Locking your home with a key is one of the ways of conveniently securing your premises. While your keys might seem indestructible, using a lot of force can make your keys break. Even worse, you could end up with a broken key stuck inside your lock. In this post, we'll teach you how to get a broken key out of a lock and how to prevent broken keys.
Let's get started!
Preparing your Keyway
This step isn't mandatory, but it can help make the broken key removal process easier. You'll need to apply a dry lubricant like graphite to the keyway to smoothen the way as you remove a broken key from the lock. Avoid using oil-based lubricants since they can get the internal parts sticky, making it harder to extract the key.
The main challenge with graphite spray lubricant is that it can stain your surfaces. So, you'll want to ensure the nozzle is in the keyway before you spray the lubricant to avoid getting it all over the door. You should also have a rag or paper towel at hand to wipe off the excess lubricant that will spill from the keyway.
Once you prepare your lock, you can try out any of the following methods to remove the broken key from a lock.
How to Get a Broken Key out of a Lock
There are a variety of tools you can use for broken key extraction. You'll need to consider the most convenient way for you, depending on the tools you have available.
1. Taking the Lock Apart
The first way you can remove a broken key from a lock is by dismantling the lock. This will depend on the type of hardware you have on your door. If you can remove the entire lock, then you can remove the key by accessing the backside of the lock cylinder.
There are holes on the back of the lock where you can insert something like a paper clip to push the key out. If the holes are obstructed, you'll have to remove the c-clip for easier access. Nevertheless, if you aren't comfortable taking your lock apart, you should try out the other methods in this article first.
2. Tapping the Lock Cylinder
This method of removing broken keys will also require you to remove the lock cylinder to work. You'll need to position the lock with the keyhole facing down to leverage gravity to pull the key out. If you have a hammer, you can strike the lock, and if the key gets loose, it'll fall out without additional intervention.
Unfortunately, since this method requires the use of force, it could easily destroy your lock. So, you'll need to be cautious as you tap or hit the cylinder to avoid damaging it unless you don't mind buying a new lock altogether.
3. Using a Broken Key Extractor
A broken key extractor is a professional locksmith tool designed to remove broken keys. This tool has hooks that you can use to grab the teeth of your key for removal. You'll need to place the broken key extractor into the keyway and then turn the extractor and pull it out.
Broken key extractors come in different designs. Some have one hook while others have more, so you'll have to decide the most effective one to use for your situation. You should give it several tries since it might not work perfectly the first time.
4. Needle Nose Pliers
Another tool you can use when your key breaks is a pair of needle-nose pliers. You should use this method, especially if your key broke, leaving only the bow in your hand. There should be part of the broken key protruding out of the keyhole for this method to succeed.
If the key broke too far inside the lock, you should try another method because moving needle nose pliers in can push the key back. However, if it's within reach, you should grab the blade or stem firmly and slowly pull it out.
Tweezers are an excellent alternative for needle nose pliers, thanks to their more compact design. While needle nose pliers are relatively large, tweezers are much slimmer and can help you grab the key while it's further than pliers can reach. Unfortunately, tweezers aren't as sturdy as pliers, so they can easily slip off while you pull the key out.
If you know your way around locks, tweezers can be an effective tool for removing a stuck key from your lock. You'll need to grab the part of the key sticking out of the key hole and gently pull it out. Here are some great mirrors for your home.
Since most keys are metallic, they react to magnets. As such, you can use a magnet for removing a broken key out of a lock. Of course, the chances of success of this method depend on how stuck the key is and how far in the lock it's set. Like the other tools we'll discuss in this post, you can probably find a powerful magnet at the local hardware store.
You'll need to join the magnet to the broken key inside the lock and try pulling it out. If the key is jammed inside, you'll need another way to remove it since a magnet won't do.
7. Hacksaw Blade
You can also use saw blades to remove a broken key from a lock. A mini hacksaw blade or jigsaw blade can work in this scenario since they can hook the broken key and allow you to take it out without complications. These blades are usually thin, long, and come with teeth that you can use to hook the key.
It's a great method whether your key broke in the middle or the end. You'll have to slide the blade into the keyhole and try to hook the teeth on the key blade, and draw it out. Ensure the teeth of the hacksaw blade are facing down as you insert it into the key cylinder. Check out the best chainsaw for cutting here.
