Keys get worn, keys get weak, keys get broken. But when a key breaks inside of a lock cylinder, how do you get it out?
Step 1: First is to lubricate the lock with a silicon-based lubrication spray before trying to remove the key.
Take the Lock Apart
Often the easiest thing to do is take apart the lock to expose the backside of the cylinder. The backside of the cylinder will have holes that you can poke into to push the key out.
With open access to the cylinder, remove the c-clip (or nut) on the back of the lock. Once removed you can insert a paper clip, or other small rods, into the back of the lock to push out the broken key. Then reassemble the cylinder and the lock.
This will not work for Kwikset locks because their backs have no holes through which you can access the inside of the cylinder to push out the key.
If you are uncomfortable taking the lock apart, and the other ways below are not successful, simply remove the door lock and take it your local locksmith. They will get the key out for you at an affordable price.
Use a Key Extractor to Remove a Key
If trying a hacked method all day does not work, use what the professionals use. The key extractor is the best way to remove a key that is stuck in the lock. This tool has been designed specifically for that purpose.
Spiral Key extractors are very thin strips of metal that have grooves in them. These grooves are meant to grip the broken key so that the key can be removed.
To use, insert the key extractor along the edge of the cut side of the key. Be careful not to push the key further into the lock. You will be trying to push the extractor along the very top edgy to push the pins up and out of the way so the extractor slides in. Twist the extractor and gently pull out. This can take several attempts as you are trying to create enough friction to pull the broken key part out.
Another type of key extractor is the hook extractor. With the hook extractor, you are trying to hook the first cut of the broken key and pull the key out. Insert the hook extractor along the cut side of the key and push back until just beyond the first cut. Then pull.
Try Needle Nose Pliers to Remove the Key
If some cases the key may not be pushed all the way into the lock and there may be just enough of it sticking out that you can grab it with a pair of needlenose pliers. Tweezers can also work and maybe even better since they are very thin. Just try whichever you have on hand.
Be careful not to push the key in further. You will either have enough key sticking out to grab the broken edge or you won’t, but either way, you will know quickly which is the case.
Using a Small Jigsaw Blade or Paper Clip
This method to remove a key is very similar to the key extraction tool method above. But what if you do not have key extraction tools? This is the “try anything” approach using whatever similar small, grooved, round object you have available to you.
Some paper clips have grooved edges and can work in a pinch as a spiral extractor if there’s room in the lock cylinder to get them in. There are also a number of very small jigsaw blades that will work as a hook extractor. I bought a pumpkin carving set at Halloween that had a very good small jigsaw in it that I now keep in my toolbox.
What if You Still Can’t Get the Broken Key Out?
If you’ve tried it all, except the glue, just remove the lock from the door and take it to your local locksmith. They will be able to get the key out for less than the price of a new lock. Now, if you ignored my advice and glued the key in, throw the lock away and buy another one. Buy the new lock from your local locksmith. Not only will they get you a good price but most locksmiths will key up the new lock to your existing house key as part of your purchase, no additional charge.