How To Remove a Broken Key

How To Remove A Broken Key From A Lock

It’s one of those facepalm moments that come usually at the most inopportune times.  It can be exasperating and your first instinct may be to call in the marines (an exaggeration, of course). What are we talking about? Having a key snap in the lock just as you’re turning it. 


While a broken key situation may feel like an emergency and the only solution is to immediately contact a locksmith for help, it’s not. You can probably solve the problem yourself once you calm down to assess the situation. 


Depending on how much of the key is stuck in the lock, it is possible to pull it or take it out with the help of a few simple tools.


How To Remove A Broken Key - What To Do

Here we will show you options for removing a broken key from a lock:


Before starting, it is advisable to spray on a silicone-based lubricant or penetrating oil into the keyhole to loosen up the lock mechanism.  If your lock has been acting up and being difficult to operate prior, this step is particularly helpful.


Try needle-nosed pliers to remove the key

It’s best to start with the simplest option and try removing the key using needle-nosed pliers or even tweezers. 


This method works if the key has not been pushed all the way into the lock. You may use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to grab the end part that may be sticking out of the lock. Alternatively, you may use a pair of tweezers to pull out the broken key.


Just remember to work carefully so as not to push the key even further into the keyhole. 


Take the lock apart 

If you are a bit handy and have Schlage door hardware installed, you can take the lock apart to expose the backside of the cylinder. From there you can push the key out through the holes in the cylinder. 


The cylinder may be accessed by removing the butt at the back of the lock. It’s a matter of inserting a small rod or a paperclip into the back of the lock to remove the broken key from the lock. 


After extracting the broken key, it is easy to reassemble the cylinder and the lock. 


Note that this method does not work for Kwikset locks because they are configured differently.


Use a small jigsaw blade 

The idea is to have a thin piece of metal that is able to fit into the keyway along with the broken key. 


Slide the blade of the jigsaw into the keyhole. Remember to keep the teeth pointing downward. Push it in lightly until you feel the blade grab into the key. Carefully pull out the blade from the keyhole, bringing the broken key with it. 


It’s helpful to have needle-nosed pliers on hand to assist as the key is coming out of the keyway.


Purchase a broken key extractor

If you don’t have a jigsaw blade, it’s better to just purchase a tool that professionals use specifically for this purpose - the broken key extractor.


There are 2 kinds:


  • Spiral Key Extractor is made of very thin strips of metal with grooves in them. These grooves are meant to “catch” the broken key so it can be slid out of the keyway. 


  • Hook Extractor as the name implies, has a hook that is used to latch on to the first cut of the broken key so that it can be carefully pulled out. 

What Not To Do To Remove A Broken
Key From A Lock

Do not attempt to unlock the door with the fragmented or broken key. This will likely push the broken key deeper into the lock, making it more difficult to retrieve the fragmented piece and possibly causing more damage.


Do not use super glue. There is a controversial method that you may have seen online using some super glue. We DO NOT RECOMMEND this method. 


With this remedy, a small bead of super glue is applied to the broken key. For this to have any kind of success, there should be a part of the key exposed. No glue should get into any other part of the key or the lockset or you risk just bonding it to the keyhole. 


Something small, like a wooden match, is attached to the key until a firm bond is formed. At this point, the broken key can then be pulled out of the keyhole.  


This should only be tried if all else fails because you can potentially do more damage to the lock. You may even end up having to buy a replacement lockset in the end. We instead recommend calling a professional if you’ve exhausted your home options.

How To Remove A Broken Key
Why Do Keys Break

To people who have experienced having a key break as they are stepping out late for work or are rushing to an important appointment, it’s Murphy’s Law or maybe it’s just plain bad luck.


Seriously speaking, why do keys break in the first place?  Here are several factors that contribute to it:


  • Normal wear and tear on the key itself is the most common reason why keys break inside locks. Over time, the teeth on the key get worn down and that makes it hard for the teeth to catch inside the lock.


  • Keys are made of either nickel or brass, soft metals that are prone to breaking when enough force is applied to them.


  • A poorly lubricated lock that makes opening and locking more difficult. This creates a resistant force on the key which may eventually cause it to break.


  • Warm, humid weather can cause doors to warp and bend.


What Can You Do To Prevent A Broken Key

Lubrication is key. Keeping your lock adequately lubricated and maintained reduces the chance of your door’s locking mechanism jamming and breaking your key.


If you’re having trouble locking or unlocking the door, or if you notice the key starting to stick, it’s time to lubricate. The sooner the better before you find yourself regretting not doing it earlier. 


How To Remove A Broken Key
Call Dick’s Lock And Safe

If you find yourself with a key broken and stuck in the lock, and you have carefully tried all recommended methods above but still have not succeeded, it’s time to call in the professionals.


Dick’s Lock and Safe is a trusted professional locksmith in Orange County and has been helping residents and businesses with their locks and security needs since 1964. 


We have built a solid reputation for providing quality services and products, both as a residential locksmith and a commercial locksmith.  Our locksmiths and technicians are state-licensed, bonded, and insured so you can be sure we can tackle any lock, door, or security problem you may have.

Contact us today to learn how we can help secure your home or business:

Tel: (714) 528-3984

Toll Free: (888) 588-3984

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Placentia, CA
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