How To Remove A Broken Key From A Lock

How To Remove A Broken Key From A Lock

When part of your key is stuck in the lock, don’t panic.  There are many ways to remove the broken key without having to call a locksmith.  Depending upon the type of lock and how far into the lock the key is wedged, how much time you have and what tools you have will determine which method to use.  But Tinder Locksmith is always available to help with any lock or key problems.

First thing to do to ease the extraction is to lubricate the lock.   WD-40 is a spray lubricant that, if you don’t have a can around your home, get one!  Spray it into the key hole to help the key slide out more easily.

Before You Try Anything Else…

DO NOT push the key into the lock further with the other half of the broken key.  This will make it more difficult to remove! I know many people try to use the remaining half to try and open the lock.  BUT DON’T!  The further you push the broken half into the lock, the harder it will be to remove.

Be sure to save that half of the key though because if it is your only key to open the door, you can bring it in to your local locksmith who will be able to generate a new key for you.

Remember, there are LOTS of different locks out there!  Each is slightly different so you may have to try several methods to find out what works best.

A helpful tool to have is a pair of needle nose pliers. If you can grab the key with the needle nose pliers and get a good hold on it to pull it out the rest of the way.  If there is not enough of the broken key to grab it with the pliers you will need to use one of the other methods to get it to that point.

Tag needle nose pliers for key extraction

If you don’t have needle nose pliers, sometimes a pair of sharp pointed scissors can be used to grab the broken key that is just barely sticking out of the lock.   You may be able to use tweezers but with caution!  You don’t want to push the broken half into the keyway further.

sharp pointed scissors or tweezers to remove broken key if you don’t have needle nose pliers


TIP:  You can ONLY REMOVE A KEY WHEN THE KEY CYLINDER CORE IS NOT TURNED.  This means that if the lock cylinder core can be moved around, the lock “pins” will hold the key in the lock and not allow extraction. 

TIP:  If you CAN spin the cylinder there is probably enough of the key left in the lock to allow you to unlock the lock by turning it to unlocked position!  It won’t extract the key but might be worth trying to get you in fast.  Use a small screwdriver to turn the key cylinder.

TIP:  If the “pins” have dropped down in front of the broken edge of the key you will have to lift the pin(s) before the key can be extracted.  This can be quite challenging even for an experienced Locksmith.


Methods for Removing a Broken Key Stuck in a Lock​

  • Professional Key Extractor Tools
  • Makeshift Extractor Tools
  • Super Glue

Professional Key Extractor Tools   Professional Locksmiths keep a set of Key Extractor Tools on hand.  With the key “plug” or core in the upright position, insert the hook extractor on the top edge of the key (the jagged side) twist slightly and pull.  This should hook on the jagged part of the key.  The saw tooth extractor can be used the same way.  The spiral tools can be used the same way but also can be used on the side of the key.  See TIP about keyway needing to properly aligned!  Below are photos of some commonly used professional key extractors.

  1. key extractors 

2. Hook extractor

MAKESHIFT EXTRACTOR TOOLS  Don’t have professional extractor tools lying around?  Most people don’t.   You are more likely to have a MINI HACK SAW BLADE, a very small DRILL BIT or tiny JIG SAW BLADE.  These can be used if you are in a pinch.  Most hardware stores will carry these but will not carry professional type key extractors.   You will need to break off one end of the mini hacksaw blade to use it.  Make sure the teeth are pointing back toward you.  Jig saw blades and mini drill bits can be used as is.  Then use it as outlined above in Professional Extractor Tools above.

Mini Hacksaw or Jig Saw blades


Nothing like this available?   SOME locks have a key hole that is a bit wider than the actual key.  This may be wide enough to allow you to insert a slim piece of metal, a paperclip or bobby pin on each SIDE of the key, not top or bottom.  Once inserted, angle the pieces to put pressure on the key then pull it out.  You may have to do this several times before you can grab the key.  You do take the risk of pushing the key further back in the lock.

Super Glue  I do not like to recommend this method because so much can go wrong and it has high failure rate.  But I know some of you will try it anyway so here is one way to use it.  BE VERY CAREFUL!  DO NOT GET THE GLUE ON OR IN THE LOCK!!!  Only try this if part of the broken key is clearly visible and close the front of the lock.

You will need a thin wire, paper clip, bobby pin or similar tool.  Accurately apply a small drop of the Super Glue to the end of your tool.  Be sure to remove any excess glue that could stick to the lock itself.  Press it gently against the broken edge of the key in the lock. Be careful not to push the key further into the hole!

Hold the object in place until the glue has had time to bond (see packaging for specific instructions). Once the glue has set, gently pull the tool and hopefully the key will be attached.  Normally the glue does not hold long enough to completely remove the key but it should at least pull it far enough out for you to be able to get a hold of it and extract it with pliers or your fingers. 

This technique can be tricky and only works if the edge of the broken key is visible within the lock. If the key is deeply lodged in the keyhole, do not try using super glue to remove it.

