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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Key Stuck In Lock? Get A Stuck Key Out Of Any Lock Fast

by Ralph July 12, 2021

How to get a stuck key out of a lock is dependent on more than just what tools are at your disposal. Is this a broken key extraction, or is the full key stuck in the lock? Are you dealing with a car key extraction, or is the key stuck in a residential or office door? We will go over the various considerations for these scenarios and find the fastest way to get a stuck key out of a lock for you.

If your key is getting stuck in a door lock, find your specific circumstances below:

How To Get A Stuck Key Out Of A Lock 

There are two main ways that a key gets stuck in a lock. A key stuck in a lock could break in the keyway, or the key may stick without any damage to the key. How to get a stuck key out of a lock will change depending on why the key is stuck. Is the key stuck because of a key issue or lock issue?

Full Key Stuck In Lock 

A key getting stuck in a door lock can be a recurring problem or a severe issue that happens abruptly. This can often lead to a broken key stuck in a lock, but until then, let’s just focus on the lock. There may be an issue with the cylinder, in which case you will need door lock cylinder replacement. Or the bolt may be grinding against the strike plate.

If you have a full key stuck in a lock, try the following:

  • Lubricate the keyway and try to rock the key to spread the lubricant.
    • Graphite lubricant is preferable to oil-based lubricants such as WD40.
  • Gently rap on the key with a blunt object while turning and pulling it.
    • If you are too rough, the key can break off in the lock.
  • Move the door to remove the tension between the latch/bolt and strike plate.
    • As you lift and press on the door, try to move the key free.

Once you have faithfully attempted all of these methods and none have worked, you can take it as a sign the lock is broken and change locks. If removal is not possible with the key stuck in the lock, call a locksmith. You may be able to drill the lock yourself, but a residential locksmith will ensure the work is done safely and properly.

Broken Key Stuck In Lock

When a key breaks off in a lock, it presents a very different set of difficulties than removing a full key stuck in a lock. As troublesome as it is to get a broken key out of a lock, it is unlikely to get as complex as what could potentially be wrong with a key getting stuck in a door lock without breaking. You are only going to have to worry about getting a hold of the key fragment so you can pull it free.

The most basic way to remove a broken key stuck in a lock is:

  1. Find a tool that can grip the broken key.
    1. If the key is sticking out of the lock, tweezers or pliers can work.
    2. If the key is deep in the lock, find something that can insert into the keyway alongside the broken key (mini hacksaw blades work best).
  2. Get a firm grip on the key.
    1. For interior keyway tools, turn the tool into the key fragment once they are side by side.
  3. Pull the tool towards yourself while gripping the key.
    1. Pull hard and fast.
  4. Continue to grip and pull until the broken key can be fully removed.

Every method of how to get a stuck key out of a lock when it is broken requires hooking or gripping the key shard enough to move it out of the lock. You can do this with tweezers if the piece of broken key is protruding from the lock enough to be touched. Just be careful not to lose your hold, as this may result in moving the fragment deeper into the lock.

One of the many downsides to this type of “key stuck in lock” scenario is that without a spare key, you will be locked out. Do not attempt to use the two parts of the key to open the lock. It is also not feasible to fix a broken key that has split in half like this. However, a locksmith can copy a broken key when you have all the pieces or decode the lock for the key code. 

How Lock Type Changes Stuck Key Solutions

The type of lock your key is stuck in can change how to go about the processes outlined above. This is because the context your lock exists in can raise the stakes of damage and increase the difficulty of replacing parts, which may be damaged by improper attempts to remove a stuck key.

1. Car Key Stuck In Lock

A car key stuck in a lock may be stuck in a car door or the ignition. For a key stuck in the ignition, you need to be extremely careful when you are going about the removal process. You do not want to cause damage to your steering column or the ignition assembly. If you are too rough during this process, it is also possible to harm your ignition housing.

Damage is likely to happen when you are rapping or torquing the key. Striking or exerting pressure on the keyway can stress the cylinder or surrounding parts. If the cylinder or housing becomes more damaged, it may become harder to go about car ignition repair because removal could be impeded, and more components may be broken.

A key stuck in a door is not as troubling because there are likely other ways to open the car. What matters most is the stuck key in the lock has to be removed without damaging the key so you can drive. Unless you have a spare car key with you. Even if you need to replace the car door lock cylinder, this will not affect your ability to drive the vehicle.

Key Takeaways:

  • A car key stuck in a door lock is easier to service than one stuck in the ignition.
  • Striking and turning the key to shake it loose must be done gently.
  • If stuck in a door lock, you should be able to enter and drive when the key is intact.

2. House Key Stuck In Lock

A house key stuck in a door lock does not need to be removed if you are planning to change the lock. If you can get inside the home and uninstall the lock’s interior set screws, you will only need a new lock. This is best done when a house key is stuck in a lock as the result of a broken lock, as the lock will need to be changed anyway.

If your full house key is stuck in a lock, you do not want to leave your door unattended. The door is not secure, even if you are having difficulty opening it while the key is stuck in the lock. An exception to this is when a key is stuck in a lock, such as a keyed door knob, but a secondary lock is still engaged.

It is never recommended to abandon a door with a key in it, but your risks are diminished if the door uses multiple locks. Going to buy a lock from the hardware store would be too much distance from the lock, but going to ask a neighbor for help may be worth the risk. Another set of eyes can help troubleshoot a key stuck in a lock and potentially find a better solution.

Key Takeaways:

  • If the lock is broken, you may change the lock without removing the key.
  • Do not leave a door unattended with an intact key stuck in the lock.
  • Even with a secondary lock engaged, the house should not be left until the door is in working order.

3. Office Key Stuck In Lock

The biggest consideration for an office key stuck in a lock is the larger network the lock is a part of. When a commercial building uses a master key system, you cannot replace the lock hardware as easily. New keys may also be restricted if the building uses high-security door locks with patented keys.

Sometimes a building manager will have tools to remove a key stuck in a door lock or be able to provide the contact information of a commercial locksmith. Even if the property manager cannot assist with servicing, they may need to be contacted from key codes or master key information.

If you can solve your business lockout by getting the door open, be sure not to close the door again. Make sure you have a working key and lock before closing the door again. When it is clear that the lock is broken you may still go about daily operations until a commercial door lock replacement can be performed.

Key Takeaways:

  • Buildings with master key systems and patented keys need professional oversight.
  • See if your property manager has the tools and information you need.
  • Once the door is open, do not let it close until the lock is serviced.

Final Recommendations 

With so much to consider, it is always a good idea to call a locksmith when a key is stuck in a lock. This goes beyond finding the best lockout service, as you are likely to need either a new key or a new lock. In some cases, you may need both. So before you settle for a new key, replace your car door lock or change a door knob, reach out to a locksmith near you.

Category: Automotive, Commercial, Residential

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