5 Things to Try When a Key Breaks Off in a Lock

5 Things to Try When a Key Breaks Off in a Lock

Have you ever had a broken key stuck inside a lock? It is a common occurrence for both home and car owners. In case this happens, you need to understand that you can either get it out yourself or hire an experienced locksmith to do it for you. The latter method is recommended because skills, experience, and the proper equipment increase the chances of removing the key.

Alternatively, you can try doing it yourself although you might end up having to replace the entire lock or even your car’s ignition. In most cases, a key breaks off in a lock when excessive force is used on a key with much wear and tear. When a key breaks off in a lock, you need to solve the problem right away because of the following reasons:

  • If the key broke inside the lock before you locked the door, you will not be able to lock it. Therefore, your office, car or home will be at a greater risk of theft if you leave.
  • On the other hand, if the key broke off after you’ve closed and locked the door, you will not be able to reopen the door when you need access again.
  • Leaving the broken key inside the lock can also damage the lock. You could end up spending more money replacing your lock if you don’t get the key out right away.

Before you decide to DIY or hire a professional locksmith, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • How deep is the broken key? If the broken key is sticking out of the lock, you are lucky and can try pulling it out yourself. However, if the key is deep-seated, consider hiring a locksmith to get it removed fast and avoid damaging your lock
  • Do you have the proper equipment to get the key out? If you’ve locked yourself out of your house, you may have to buy or borrow the necessary equipment to remove the key. This also applies if you’ve locked yourself out of your car. The best approach here is to hire an expert.
  • Do you have any handyman skills? You don’t have to be an expert, but you need some skills and experience to do it correctly. Otherwise, you will worsen the problem.

Here are some tips you can use to remove a key when it breaks off in a lock:

5 Things to Try When a Key Breaks Off in a Lock


1. Using Tweezers or Pliers to Pull the Key Out

If the key is sticking out, using pliers to pull it out is the easiest and the most convenient method. However, if the key broke at the keyhole, you may need to use tweezers. Using tweezers is quite tricky, especially for first-timers, because most tweezers are not properly sized to fit inside the lock. Therefore, you will have to find a pair of tweezers which can open wide enough for the key to fit. It is also very important to avoid pushing the key further inside! Remember, to facilitate removal, you can use lubricating oil to ease the key removal process.

2. Jigsaw Blade

If you hire a professional locksmith, he will use a key extractor tool (which you, also, can buy from a store). However, if you don’t have one, you can use a thin jigsaw blade to hook the broken key’s teeth. If the jigsaw blade you have cannot fit inside the keyhole, you can break the blade using a needle nose pliers to get the appropriate size.

You need to be very patient and gentle to hook the teeth, turn the key until you touch the broken part and then pull it out. This method can be time-consuming because you may not succeed on your first or second try. Nonetheless, you can do it with persistence. If you cannot do it, or you are having trouble reaching the broken key, consider seeking professional assistance.

5 Things to Try When a Key Breaks Off in a Lock

3. Tapping The Cylinder

Although this method is not commonly used, you can give it a try. Tapping the cylinder of your lock can work if you are able to remove the lock cylinder and point the keyway down towards the floor. You need to lubricate the keyhole and (as the keyhole is facing down) tap the cylinder gently. This will only work if you’ve got enough time and the necessary equipment. However, take caution when tapping to avoid damaging the lock core.

4. Probe and Pull

If you have good skills in lock picking, this is an ideal method. You can use two thin pieces of metal to probe and pull the key out. Just like the jigsaw blade method, you will have to be patient and persistent because you may not be able to pull the key out at first try. You may have to get the key out bit by bit until you are able to pull it out. Remember, if you are using lockpicks, you may have to use picks that you don’t need anymore because they could end up bending.

5 Things to Try When a Key Breaks Off in a Lock

5. Super Glue

This should be your last method, and it’s recommended when everything else fails. Using superglue can end up damaging your lock although you can still be successful. You should use this method when the broken key is accessible. Here, you apply glue on the end of a thin object, e.g. a matchstick or a wire and then use it to pull the broken key out. When using this method, remember:

  • Remove any excess glue because it may stick to and damage the lock
  • Make sure the match stick or wire has enough glue for the key to stick to it
  • The wire/stick should be held against the edge of the broken key. Be sure that you are not pushing the broken key further inside
  • Wait for a period of time for the glue to stick to the key and then pull it out

You can use any of the above methods to remove a broken key from a lock. The method you choose mainly depends on the equipment you have available to you. You should not do it hurriedly because you will worsen the problem. Alternatively, if you want to call it safe and don’t want to take any chances, call a locksmith.


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