How To Get a Stuck Key out of the Lock

Keys and locks… they’re part and parcel of life, and most of the time, we don’t even think about them. But when something goes wrong, we quickly realize just how important they really are. Keys wear, locks rust, and before you know it, you’re dealing with a stuck key. Or, even worse, one that’s broken inside the lock. When the worse happens, you’re left with a dilemma. How, exactly, do you get the key out? If you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong side of the door and no way to get onto the right side, here’s exactly what you need to know about how to get a stuck key out of a lock.

How Do Keys Get Stuck In Locks?

Before we start looking into how to get a stuck key out of a lock, there’s another, equally important, question to answer. How, exactly, do keys get stuck in the first place? A large part of the explanation lies in the delicate nature of locks. Modern locks are intricate, with numerous mechanisms that need to fit precisely together in order for the lock to operate as it should. If any of those mechanisms wear, bend, rust, or accumulate a layer of dirt, it can stop the parts from working correctly. Keys are no less to blame: if they wear down, they’ll eventually stop fitting into the lock.

How To Get a Stuck Key Out of the Lock

If your key becomes stuck in a lock, there’s one thing you should never do, no matter how tempting. Don’t, under any circumstances, try to pull the key out using your strength. Even if you’ve got the upper body strength of the Hulk, this isn’t a problem that’s going to be solved by brute force. As a first step, do as recommends and press your finger on the plug then gently try to move the key in and out. Wiggling the key and the plug will often be enough to realign them to the point you can get the key out. If that doesn’t work, try the following methods presented by Hunker ( Bear in mind that these methods will only work if the key is still complete – if it’s broken inside the lock, you’ll need to move straight on to one of the alternative methods we’ll discuss shortly.

  • Method 1 – Wrap a couple of ice cubes in a plastic bag and hold them against the key. The cold should make the metal contract enough for the teeth of the keys to clear the pins.
  • Method 2 – Push against the lock mechanism with one finger or hand while turning the key with the other hand. If the lock mechanism has become loose, this should stabilize it enough for you to safely pull the key out.
  • Method 3 – Apply a little spray lubricant into the keyhole just above the key. As you apply the lubricant, gently jiggle the lock to release the key.

How to Remove a Broken Key

If the stuck key has turned into a broken one, you’ll need to adopt a different strategy. Before attempting any of the following methods, it’s best to follow the advice of and prepare the lock by applying a graphite spray lubricant. Simply alight the nozzle of the spray bottle to the lock and apply a small amount of lubricant to the keyhole. Use a rag to wipe away any excess product. Although this step isn’t strictly necessary, it’ll make the next stage in the process much easier.

  • The Tweezer Method – Take a pair of tweezers. They’ll need to be thin enough to fit easily inside the lock. If they’re too thick, they’ll only push the broken key further back inside. Using a steady hand, insert the tweezers into the lock and gently pull the broken part out. This method works best if part of the key is still sticking out of the keyhole, even if only a little.
  • The Paperclip Method – Take two paper clips and bend them slightly to straighten them. Once they’re as straight as you can make them, align each piece to each side of the key. Apply enough pressure to grip the key with the wires. Pull the key slowly and steadily until it’s sufficiently out of the lock for you to remove it with your fingers.
  • The Hot Glue Method – Although it might sound counterintuitive to use glue to extract an already stuck key, it’s actually surprisingly effective when it’s done in the right way. Bear in mind that this method will only work if the broken key is sticking out of the lock: if the key has snapped and no part is visible, you’ll need to use a different approach. Using a hot glue gun, apply a small amount of glue to the end of the key. Wait for the key to dry before taking hold of the glue and pulling. The key should slip straight out.
  • The Extractor Tool Method – Insert a single or double hooked extractor tool into the keyhole just above the key cuts. Hook the tool onto one of the key cuts and pull. It may take a few attempts, but the key fragment should eventually slide out.
  • The Hacksaw Blade Method – For this method, you’ll need a mini hacksaw blade. The blade will need to be thin enough to slide into the keyhole: if it’s too thick, you may end up pushing the key further back into the lock. Insert the blade, saw edge down, and hook the key. Gently pull to ease the key out of the lock.
  • The Needle Nosed Pliers Method – Insert a pair of needle-nosed pliers into the lock and use it to grab hold of the key. Gently pull to release the key. If the pliers seem too thick to enter the lock easily, avoid using this method as it will push the key further inside.
  • When to Call in the Professionals – If you don’t have the right tools for the job, it’s best to bite the bullet and call in a professional locksmith. Using the wrong tools (or indeed, the wrong method) may damage the lock and end up costing you more in the long run. With the right tools at their disposal, a locksmith should be able to fix the problem and even replace the lock if necessary in less than thirty minutes.

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