Best Methods: How to Get a Broken Key Out of a Lock

Anthony |7th July, 2024
A photo of a broken in in a lock to be extracted by an emergency locksmith

Have a broken key in your lock? This guide on "how to get a broken key out of a lock" will help you remove it quickly and without damaging the lock.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding why the key broke, often caused by wear and tear, excessive force, and poor-quality materials, can help prevent such issues and maintain lock performance.

  • Before removing a broken key, ensure the lock cylinder is aligned correctly, lubricate the lock, and gather the necessary tools for a more efficient and successful extraction process.

  • In cases of complex locks, unsuccessful DIY attempts, or emergencies, consulting a professional locksmith is advisable to prevent further lock damage and ensure safe key removal.

Understanding Why Keys Break in Locks

Photo of a broken key in a lock

Keys breaking inside a door lock have common causes, including wear and tear, excessive force, and the use of low-quality materials. Keys, even those from professional services, can deteriorate over time due to frequent use. Applying too much pressure, such as using the wrong key or turning it forcefully, can cause the key to snap.

Additionally, keys made from softer metals like brass or nickel are more prone to breaking, highlighting the importance of using higher quality materials. Understanding these causes can help you prevent future key breakages and maintain your locks' performance.

Wear and Tear

Ageing keys can develop flaws and become twisted with use, increasing the risk of breakage. Over time, the constant turning and twisting can weaken a key, making it more susceptible to snapping under pressure. If a key becomes distorted or bent, it is much more likely to break during use. Regular use, especially for tasks other than locking or unlocking, can further weaken a key, leading to potential breakage.

Keys suffer damage when used for non-intended purposes, such as opening a bottle or a makeshift screwdriver, compromising their structural integrity. Once weakened, keys can snap with little force, leaving you with a broken part inside the lock. Using keys only for their intended purposes is a vital strategy to reduce friction and ensure their longevity.

Excessive Force

Applying too much pressure when turning a key in the lock is a common cause of key breakage. Forcing a key to turn, especially in a lock that may be jammed or not correctly aligned, significantly increases the likelihood of snapping.

Gentle handling of keys and avoiding excessive force helps prevent them from breaking inside the lock.

Poor Quality Materials

Low-quality keys are more prone to breaking due to inferior metal composition. Cheap key copies made from inferior materials are less resilient and more likely to break under pressure.

High-quality keys made from durable materials significantly decrease the risk of breakages and promote smoother lock operation.

Initial Preparations Before Removing Broken Keys

Image shown of  Locksmith lubricating a lock

Initial preparations are necessary before attempting to remove a broken key. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Ensure the lock is in its original position to avoid internal misalignment.

  2. Lubricate the lock to reduce internal friction and make it easier to extract the broken key.

  3. Gather the necessary tools beforehand to streamline the key removal process and increase your chances of success.

      Lubricate the Lock

      Lubricating the lock before attempting extraction reduces friction and eases the actual removal process. Here's how to do it:

      1. Begin by applying a suitable lubricant directly into the keyhole.

      2. For indoor locks, a dry lubricant like graphite powder is recommended.

      3. For outdoor locks exposed to wet conditions, a Teflon or Silicone-based lubricant is advisable.

      4. Graphite powder is especially effective in reducing friction inside the lock.

            It's essential to clean any excess residue from the key slide and lock exterior to ensure a clean work area. While WD-40 or oil based lubricants can be used as a solvent to make removing the key easier, they are not recommended for regular use as they can negatively affect the lock's performance. A properly lubricated lock will make the extraction process smoother and more efficient. When you lubricate the lock, you can use a rag or paper towel to protect your door.

            Assess the Situation

            To select the best extraction method, you must determine whether any part of the broken key is protruding from the lock. Evaluating the type of lock and the position of the broken key can also help.

            Assessing the situation before extracting the key is essential to avoid further damaging the lock or complicating the removal process.

            Gather Necessary Tools

            Having the right tools at hand is key to a successful extraction process. Tools like needle nose pliers or tweezers are crucial for gripping the key fragment. These tools can be very effective if part of the broken key protrudes. Additionally, having items like paperclips, hairpins, or a key extractor tool from a local hardware store can be handy.

