When a key breaks off in your lock, it’s frustrating and seems impossible to get out. Luckily, there are several ways you can get it out with or without a few simple tools.
If you’re looking for instructions on how to get a broken key out of a lock quickly and easily, you’re in the right place.
How to Get a Broken Key Out of a Lock
Removing a broken key from a lock can be tricky, but if you know the right methods to use, you can make fast work of it. Before you get started, try these troubleshooting tips to see if you may be able to utilize a quick fix that doesn’t require tools.
If you don’t feel confident that you won’t further lodge the broken key into the lock, it’s best to call a locksmith. Key extraction is a fast and simple process for professional locksmiths, and they can usually get to your location quickly.
Before You Begin
If you want to make this process easier and less time-consuming, take the time to assess the situation before beginning.
First things first: Whatever you do, don’t try to use the broken part of the key to turn the lock! This won’t work.
It will only further lodge the broken bit into the lock, and when it’s pushed in too deeply, none of the methods we’re about to show you will work. If you’ve already done this, go ahead and call a locksmith to assist you.
There are a few questions you need the answers to before you choose the method to use.
- What kind of lock is it? Is your key wedged in a padlock, door lock, or car door lock?
- How deeply is the key lodged in the lock? Can you see any part of the key? There may be a small piece sticking out of the keyhole, or it could be wedged further back.
- What tools do you have access to? A screwdriver or jigsaw blade could help you remove the key. If you don’t have tools, do you have any small, sturdy objects, like a bobby pin or paperclip, that could help you remove the key?
- How quickly do you need the key removed? If it’s an emergency, it’s best to call a locksmith rather than risk pushing the broken key further into the lock.
It may be easier to get a broken key out of a padlock than a home or car door lock. If you need the key removed quickly and don’t have any tools on hand (or are locked out without access to them), check out the No Tool Method below.
Or, simply call a locksmith while you stand guard to ensure no one picks the lock. It may not be likely, but someone can come along and pick the lock with special tools or even a simple screwdriver if you leave.
Let’s look at the different methods you can use to get a broken key out of a lock and the type of lock each technique works for and tools required.
5 Methods to Get a Broken Key Out of a Lock
These methods don’t require any specialized tools. The first method relies on gravity alone to get the broken key out of a lock! Other methods include using everyday household objects.
These might be bobby pins and paper clips to remove the key, and one relies on using a screwdriver to gain entry to your house or car.
No Tool Method (Tapping the Lock)
- Works for: Padlocks, any lock with a removable cylinder
- Tools needed: Lubricant spray (optional)
If your key is broken off in a lock with a removable cylinder, you might get the broken part out by tapping the lock against a hard surface.
- Make sure the keyhole is facing down. If you cover the keyhole while you tap the lock, you could prevent it from sliding out.
- Hold the lock firmly and tap it against a hard surface with force. If you have access to a lubricant like WD-40, spray it inside the keyhole to assist the key in sliding out.
- The broken part of the key should slide out, or at least slide down far enough to give you a small piece of key to tug on with pliers or your fingers.
If you use this method and successfully remove the broken key, you should call a locksmith to repair the lock’s core. It could have been damaged during the process of tapping it.
“Probe and Pull” Method
- Works for: Any lock
- Tools needed: Bobby pins, paper clips, safety pins, or other small stiff objects, plus needle-nose pliers
The probe and pull method is good because it doesn’t require any specialized or traditional tools. Instead, you can come up with small, slim, sturdy objects like paper clips or bobby pins.
You may be able to pull your broken key out without too much trouble.
- Make sure your objects are slim enough to fit into the keyhole and on either side of the lodged key. If they are too large, they will only push the key further in. Hold one object in each hand so you’ll have enough leverage to pull the key out.
- Once both objects are in the keyhole and wedged on either side of the broken key, turn your hands so that your wrists are flat, and the objects holding the key are securely pushed against it.
- Slowly pull the key toward you by continuing to maintain pressure on the objects. If it doesn’t come out, try the process again. It may take a few tries to pull the key the full length of the keyway.
- Once the key is visible and poking out of the keyhole enough to grip it, pull it out with your fingers or with needle-nose pliers.
Ensure that the objects you use are not valuables or special to you, as they’ll probably be bent in pulling the key out.
Jigsaw Blade Key Extractor Method
- Works for: Any lock
- Tools needed: Lubricant spray, jigsaw blade or scroll saw blade
This method requires you to have access to a jigsaw blade. If you do, this helps significantly because a jigsaw blade has a similar shape as a locksmith’s unique key extractor tool. The toothed edges grab the key and help you pull it out.
- Spray the lock with lubricant spray to make it easier to pull the key out using the saw blade.
- Slide the saw blade into the lock like you would a regular key. Make sure the teeth are pointing downward.
- Once the blade is inside the lock, move it around to try and hook the serrations onto the key blade.
- When you can feel that the key is hooked onto the saw blade, keep pressure applied to it as you slowly slide it out of the lock to retrieve the key.
A scroll saw blade will work just as well as a jigsaw blade for this method.
- Works for: Any lock
- Tools needed: A thin, flathead screwdriver
This method can work in two ways. First, if the entire key blade is broken off from the key head, a flathead screwdriver can be used to finish unlocking the door.
You will still need to use one of the above methods or call a locksmith to retrieve the broken key from the lock, but it’s helpful to be able to get inside your home or car in the meantime.
Second, a flathead screwdriver can be used to turn the lock back to the default position before using any of the methods you see above. If you were able to turn the lock a bit before the key broke off, you will need to reset the lock to the default position before you can retrieve the key.
You can do this by inserting the tip of the screwdriver and giving it a turn until the lock clicks back into its default position. If the entire key blade is broken off:
- Insert the flathead screwdriver into the lock, keeping it to one side of the broken key.
- Once it’s in the lock against the key, use it to put pressure on the key while you turn the handle of the screwdriver like it’s an extension of the key. The door should unlock, allowing you to gather other tools for one of the retrieval methods above or to call a locksmith for help.
- Hire a Locksmith
Undoubtedly the easiest and most sure way to get a broken key out of a lock is simply calling a local locksmith. Locksmiths can retrieve any key from a lock, whether it’s broken clean in half, the entire key blade is in the lock, or if the broken part is not visible.
Locksmiths use specialized tools called key extractors that grab the key inside the lock and pull it out the keyhole. Using specialized tools for the job won’t damage or harm your lock in the process of removing the key.
While every method listed here is tried and true, you could spend an hour trying to manually remove the key with a bobby pin and paper clip. If you’d rather get the key out quickly and go on about your day, it’s best to call a local professional locksmith.
They’ll be happy to come out and retrieve your broken key for you. The added, convenient bonus: As long as you have both pieces of your broken key, a locksmith can cut a new key for you.
How to Get a Broken Key Out of a Lock
If your key breaks off inside your lock, it’s inconvenient, but it’s not impossible to fix yourself. If you’re precise, good with small tools, and have a little patience to keep working at it for a bit, you can get a broken key out of a lock.
However, if you’re in a hurry, worried you’ll push the key further into the lock, or don’t want to bother with it, the best thing to do is call a local locksmith to retrieve the broken key for you. Within a minute or two, they can have the key out and get you set up with a brand new key.