The Broken Key Event
So, there you are. You hurried everyone up and the family is waiting on you in the car. You reach for the bundle of keys in your pocket and locate the key to the front door. You push it into the lock, twist it and BAM! The key breaks off inside the lock and your left with the business end of the situation and a whole lot of regret for being in such a hurry.
You’ll have to do something if the family is going to get to their beds tonight. The key hole is filled with the remains of your key and in your hand is a useless piece of metal.
First Things First
Try to think about what just happened and why it happened. A lock and key can be delicate things and they are intended to be used with care. Always insert a key into a lock with a slow and precise movement of the hand. Allow the key to go in without forcing it. Don’t force the tip of the key against the depth of the keyhole, but allow it to gently come to a stop.
This kind of situation can feel like an emergency and it does cause some stress. Your first instinct will be to call a locksmith and that is fine. Locksmiths can retrieve broken keys and have you back in your home in no time.
If you are one of those “Do it yourself,” then here are some tips for you to handle the situation.
Make an assessment regarding how much of the key is in the keyhole. You might be able to extract the broken key part. You can either pull or rake it out. Locksmiths use specialized tools to accomplish this, but you might have something such as a scroll saw blade or a jig saw blade that may do the job. If you can get the broken bits out, then all you have to do is locate your spare key or have one made and you are back in business!
Don’t despair. Call forth that “can do” attitude and you will soon be laughing about the whole experience.
Vertical Keyhole Position
Take note of how much of the key is in the lock and how much is in your hand. Important Tip: If the key has broken in the middle and the part in your hand also includes some of the shaft or “key cuts,” then the lock is still aligned vertically allowing you to move parts in and out. If you are only holding the head of the key in your hand, then you probably turned the key toward a horizontal position as it was breaking. To correct this position, you can insert a screwdriver into the key hole and turn it back to a vertical position.
Get some penetrating oil, WD40 or any household oil and get it into the keyhole. If your lock has been stiff or difficult to operate lately, then adding the oil will serve also to lubricate the tumblers for ease of future use. You can also get some graphite and add it to the inner workings of the lock. Graphite is a crystalline form of carbon and acts as a lubricant in high friction circumstances.
You may attempt to use a pair of “needle-nosed” pliers. Your goal is the grasp the broken parts on each side equally. There may be room inside the keyhole and their may not. Insert the tip of the pliers in the keyhole and try to grip the broken key. If all of the shaft of the key is broken inside the keyhole, then there will be some cuts for you to try to grab. Of course, if only a few centimeters are left in the lock, then you may not be able to retrieve anything.
You may also try to retrieve the broken bits by using the blade of a scroll saw or jig saw. You will want to insert the blade into the keyhole with the teeth pointing downward. Push the blade into the keyhole until you feel or hear the blade grap one of the cuts in the shaft of the key. Gently but firmly pull the blade out of the keyhole and very possibly the broken section will appear.
One of the first things folks like to use in a situation like this are the tweezers. You will want to make sure the tweezers you are going to use will both fit the keyhole and be able to get around the bits that are stuck. Most homeowners find the thickness of the tweezers does nothing but make the situation worse by pushing the broken part deeper into the lock. Watch for this and avoid it if you can. Tweezers may work if a bit of the broken key is sticking out.
Super glue will work in certain situations. If you can see the broken section of the key and can touch it with a straight object such as a match or small rod, then very possibly you can be successful with this product. Place a drop of the glue on a wire or match and touch the part you can see. Be careful not to let any blue drop into the lock as this will either glue the broken key shaft to the lock or glue the inner workings of the lock together.
You might try tapping the cylinder of the lock. If the key is broken inside a door, then you will have to remove the locking mechanism from the door. This action only works if you are able to face the lock downward toward the ground. While the lock is faced downward you will strike the lock with a hammer. You must ensure the lock is held tightly and does not move when struck. The goal here is the make the lock immovable so that the shock of the hammer blows will assist gravity to make the key fall out. Unfortunately, this use of a hammer may also cause structural damage to the lock requiring the purchase of a whole new lock for the door.
List of Handy Items for This Task
- Bobby Pin
- Paper Clip
- Safety Pin
- Metal Hair Clip
- Button Pin
- Swiss Army Knife
- Jig Saw Blade
- Scroll Saw Blade
- Super Glue
- Penetrating Oil
- Small Wire
Locksmiths have some well developed tools to get this job done. Key extractor tools have been around for a good while and a good locksmith can have you back in your house in no time at all. Give it your best shot and if you just can’t get that pesky piece of a key out, then call a professional and let them do what they do.
I’m Mark and I’ve been removing broken key bits for years.
Give me a call at 07866522422 or email me at Mark@24houremergencylocksmithsbelfast.com
Broken Key Extraction