5 Tools for Removing Broken Keys from Locks

5 Tools for Removing Broken Keys from Locks

Keys are prone to wearing down over time and becoming brittle and soft, allowing them to easily snap off in a lock. It's always uncomfortable having a key break off in a lock, especially getting locked out because of it. When a key breaks in a lock it's important to remember that attempting to put anything else in the keyhole, including the matching broken piece, can make the situation worse.

Before doing anything to remove the broken key from the lock, take a step back and collect your thoughts. Take a look at the keyhole and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How far is the broken piece inserted?
  • What tools are available to me?
  • Do I have access to any other key copies or spares?
  • Do I know anyone else that has a working key that could help?
  • Can I get the broken piece out with the proper tools?
  • How far away am I to a local hardware store?

These are all good questions to ask yourself when experiencing a jammed lock because of a broken key. Instead of panicking first consider all the options at your disposal. If the broken key bit isn't inserted too far into the lock, there might be a way to grab onto it and pull it out. Don't attempt to remove the key until you are sure of your first plan and your backup plan.

Prepping the keyway

Before attempting to remove the broken key piece from the lock it might be wise to spray a lubricant into the keyhole. We recommend a graphite spray lubricant or WD-40 as a last resort. Dry lubricants such as graphite are ideal for lubricating a lock because they leave little residue such as oil-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants can potentially collect dirt and grime over time, enough to sometimes gunk up the internal mechanisms and cause the lock to malfunction.

After spraying lubricant into the keyhole, it's a good idea to have a paper towel or rag nearby to wipe up any excess spray that may drip down the door.

Gather Necessary Materials

Sometimes getting locked out because of a broken key can be stressful. Once the keyway has been prepped and the necessary questions asked it's time to begin gathering materials. If you still have access to a vehicle, then you are still free to come and go as you please, meaning a trip to the local hardware store might not be such a bad thing.

It might also be worthwhile to check for materials that are nearby in unlocked garages sheds, or storage containers. Handy tools to have include pliers, tweezers, jigsaw blades, small pieces of wire like paperclips, and super glue.

1. Pliers

Needle nose pliers can be some of the most handy pieces of equipment when it comes to removing broken key pieces from a lock. Once enough time has been left for the lubricant to soak into the lock it may become possible to remove the broken key. If only a tiny bit is showing, or none at all, don't try to force the pliers to grab hold because it might push the broken piece further in. If the broken key is too far in the lock, set the pliers down nearby where you can reach them later.

2. Tweezers

Tweezers are also good for grabbing pieces of a broken key. Since tweezers are smaller than needle nose pliers, they can typically get further into a keyhole. Remember to be careful not to push the broken key in deeper as it could make it harder to remove in the long run.

3. Jigsaw Blades / Mini Hacksaw Blades

Those that don't have access to a broken key extractor can make one themselves with thin pieces of a jigsaw or miniature hacksaw blade. The idea is to get a tiny piece of metal with serrated edges into the top of the keyway where the grooves are. If you can push the tiny jigsaw or hacksaw blade back far enough with the serrations downwards, it's sometimes possible to pull the key out. This works in principle the same way as a broken key extractor does, by pulling at the grooves on top of the broken key in order to remove it.

4. Paper Clips

A small piece of wire or a paper clip can sometimes be inserted into the top of the keyway above the broken key. Once the paperclip is in the lock it sometimes works to lift up the outside end and pull outwards, causing the end inside to pull on the top of the key. If no tweezers or pliers are available, paperclips can also be used to pull a broken key piece out.

5. Super Glue

We don't recommend attempting this method as it could potentially ruin the lock. Others have had success using a tiny matchstick or paperclip with a tiny dot of super glue on the end to successfully remove broken keys. The trick is to get the tiny dab of super glue to harden on the key piece so it can be pulled out. Be careful with this method though as any mistake could leave glue on the inside of the lock, breaking it or causing other serious issues.

Conclusion

While there are many different ways to successfully remove a broken key from a lock, there sometimes might be a situation that seems hopeless. Earlier we mentioned a first plan and a backup plan. The first plan should consist of what you can try on your own, and the backup can involve seeking assistance from a professional service.

Professional locksmith services have years of experience when it comes to quickly and affordably removing broken keys from locks that are extremely difficult to remove. Just know that whatever the situation is, worst case scenario, someone should be available in your area to come to you for fast and affordable broken key extraction services.

Those in Central Oregon can rely on Bend Locksmith Services for help when it comes to removing broken keys. All of our technicians are highly trained, insured, licensed, bonded, and background checked for the safety and security of our customers. Contact us now and ask how we can help residents in Bend, Oregon and the surrounding communities of Redmond, Oregon, Prineville, Oregon, and much more.

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