            Preparing these tools in advance can save time and make the removal process more efficient.

            DIY Methods to Extract a Broken Key

            Photo of a key broken key extracted using DIY key extraction methods

            Numerous DIY methods are available to get a broken key from a lock, which utilize tools such as:

            • needle nose pliers

            • tweezers

            • paperclips

            • hairpins

            • superglue

            • hacksaw or jigsaw blades

            • key extractor tools

            Each method requires specific tools and techniques, which we will detail to help you choose the best approach for your situation.

            Using Needle Nose Pliers or Tweezers

            Using needle nose pliers or tweezers can extract a broken key if part of it is still protruding from the lock. Carefully grip the key protruding from the lock with the pliers, rotate the key so it's vertical, and gently wiggle it out of the lock.

            Tweezers can also be used if the key is protruding enough to grip securely, but their effectiveness depends on the thickness and depth of the key fragment.

            Paperclips or Hairpins

            Household items like paperclips or hairpins can be fashioned into tools to extract a broken key from a lock. Here's how:

            1. Straighten out a paperclip or hairpin.

            2. Bend it into a pick shape for insertion into the lock.

            3. Insert the shaped paperclip or hairpin into the lock to hook onto the broken key for extraction.

                Using a second paperclip or hairpin as a tension wrench can help turn the lock and simplify the extraction process. This method has a low chance of success on modern locks, the pins or clips are much more likely to bend.

                Superglue Trick

                The superglue trick involves:

                1. Applying a tiny dab of superglue to the end of a small object like a matchstick or toothpick

                2. Inserting it into the lock to bond with the broken key

                3. Pulling it out once the glue dries

                    Ensure the hollow part of the lock is clean and clear of any fragments before applying the glue.

                    This method is generally discouraged as it can cause the key fragment to become permanently stuck in the lock cylinder if you use too much glue. If this happens, you will need a lock replacement.

                    Hacksaw or Jigsaw Blade Method

                    A small hacksaw blade or small jigsaw blade can be inserted into the lock to hook and remove the broken key piece. Here's how:

                    1. Trim the blade end so the barbs are at the tip. This modification will help you effectively hook onto the broken key part.

                    2. After cutting off the end, ensure the barbs are at the end.

                    3. Insert the blade into the lock to hook the broken key for removal.

                        To avoid damaging the lock, do not force the blade into the keyhole; slowly pull the snapped key out. Please be aware that the space in most lock mechanisms will be too thin to use this method.

                        Broken Key Extractor Tool

                        broken key extractor to remove a broken key

                        Key extractor tools, such as spiral or hook extractors, are designed to extract broken keys by hooking onto the teeth of the key and pulling it out. One such tool is a broken key extractor tool. Spiral key extractors have threads that dig into the key when twisted, allowing the key to be pulled out. Single and double-hooked extractors are inserted at the top of the keyway and leveraged against it to dig into the key for removal.

                        These tools can be handy for internal key fragments and are often used by professional locksmiths for efficient and safe key removal.

                        When to Call a Professional Locksmith

                        Photo of a professional locksmith

                        Under certain circumstances, seeking the help of a professional locksmith for broken key extraction is the best course of action. If you are dealing with complex lock mechanisms, have had unsuccessful DIY attempts, or are in an emergency, professional help is advisable.

                        Locksmiths have specialized tools and expertise to ensure a safe and efficient extraction process without causing further damage.

                        Complex Lock Mechanisms

                        Locks with complicated mechanisms or high-security features often require professional locksmith assistance for broken key extraction. Attempting DIY methods on complex locks can risk causing irreparable damage and may necessitate calling a locksmith. Professional locksmiths have the tools and expertise to handle complex lock mechanisms without causing damage.

                        High-security door lock systems require specialized tools and techniques that a professional locksmith can provide.

                        Unsuccessful DIY Attempts

                        If DIY methods fail or cause damage to the lock, seeking professional assistance is paramount to prevent further complications. Persistent failure in DIY key extraction attempts can risk further damage to the lock, thus necessitating a locksmith.

