Removing a Broken Key Stuck in a Lock
Keys get worn, keys get weak, keys get broken. But when a key breaks inside of a lock cylinder, how do you get it out?
There are several techniques commonly used to remove a broken key from a lock. They are:
- Take the lock apart
- Key removal tool (or key extractor)
- Needle nose pliers or tweezers
- Small jigsaw blade or paper clip
- The online method you should NEVER try
- What if you still can’t get the broken key out?
Step 1: For all of the techniques we recommend, step 1 is to lubricate the lock with a silicon based lubrication spray before trying to remove the key. We’ve talked about our favorite on this blog many times.
Take the Lock Apart
If your home has Schlage door hardware, often the easiest thing to do is take apart the lock to expose the back side of the cylinder. The back side of the cylinder will have holes that you can poke into to push the key out.
The access the cylinder, remove the c-clip (or nut) on the back of the lock. Once removed you can insert a paper clip, or other small rod, into the back of the lock to push out the broken key. Then reassemble the cylinder and the lock.
If you are uncomfortable taking the lock apart, and the other ways below are not successful, simply remove the door lock and take it your local locksmith. They will get the key out for you at an affordable price.
Using a Key Extractor to Remove a Key
When you don’t want to spend all day trying to use some hack method for removing a key, use what the professionals use. There is simply no better way to remove a key that is stuck in the lock than with the tool that has been designed specifically for that purpose, the key extractor.
Spiral Key extractors are very thin strips of metal that have grooves in them. These grooves are meant to grip the broken key so that the key can be removed.
To use, insert the key extractor along the edge of the cut side of the key. Be careful not to push the key further into the lock. You will be trying to push the extractor along the very top edgy to push the pins up and out of the way so the extractor slides in. Twist the extractor and gently pull out. This can take several attempts as you are trying to create enough friction to pull the key out.
Another type of key extractor is the hook extractor. With the hook extractor you are trying to hook the first cut of the broken key and pull the key out. Insert the hook extractor along the cut side of the key and push back until just beyond the first cut. Then pull.
There are several different types and affordable key extractor sets on eBay.
Try Needle Nose Pliers to Remove the Key
If some cases the key may not be pushed all the way into the lock and there may be just enough of it sticking out that you can grab it with a pair of needle nose pliers. Tweezers can also work and maybe even better since they are very thing. Just try whichever you have on hand.
Be careful not to push the key in further. You will either have enough key sticking out to grab the broken edge or you won’t, but either way, you will know quickly which is the case.
Using a Small Jigsaw Blade or Paper Clip
This method to remove a key is very similar to the key extraction tool method above. But what if you don’t have key extraction tools? Well this is the “try anything” approach using whatever similar small bumpy, rounded object you have available to you.
Some paper clips have grooved edges and can work in a pinch as a spiral extractor if there’s room in the lock cylinder to get them in. There are also a number of very small jigsaw blades that will work like a hook extractor. I bought a pumpkin carving set at Halloween that had a very good small jigsaw in it that I now keep in my tool box.
The Online “Tip” You Should Never Use to Remove a Key
You may have seen some online advice to try and use super glue to remove the key. Say what!?!? Come on, really?
The idea behind this is to to put super glue on just the very tip of the broken key. Now you have to do this without getting super glue on any other part of the key or you will glue the key into the lock cylinder and none of the methods we have discussed will work any longer and you will be replacing the lock.
But once you’ve gotten that magic drop of super glue on just the tip of the broken key, place another small object (like a paper clip) onto the glue and sit there waiting for it to dry and bond. Then slowly pull until the key comes out.
Now I know some people are going to want to try this. Once you’ve glued that key into the lock, you’re going to need to take the lock a part and soak it in some finger nail polish remover to dissolve the glue, and then go back to try the other methods we’ve discussed t get the key out.
What if You Still Can’t Get the Broken Key Out?
If you’ve tried it all, except the glue, just remove the lock from the door and take it to your local locksmith. They will be able to get the key out for less than the price of a new lock. Now, if you ignored my advice and glued the key in, throw the lock away and buy another one. But buy the new lock from your local locksmith. Not only will they get you a good price but most locksmiths will key up the new lock to your existing house key as part of your purchase, no additional charge.
And when you get your keys made at ACME Locksmith, get a ACME stamped key that has a lifetime guarantee to never break, split or crack. If it does, we’ll replace your key for free.
Disclosure: As an Amazon / Google Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.