My goal is to provide you with the most complete broken key removal information on the Internet. With this information, you stand a good chance of removing the key yourself and preventing it from happening again. If, after reading this information, you still can't remove the broken key piece, you may want to refer to the Associated Locksmiths of America site (ALOA) for a professional locksmith near you.
1. The key has one or more deep cuts which become the "weak point" of the key. After so much use (and a little abuse) the key will break at these points. Figure A shows keys where the first cut (next to the head of the key) is a deep cut and Figure B shows one or more deep cuts in the middle of the key.
2. The key is made of a light-weight material not suitable for long-term, everyday use. Keys cut on aluminum blanks are a prime example. They also tend to break at a deep-cut "weak point" only sooner. Identified by their light weight and (usually) bright colors such as red or green.
Usually before a key breaks, one or more tiny cracks will appear by the cut about to give way. You may want to check your keys right now - at least the ones that you use and depend on every day. If you see a tiny crack being formed by one of the cuts or if the key is bent or misshapen in any way, go to your nearest locksmith or key shop and get another one made.
To be safe, don't treat
the broken pieces as trash and carelessly toss them away. A
new key could be made from the pieces and used to gain
access your home or property.
We locksmiths have a variety of tools for removing broken keys from locks. Two of the more effective tools I use are shown in Figure C.
These particular key removal tools are made of spring steel and are approximately 5" long, 5/16" wide at the handle and .022" thick. Notice the barbs at the end of each tool. The purpose of this sharp little barb is to dig or "bite" into the broken key piece so the piece can be removed.
As long as the tool you use is made of sturdy metal, is narrow enough to enter the keyway, and has a barb to grab on to the broken key it should do the job. A scroll saw or jig saw blade should do the trick.
The steps in this procedure should
be all that are needed to remove a key piece that has broken somewhere
in the middle of a key (the most common situation). In
other words, the front part (or so) of the key is in the lock
and the remainder in your hand.
FIRST - unless the lock has been in good working
order (with the key going in and out smoothly) prior to the key
breaking off, spray a lubricant such as WD-40 or Tri-Flow in the
lock's keyway first. You want the broken key piece to slip out
as easy as possible and a dry or gummy lock will make the job
SECOND - insert the removal tool (or your saw blade) into the lock's keyway so that the barb (or teeth) can contact the cuts of the key piece to be removed. You should be able to tell how far to insert the tool based on how much of the key you still have in your hand.
THIRD - let the barb "bite" into one of the cuts of the broken key piece and give the tool a sharp tug towards you. The key piece should coming flying out.
FOURTH - take the two pieces of the key to your local locksmith or key center and get another one or two made.
When the first cut in the key gets
too weak (keys such as those shown in Figure A), you can end up
with just the head of the key in your hand. The
danger in this is that all
the cuts necessary to operate the lock may still be stuck in the
lock. In other words, you or
anyone else can operate
the lock with just a small knife blade or screwdriver!!!
Test if the lock will operate by
inserting a small screwdriver in the keyway (next to the broken
key piece) and trying to turn the lock cylinder. If the cylinder
does not turn, follow the procedure above to remove the key
piece. If you can turn the cylinder to the right or left you
have to make sure the lock cylinder is positioned so the key
can be removed.
Let me explain...
Figure D shows the most common
position for a lock cylinder to be in for key removal. If you
were to insert a key in most any pin tumbler lock and turn it,
the key could not be removed until the lock cylinder is back in
the position shown in Figure D.
Now that you have read this information, you should be ready to attempt removing a broken key on your own and avoid this problem in the future.
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