If your key breaks inside a lock, it can be a frustrating situation, but it's not uncommon.

If you’ve ever snapped a key in a lock, you know what an awful and frustrating feeling it is.

In this guide, I’ll cover how to avoid a broken key in a lock, why keys break in locks, and DIY steps to getting a broken key out of a lock.

Quick Summary

  • Keys are made of soft metals that are susceptible to damage
  • Old or damaged locks and keys are at a higher risk of breaking
  • Frigid temps, forcing the wrong key, worn-out locks, or misusing a key can lead to a broken key
  • If a key breaks in a lock, it is best to call a professional locksmith for help
  • DIY methods for getting broken keys out of locks include using a broken key extractor, electrical pliers, wire, magnet, or metal paper clip to get the remnant out of the lock
  • DIY broken key removal methods can work but they also run the risk of pushing the broken key even deeper into the lock
  • Maintaining keys and locks can help keep them in proper working condition to prevent a broken key
  • When in doubt, contact a professional locksmith for broken key retrieval and repair

 

How to Avoid Breaking Key in Lock

A broken key can be a result of many things, but here I’ll cover some common reasons keys break-in locks.

 

Misuse

Many people assume keys are tough and durable but they are made of soft metals, such as silver and nickel.

These soft metals are prone to damage if they are used improperly. Have you ever used your key to pry open a can or slice through packaging? Or put the key in the lock and then tug on the key to pull the door shut?

Keys are meant to open doors, not be used as a tool. Any time a key is used for something other than unlocking or locking a door, you are risking a broken key.

 

Dryness

A dry or rusty key or lock places more pressure on keys, especially when inserting them into the keyhole.

Spraying a lubricant, such as WD-40, into the keyhole every six months will help prevent excess friction when putting a key into a lock. You can also spray a very light coating of lubricant on the key itself, as long as it is clean and dry.

 

Old or Damaged Locks

An old lock that is rusty or damaged may cause broken keys.

If you suspect your lock is damaged, have it professionally inspected and repaired if necessary.

Along with putting you at a higher risk of broken keys, malfunctioning or worn-out locks are a security risk for your property.

Learn More: Maintaining Door Locks – Our 8 Expert Tips for Door Lock Maintenance

 

Incompatible Key

Have you ever been in a rush and grabbed the wrong key to try to unlock a door? Most of the time, you can simply pull the wrong key out and find the right one.

However, there is a risk of the wrong key breaking in the lock. Take the extra time to ensure you have the right key to save yourself the hassle of a broken key. If you put a key in a lock and it doesn’t turn, never force it.

 

Frigid Temps

We don’t see temps cold enough here too often that are capable of snapping keys but it can happen. In frigid temps, keys and locks can become brittle, increasing the chance of snapping a key.

 

Old or Damaged Keys

As with locks, keys also have an expiration date. Even when used properly, keys naturally weaken over time.

If your keys are old, consider replacing them. This is especially important if you notice damage or cracking on the key. Contact a locksmith for a new copy of your key right away if it is visibly worn or damaged.

Over time, keys can become worn or weakened, making them more prone to breakage, especially if they're subjected to excessive force or pressure.

 

What To Do If Your Key Breaks In Lock

Here are some DIY methods for getting a broken key out of a lock you can try. Keep in mind that you are at risk of causing further damage, so I always recommend contacting a locksmith for a broken key.

 

Electrical Pliers

If the key is sticking partway out of the lock, this is a good sign. It gives you something to grip onto to help remove the key fragment.

You can try extremely long, thin pliers, tweezers, or electrical pliers to grab onto the key and pull it out of the lock. The electrical pliers will offer you the strongest grip.

However, be aware that any of these methods run the risk of accidentally pushing the broken key further into the lock.

 

Use a Broken Key Extractor

Key extractor tools can be an effective way to remove a broken key. They are easy to pick up from a hardware store and relatively inexpensive. However, they require patience and the right skill set. When used incorrectly, a key extractor can permanently damage the lock or push the key deeper inside.

A key extractor is a thin, strong piece of metal with a specially designed end made to grip onto the serrations of the broken key fragment. Once hooked, the broken key should pull right out.

 

Hack Saw Blade

Similar to a key extractor, a hack saw blade can be carefully and precisely slid down along the key’s side in an attempt to hook some of the key’s ‘teeth’. If hooked, you can gently pull the broken key out. The front of the lock may need to be taken off for this method to work.

 

Steel Wire or Paperclip

If the piece of broken key is completely inside the lock, it leaves nothing to grip onto. In this case, you may need a straightened metal paper clip or wire and a screwdriver.

First, squirt the inside of the lock with lubricant. Carefully unscrew the door lock, thumb turn, and decorative plate. Use the paper clip or wire to access the back of the cylinder and try to push the key out.

This only works for barrels that are easy to take apart and allow access to the cylinder from the back.

 

Strong Magnet

In cases where a good portion of the broken key is sticking out, you may be lucky enough to remove it with a strong magnet.

In cases where a good portion of the broken key is sticking out, you may be lucky enough to remove it with a strong magnet.

 

What Not To Do if Your Key Breaks in a Lock

Don’t Use Super Glue

This is a popular technique, but it isn’t one I recommend. Temporarily fixing a handle to the broken key using super glue can be successful in some cases, but it depends on a fair amount of luck.

It is extremely difficult to get just the right amount of glue. Even if you do, the bond often isn’t strong enough to yank the broken key out. You also run the risk of jamming the key even further inside the lock.

 

Don’t Keep Forcing It

Whatever DIY broken key removal method you choose, if you can’t get it after a few tries, don’t force it.

If you attempt to retrieve the broken key with too much pressure or the wrong technique, you run the risk of breaking the key into further pieces, pushing it deeper in the lock, or damaging the lock cylinder, leading to even more hassle.

Instead of searching for DIY broken key solutions, you may want to consider searching “locksmith near me” and leaving this tricky job to a professional. A locksmith has the knowledge and exact equipment to easily remove the broken key without causing additional damage to the lock.

For an in-depth look at broken keys, check out Our Overall Guide to Broken Keys where we cover why keys break and how to tell if you need new locks or keys.

 

Searching for “Locksmith Near Me”? Let Diamond Locksmiths Be Your Answer

Keeping keys and locks in good condition, using keys only for locking and unlocking doors, and taking your time when unlocking doors can reduce your risk of broken keys.

If you do break a key, there are a few DIY broken key methods you can attempt to retrieve it from the lock.

Although you may be lucky enough to successfully use DIY methods to remove a broken key, it can take a lot of time and cause more damage if you aren’t careful.

If you’ve tried DIY broken key methods without luck or do not feel confident about trying to remove it yourself, I advise calling a professional locksmith. It will give you the fastest results and prevent further damage.

Trying to force the broken piece out or turning it forcefully can potentially damage the lock further.

Did you break your key in the middle of the night? Don’t worry, we keep an emergency locksmith on call just for scenarios like this.

Whether you have a jammed lock or broken key or want your keys and locks inspected or replaced — we have a solution. Contact our team of experts at Diamond Locksmiths for all your residential, commercial, and automotive locksmith needs.

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