In addition to super glue, you will also need a match or thin piece of wire (a straightened bobby pin or paperclip could also work) for this method. Apply a small drop of the glue to the end of the object you are using, removing any excess glue that could stick to the lock itself, and press it gently against the broken edge of the key. Be careful not to push the key further into the hole while doing this.

Hold the object in place until the glue has had ample time to bond (see packaging for specific instructions). Once the glue has set, gently pull the object and attached key away from the door. Even if the glue does not hold long enough to completely remove the key, it should at least pull it far enough out for you to be able to easily extract it yourself.

Drill Only as a Last Resort It is possible to remove a broken key from a lock by drilling a small hole in it, but this can do damage to your lock and should be saved as a last resort. Calling a locksmith before trying this approach may be a safer and more cost-effective option.


Other Common Key Problems

  1. Key Stuck in Lock

Check Alignment

The key will only come out of the lock when the jagged or cut side of the key is aligned with the top of the cylinder.  Try turning it 180 degrees.


Pinch the Key Out

Sometimes the key won’t come out because the bottom pins don’t align properly.  This can happen if the Retaining Cap is loose.   Make sure the key is in the same position it was in when you inserted the key.  This is the only position that the pins will align in the cylinder.  Then, with your fingers pushing on the face of the plug, pinch the key out.  You can also use the tips of your fingers on the other hand to push in on the plug while you pull the key out.


This method will get the key out for you but will not correct the problem.  Most likely you will have to call a locksmith to repair the lock.  If you can take the lock off the door yourself you can save money by bringing it to your local locksmith shop.


Key cylinder diagram



Lubricate the Lock


If Pinching the Key out does not work, it might not be a loose plug causing the problem. New keys and poor copies are often responsible for hanging up on tumbler pins. Spray lubricant like WD-40 makes a great assistant when attempting to retrieve a key stuck in a lock.  (If you don’t have a can of WD-40 around the house, GET ONE!  It is right up there with Duct Tape for usefulness!)  Most cans come with a tiny straw nozzle so you can get into the key hole and other tight spaces.  Keep a rag handy to catch any spills.  Hold the straw above the stuck key and spray it into the hole. Now, wiggle the key (up and down, not side to side) to work it out of the lock. Once it’s out, spray the lock again and work your key in and out to distribute the lubricant.  If you feel brave, (and have another working key in case you overdo it,) use a fine file to smooth away any barbs or sharp points on the key teeth to prevent future sticking.  Or you can bring it back to where you purchased it and ask them to correct it for you.


Be firm but don’t yank it has hard as you can.  You risk breaking the key off in the lock.

If your key refuses to jiggle free, using ice to remove your key is another quick and inexpensive solution. Cold temperatures make metal contract, so applying ice to your key should cause it to shrink and allow it to slide more easily from the lock.

Simply wrap a piece of ice in a paper towel to prevent drips and press it to the head of the key. Wait for a few minutes and then try removing the key again, jiggling slightly if necessary. Keep in mind that this method will be less effective in colder weather.

  1. Key Won’t Unlock Lock

What about those times when your key goes into the lock, but the door still won’t open? There are a few possible causes for this, most of which can be easily remedied.

Make Sure You are Using the Correct Key!  It sounds too simple but we find this often enough to mention.  Many keys look the same and will fit into the lock but not turn it.  So double check that you are using the right key before you try anything else.



Gently Jiggle the Key If you are sure you have the correct key, try gently jiggling while in the keyhole to see if it will turn. Or try moving the key ever so slightly out of the lock while trying to turn it.  Be careful not to apply too much force, however, or you will end up needing one of the methods listed above to remove your broken key from the lock.

Clean the Lock There may be dirt or debris in the lock that is preventing it from working correctly. This can usually be remedied with a little (or a lot) of spray lubricant like WD-40 which cleans as well as lubricates.  Simply apply the lubricant to the key and keyhole, and re-insert the key a few times to work it down into the lock.  Keep a rag handy for drips!

When your key will not open the lock after applying the above mentioned tips, you may have a different problem that cannot be resolved simply.  We’ve discovered toothpicks, gum placed there by toddlers, BUGS in the lock, or some meanie has put Super Glue in it.   You don’t want to make the problem worse.  Best option is to get some professional assistance and avoid damaging the lock yourself.

Your best option at this point is to turn to professional assistance, as your lock could be suffering from a more serious problem like a worn down pin chamber or corroded pin. These issues should only be handled by someone with proper training and experience to avoid damaging your lock.



I Can’t Fix My Lock Myself!

There are going to be those times when you need professional assistance with your locks or keys. When that time comes, it’s important to have a trusted locksmith you can rely on to provide quality service at a price you can afford.

Tinder Lock and Security is Indiana’s Largest Locksmith shop.  We have been in business for 40 years.  Our experienced technicians and inside support staff consistently strive to quickly and efficiently react to your needs and keep you feeling safe and secure.  We CARE and RESPECT our customers!  Our goal is to inspire our customers to refer our services to others.   We put our experience to work for you, combining quality workmanship and expertise with upfront pricing and speedy service to meet your locksmith and security needs.​