edge of the keyhole. Open the scissors slightly and fit the two tips at the top and bottom of the key (the smooth and bitting sides). Clamp down gently until the scissors have closed on the key fragment and pull back carefully. With a few attempts, you should be able to edge the key far enough out to take hold and remove it the rest of the way.
7. Tweezers Can Be Useful Too
While tweezers might seem like an obvious choice for removing your broken key, they can actually worsen the situation if you are not careful. You want to make sure that your tweezers are not too thick and can actually slide into the keyway alongside your key. Otherwise, you only want to use them if part of your broken key is protruding from the lock to avoid pushing the key in even further.
Tweezers can be still be helpful though. You can use them in the place of needle nose pliers to more easily extract the key once you have used another method to pull it from within the lock.
8. Super Glue Can Help You Out of a Sticky Situation
This technique can be tricky and only works if the edge of the broken key is visible within the lock. If the key is deeply lodged in the keyhole, do not try using super glue to remove it.
In addition to super glue, you will also need a match or thin piece of wire (a straightened bobby pin or paperclip could also work) for this method. Apply a small drop of the glue to the end of the object you are using, removing any excess glue that could stick to the lock itself, and press it gently against the broken edge of the key. Be careful not to push the key further into the hole while doing this.
Hold the object in place until the glue has had ample time to bond (see packaging for specific instructions). Once the glue has set, gently pull the object and attached key away from the door. Even if the glue does not hold long enough to completely remove the key, it should at least pull it far enough out for you to be able to easily extract it yourself.
9. Drill Only as a Last Resort
It is possible to remove a broken key from a lock by drilling a small hole in it, but this can do damage to your lock and should be saved as a last resort. If the option is available to you, calling a locksmith before trying this approach may be a safer and more cost-effective option.
If you decide to use a drill to remove your key, you will need a small drill bit between 1.5 mm and 2 mm (approximately equivalent to 1/16” and 5/64”). The goal will be to drill sideways into the key to create a small hole that allows you to pull the key easily from the lock. Be sure to drill slowly and with caution to do the least amount of damage to your lock possible.
2 Other Common Key Problems
1. Key Stuck in Lock
Sometimes a key can get stuck in a lock without actually breaking off inside of the cylinder. When this happens, there are 3 easy solutions to get it back out. But be careful, you don’t want to end up breaking the key in an attempt to pull it out.
Slowly and Gently Jiggle the Key
It may sound overly simple, but people often yank as hard as they can on their key out of frustration when calmly jiggling it would be more beneficial. Before you do anything too drastic, just wiggle the key gently, pressing down on the lock cylinder with the index finger of your other hand. It is common for keys to stick from time to time, so it might just need a little extra movement to free it up.
Ice The Lock To Set the Key Free
If your key refuses to jiggle free, using ice to remove your key is another quick and inexpensive solution. Cold temperatures make metal contract, so applying ice to your key should cause it to shrink and allow it to slide more easily from the lock.
Simply wrap a piece of ice in a paper towel to prevent drips and press it to the head of the key. Wait for a few minutes and then try removing the key again, jiggling slightly if necessary. Keep in mind that this method will be less effective in colder weather.
Lubricant Can Help Loosen Things Up
When your key just won’t budge, adding a little lubricant can go a long way. Try spraying a small amount of WD-40 or placing a few drops of graphite lubricant into the lock cylinder. Jiggle your key to work it further into the lock and try removing your key again. If your key will still not come loose, you should call a locksmith to avoid worsening the situation or breaking your key.
2. Key Still Won’t Unlock Lock
What about those times when your key goes into the lock, but the door still won’t open? There are a few possible causes for this, most of which can be easily remedied.
First you want to make sure you are using the correct key. Keys of the same style often fit all the way into locks they are not configured to open. It doesn’t hurt to double check that you are using the right key before you take any further measures.
Once you know you have the intended key, try gently jiggling while in the keyhole to see if it will turn. Be careful not to apply too much force, however, or you will end up needing one of the methods listed above to remove your broken key from the lock.
If jiggling the key does not work, there may be dirt or debris lodged in the lock that is preventing it from working correctly. This can usually be remedied with a little of the aforementioned spray lubricant. Simply apply the lubricant to the key and keyhole, and re-insert the key a few times to work it down into the lock.
When your key will not open the lock after applying the lubricant, you may have a larger obstruction within the lock or a more critical issue to contend with. You can try running a small piece of wire into the lock with the key inserted to see if you can locate a blockage, but this can do damage or exacerbate the problem if you do not know have experience working on locks.
Your best option at this point is to turn to professional assistance, as your lock could be suffering from a more serious problem like a worn down pin chamber or corroded pin. These issues should only be handled by someone with proper training and experience to avoid damaging your lock.
What If I Can’t Fix My Lock Myself?
While it would be nice if you could fix everything yourself, there are going to be those times when you need professional assistance with your locks or keys. When that time comes, it’s important to have a trusted locksmith you can rely on to provide quality service at a price you can afford.
Mr. Rekey is America’s Largest Residential LocksmithⓇ, and it is our goal to offer customer service that will always leave you saying, “Wow!” After more than 20 years in the business, we know how stressful it can be when your locks aren’t working like they should. We put our experience to work for you, combining quality workmanship and expertise with upfront pricing and speedy service to meet all of your locksmith needs.