How To Remove A Broken Key From A Lock
Maybe your aged key degraded over time and broke on its own. Or maybe you just had too much, or too little, coffee in the morning. Regardless of how it happened, a broken key isn’t cool, and trying to remove it from a lock can be difficult.
Getting a key stuck inside a lock can be extremely frustrating, whether it be a door lock, padlock or even your car’s ignition.
Keys usually break off just before the handle, and they’re not pleasant to get out. But don’t worry — with some patience, you may be able to save yourself the cost of a locksmith.
Your best friend for getting a broken key out is a broken key extractor tool, a professional device made specifically for situations like this. A broken key extractor tool is basically a metal rod with small grooves on it designed to catch onto the key and slide it out. Combined with some WD-40, you should be able to get your stuck key out in no time, if you have one of these handy.
If you have one, that’s great! However, you probably don’t: most people don’t have a broken key extractor tool lying around – but that’s okay, there are plenty of substitutes.
Substitutes for a broken key extractor tool:
- Coping saw blade
- Scroll saw blade
- Jigsaw saw blade
- Fret saw blade
- Two screw wires (see below)
- Two small picks (see below)
- Long paperclip (see below)
If you haven’t noticed, the theme is long and thin metal objects with a rigid edge that can hopefully catch on to the key. If you can’t find anything suitable for the job, it may be worthwhile taking a trip to your local hardware store, or even purchasing an extractor tool online.
If you don’t have a blade, you can use two wires instead. However, this is a bit trickier and the process is slightly different. If you have two thin screw wires, small picks or even a long paperclip, you can use them on either side of the key to pull it out. It’s strongly recommended to find a blade though, as using wires can often push broken keys further into the lock.
Once you have found a suitable tool, grab some WD-40 and proceed to the next step.
Removing the key
What you are trying to do is to insert your chosen tool into the lock alongside the broken key, and slowly guide it out.
It’s recommended to flush the lock with a lubricant such as WD-40 before trying to get the key out. This will help to guide it out.
Insert the tool into the lock alongside the key, and apply some tension towards the key. If you’re using two wires, you will have to slide each wire into the groove on either side of the broken key. Twist the wires together to get a tight grip on the broken key.
Be careful not to push the key any further in, because that means more trouble. Once you get it in, give it a little twist, catch it and pull it back.
Once you have some tension applied to the tool, slowly pull it backwards. If it doesn’t budge, try again — don’t be afraid to shake the tool up and down as you pull.
When a good amount of the key is released from the lock, grasp it using your fingers or a set of pliers. Pull the tool and the remainder of the key out together.
Some keys may be trickier than others to remove, based on the blank size and how the key was broken in the lock. If you’re having trouble, it may be worthwhile to call a professional.
After you get it out
Make no mistake, your broken key is unusable. If you try to use it again, it will get stuck again.
Once you get the part of the key out, you can take it to the hardware store to get a copy made. Of course, if you have a spare key it is better to copy a whole key rather than a fraction of it. However, if you don’t have a spare, your hardware store can work with the broken key part alone.
It may be a good idea to invest in a broken key extractor tool for the future.