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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

What To Do When You Are Locked Out Of Your Storage Unit

by Ralph November 6, 2017
Locked Storage Unit Hallway

If you are locked out of your storage unit, getting back in is inevitable when you know what to do. This task can be approached in a better way as long as you are aware of a few things. The first thing to understand is your own preference. How do you want to get back in when you are locked out of your storage unit? The fastest way possible? In a way that doesn’t harm the lock? The cheapest way? Once you know what you are looking for, it is time to assess your options. Can you get what you want based on the status of your storage unit’s lock? And how do you find out the options for your particular lock? Once you know the answers to these questions, figure out who is going to be doing the work.

What Are You Comfortable With?

When you are locked out of your storage unit, one of the first things you have to consider is your preference on how you would like to handle the lockout. At the risk of sounding like a cliche: there are two ways you can go about getting back in when you are locked out of a storage unit.

The Easy Way – We call it the “easy way” because it is quick and reliable. It is also destructive entry. This will solve the issue of you being locked out of your storage unit, but it will leave you in desperate need of a new lock. Depending on what is most appropriate for the lock, this could be something akin to when a locksmith drills a lock. In many cases, it will involve some form of cutting tool. In the mildest of scenarios, a pair of bolt cutters will be the appropriate method for the padlock that you are using to secure your storage unit.

This will be the go-to method for most time-strapped individuals. It is also the common solution for people without a security background. If you come to your management complaining saying, “Help, I’m locked out of my storage unit,” chances are they are going to want to solve the issue as fast as they can. The “easy way” is the go-to for anyone who feels put upon by the request of unlocking a storage unit when you lost the keys. However, professional locksmiths might also come to the conclusion that this is the best solution.

A locksmith might know this is the best option for your given lock if it is far too internally complex to open the “hard way” (described below). Because, unlike the “easy way” option in gangster and cop movies, the easiest way to open a lock involves breaking something (often beyond repair). Professional locksmiths like to avoid this whenever possible because it puts the customer in a bind. If you use the “easy way”, you will have a harder time down the line, because you will go from being locked out of the storage unit to having no way to lock the storage unit.

The Hard Way – The “hard way” could also be referred to as the more difficult method. It is the “hard way” because it requires far too much knowledge and professional training, with particular tools. It is not enough to only have the knowledge, and it is not enough to have just the tools. You need both. And with both, chances are (unless you were using a very weak lock) you are going to need a bit of practice to get the work done right. However, the “hard way” is not just one way. It is more of a path that leads to a few fork roads.

The most popularly thought of difficult road to venture down, when you are locked out of your storage unit, is lock picking. Depending on the type of lock on the unit you may need different lock picking tools. For example, disk detainer locks are going to need a type of lock pick that can rotate in the keyway rather than simply elevate. And items such as a disk detainer or dimple locks, prevent lock bumping. In the case of the many types of locks and padlocks that you could encounter in a storage unit lockout, most standard bump key sets will not have the particular profile you need.

One of the biggest reasons why the “hard way” is desired, is that the lock will ultimately be unaffected by being opened in these ways. Once the lock on your storage unit is opened, it might be able to be rekeyed, or taken apart so that you can get a new key. You might have a storage lock with an interchangeable core, which a locksmith could even use to upgrade your lock to have higher-security. When you do not harm the lock in an irreparable way, it opens you up to all kinds of possibilities. It also is the most likely method to demand the presence of a security professional.

Find Out What is Wrong With The Lock

Storage Unit Padlock

The type of service that you would like to receive will not matter as much as finding out what will solve your particular type of storage unit lockout. There are certain ways that a lock can break that will make it impossible to open with more difficult covert methods. In the case of storage locks, something can happen to the locking pawls that has caused them to seize or become otherwise immobilized. If there is an issue with a keyway, there might still be a way to bypass the storage lock’s internal mechanisms so that this is not an issue (shimming, for example, will still open a padlock that has a jammed core).

How you can potentially open a lock may be restricted due to the reason you are locked out of your storage unit. But if the issue is something such as you have lost the key to your storage unit, or your key has broken off in the lock, it is likely that the lock is not damaged enough to prevent a certain type of opening method. Now, of course, the lock might be too high-security for certain methods to work, but the work will not be restricted due to how the device has broken.

Research Your Lock Online

Now that you understand the options you have to get back in when you are locked out of your storage unit, and how certain methods may be restricted or necessary, it is time to research your lock to find out more of the particulars. This research is only necessary if you want to be informed about the work being done, or you are hoping to open the lock yourself. If you would just like to call a locksmith, then you do not have to do any research on your own. Anything you would like to know can be explained by the technician getting you back into your locked storage unit.