                        The superglue trick is generally discouraged because it can cause the key fragment to become permanently stuck in the lock.

                        Emergency Situations

                        A professional locksmith can offer a quicker resolution during emergencies where swift access is required. In urgent scenarios, such as being locked out late at night or in unsafe conditions, a professional locksmith can swiftly resolve the issue and restore security. Locksmiths are essential in emergencies where someone's safety is compromised, such as being trapped without escape or after a break-in.

                        Services like 24/7 emergency lock fixing and lockout services offered by AD Locksmithing can be invaluable.

                        Preventing Future Key Breakages

                        Maintaining locks and keys to prevent key breaking

                        Preventing future key breaks requires a blend of regular maintenance, the use of high-quality keys, and the avoidance of excessive force, especially when a broken key inserted into a lock can cause further complications. In such cases, removing broken keys becomes a priority to ensure the lock's functionality.

                        By following these guidelines, you can ensure the longevity of your locks and keys, reducing the likelihood of facing another broken key situation.

                        Regular Maintenance

                        Regular lock maintenance is vital to maintain smooth operation and prevent key breakages. Here are some tips for lock maintenance:

                        1. Use a silicone-based lubricant to prevent dirt buildup and ensure smooth key operation.

                        2. Regularly clean the lock mechanism to prevent dirt, rust, or debris accumulation.

                        3. Lubricate the lock regularly to prevent jams and ensure smooth operation.

                            Following these tips, you can keep your locks in good condition and prevent any key breakages or lock jams issues.

                            Routinely lubricating locks help ensure they operate smoothly and can prevent keys from breaking. Regularly inspecting locks for wear and tear can help identify potential issues before they lead to a broken key.

                            Use High-Quality Keys

                            A collection of good quality key blanks

                            High-quality keys made from durable materials significantly reduce the risk of key breakages. They also reduce the amount of wear and tear, thus preventing breakages. When duplicating keys, choosing high-quality key blanks ensures a longer lifespan and reduces the chance of the key snapping in the lock.

                            High-quality keys enhance durability and provide smoother operation, making it easier and safer to use your locks.

                            Avoid Excessive Force

                            Gentle handling of keys and refraining from excessive force can avert severe damage and diminish the risk of key breakage. Forcing a key into a lock can cause it to snap; always ensure the lock is correctly aligned before inserting the key.

                            A gentle and steady motion when inserting and turning keys can extend their lifespan and prevent damage. If the key feels stuck, gently wiggling it instead of applying excessive force can help prevent breakages and ensure the lock operates smoothly.


                            In conclusion, dealing with a broken key can be a frustrating experience. Still, by understanding the common causes, making initial preparations, and employing DIY methods, you can effectively extract the broken key and prevent future occurrences. If the situation becomes too complex or urgent, don't hesitate to call a professional locksmith for assistance. Regular maintenance, high-quality keys, and gently handling keys are key practices to avoid future key breakages. By following these guidelines, you can ensure the longevity of your locks and keys and maintain your peace of mind.

                            Don't forget to replace your broken key with a new key!

                             | Updated: 7th July, 2024

                            Frequently asked questions

                            What are the common causes of keys breaking in locks?

                            Keys commonly break in locks due to wear and tear, excessive force, and poor-quality materials, and there is a higher chance of breakage if these factors are present.

                            What should I do before attempting to remove a broken key?

                            Before removing a broken key, lubricate the lock, assess the situation, and gather the necessary tools. This will help make the extraction process smoother and more successful.

                            When should I call a professional locksmith?

                            You should call a professional locksmith when dealing with complex lock mechanisms, unsuccessful DIY attempts, or emergencies. It's essential to seek professional help in these cases.

                            How can I prevent future key breakages?

                            To prevent future key breakages, regularly maintain locks, use high-quality keys, and avoid applying excessive force.

                            What tools can I use to extract a broken key myself?

                            You can use needle nose pliers, tweezers, paperclips, hairpins, hacksaw or jigsaw blades, and key extractor tools to extract a broken key. These tools provide various methods to handle different key extraction scenarios.

                            Locksmithing,Snapped Key,Emergency Locksmith