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Broken key

How to Get a Broken Key Out of a Lock

You might have been in a rush to enter the house, and in your hurry, the key snapped while it was still in the lock. If you have a second entrance, then you might be able to put off removing your broken key. However, that isn’t the case for those who live in flats in the UK. With a broken key in the lock, your entire schedule is derailed. The new priority is to get rid of the broken piece and make a new key before it takes up more of your week. 

What Should I Do When My Key Breaks Inside The Lock?

The first step is to keep your hands off and calm down. You may get the strong urge to fiddle with the door lock. That is understandable–you want to remove the broken key. However, by doing so, it might only push the stuck key deeper into the lock. You need to create a plan, and there are two ways you can go about it, doing it yourself or calling a professional locksmith.

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Should I Remove It Myself Or Call A Locksmith?

When it comes to extracting a broken key, people are advised to leave it alone. No matter how careful or delicate you try to be the wrong tools and methods only aggravate the situation more. From a simple key extraction, you might need to have the whole lock removed and replaced. 

For the best results, you should call a local locksmith. Why? Consider the different locks and models available in the market. Most of them are built with countermeasures against picking, drilling, snapping, and bumping. With all of that in place, they might not be the easiest lock to work with when you are a beginner. 

Professional locksmiths know how to get a broken key out of a lock and manage to keep everything intact. Another benefit of working with them is that they can have a new key made, using the broken parts as reference. In short, a professional locksmith has the tools, experience, and skills necessary to do the job with no fuss. 

If you need to extract a part of your key or replace a lock as soon as possible, you can book our technicians. Aerialforce has professional locksmiths across the country who are ready to take on any lock-related issue. 

When you go with the DIY route, you have to allot time for trying different methods. If it works, then that’s great! But you know that these things can go either way. If the DIY method doesn’t work, you are bound to call a locksmith to extract the broken key and create a replacement. You can make the long story–short by directly working with a professional from the get-go.

DIY Methods: How To Remove A Broken Key

When you are determined to remove the broken key by yourself, it is best to follow tried and true methods. There are many tips out there, but the ones listed here are closer to the methods of professional locksmiths. 

Tools

Before you get to work, you need to have the right tools for the job. It would be great if you can find a proper key extractor set. A key extractor tool is a long thin rod with a hook at the end. A kit usually has more than one option to account for different types of locks. However, most homes don’t have them on hand. If you are making do without the proper tools, find the following items:

  1. Needle-nose pliers/long-nose pliers or tweezers 
  2. Lubricant

While it is ideal that you have both, you can try to make it work with only the pliers or tweezers. 

Instructions

Method 1: Key Extractor

  1. Make sure your lock is in a neutral position to release the pin tumblers holding it in place. If it isn’t, use your needle-nose pliers to align your cylinders vertically.
  2. Insert the key extractor along the largest cut of the key and make sure the hook is facing upwards.
  3. Get a good hold on one of the key’s teeth and pull the broken piece out. 

Method 2: Pliers/ Tweezers

  1. Similar to the previous instruction, keep the cylinders at a neutral position.
  2. Add a bit of lubricant with the straw attachment and wipe off any excess. 
  3. Use your pliers/tweezers to grip on the end of the broken key.
  4. When you have a good hold, remove the broken key.

Things To Note

The first way to extract a broken key uses locksmith’s basic techniques. While it can give you the best result, there is a bit of skill involved, especially if you have a tricky door lock. On the other hand, the second method has no guarantee for a key stuck in the lock. There are too many issues that make it challenging. You may need multiple tries before you can get it out.

  1. The lubricant makes it easier for the key to slide out, but you end up compromising grip when you use tweezers. 
  2. Tweezers, in general, can be pretty hit or miss. There are different types of tweezers, and your success rate depends on which one you get. Look for the one with the best grip. You might want to avoid using point-tip or pointed slant tweezers since they don’t have the best hold for something as large as a key. 
  3. Even when you manage to do all these steps properly, consider the difficulty of the extraction. What part of the key is stuck? And how deep is it? The general rule of thumb is the deeper it is in the cylinder, the harder it is to extract.

There are DIY hacks online that can be very misleading. Most of them only contribute to breaking the lock further, like using super glue or graphite as a lubricant. 

The super glue method is about adding a bit to a thin stick or wire and using it to attach to the broken piece in the lock. When the glue dries, you pull it out. However, when was the last time you were able to use super glue without making a mess? It is very temperamental to work with, and precise applications are rare. When you use it to remove a broken key, the adhesive will dirty the cylinder and make it impossible to use. 

These methods, especially in the hands of a beginner, can make a simple key extraction into a door lock replacement. If you want to preserve your lock, a locksmith is your best bet.

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So Why Did My Key Snap In The Lock?

It can be because of 1-2 of the following reasons: 

  1. Your keys are made out of cheap metal.
  2. Your keys were damaged, or there was excessive wear and tear.
  3. It was not properly flushed against the lock and was stuck in an improper position.
  4. It could not handle the excessive force.

Besides your key, the door lock has a lot to do with it as well. Most keys that snap while inside the lock are pin-tumbler locks/ euro cylinders. These locks use multiple pins to push against the teeth of the key/ shear line. However, when it is not fully inserted, it gets stuck, and you end up exerting unnecessary stress on multiple parts. Unfortunately, euro cylinders happen to be one of the most common residential locks in the UK, so key snapping is a very real possibility. 

If you want a clearer answer for your broken key, you can consult your local locksmith and see what they think. A locksmith has seen many broken keys, and they have a better idea about the contributing factors. You might have a brand that often breaks, or you have bad habits that contribute to quick wear and tear. If anyone knows whats going on, it’s a locksmith.

How Do I Prevent This From Happening Again?

There are steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen again:

  1. Invest in better quality keys. Make sure the metal can handle daily use without a problem.
  2. Avoid using your key as a dupe tool for another task. That means don’t use it to lift paint can lids, break plastic/ tape, poke holes in cardboard, etc. If it isn’t a lock, don’t use it. There are plenty of other doors for the job.
  3. Make sure you are using your key properly. Use the right key for the right door and make sure it is fully inserted before twisting to avoid having a stuck key in the lock.

By following these easy steps for how to remove a broken key from the lock, you should be able to avoid breaking your keys. Whether it is your front door, car door, or padlock, a broken key is a major inconvenience. If you want a surefire way to extract your broken key and have a new one made, you can contact Aerialforce for a local locksmith! Our professional locksmiths try to respond to calls within the hour of your call, so we can quickly extract the broken key. You can book our services online or call us at 0330 162 9662!

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