What If I Break My Key Off in a Lock?

What If I Break My Key Off in a Lock?

This article explains why a key might break off in a lock and offers tips on how to prevent keys from breaking. It also covers what someone should do if they have a key broken in a lock and when to call a locksmith.

Imagine coming home from work with your groceries in one hand and your briefcase in the other. You go to unlock your front door and snap — your key breaks in the lock. Ugh! With your key broken in the lock, you can’t open the door. You’re stuck. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to retrieve your broken key and get back inside your home.

Author: Sandra Hess

Why Would a Key Break Off in a Lock?

When you're trying to figure out how to get a broken key out of a lock, it’s important to understand why it may have broken off in the first place. There are several reasons a key might break off in a lock, including:

  • Soft metal: Many keys are made from soft metals, such as nickel or brass. Over time, these soft metals can start to weaken, making them more prone to breaking.
  • Damaged key: If your key is already broken, chipped or cracked, there’s a higher likelihood of it breaking in the lock.
  • Malfunctioning lock: A malfunctioning lock can cause a key to break off.
  • Too much pressure: It’s not uncommon for a key to break off in a lock due to applying too much pressure.
  • Lack of lubricant: Without the right lubrication, your key can get stuck inside the lock and break when you try to remove it.

Can You Remove the Broken Key?

Certainly, your first concern is how to get the broken key out of your lock. The answer depends on how your key broke. If a portion of the key is still sticking out of the lock, you may be able to remove it with just a few tools.

Start by spraying an oil-based lubricant, such as WD-40, into the lock. This lubricant can improve the functionality of the lock. Next, take a pair of needle-nose pliers and try to gently pull the key out of the lock. Be careful not to pull too hard or extend the pliers too far into the lock because this could damage it. Once you pull the key out of the lock, don’t throw it away. Instead, take your broken key to a locksmith or store with key-making services to have a replacement made.

At What Point Do You Need to Call a Locksmith?

If you can’t remove the key from the lock by pulling gently, it’s best to call in the professionals before you damage the lock. You should also call a locksmith if no portion of the key is sticking out of the lock because it can be nearly impossible to remove it without causing damage.

Locksmiths have specialized key extractor tools, such as a spiral key extractor, and the expertise to remove the key without damaging your lock. In the rare case when a broken key can't be extracted, the locksmith can replace the entire locking system and provide you with a new key.

How Can I Prevent My Key From Breaking?

There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of your key breaking in a lock, including:

  • Keeping the lock lubricated: If your lock doesn’t appear to be working smoothly, try spraying it with an oil-based lubricant.
  • Replacing damaged keys: If your key becomes bent, cracked or worn, be sure to replace it as soon as possible.
  • Using keys appropriately: Never close your door by pulling on the key while it's in the lock. Also, be sure to put your key straight in and pull it straight out to avoid bending it.

If you have a key broken in a lock, the most important thing to remember is to contact a locksmith if you can’t easily remove it using basic pliers. Calling in the professionals can prevent your lock from breaking and help you gain entry to your home.

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