What to Do When a Key Breaks in the Lock

Posted on: 30 June 2016

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Having a key break off in your door lock can be a stressful situation, especially if you are locked out of your house. It is during such times that an emergency locksmith would come in handy. However, there are steps you can take to extract the broken key without damaging your locks.

What causes keys to break?

It is important to understand the things that can cause breaking of a key in the lock. This will help you prevent such a situation in the future. The following are some of the common causes:

  • Weak points on the key One or more deep cuts on a key can act as weak points. If the key has been used for an extended period, or unnecessary pressure has been applied when turning it in the lock, it can easily break at these weak points. To avoid this, you should choose a lock design whose key doesn't have deep cuts. Alternatively, cut a new key regularly to avoid breaking from prolonged use.
  • Poor key material Keys made from weak and lightweight materials such as aluminium are likely to break even with the lightest pressure. If such keys have deep cuts, their chances of breaking are increased. Go for durable material such as stainless steel which is more resistant to breaking.

What to do when a key breaks in the lock

If part of the key has been broken off when fully inserted into the lock, the lock will most likely be operable. Insert the rest of the key into the lock until it comes into contact with the broken part and turn it. The lock should let up and open the door.

If the key has been broken off when partially inserted into the lock and part of it is exposed, you may not be able to turn the lock. However, you can be able to remove the key from inside the lock with a key removal tool or any other tool with a curved hook that can fit into the keyhole. Follow these steps.

  • Spray lubricant in the keyhole to make it easy for the key to slip out.
  • Insert the removal tool in such a way that the hooks come into contact with the cuts on the key.
  • Engage the hook into the key's teeth and give them it a tug until the key slides out.

If you don't have a spare key, visit a locksmith and have them cut a new key for you. Also, if you are unable to remove the key or get the lock to open, you can call your locksmith to extract the broken key and repair the lock.