You’re running late for work, trying to get everything in order in a hurry before you head out the door of your home. With your hands full, you exit through the front door, fumbling around in your pocket for your set of keys. You quickly insert the appropriate key into your front door’s dead bolt and twist it to lock your home – only you don’t feel that fluid movement of the dead bolt securing into its proper place. Instead, you hear a snapping sound and, upon looking down, realize that your house key just snapped inside of the lock.
What a way to start the day.
While irritating and inconvenient, a broken key inside of a lock is quite common. Often times, it occurs when someone is in a hurry, such as the example noted above. But it can also occur when keys endure too much wear and tear (think about it, they do rattle around every day inside of purses, pockets, etc.) or when locks themselves are on the fritz. But no matter the circumstances behind the busted key inside the lock – and no matter whether it occurred in a house lock, business lock or car lock – a key broke that off in the lock is something that should be addressed immediately. Acting quickly toward a resolution is crucial for several reasons:
- If the key broke inside lock before the door was shut, you’ll be unable to lock the door, thereby leaving your home, car or office at a greater risk of theft.
- If the key broke off in lock after you’ve closed the door, you may be unable to reopen the door until the issue is resolved.
- The broken key can also actually cause damage to the lock.
So what can you do to resolve a busted key in a lock? If it’s a valuable lock that you want to minimize damage to, or if you just want to ensure that the task will be done correctly, the best course of action is to call a professional locksmith. However, in some circumstances, you may actually be able to remove the broken key yourself. Here’s a look:
When the Key is Sticking Out of the Lock
If a key has busted off inside of the lock and you notice that a portion of it is actually sticking out of the lock, you should consider yourself lucky, as the chances are good that you’ll be able to handle the situation without phoning in a professional locksmith.
If there’s enough of the key sticking out, you may be able to simply pinch it with two fingers and withdraw it. If there’s only a small amount of key sticking out, matters can be a little more challenging, but you should still be able to extract it using a pair of needle nose pliers. The biggest challenge in having to use needle nose pliers, however, may actually be securing a pair if your key has busted in a way that prevents you from accessing tools in your home.
Although you may be able to extract the key if there’s a portion of it sticking out of the lock, it’s worth noting that you may still have to call a locksmith in if you detect any damage to the lock itself.
When the Key Isn’t Sticking Out of the Lock
If no part of the key is sticking out of the lock, the chances of you being able to remove it yourself are slim – especially if you don’t want to damage, or inflict further damage, on the lock during the attempt. There is one tactic you could attempt before phoning a professional locksmith, but it’s important to know that there’s no guarantee of success and you could be subjecting your lock to further damage by administering this tactic.
This tactic involves finding a flathead screwdriver small enough to fit into the keyhole and attempting to pry or loosen the positioning of they key inside to the point where it extrudes out of the lock and you can remove it by administering one of the two methods detailed in the previous section.
Again, this attempt may fail – or lead to further lock damage – meaning you’ll have to phone in the professionals for assistance regardless.
Preventing Broken Keys
While preventative key and lock maintenance usually isn’t at the forefront of many peoples’ minds, there are certain things that you can do to prevent a key breaking off inside of a lock from occurring in the first place. This includes:
- Lock lubrication: Often times, keys snap inside of locks because the lock hasn’t received proper maintenance. Simply put, this “proper maintenance” can be as basic as applying a silicone- base lubricant spray to the keyhole every 6 months or whenever you notice grinding or excess friction when you’re locking doors.
- Replacement keys: As we noted in the opening, keys are subject to a lot of abuse and are used very frequently. So if you notice that your keys are starting to wear or if you notice other damage to your keys, have a spare made and toss out the old one.
- Car locks: If you park outside during the winter months, you may run the risk of your car locks freezing over. Jamming your key as-is through the ice in an attempt to open it could spell big problems. Instead, you should either use de-icer to melt the ice around the lock, dip your key in Vaseline as a means of melting the ice or even heat your key with a lighter before administering it to your lock as a way to safely solve this common cold weather issue.
For more information on what to do if you’ve broken your key off inside of a lock, contact us today. We’re experienced locksmiths that are able to safely and efficiently correct this common problem, while also fixing your lock and getting you a new key to use. Give us a call at (610) 644-5334 or send an email to [email protected]