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How To Get A Snapped Key Out of Lock

14 March 2024

Dealing with a broken key snapped in a door lock is a frustrating and all-too-common experience that can disrupt your day and pose a security risk to your property.

When keys break, whether it happens at your home, office, or with your vehicle, knowing how to address this issue efficiently can save you time, money, and stress.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to get a broken key out of a lock, covering everything from initial steps to detailed removal methods, when to seek professional assistance and advice on how to prevent broken keys in the future.

Understanding Why Keys Snap

Wear and Tear: Keys are subjected to repeated stress with each use. Over time, this stress can lead to metal fatigue, making the key more susceptible to snapping. High-frequency usage areas, like front doors and heavily used cabinets, often see this issue.

Forced Entry: Utilising a key as a makeshift tool or applying excessive force can bend or weaken it. This misuse compromises the key’s structural integrity, leading to potential breakage when in use.

Faulty Locks: A malfunction within the lock mechanism can create undue resistance and friction, placing additional strain on the key. Door locks that are not routinely serviced may have internal issues that aren’t immediately noticeable until a key breaks inside them.

Poor Quality Keys: The material and design of a key play significant roles in its durability. Keys made from inferior materials or through substandard manufacturing processes are far more likely to snap.

Prevention Tips:

Regular Inspection and Maintenance: Conducting periodic checks on both keys and locks can pre-empt many issues. Lubricating locks with graphite or silicone-based products and checking keys for signs of wear are simple yet effective practices.

Proper Usage: Keys should only be used as intended – to lock and unlock doors. Avoid using them as tools to open packages or as leverage for other tasks that could weaken them.

Quality Matters: Opt for high-quality, durable keys and locks. They offer better security and are less prone to wear and damage. In cases of high security or frequent use, investing in commercial-grade hardware can provide both peace of mind and long-term reliability.

Initial Steps To Take Before Removing Broken Keys From A Lock Cylinder

Safety First:

Lighting and Protection: Ensure the area is well-lit to provide a clear view, minimising the risk of further damage or sustaining an injury. Wearing protective gloves can help prevent cuts from the sharp metal edges of the broken key.

Tools You Might Need:

Needle-Nose Pliers: Ideal for gripping and pulling out the broken key protruding from the lock.

Super Glue: This can be used carefully to attach a small object to the exposed part of the broken key, helping it be removed. This method requires more precision and patience.

Locksmith Broken Key Extractor Kit: These specialised tools are designed for safely removing broken key pieces without damaging the lock.

Thin Jigsaw Blade: In situations where the key is broken off deep inside the lock, a thin saw blade can be inserted to hook onto and pull out the broken piece. This is not recommended for amateurs or those who have never used a jigsaw blade before.

Assessing the Situation:

Visibility and Accessibility: Evaluate how much of the key is visible or stuck within the lock. This assessment will help guide how you choose to remove the key.

Lock Considerations: The type of lock and its overall value are important. Antique or high-security locks may require a more delicate approach or professional intervention to avoid damage.

Methods for Removing a Broken Key

Method 1: Needle-nose Pliers

  • How it works: If a portion of the key is protruding from the lock, you can use the pliers to gently grip and pull the key out.
  • Pros: Simple and effective for keys that are not deeply lodged.
  • Cons: Ineffective if the key is broken off flush with the lock face.

Method 2: Super Glue Trick

  • How it works: Apply a tiny drop of super glue to the end of a match or thin wire, attach it to the exposed part of the key, and pull gently once the glue has set.
  • Pros: Useful when the key is slightly visible but too short to grasp with pliers.
  • Cons: Risk of gluing the key permanently into the lock if too much glue is applied or not done carefully.

Method 3: A Locksmith Broken Key Extractor Tool

  • How it works: These tools are designed to slide into the lock and catch onto the broken key piece, allowing you to pull it out.
  • Pros: High success rate and minimal risk of damaging the lock.
  • Cons: Requires purchasing specialised tools or kits.

Method 4: Using a Jigsaw Blade

  • How it works: Insert a thin jigsaw blade into the lock with the teeth pointing outwards, so it hooks onto the key fragment, allowing you to pull it out.
  • Pros: Effective for keys broken deep inside the lock.
  • Cons: Requires careful handling to avoid damaging the lock or the blade.

When to Call a Professional Locksmith

While the above methods can be effective, there are situations where calling a professional locksmith is advisable. As professional locksmiths, we have years of experience dealing with these types of situations and can effectively remove your key without hassle:

  • When DIY Methods Fail: If you’ve tried the methods above without success, a locksmith can help you safely extract the key without damaging the lock.
  • High-Value Locks: Antique or high-security locks might require specialised tools and knowledge to avoid costly damage.
  • Lock Replacement: If the lock is damaged or you’d like to upgrade to a more secure option, a locksmith can provide and install new locks for you.

If you are struggling removing a broken key from a lock and need professional help, contact us now on 07798 612837. We are a 24-hour emergency locksmith service and have been helping those in the Cardiff area for over 20 years.

Preventive Measures for the Future

To minimise the chances of keys snapping in locks in the future, consider the following tips:

  • Regular Maintenance: Lubricate your locks regularly with graphite powder or silicone-based lubricants to keep them functioning smoothly.
  • Key Inspection: Check your keys periodically for signs of wear or damage, and get duplicates made before they break.
  • Avoid Excessive Force: Never force a key to turn in a lock if it doesn’t seem to want to turn. This could indicate a need for maintenance or that you’re using the wrong key.
  • Quality Keys and Locks: Invest in high-quality keys and locks from reputable manufacturers. They are less likely to break and offer better security.


A broken key inserted in a lock can be a frustrating problem, but with patience and the right approach, it’s often something you can resolve yourself. From simple tools like needle-nose pliers to more specialised locksmith techniques, there are several methods to try before calling in the professionals.

Remember, prevention is key to avoiding such situations, so take care of your keys and locks, and don’t hesitate to upgrade to more durable options. By following these tips, you can ensure that a broken key becomes nothing more than a minor inconvenience.