The Definitive Guide to Dealing with a Broken Key: Professional Tips and Advice


The Definitive Guide to Dealing with a Broken Key: Professional Tips and Advice

Everyone has had that gut-wrenching moment where a key snaps in the lock. It’s a common but frustrating problem. Luckily, there are many ways to extract a broken key from the lock, and this comprehensive guide provides professional tips and advice to help you navigate such a predicament.

Introduction: Don’t Panic!

A broken key in a lock can be a moment of pure panic, especially when it’s the only key you have. However, it’s crucial to stay calm and not rush. Attempting a hasty extraction could potentially cause more damage to the lock, making the situation even worse.

Why Do Keys Break?

Before diving into the solutions, it’s important to understand why keys break in locks in the first place. A few reasons include:

  1. Usage over time: Keys often break due to wear and tear. Over time, the metal becomes strained and weak, causing it to snap.
  2. Rushed handling: If you’re in a hurry and force the key into the lock, it could break.
  3. Poor lubrication: A lock that’s not properly lubricated can cause the key to jam and snap.
  4. Material: Keys are usually made from soft metals like brass, which can wear down over time.

Essential Preparations

Before initiating the key extraction, there are a few important steps to take:

  1. Lubricate the lock: Spraying some lubricant into the keyway can significantly reduce friction and make the extraction process easier. Dry lubricants like graphite or Teflon are ideal. However, oil-based lubricants like WD-40 can also be used. Be mindful that oil-based lubricants might leave a residue that can accumulate dirt and grime over time.
  2. Align the keyway: Most locks require the keyway to be in a specific position for the key to be removed. Ensure the keyway is aligned to the position it was in before the key was inserted.

How to Extract a Broken Key

There are numerous ways to remove a broken key from a lock. Here are the most effective methods:

1. Professional Key Extractors

Professional key extractors are the first and most efficient tools for removing a broken key. There are various types of key extractors, but they all essentially work the same way. They have a sharp point that digs into the key, allowing you to pull it out.

Hooked Key Extractor

A hooked key extractor resembles a lock pick with a barb on one end. You insert it into the top of the keyway with the barbs pointing down, lift the handle upwards, and leverage it against the top of the keyway. The barb will grip the key and allow you to pull it out.

Spiral Key Extractor

A spiral key extractor has a thin, flexible bar with a spiraled thread, similar to a screw. You insert it between the key and the keyway, push it in as far as possible, and then bend the tool into the key so the threads dig into it. Slowly twist the extractor to retract the key.

2. Using Pliers or Tweezers

If the broken key is sticking out of the lock, you might be able to use pliers or tweezers to pull it out. Be careful not to push the key further into the lock.

3. Deploying Paperclips

Paperclips can be a handy tool for removing a broken key, as long as the key isn’t too deep within the keyway. You can either slip the paperclip under the bottom of the key and press it downwards for leverage or use two paperclips to grip the key from both sides and pull it out.


4. Utilizing a Knife

If a paperclip doesn’t provide enough grip, a knife with a sharp tip might be able to pierce the side of the key and leverage it out. Be careful not to damage the lock or injure yourself.

5. Fishing Hooks

A fishing hook can be used to remove a broken key from a lock. Straighten the hook, insert it into the lock with the barb perpendicular to the key, and rotate it towards the key to pull it out.

6. Screws

If the key is flush with the end of the keyway, a small screw might be able to extract it. Place the tip of the screw at a large gap in the keyway, apply some inward force, and slowly turn the screw. The key will follow the spiral thread and slowly exit the keyway.

7. Drill Bits

For a key that’s deep within the lock, a small drill bit might be able to create a divot in the side of the key to grip it and pull it out.

8. Hack Saw or Jigsaw Blades

A hacksaw or jigsaw blade can be used to remove a broken key. Cut one side of the blade so that the barbs are at the tip, insert the cut-off end into the side of the keyway, and pull the key out.

9. Hot Glue Stick

A hot glue stick could potentially pull a broken key out of a lock. Melt the end of the glue stick, push it into the keyway, let it cool, and then slowly pull it out. The glue should adhere to the key and pull it out.

10. Super Glue

Super glue can be a risky yet effective way of removing a broken key. Apply a small amount of super glue on the broken section of the key, insert the key piece into the lock, wait for the glue to set, and then pull the key out. Be extremely careful as this method could potentially ruin your lock.

11. Hire a Locksmith

If you’re unsuccessful in removing the broken key yourself, hiring a professional locksmith is your best option. They have the necessary tools and expertise to safely extract the key without causing further damage to your lock.

How Not to Make a Mistake When Dealing With Broken Keys

When dealing with a broken key, it’s important to avoid certain mistakes that could make the situation worse:

  1. Avoid using force: Trying to remove the key forcefully could damage the lock or the key.
  2. Don’t try to remove the key yourself: If you’re not experienced at removing keys, it’s best to call a professional locksmith.
  3. Avoid using metal hangers or butter knives: These could damage the lock and the key.
  4. Don’t use a hammer: Hammering the lock could cause more damage.
  5. Call a professional locksmith: If all else fails, hire a professional locksmith.


Dealing with a broken key doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Remember, it’s important to stay calm, avoid causing further damage, and, when necessary, seek out the help of a professional locksmith. If you’re in need of a key replacement, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free quote !. Wey’ll be able to provide you with a new key and ensure your lock is in good working order.

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Robin Locksmith is a family-owned plumbing company, providing exceptional locksmithing services services to residential homes, commercial businesses and automobile locksmith in Seattle and its surrounding areas. Whether you need repair work done or want to update your system for the first time ever, our team of courteous professionals, technicians, and plumbers will do each job right—the first time. Contact us today for all your locksmith needs!

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