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Forget calling a locksmith. Here's how to fix a broken key on your own.

When a key breaks off inside a lock, two things happen in your body: you get a sinking feeling in your gut, and thoughts of a $200 service fee race through your mind.

But don't go calling a locksmith just yet. Removing a broken key from a lock is a lot simpler than you might think. Your main task will be to insert a thin hooked piece of metal into the key shaft, grab the ragged side of the key, wiggle it out, and pull it with needle-nose pliers.

Though you may not want to invest in a set of tools for this task, you could buy a broken key extractor set for less than $30. This consists of several hooked tools to fit the angle of the opening and the shape of the key.

But you could also use a piece of wire or coat hanger with a bent end. The trick is to get a piece of metal that is thin enough to fit in the opening but strong enough to jimmy out the key.

Also, you want to make sure that you're trying to hook onto the side of the key with the ragged side. Some keys are double-sided and so this will not be an issue. But with a key having only one ragged side, it will be futile to try and work with the smooth side.

WD-40

In some cases, the lock mechanism will not let the key get released unless you do a bit of jiggling. And you might find a squirt of lubricant like WD-40 to be helpful.

Another method, in case the key is broken off flush with the opening to the lock, is to use a strong magnet to pull the key out. You may have a magnet on hand. Check your set of screwdrivers and drill bits, as those are often magnetized to hold screws into place.

These methods are typically effective in extracting a broken key. But as one expert put it, if you've tried for a couple of hours and it still won't come out, "it's not meant to be." And it might be time to call in a locksmith. In the end, the lock might need to be replaced.

Here are more tips to consider:

• Keys often develop cracks long before they actually break off. Check out your keys from time to time to see if cracks are developing, and replace them before the break happens.

• Be aware of any stiff or difficult locks and keep them lubricated to prevent excess stress to a key. You can buy lock lubricant for this very purpose.

• Once you get the broken key out (we're thinking positively here), you can take both pieces to the key shop and get a new one made.

These are a few techniques for extracting a broken key. What's your method?




  • Frank K.

    From a locksmith:

    Putting anything else into the keyway, if you don't know what your doing, could cause a simple extraction to become an expensive repair. Second...WD-40 is NOT a lubricant, try some light oil like Tri-Flo or gun oil. Third a magnet will not work as most keys are made out of brass.

    Reply
  • Tess

    It's fun to know little tricks like this! Http://www.homeremediesguide.info


  • Dan

    Dont listen to frank k wd-40 is a lubricant and a penetrant.. it is however temporary due to its light nature and solvents in the oil it tends to evaporate quickly.


  • vivian morton

    Dear Frank:

    I can get my key in and out of the car ignition easy enough; however, the key just stopped turning so that the motor can start. I have moved the steering wheel back and forth to see if that was the problem; no. Can you tell me what I may do to get the ignition to turn. Why did it stop? I have tried both sets of keys so it must be something with the ignition. Please contact me asap as I cannot drive my car until this is fixed. Thanks, viv


  • mj

    for the lady with the ignition problem. I just went through that too....just get the ignition changed out. it doesn't cost much to do it yourself either....go buy one at the auto parts for your vehicle type and follow the directions. that's it...problem solved!


  • ROB LOCH


    YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER PUT WD-40 INSIDE A LOCK, THE PROPER LUBRICANT IS DRY GRAPHITE, WD-40 WILL CAUSE DIRT AND DUST TO BUILD UP INSIDE THE TUMBLERS CAUSING THE LOCK TO BE EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO OPEN, AND FRANK (THE LOCKSMITH ) DOWN BELOW ME IS CORRECT, MOST IF NOT ALL KEYS ARE CUT FROM BRASS, SO FORGET THE MAGNET THEORY. I KNOW SO MUCH BECAUSE MY LAST NAME IS LOCK, SPELLED LOCH.. SERIOUSLY…


  • Forkey

    Vivian, your starter is going out. Try giggling the steering collum, that'll usually do the trick. If not occasionally giggling the key in the ignition will work.

    If all else fails it's not that expensive to fix, and if getting the car to a repair shop is the issue, it's not that hard to hot wire or arc start your car, you can find instructions all over the internet.


  • Glen

    I too am a retired locksmith and I agree with Frank above. Who ever wrote the article has no idea what they are talking about. Removing a broken key is not as simple as this airhead leads you to believe. Save some money and time, just call a locksmith


  • ruby

    or just hope it will pop out like magic, if u can not do it. but take a bobbie pin and clasp it.


  • cole

    that is crazy how they do it with a coat hanger


  • Sharon

    Hey It does not take a locksmith to fiqure this out. Especially; pulling out a key with a magnet, most of the keys are brass. Sharon


  • ebneila

    If WD-40 is not a lubricant, then what is it?


  • sanmarr

    Take a fishing hook, straighten it out using two pairs of pliers, and then use this to extract the key. Note that extracting keys from an automobile's ignition is more tricky, because you could damage the switch inside of it. I've also heard and read that nail clippers are good to grasp any bit of the key that is sticking out, but have never tried it.

    I can not think of a situation when a magnet could possibly work, and I have never seen a magnetized bit holder strong enough to do much of anything except keep a screw attached to it.

    Reply
  • Lou

    Rather than buying a set of tools, I think a small size crochet hook might fit and work.


  • Joguerre

    I could not agree more with you about the fish hook. I've tried and I worked just great. If you don't have a fish hook you also try a safety pin. Just bend the tip to create a hook and it works like a charm. I've tried both methods and can vouch for them.


  • JOHN

    WHOEVER WROTE THIS ARTICLE DOESN`T KNOW MUCH ABOUT KEYS , 99.9% OF KEYS ARE MADE OF BRASS OR BRONZE , A MAGNET WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY USELESS

    Reply
  • JOHN

    WHOEVER WROTE THIS ARTICLE DOESN`T KNOW MUCH ABOUT KEYS , 99.9% OF
    KEYS ARE MADE OF BRASS OR BRONZE , A MAGNET WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY
    USELESS


    Reply
  • joan

    Sounds great, except that I keep all that stuff in my house, and the likeliest place that my key would break is in my front door, which would require me to go to neighbors to get hangers, pliers, oil, etc.

    Reply
  • John

    Enter through the backdoor.


  • Dennis Bader

    If you can get in the house (if its a House key) another way. Just take off the other side of the lock and extract the key that way.

    Reply
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