A great first step to finding out about the options for opening your storage lock is to get on the internet. Search for the name of your lock brand and model number, if you have it. Add to your search query any of the following terms: picked, picking, how to open, bypass, etc. The results you get should give you a pretty fair indication as to the variety of ways your lock can be opened. Understand that some of the terminologies in these resources might differ from the terms professionals use, as even professionals seem to have a different security vocabulary.

You might find that you can make a set of shims with an aluminum can and open your lock pretty easily yourself. There are also some bypass methods that can be done by exploiting a more specific failure in the lock. However, if you are using one of the best padlocks in the world, you are likely to only find lock picking videos recorded by some of the best lock pickers alive. (You might also find lock picking videos of questionable validity). The point is, if you do not see a method that is easy to perform yourself and widely publicized, then you will need to learn more about the storage lock so that you can discover a bypass yourself. You may also decide to call a locksmith or use an easier way of gaining access.

Solve Your Storage Lockout Yourself

Once you get some level of information or no information, you can still take steps to solve your storage lockout situation yourself. When you have information about a method you feel comfortable trying yourself, the next step to get the proper tools. These can either be handcrafted tools or items you have bought. Next, you must find a video of the process you are looking to perform. This is one of the few ways that you can potentially verify that the information you are using will solve the issue you are experiencing. Besides that bit of advice, I can not really give you any more insight that would benefit your precise situation.

When you have no information or your information is about how your lock is high-security, the best tool you can acquire for storage unit padlocks are cutting tools. These could be something like bolt cutters or something as extreme as an angle grinder. Make sure that your destructive entry tool is strong enough to deal with your lock. Even if you do not know the strength of your lock’s shackle, you can still get a cutting tool that is likely to do the job. The largest bolt cutters available at a hardware store (which you are not likely to find next to the lock section at the Home Depot) with the hardest blades, can cut the shackles of some of the strongest storage unit locks. A good example of these kinds of bolt cutters is the Klein Tools 63342 bolt cutter. But if you really think you have something formidable, an angle grinder is sure to cut through just about anything. A cost-effective angle grinder such as the Black & Decker 6-Amp angle grinder, is a safe bet and will likely help you cut through your storage locks.

Between cutting and following the instructions you have found online, you should be able to get into your locked storage unit. If neither of these methods works for you, reach out to a professional to help you troubleshoot your process. Between heavily documented methods of covert entry and a strong cutting tool, you should be able to open any lock. It is important to remember that opening a lock is never a lost cause, you might just need to change your approach.

Contact the Storage Company

Chances are that your storage company has had to deal with people being locked out of their storage unit many times before. Depending on the size of the storage company and how many units they have, managers and employees could be getting calls daily from people saying, “Help I’m locked out of my storage unit”. They are likely to have the tools to open your lock the “easy way”. Unless you have a truly exceptional lock among a host of products from subpar security companies, it is extremely likely that the company you are renting a storage space from will have a simple and quick method for solving issues such as storage unit lockouts.

Most likely they will have a pair of bolt cutters that they use to open up abandoned storage units. This is also likely to be their approach to a storage unit that you have locked yourself out of. It is extremely rare (to the point where I have never heard of it) that there will be an employee on staff with the skill set or tools needed for any of the hard methods of entry. At the most, there might be a locksmith company that the storage facility uses and trusts to do work for them. It might be where they get their locks serviced or who they call instead of breaking out the bolt cutters themselves. In cases like this, you are going to be calling a locksmith to open your storage unit simply by telling the storage facility management, “I am locked out of my storage unit”.

Call a Locksmith To Open Your Storage Unit

When you don’t know what to do, or you are looking to get the job done the best possible way, there is nothing that comes close to a locksmith for all of your storage unit lockout needs. One of the most important things they have at their disposal is practical knowledge. Not just how to get your storage lock open, but the best way to get it open. When you are looking for the right locksmith, be sure to find someone experienced with all manner of lockouts, whether it is a home lockout, car lockout, or office lockout professional. You want someone that knows locks and understands in-field security assessments.

It is important that the person you get to service your locked storage unit has a working and historical knowledge of locks. This will allow them to assess the potential weaknesses of your lock and diagnose the issue you are experiencing. They will also be able to recommend new locks or security if they are forced to use some form of destructive entry. You will not just solve the issue of being locked out of your storage unit, you will also be gaining insight into your overall security.


There is an “easy way” and a “hard way” to go about getting back into your locked storage unit. The “easy way” is fast, but it breaks your lock beyond worthwhile repair. The “hard way” is difficult, but it can be used to salvage a storage lock. Your options of the methods useable will be limited by the reason the lock is not opening. Decide the best way to go about solving your storage unit lockout. A locksmith takes away the need for any fretting or concern. You can also do the work yourself, or by contacting the management of the storage facility. You might need to do some research if you are not hiring a professional, but hesitate to reach out to a locksmith if you feel that you have gotten in over your head. Do what you need to do in order to stay safe and protect your storage unit.

Category: How To's

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