How to get a broken key out of a lock
Your key has broken off inside the lock – now what? Take a second to assess the situation, then find a broken key removal method to suit your problem.
Top Tip: Do not use the key
The misconception is that inserting the rest of the key will open the lock. This simply isn’t true. When you reinsert the key, you run the risk of pushing the broken part even further into the lock, making it harder to retrieve. Dependent on how deep the broken piece of the key is, a few of these methods we are going to discuss may not work. You should approach this on a trial and error basis with tons of patience.
The success of this method is dependent on the size of the tweezers and whether a piece of the key is protruding from the lock. Your tweezers need to be small enough to grip the sides of the key for extraction. Using the incorrect size tweezers will push the key further into the lock.
Broken Key Extractor
A broken key extractor tool is a professional tool used by a locksmith. This tool is used by placing it inside the keyway along the bitting of the key. You will then try to hook the teeth of the key with the extractor tool hook. Using a method of turning and pulling, you should successfully remove the key. There are various broken key extractor tools, some with a single hook, and others with a double hook. You may want to purchase more than one.
If you don’t have a broken key extractor tool on hand and don’t want to buy one, you cna use a mini hacksaw blade. You’ll need a thin piece of metal to fit in the keyway along with your broken key. Place the blade into the keyway so that the serrations are pointing back toward you. This allows the blade to go in easier and you should be able to line up the serrations on the blade with the bitting on the key for easy extraction. It may take several attempts to retrieve the key.
This method may seem a bit daunting. Depending on your confidence and supplies on hand, you may want to skip this one. The idea is to glue the key to something small enough such as a matchstick and pull it out. If your key is pushed too far back and not visible, do not attempt this method. The superglue will only be successful if part of the key is visible.
Top Tip: Once the glue has bonded, do not attempt to turn the key as the binding point will not be strong enough the turn the key. The aim is to pull the key not turn it.
Tap the cylinder
To tap the cylinder, you must be able to point the keyway down toward the ground. While the keyhole is facing down, you can strike the lock hard. This method would only work with a padlock or if you can remove the cylinder itself. This method typically only works for bike locks as they are the easiest to turn and face towards the ground.
This method is not often viable as specialty tools are needed. The downside to this method is that in striking the lock, you may damage the lock core and would then have to call a locksmith for repairs to avoid the lock malfunctioning further down the line.
The best way to get a broken key out of a lock is to call a locksmith for broken key extraction. There is no substitute for professional tools and experience. While you may strongly consider DIY options, this requires time, patience, and money purchasing tools you may not need again.
Why did my key break in the lock?
Your key may break off if the lock or key itself is malfunctioning. Each turn of the key that does not result in the proper rotation of the key cylinder puts stress on the blade of the key. After prolonged and repeated stress the key will snap.
Locksmiths remove broken keys from locks more often than you may think. After removing the key, the locksmith can use the broken halves to make a new key to open the door.
Ultimately you’ll have to call a locksmith even if you retrieve the broken piece as you’ll need someone to make you a new key to replace the broken one. You may also need a locksmith if your DIY efforts damaged the lock in any way.