8. Paper Clips
You can use a paper clip to remove a broken key just like a saw blade. This method involves straightening the clip and bending the end to make a hook. You'll need to insert the clip above the key inside the lock and direct it to the back. Once the clip reaches the end of the key blade, you can twist it down and hook the key.
All that remains is pulling out the paper clip, which should also take the broken key out. If the key is coming out but still feels stuck, you can use pliers or tweezers to finish the process.
9. Glue Gun Stick
A glue stick can also be effective against a key broken inside the lock. You'll need a toothpick or thin wire for this method to work. Melt the glue stick using a glue gun and apply some of the hot glue to the tip of the wire. Then, carefully slide the tool into the keyhole until it touches the broken key.
Give the glue a few minutes to dry while it's in contact with the key, and then slowly pull the wire out. Hopefully, you'll get the key out of the lock without additional steps. If you'd like a new reading chair, check out the best option here.
10. Fishing Hook
If the key seems too far inside the lock cylinder, you should consider using a fishing hook. Unfortunately, you can't use the hook as it is since it has a curved design. So, you'll need to straighten the hook out with a pair of pliers and then slowly insert it into the lock.
The barb of the hook should be perpendicular to the key blade. Once it's far back, rotate the hook to get a grip on the kay and then pull it out gently.
If none of the methods have borne fruit so far, you should try using a knife. Learning how to get a broken key out of a lock using a knife isn't a hassle. Keys are usually made from "soft" metal that you can pierce with the tip of a sharp knife. Unfortunately, this method won't work if the key is far inside the lock since it'll be hard to reach it with a knife.
You'll need to dig the knife into the sides of the broken key while pulling it out. It won't work instantly, but if you give it several tries, you'll notice the key coming out. You can even use two knives on each side of the key, but you should be careful not to cut yourself.
12. Drill Bit
Using a drill bit will only work if the broken piece is close to the mouth of the keyhole. It involves drilling a tiny hole into the broken part of the key. However, you'll need to be careful not to accidentally drill the locking mechanism since this could cause damage.
After you drill the key, you can then use a paper clip or thin wire to hook the key and pull it from the lock.
13. Flathead Screwdriver
Another hardware tool you can use is a flathead screwdriver. You can use it to put the key back into its original position or open the door while the key is still inside. If the screwdriver can fit inside the keyhole, place it alongside the key and twist it. This should return the key to its correct position, making it easier to pull out.
14. Super Glue
Using superglue should be a last resort, especially if the key is deep inside the lock. Any experienced locksmith will automatically tell you that this is a bad idea because it could damage the internal components of the lock. So, you should only use this method at your own risk and exercise maximum caution.
You'll need to add a small drop of super glue to the middle part of the broken key. Small amounts will help avoid spreading the glue to another part of the lock. Then attach the piece of the key you have with the one inside the lock and give it a minute to dry. Then, pull it out.
15. Hire a Professional Locksmith
When you've done all you can to no avail, the only remaining option is to call a locksmith to help you remove the broken key. While this will cost you money, it's the best way to remove the key without damaging your lock.
How to Prevent a Broken Key
After learning how to get a broken key out of a lock, the next thing to do is prevent future breakage. There are some actions you can take to prevent keys from breaking. Let's discuss them below.
1. Regular Maintenance
The main reason why most keys break inside the locks is because of a faulty locking mechanism. Over time, the parts inside your locks can get rusty and worn, making it hard to open your door with the key. As such, you should ensure you service your locks by lubricating them regularly.
With regular maintenance, it'll be harder for your keys to break as you open your locks.
2. Replacements Keys
Unfortunately, keys also suffer from wear and tear and will probably get less effective with time. When you start experiencing difficulties opening your locks, you should consider getting replacement keys. If you keep forcing the key to work after it starts jamming, you can easily end up with a broken key inside your lock.
3. Using the Correct Key
The last thing you should do to prevent key breakage is to use the right key. When you have a bunch of different keys together, you can easily pick the wrong one to open a lock. Forcing the wrong key to open a lock is one of the ways people break the keys. So, you should always double-check the keys before using them to unlock your doors.
There are different tools you can use to remove a broken key from a lock. Most of the methods we've discussed won't cost you too much. However, if you have a challenge learning how to get a broken key out of a lock, the best alternative is to call a professional locksmith to help you out.